Nov 13 2022 The Name of God
13th November 2022
This week we will look at the name of God. I hope you had a chance to watch the Bible Project video I sent out:
What’s in a name?
Exodus 1: Now these are the names of the sons of Israel who came to Egypt with Jacob; they came each one with his household:
Exodus is not named Exodus in Hebrew! It is really “Names”
You’ll find those who are named, those who are not named, and the ONE who is named.
2 Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah; 3 Issachar, Zebulun and Benjamin; 4 Dan and Naphtali, Gad and Asher. 5 All the persons who came from the loins of Jacob were seventy in number, but Joseph was already in Egypt.
These are the names of the twelve sons of Jacob – of Israel.
There is more to a name than distinguishing one from another. The name tells a story, describes their character, and shows their influence.
Exodus is about the people of Israel and their relationship/covenant with God Himself.
God says – I’m sending you to my people, Israel… - They will want to know WHO is sending me.
Israel had been enslaved for 400 years – and there are all kinds of gods in Egypt – so they might not remember the God of Israel.
Exodus 3: 14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM"; and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
Bearing the Name – “When he says I am Who I am – in the Bible Project video, they go through this – but God’s name is a promise. Whatever it is I am, I am that to you and for you. It is a personal character statement.
I am, and will continue to be whatever I am and will be that forever.
He is merciful/love/just/holy.
I am love, and I will always be love and continue to be love forever!
Place whatever quality of God there – and know that is what God is always and forever.
In the Bible Project video – they explain this well:
15 God, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The LORD (YHWH – He is Who He is), the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.
Now there is a third primary passage in Exodus:
Exodus 20:7 You shall not take the name of the LORD (YHWH) your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.
Those are the three primary passages. For most of us, we have misunderstood or misapplied this commandment. We have thought – Don’t swear! Or don’t say, “Oh God!” Or “Gosh darn it” – but not so cleaned up.
Or we have heard – don’t swear – so help me Jesus, or whatever.
This is not a SPEECH command. This is a do not TAKE command – Psalm 121 – I will lift up my eyes to the mountains. There is an explanation here in Exodus 28:29 – and what is happening here, there are instructions on what is to be worn by the high priest.
Exodus 28:29 "Aaron shall carry the names of the sons of Israel in the breast piece of judgment (probably just a vest – but with 12 precious stones – with one of the tribes of Israel) over his heart when he enters the holy place, for a memorial before the LORD continually.
They would only enter the holy place once/year – and when he did that – he was representing all of the people before God.
So, it is saying – when commanding to not take God’s name in vain – do not misrepresent God to the people – to the world – instead, give a proper representation of God to the world
Ezekiel 36: 19 "Also I scattered them among the nations and they were dispersed throughout the lands. According to their ways and their deeds I judged them. 20 "When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, 'These are the people of the LORD; yet they have come out of His land.'
So, they, now, they have been exiled because of judgment from God. But oftentimes, the wellbeing and responsibility of the wellbeing of a nation was the responsibility of the god of the people.
So, when they were defeated, it was said that YHWH was defeated and weak. YHWH became the failure. But we know it was not his fault.
“The reputation of YHWH was bound up in the fate of those who bear His name”
In the eyes of the world, the reputation of Jesus is bound up in the fate of those who bear His name. We have to ask – how are we doing?
We could talk about – but we are not going to – all the people who are RUINING it! But I want to talk about US – how am I doing in representing Jesus to my world. How about you?
Are we representing Him well?
There are many ways to represent Him well. In the Old Testament – there are 3 primary ways. We will look at how they failed to represent Him well.
Ezekiel 36: 16 Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, 17 "Son of man, when the house of Israel was living in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds…
They defiled it – they were the cause…
18 "Therefore I poured out My wrath on them for the blood which they had shed on the land, because they had defiled it with their idols.
There are 2 things – Idolatry and violence. As you read through the Old Testament – those come up all the time.
How often do we think of these 2 things when we think about representing God well? Those aren’t the first things that come to my mind.
With idolatry – I get it – it is easy to just think of statues but boy do we have idolatry!
But then, violence! You know – Christians aren’t shedding blood, in one sense, but boy, do we love violence – whether in our entertainment – we live in a violent world – a violent country.
My son rents houses – and some are in dangerous areas – he said there are 200 murders (in a certain time-frame).
Violence is going up.
There is violence of speech.
Jesus said – do not murder! And then he ties it to speech! He who calls his brother a fool is guilty of murder!
Think of the words used about other people in our culture – that is no different than murder!
Something to think about – at least.
There is a third way – I think it relates to us – this relates to the positive side:
Zechariah 7: 9 "This is what the LORD Almighty said: 'Administer true justice…
As you read through the Old Testament – they were often exiled because they failed to administer true justice.
Justice – as we have discussed – in the Old Testament – there is Retributive Justice – punishment for doing wrong – and something we get well. But that is the lesser aspect of Justice. The majority of the time – it speaks of restorative justice.
Zechariah 7:9b show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor.
This is restorative justice.
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter-- when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6 NIV)
And they were failing in Justice – like verse 7:9 =- Keller calls it the quartet of justice – for those in our world who are vulnerable to our systems, thinking, and world-views.
Seven practical things – we will continue this next week with the last one of these, as it is a thing in itself. Some of you are good at some of these.
As I go through these – if you have a story in your own life – we’d love to hear from you.
How do we go about administering true justice?
First – Generosity. Give.
Keller really brings this out in his book, Generous Justice.
Verse after verse – the just and righteous person is a generous person.
You can’t have true justice if that person is not also generous.
If you have every little rule down, but not mercy/generosity – you don’t have it down!
The second one – I made this one up! Incarnational justice.
Generosity says give to. Incarnational justice says GO TO. Make connections – being with the quartet of people who have needs. Some of you are good at this – please share!
Third – relational justice – we tend to focus on meeting physical and financial needs – we are Americans – practical and pragmatic, but there are also relational needs that need to be met. Think of the elderly – they are often lonely.
I have tried, at least on some level, of connecting with older people I know.
There is a second layer that has nothing to do with age – folks who just don’t have face-to-face lives. They don’t live their world with people. They are wrapped up in virtual worlds and friendships. People need presence of other humans – and we are called – Jesus did not virtually save us, right?!
He came with us to dwell among us – and we need to dwell among people.
Fourth – I think we as a church have tried to be good at this – acceptance justice – learning to welcome those who are left out.
Fifth – creating a faith community of Justice – a place where justice like this can grow and thrive. That a community could become that.
That is a hard one. How? There is a lot that would need to take place in any church for this to happen.
Seventh – creating ministry that would do this justice. We are a smaller community – and there are things we can do and things we can’t. And there are some people who are able to create a ministry to do something – for others, it is not their gift – like reaching the homeless – and we think – I could never do that. That is okay – but here is something better: To join someone else! To create a partnership. It is okay for you to not be the one to create it! But to volunteer and serve at someone else’s!
Up in Woodridge, many years back there were students who came from difficult situations and did not have great backgrounds nor enter school ready for what was to hit them in upper grades. So, Northampton Methodist created tutoring. The school had a tutoring program – so I volunteered a day per week back then – just simply to go into the school – we don’t need to create the program – just to join one! It is okay to serve, even if it is not attached to a church or ministry.
The sixth one – we’ll launch into it next week – engage in issues of justice! However, we need to do it NOT in a way that the world does. The world is engaged in justice – and it has been massively politicized – and I think God wants the church to do that NOT that way!