ha-Shem (the Name)

Day 49

Prayer for the day

O LORD, watch over us and save us from this generation for ever.

Scripture for the day

Leviticus 23-24, Mark 1:1-22

The Name. The name of the LORD is a powerful thing in the First Testament. It bears the character of God, the very being of God, within its meaning and utterance. Calling on the name of the LORD (YHWH in Hebrew) was invoking the power of the God of the universe, beseeching that specific God for that specific task, favour, or intervention. There was an intimacy in knowing the name of the LORD, and in being entrusted with it.

It was such a holy thing, such an entirely other and set apart name, that it was not to be spoken or written. Invoking the name of the LORD (YHWH) was not a simple or a safe thing. We see the danger in the name in the Leviticus passage today. A man blasphemes the Name with a curse, and has to be stoned by the community.

This seems like a harsh punishment when you can hear the name of God thrown around with abandon on every television show today. We don’t know exactly what the content of the man’s curse was, or why he uttered it. All we know from this passage is that the third commandment from Exodus, the commandment to avoid taking the Name in vain, had be contravened. And the punishment was severe. The very character of the God the Israelites followed and from whom they drew their identity had been cursed. And death followed.

In the Second Testament passage today, God does not specifically claim His name for someone, but the speech of the Father at the baptism of Jesus hints at the importance of the event. God does not speak His name, but He does speak the name of Jesus, “Son,” and we are to understand from this that the Son bore the Name of the Father. God expresses His identity and His favour with this Son. This Son has something special to show us about the character of the Name.

In matter of fact, Jesus is the one who bears the Name to us in the way a simple Name never could. Not only does Jesus bear the name “God,” he actually bears the very nature of God.

Many would say that not taking the Name in vain is simply avoiding the “OMG” phenomenon. But this simplifies too much a complex command. In reality, to truly treat the Name with respect, we need to look to the perfect bearer of the Name, and give him the respect and care he deserves. This, contrary to the curse, is the path to life!

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