Friday, June 23, 2017

It's all in a Name

I don't know about you, but I sometimes struggle to trust God  especially when things aren't going very well. That's why I was so encouraged when I found in Psalm 9 a beautiful summary of the secret to trusting God.

In this psalm of praise to God, King David wrote that "those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you." (Psalm 9:10)

It's all there, packed into that one little verse: A life-changing declaration followed by its own confidence-inspiring explanation; "this can be you because this is true" sort of statement. It's the kind of pronouncement that it'd be good to meditate on every day. And the focus is entirely on a name  a very important name of the One we're meant to continually trust, even when times are tough.

To begin with, we can see that it's the people who know God's name whom David singles out. They're the ones whom David describes as decisively choosing to trust God. Why is that? Why would simply having a name to call someone, even if that someone was God, give me reason to trust them?

David explains that in the very next statement, beginning with the word "for" (which could just as easily been translated "because"), and in his explanation, he very clearly chooses the name, LORD, as the name he has in mind for God: "...for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you." David is essentially saying, Those who know God as Yahweh will most certainly trust God! In English translations of the Old Testament, when the name, LORD, is spelled in all capital letters, it's a reference to the Hebrew name, Yahweh (Jehovah in English). Other Hebrew names for God in the Old Testament are Elohim (spelled "God"and Adonai (spelled "Lord"), each carrying their own emphases and meanings, and each used in specific contexts for specific reasons. But Yahweh is by far the most commonly used name in the Old Testament, and that is the name David used here because it's the name that spoke most loudly of God's trustworthiness and faithfulness.

David knew that Yahweh was the name God revealed to Moses at the burning bush when God said, "I AM WHO I AM... Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you... The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations" (Exodus 3:14-15). It was in this context, when God first revealed His name as Yahweh, that He said, "I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites... a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 3:17). 

In other words, Yahweh was a name packed with promises to David's listeners  promises that they knew God had kept! And the name, Yahweh, was the name God gave in order to enter into a forever-covenant with His people  a covenant that He would never break, for it would be against His holy nature to do so. That makes Yahweh the name for a covenant-keeping God who is eternally faithful, always with us, never forsaking us. It's also encouraging that the name Yahweh is derived from the repetition of the words "I AM." The repetition of these words in His name is meant to assure us that God is, in fact, very real, and that He does not change, and that He will always be exactly who He knows we need Him to be, whatever we're facing!

The writer to the Book of Hebrews must have had this in mind when he wrote that "without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). 

David certainly understood this as he wrote Psalm 9. And if we truly know God's beautiful name  and all it represents in the context of the many bold promises and covenants He has made in that name throughout His Word  we too will be inspired to trust this God who has never yet forsaken those whose hearts are set on Him.

© 2017 by Ken Peters