The Name

Something that has always caught my attention, my imagination, and commanded my respect is the Jewish understanding of what it means to hold God’s Name holy. Leviticus 22:32-33 says:

 You must not profane My holy name; I must be treated as holy among the Israelites. I am Yahweh who sets you apart, the One who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am Yahweh.”

The Jewish people are so careful not to profane God’s name, YHWH, they won’t say it, they won’t even write it. Historically, there was only one time a year when they would say the Name of God: Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year.

During the celebration of Yom Kippur, the High Priest would stand over the people of Israel, totally purified according to ritual standard, and read from Leviticus and Jonah. During this public recitation, on this one day alone, the High Priest is pure enough to utter the holiest name of God, YHWH. Each time he says the Name, the whole people lift their faces to God, close their eyes, and wait for His glory to fall on their faces.

Each time His Name is pronounced, God’s shekinah glory falls upon them, covers their faces, and wraps Himself around each faithful, holy member of Israel.

Praise be to God. His Name holds immense power. Do. Not. Profane. The. Name.

A lesson RVL taught during a break of the climb up to Mt. Timnah in the Sinai chain of mountains in the Negev desert, revolved around this incredible, profound idea of what it means to treat God’s Name as holy. I learned that I only knew part of what it means. RVL taught us that keeping God’s Name as holy isn’t just about refraining from using it as profanity – it’s not just about “taking the Lord’s Name in vain.”

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It also means that we do not act in such a way that detracts from God’s reputation.

We, Christians, we wear God’s Name. We identify ourselves by this word that proclaims us as “Christ-followers.” In identifying ourselves as such, we make a bold statement about who we are as representatives of our King Jesus, as spokespersons of God, as people living righteous lives that follow the ancient paths of our Savior.

When we wear God’s Name, yet act like we don’t, we PROFANE God’s Name.

Each time we curse. Each time we treat people with disrespect and ugliness. Each time we gossip. Each time we react with anger. Each time we ignore someone in need. Each time we point fingers in judgment.

Each time we act distinctly ungodly, we profane the Name. We say “God doesn’t love *this group of people* because of their unholy lifestyle,” and we profane God’s Name.

Each time I turn around, there’s a new nasty word about how terribly Christians treat others, and I’m kind of sick of it. We are God’s spokespeople, and we — over two millennium — have given God a terrible reputation.

We all know from personal experience, it takes very little to destroy a reputation, and it’s nigh impossible to change it.

It is time we strive to change God’s reputation.

The whole mission of God, from the beginning of God’s journey with Abraham, was to be a light to the Gentiles – to the whole world, every nation, every unholy people. The mission has been and will always be to live in such a way that God’s reputation is a magnet for people in chaos, that from their chaos, He might bring them shalom.

We do this by pouring God’s love upon every single person we meet: authentic, shocking, outrageous, overwhelming love. Let’s be the spokesperson that accurately reflects God’s authentic, shocking, outrageous, and overwhelming grace and mercy, instead of pointing fingers at people who already think God hates them (because that what “God’s people” have told them). We must stop (as a corporate body) profaning God’s Name, ruining His reputation, and begin to rebuild His Name by accurately reflecting His incredible love, grace, mercy, and justice to every single person we meet — no matter how “unholy” we may think they are.

The Word of God consistently, and constantly, reminds us that He is slow to anger,  merciful, gracious, and just. Let us who wear the Name live the same. Amen.

 

 

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