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Friday, July 17, 2015

The Name of God

Scripturally, the Creator/Author of Heaven & Earth is known as YHWH, or even more correctly, 'I AM'! There are many names that have been attributed to our Heavenly Father; 'Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace' ( Isaiah 9:6 ) is just one example. We realize that this list, in context, is referring to the Christ, or Scripturally, 'the Son of God' ( I John 5:20, et al ), but Jesus WAS 'God with us' ( Isaiah 7:10-14 ). To the Noble Savage, otherwise known as 'he American Indian', He was often called 'The Great Spirit'. Other cultures, though not what we would call Christian, know their Creator by any number of different names. The religion of Islam, for instance, calls the Creator God by the name of 'Allah', though their perception of Him ( the Creator God ) is often at odds with the Christian God!

Traditionally, because of our Christian Scriptures, we have called the Creator by the name 'God' ( sometimes 'Yahweh' ) & to be honest, this is not wrong, but is it correct? The Hebrew word translated 'God' in our Scriptures is 'elohim'; this simply means 'a mighty one, a ruler or judge'! When our Lord commanded the Children of Israel, through Moses, 'You shall have no other gods before Me' ( Exodus 20:3 ), He used the same Hebrew word to describe those false gods, those idols that would confront His Covenant People in the Promised Land!

When Moses asked the Creator God what he should tell the Children of Israel if they should ask who had sent him, his Lord said 'Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you' ( Exodus 3:14 ). This was the Name by which the Creator's Children were to know Him! Now, we must understand here as well that we are reading/interpreting this from our English translation of an ancient near eastern language. 'Hayah' is the Hebrew word used here & it simply means 'to be, to exist'. Traditionally, we have read it as 'The Preexistent One' ( or something to that effect ). Of all the many names that Scripture ascribes to our Heavenly Father, this is probably the most technically correct, but this name was revealed to the Hebrews, not to Americans; should we in the 21st century use that same Name, or even just use the rather ambiguous 'God'?

In this day & age, as in ancient times, our 'god' is whatever we worship, whether it be money, things, or whatever. For instance, the inscription on American money, both paper & coinage, 'In God we trust', could actually be interpreted in such a way that the very currency on which this phrase is imprinted it technically the 'God' or 'god' referred to! To be honest, when this phrase was first coined, doubtless those who coined it had in mind the Creator God, but since the term itself is so ambiguous, it could just as well mean 'in money ( or financial status ) we trust'!

Some might wonder if it is really all that important what we call our Lord, our Heavenly Father! Doesn't He still hear the prayers of His Children, whether they call Him 'God', Yahweh, 'Allah', or even refer to Him simply as 'The Great Spirit'? No doubt He does, but if we would be true in our speech & Scripturally correct, we should probably use the name Yahweh, or even refer to Him as IAM'! As fathers, though, don't we appreciate when our children call us 'dad', 'papa', or even 'father'?
It has become more popular, especially in the past 50 years, give or take, to call our earthly fathers by their first names & though this is not necessarily wrong, not all fathers appreciate this; to some, it would probably be seen as a sign of disrespect!

So again, does it really matter what terms we use when referring to the Creator God, our Heavenly Father? He is our God, our Ruler, our Judge & THE Mighty One, but not everyone acknowledges this! While this does not change the Absolute, it does make a difference in how we are perceived! We may say that we believe in God, but if we put more importance on other things than on following our Lord's commands & example, then those with which we have to do will note that our 'God' is truly not the Creator, but money, status, etc. If we call Him our Father, or even 'Yahweh' or some other Scriptural term, then they should realize that we serve the God of Israel!

Whatever terminology we use to describe our Heavenly Father ( 'God' is perfectly acceptable ), what is most important is that we follow His example! If a Muslim calls Him 'Allah' & follows the example that He gave us through Jesus the Christ, will he or she be justified through their deeds as well as a Christian? A Buddhist that follows in Jesus' footsteps should be accepted as well as an American Indian who worships 'The Great Spirit'!

What it comes down to is not what you call your god, but what you do with your god. How many Christians put so much emphasis on using the correct terminology to refer to the Creator God that they forget that it is by doing, by following His commands & example that we are judged? How many people that wouldn't necessarily be called Christians actually put His teachings into practice, even though they may not recognize Him as their Heavenly Father?

Charles Haddon Shank

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