Call Upon the Name of YHWH

1 Kings 18:24 | Land of Honey

Yahweh. God. Yehovah. Adonai. The LORD. Yahuah. G-d. Elohim. Jehovah. Does what you call YHWH matter? Maybe you have heard that the name of YHWH should not be uttered or that he knows your heart so it doesn't make any difference what you call him. But Elijah believed otherwise.

"And you call on the name of your elohim, 
and I will call on the Name of YHWH." - 1 Kings 18:24

This is from the story where Elijah faced down 450 prophets of Baal; his premise for this challenge was very simple: let's both offer a sacrifice. We'll see which name responds.

The phrasing Elijah chose is extremely interesting and clamors for our attention. He didn't say, "We'll see which God answers," or, "I will call to my God," he made it a point to mention the name of YHWH. Significant? I think so.

Something I never paid much attention to in this story was Baal. Just a strange name for a false god, right? The truth is a little more interesting: Baal is the Hebrew word for Lord. Now glance at the story again - it reads differently! Verse 18: You have forsaken the commandments of YHWH to follow the Lord.

I have a hunch you know the rest of the story; the group of prophets couldn't get the attention of Baal no matter what they tried. But when Elijah called upon YHWH fire immediately consumed the sacrifice. Those who called upon the Lord didn't see a response, but the one who called upon YHWH did.

This story made me see that YHWH distinguishes himself from "the Lord." I want to mention here that there was definitely a time in my life where I called YHWH 'God.' I know many with sincere faith who call upon 'the Lord.' I am not saying someone is a bad person or not saved or whatever else if they use generic words for YHWH. But I do think if you want to get to know someone better you start with learning their name.

In Exodus 34:6 he introduces himself. "I am YHWH." In fact, he says his name twice in a row. My brother's name is a little unusual so when he meets someone he almost always has to repeat it to get their pronunciation even remotely close. And it seems like that is what YHWH is dealing with here. He knew his name would be misunderstood.

Obviously, the Bible was not originally written in English so "YHWH" is actually the transliteration of the Hebrew letters yod-he-waw-he. These letters transliterate into the approximate English equivalents of YHWH. I use this to be as correct as possible to refer to the Living God. (The Hebrew letters are confusing to those unfamiliar and don't translate well onto all devices.) Sounding out the Hebrew letters gets us yah-a-wah or yah-hu-uh. Sounding out the English letters gets us yah-way. Yehovah would be a cousin of this. With the variety of worldwide accents some of us may need to adjust our enunciation as we learn more, and that's okay. Personally I think trying to pronounce someone's name correctly (even if you don't quite get there) is a lot more respectful than not using it, or worse yet, calling them by their enemy's name.

Okay sure, you may say, but my Bible uses LORD all the time. How important can the name be if it's not in there? Hear me out on this because the following is probably the most ridiculous thing Bible translators have ever done. In the original texts of Scripture the name YHWH was in there all over the place, Genesis through Revelation. This is crazy to hear but nonetheless translators have removed the name of YHWH from Scripture over 7,000 times! Many versions (like the ESV) even mention this in the preface, that LORD is used a stand in to 'represent' the name. LORD is not a transliteration of yod-he-waw-he. These letters are not only incorrect, but also the name of the false deity from 1 Kings 18. Exodus 23:13 tells us we aren't to speak the names of false deities at all, let alone substitute for YHWH.

"Do not add to the word which I command you, and do not take away from it." - Deuteronomy 4:2

Replacing the name of YHWH is taking away from Scripture. YHWH distinguishes his name from that of other deities for a reason.

One reason is that there are a lot of things in this world that get worshiped as "God" or "the Lord." When I am in my conservative Christian hometown people talk about "God" and I know they are talking about the one of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But if I am on a college campus, talking with someone from a different religious background, or in a more multicultural city, "God" is used to refer a wide variety of things. I have personally heard the term used to talk about Islam's Allah, the deity behind the Hindu celebration of Diwali, reiki spirit guides, and a new age higher power. Followers of these 'gods' need to know that YHWH is different from their so called god.

YHWH's name is so important to him that reverence for it is included as one of the ten most important commandments. Usually this gets translated as not to take it in vain. Read: don't use it like a swear word. Many rabbis have forbidden use of the name of YHWH so that the name could never be used incorrectly or inappropriately. Unfortunately, not using the name - thus causing people to forget it - is pretty much the opposite of what the command intends. A better translation of Exodus 20:7 would be not to empty his name. Don't bring it to nothing. Don't forget about it. We can see that Elijah clearly had no problem speaking aloud the name of YHWH. The Messiah had no problem using it either, and it got him a lot of push back from the Pharisees. He even says that he has restored the name of YHWH to the earth.

What else does Scripture say about the name of YHWH?

-The Messiah came in the name of YHWH. -John 5:43
-It will be upon his people. -Numbers 6:27
-Righteous people run to the name of YHWH and are safe. -Proverbs 18:10
-We are to esteem his name. -Psalm 29:2
-We are to love YHWH's name. -Isaiah 56:6
-Every generation should know and remember his name. -Psalm 45:17
-Salvation is found in the name of YHWH and Yahusha. -Joel 2:32, Acts 4:12
-We are to praise the name of YHWH. -Psalm 9:2
-We won't see the Messiah until we can say, "Blessed is he that comes in the   name of YHWH." -Matthew 23:39, Luke 13:35
-Disciples should be baptized in the name of YHWH, as well as the Messiah and   Holy Spirit. -Matthew 28:19
-Everyone who calls on the name of YHWH shall be delivered. -Romans 10:13
-The name of YHWH endures forever. -Psalm 135:13

It's amazing to see how important the name of YHWH is and by learning it we can better know our Creator. Like himself, his name is different from any other 'gods' of this world. May we never forget his name or bring it to ruin again.

"And Elijah came to all the people and said, 'How long will you keep hopping between to opinions? If YHWH is Elohim follow him, but if the Lord is God then follow him.'" -1 Kings 18:21

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