Hiding from God
If you have friends in the theatre, then you will have heard of the superstitions connected with one of Shakespeare’s plays: Macbeth. Actors refer to the play as “the Scottish play” for fear of provoking ill fate. J K Rowling used this same concept to introduce an element of mystery and pending doom into her Harry Potter novels. The fictional characters believed that it was too dangerous to even speak Lord Voldemort’s name; instead they called him “he who must not be named”.
But why have we attached such unfounded fear to the name of God our Father? His name is recorded in Hebrew by four consonants יהוה (YHVH or YHWH). Abraham, Moses and David called upon him by name. English speakers need to search the preface section in their Bibles to find an explanation:
In regard to the diving name YHWH, commonly referred to as the Tetragrammaton, the translators adopted the device used in most English versions of rendering that name as ‘LORD,’ in capital letters to distinguish it from Adonai, another Hebrew word rendered ‘Lord,’ for which small letters are used. Wherever the two names stand together in the Old Testament as a compound name of God, they are rendered ‘Sovereign LORD.’”
The reason given for replacing God’s name with the LORD is that there is no certainty as to the correct pronunciation; there is a fear of using God’s name in vain and so breaking the Third Commandment. Numerous commentaries on Judaism and Christianity document the development of this custom which has introduced the element of fear into our relationship with God.
The first action that Adam and Eve took after disobeying God was to cover their bodies and hide from God (Genesis 3:10). When Moses first encountered God at the burning bush, he hid his face:
Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.
That was only the first time that Moses had met with God, later he would talk with him face to face as a friend.
Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face.
Just as a mother will delight in the “m…m…m…mama” sounds that a young baby makes trying to call her, God delights in us calling him by name however anglicised or mispronounced that might be. Personally, I prefer the pronunciation Yehovah, yet others call him Yahweh. I think he answers to both.
- “Yehovah is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1).
- “The name of Yehovah is a strong tower” (Proverbs 18:10).
- “The Spirit of the Lord Yehovah is upon me because Yehovah has anointed me” (Isaiah 60:1).
Yehovah is the name for God in relationship with mankind: the God who entered history to rescue his children.
God is our loving father. There is no reason to hide our faces. There is no reason not to call upon him by name.
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Preface to the Holy Bible, New International Version, International Bible Society 1998