“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet.”
This of course is very true, so long as you actually take the time to smell the roses. But call it a rose, call it a juniper berry, call it a spoon, call it an umbrella, the basic premise is correct. It will indeed smell as sweet regardless of what we call it. Of you still need some consensus as to what it is called or there’s going to be a whole lot of confused people out there when you tell one you smelled a spoon and another you smelled an umbrella!
Proper nouns are important. They’re very useful for helping us verbally distinguish one thing or person, from another. Even if two people have the same name, we always find ways to distinguish between them, either with surnames, or nicknames, or descriptive terms.
Which brings me to God’s name. I was listening to Dallas Willard not so long ago, and he said that when Jesus said “Make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son & the Holy Spirit” that it doesn’t mean immerse them in water and say “I baptise you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit“, but rather, it means immersing them in God, and who He is. His character, in the reality of His presence!
This makes so much more sense to me! I have to admit I’ve always been a little curious about that very statement ever since I learnt that the Name of the Father, Son and Spirit is Yahweh, and that when God revealed His name to Moses he explained what it meant, it seemed a bit silly to talk about His name in such distant sort of way. So I figured we should at least be saying “I baptise you in Yahweh (which is God’s name)”.
So back to Moses and Exodus 3, when God revealed His personal name to Moses as YHWH – “I am.” God was saying that His character will be revealed to Moses and the nation of Israel by the way He interacts with them.
Later in Exodus 33 Moses finds favour in God’s sight and asks that he can see His glory, to which God responds.
“I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of YHWH before you…”
and then, then, He does! As His ‘glory’ (essence of His being) passes before Moses, Yahweh proclaims, explains, and defines His name!
Exodus 34:6 says,
“And Yahweh passed before him and proclaimed Almighty Yahweh is:
• Merciful (compassion that moves to action)
• Gracious (favour toward us)
• Longsuffering (not touchy or overly sensitive, slow to anger)
• Abounding (lavishing) in goodness (mercy)
• Abounding (lavishing) in truth (trust worthy, faithful)
• Having/Maintaining/extending mercy to thousands
• Forgiving iniquity/wickedness
• Forgiving transgressions/rebellion
• Forgiving sin
And Yahweh has defined his name, has shared His character, has revealed to us just who it is who’s name we are called by (Eph 3-15-15)! This is the One in whom we trust! The one who is a strong tower that the righteous can run in to and be safe! It is this truth, this reality, this loving merciful God in whom we’re to immerse new disciples in! This is the person to whom we commit our lives to following, the one we represent.
Gayle Erwin points out that this makes sense of the whole concept of not taking His name in vain. It’s not about swearing, it’s about the fact that if we’re called by His Name, we had better be merciful, gracious, longsuffering, abounding in goodness and truth, have mercy to thousands and forgive iniquity, transgressions and sin or we will be taking His name upon us in vain! If you have an organisation that’s known by His Name then that organisation had better be merciful, gracious, longsuffering, abounding in goodness and truth, have mercy to thousands and forgive iniquity, transgressions and sin, or, that organisation is taking His Name in vain.
Jesus came in the flesh and embodied all of these traits, because, He was the embodiment of His Father. He was God with flesh wrapped around Him. He came and showed us mercy, and grace and longsuffering, and he did abound in goodness and truth, and he had mercy to thousands, and in him is forgiveness of iniquity, and transgressions and sin.
In Him is life, and this, is the more excellent Way, and he has revealed it to us by coming as a servant, by not lording it over us, by leading by example, by being humble, by preferring others before Himself, by using no force, by having no blind ambition, by not caring for His own reputation and by being obedient, even unto death.
He has revealed to us the a more excellent Way. The way of love.