Names of God: YHWH-M’Keddesh

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The word “sanctify” is one of those “Bible” words that only the religiously-inclined seem to know (but might not actually understand what it means).  Google defines the word so: “to set apart as or declare holy; consecrate; purify, free from sin, make clean.

Our name for God this week is “YHWH-M’Keddesh”.  This name means “The Lord who sanctifies”.  God sanctifies.  He is one who sets apart and IS set apart.  He is a holy God.  He is so wondrously holy, that whenever His holiness is mentioned in the Bible it is often said “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord”.  Three times in the Bible represents perfectness.  God is perfectly holy.

A God who is holy, set apart from evil requires those who worship Him to also to be holy and set apart from evil.

God commands:

“Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you.” – Lev. 20:7-8 ESV.

“For this is the will of God, your sanctification” – 1 Thes. 4:3 ESV

Unfortunately, our sinful nature tends to make that impossible.  We cannot make ourselves holy.  That is why we have a need for a God who will do it for us, a God who will cleanse us.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” – 1 John 1:9 ESV

It makes sense that the only one who can cleanse us from sin is the only One who is free from sin Himself.  So, in the words of Paul:

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Thes. 5:23 ESV

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In the Waiting Room

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You’re in a room, waiting.  It could be small, it could be big, the size of the room doesn’t really matter, it’s purpose is the same.  You are here to wait and wait you must.  Soft music is playing.  You hum along even though you don’t know the tune and you sit, fidgeting.  There is a stillness here, almost peace, and yet also a nagging feeling of anticipation, a gnawing hunger to be doing something, anything.  But there is nothing really to be done, so you wait, uneasily.  Finally a name is called… but it isn’t your’s and you watch one of your fellow “waiters” leave, following them with your eyes, secretly envious that they were called before you.

As time drags out, you begin to wonder if you will ever be able to do anything but wait.  The ticking of the clock begins to make you nervous.  It’s something mundane, you wouldn’t even notice it otherwise, but you are forced to be still and so you hear it.  It seems to be taunting you, reminding you that precious time is literally ticking away, time you could be doing something, accomplishing something in glorious activity, and yet you are forced to sit here, hands folded, idly inactive.  It’s enough to drive you mad.

What if the waiting turns into hours, days, years?  Will your name ever be called?  Will you ever be able to step forward with purpose again?  Or will you always be here, waiting, in limbo, feeling completely useless, completely helpless, and completely frustrated?

Waiting is hard.  It calls out a different kind of strength from our depths.  Not a strength of action, but a strength of inaction.  It is a strength of perseverance, of holding out until help arrives, yet it doesn’t always look as glorious as that sounds.  Sometimes you are under fire, enemies surround, and you wait for deliverance, stolid and brave, ready to win your medal of honor for holding out.  But sometimes… sometimes there is nothing happening around you (so you believe), time seems at a stand still.  All activity has stopped and you long for movement, but are forced to wait, to be still.  To persevere here doesn’t seem as glorious.  And you aren’t likely to get a medal.

Why? You cry out.  Why am I forced to wait?  But there is no answer and you didn’t really expect one.

It can feel hopeless here.  You’d give anything to act, but every time you do, your efforts fall flat because it isn’t time, your appointment with forward momentum hasn’t arrived.  And bitterly, you know that there isn’t really anything you can do to hurry the wait.

So what do you do?

Well, you could wallow in self-pity and frustration, but since your frustration is with not being able to do anything, this seems counterproductive.  You could grumble bitterly, causing everyone around you to be miserable, after all, misery loves company.  Yet, that would hardly solve your problem, only compounding the hopelessness you feel.  So what can you do?

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?” (Psalms 121:1 ESV)

Although it may be harder to sense, there is action in waiting.  There is movement.  In the waiting, there is a readying.  A resting and bracing for the next scene.  Most of all, this is a time to focus fully on the One who can deliver.  Focus.

“For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty
    and lift up your face to God.” (Job 22:26 ESV)

He offers hope.  Hope for deliverance, hope for an end to waiting. Hope.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence,
    for my hope is from Him.” (Psalms 62:5 ESV)

You may not see it, but He has a plan.  And He is always working, even when you cannot sense it, even when it seems like the world is at a standstill. Trust.

“The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.” (Psalm 121:8 ESV)

“And those who know Your name put their trust in You, for You, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Psalm 9:10 ESV)

“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion.” (Philippians 1:6 ESV)

Often times, in the wait, it can seem like no one is listening.  But we have a promise, an assurance of council.  A promise to be heard.  Pray.

“But I call to God, and the Lord will save me.” (Psalms 55:16 ESV)

“Call to Me and I will answer you” (Jeremiah 33:3 ESV)

“When he calls to Me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him.” (Psalm 91:15 ESV)

Although this is a forced rest, we can take advantage of it.  Allow it to recharge us, to strengthen us.  Rest.

“Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14 ESV)

“Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10 ESV)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10 ESV)

When others are called before you, instead of being envious, Rejoice.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Romans 12:15 ESV)

And while we feel like we are alone, never forget, He waits with us.  Wait.

“Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
    and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for Him.” (Isaiah 30:18 ESV)

And when we dwell, abide, in the presence of the Almighty, we will be rewarded for our patience, for our waiting.  Not just at the end of waiting, but during as well. Receive.

“The Lord is good to those who wait for Him,
    to the soul who seeks Him.” (Lamentations 3:25 ESV)

“but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31 ESV)

There is another movement in waiting, a transformation, a strengthening.  Those who are weary, receive power.

“He gives power to the faint,
    and to him who has no might He increases strength.” (Isaiah 40:29 ESV)

Finally, your name is called and you stand, but you stand a different person, a person transformed by the wait, a person of strength, ready for the challenge ahead.  And you march forward, you and your God.

“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14 ESV)

Names of God: El Shaddai

Gen17_1Have you ever observed the power of a thunderstorm, or the crash of the ocean waves, or the sheer intensity of a hurricane?  Listened to the wind as it whips through the trees, going where it wills and answering to no man’s call?  How about hearing the rushing roar of a waterfall as it cascades down a cliff, thousands of gallons of water crashing down into the swirling mists?  All these and more represent the awesome raw power of El Shaddai (El Shad-eye), God Almighty.  

Google defines “almighty” as “having complete power”.  El Shaddai has exactly that, complete power over all.  When talking about the might and power of El Shaddai, we can speak of the three “o”‘s of God: His omniscience, His omnipotence, and His omnipresence.

When we say God is “omniscient” what do we mean? Omniscient means “all-knowing”.  El Shaddai knows all things at all times.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    You discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay Your hand upon me.” – Psa. 139:1-4 ESV

El Shaddai knows our every thoughts before we even think them.  He knows what is in the deepest corners of our hearts: “for [He], [only He], knows the hearts of all the children of mankind” (1 Kings 8:39 ESV)  “God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything” (1 John 3:20 ESV).

El Shaddai is omnipresent, always present at all times.  He is there when we rise up in the morning, and He is there in the setting of the sun.  He is our strength in battle and a “a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1 ESV).  There is no place we can go to be free of Him, there is no place into which He cannot follow.

“Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.” – Jer. 23:24 ESV

“Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.” – Psa. 139:7-10 ESV

It is a comfort to know that El Shaddai is with you at all times, He will never forsake you, and at the same time, it is terrifying to know that you can never escape His judgement should you incur His wrath.  I think that describes our God so well, both comforting and terrifying.

While El Shaddai knows all in all places, He is also able to do all for He is omnipotent, all-powerful.  Nothing can stop Him.

“I know that You can do all things,
    and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2 ESV)

Nothing has come into being without the direct influence of El Shaddai.  “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Psa. 33:6 ESV).  The book of Job in chapters 38-41 paints a glorious picture of El Shaddai’s amazing, awe-inspiring, terrifying power. Please go and read it now.  It’s beautiful imagery, truly astonishing.

God’s power in never-ending, limitless, all-encompassing.

He changes times and seasons;
    He removes kings and sets up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to those who have understanding” – Dan. 2:21 ESV

He is “able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20 ESV).

We could go on and on all day about the awesome power of El Shaddai, but what is jaw-dropping amazing is that God promises to use all that power for our good.  All that truly terrifyingly awesome power bound up in His love for His children.

“It is written,

‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him’.” – 1 Cor. 2:9

El Shaddai is truly God Almighty.

Names of God: Adonai

isa24_44We have stood in awe of our Mighty Elohim, we have raised our hands to praise the Eternal YHWH, and today we fall to our knees before our Lord and Master, the great Adonai.

Adonai (ah-doh-noi) means “Master” or “Sovereign”.  This Hebrew word is translated “Lord” in our English Bibles (only first letter capitalized).  It, also, is plural and is sometimes used in place of YHWH in order to avoid using and profaning God’s personal name. It is used in the singular form to refer to earthly masters.  The Google definition for “master” that seems to best fit here is “a person who has dominance or control of something”.  Our Adonai has complete dominance and control over everything.

We first see this name in reference to God in Genesis 15.  In this world-changing story, God is about to use one man to blessing all the people of the earth, his name is Abraham.  When Abraham uses this name, he acknowledges God as Lord, one who has power and authority over his life.  It was important for Abraham to believe this, because the promises God was making were going to change Abraham’s life (and the lives of his descendants) forever.  He had to believe in God’s authority to enact these changes.

Ironically, when God desires to send Moses to Egypt, we see Moses reject God as Lord when he refers to Him as Adonai in Exodus 4:

“But Moses said to the Lord, ‘Oh, my [Adonai], I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?  Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.’  But he said, “Oh, my [Adonai], please send someone else.” (10-13).

The complete authority of God is woven throughout the Bible.  In the beginning, as we have already seen, God has authority over creation.  He merely had to speak and things came to order, just as a king commands his servants.  Romans 13:1 says “there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God“.

We see He has authority over all the nations, every ruler is subject to Him whether they submit or not:

“O Lord, the God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You.” – 2 Chron. 20:6 ESV

He has authority over time, itself.  He makes plans and carries them out.  Our Adonai even has the end of the world planned and even though Jesus says, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority” (Acts 1:7 ESV) we can rest assured that God’s plans will be carried out in the time He intends.

Adonai is Lord over life and death:

The Lord kills and brings to life;
    He brings down to Sheol and raises up.” – 1 Sam. 2:6 ESV

“Thus says the Lord: Behold, I set before you the way of life and the way of death.” – Job 33:22 ESV

Adonai is worthy of all our obedience and devotion.

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to Him.” – Psa. 28:7

This video is pretty poor quality, but it is the words I’m going for.  “Oh Lord, Our Lord”

Be Careful What You Step In

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Jesus said to him, ‘The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean’.” (John 13:10 ESV)

When we read the story of Jesus washing the disciples feet in John 13, we might be tempted to skim through, thinking, “Oh, I know this story, it’s about serving.”  But in doing so, we might miss another lesson nestled within this story.

So the story goes, the disciples and Jesus were getting ready to settle down to a meal.  It was the custom of the time to not only wash hands before eating, but also to wash feet.  Since this was a rather undesirable job, it was usually left to a servant to do this for all the guests.  Since there were no servants within this group getting ready to eat, they either had to wash their own feet or it fell to one of their number to take on this job for the rest.  It really was unthinkable to lower themselves to the level of slave and actually wash the feet of another, so while the disciples prepared to wash their own feet, Jesus donned the towel and knelt at their feet.  Yes, this is a story of servanthood, and yet there is something more here.  This is also the story of cleanliness.

Starting in verse 6 Jesus has a discussion with Peter about the deed of washing feet.  While the others seemed to have no qualms about their Lord washing their feet, Peter was appalled!  How could his Master, the One with the highest rank among them, the Messiah wash feet?  And yet, Jesus explains to him that it is necessary.  Why?  To teach a lesson on humility? Yes… but what does He say in verse 8?

“Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me’.” John 13:8

Ah… this isn’t just about servanthood.  Jesus isn’t talking about washing feet here.  We are washed, made clean by the blood of Christ: “they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Rev. 7:14).  Sin stains and can only be removed by Christ Himself.

Peter misunderstands, but being Peter, he wants to go all the way and exclaims,”Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”  He wants so much to be part of Christ that he will do anything for Him. Oh, that we had his devotion and willpower, sometimes.

And Christ answers, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.”  Once we are cleansed in Christ’s blood, we are made fully clean from sin (Heb. 10:19-22).  Even though we still make mistakes, we are still clean.  Jesus is talking about feet.

Feet determine where our bodies go.  And sometimes feet stumble, sometimes we step in something we shouldn’t.  Sometimes we get our feet so dirty that it is difficult to see the sparkling interior that we have thanks to Christ.  It is because of this that Christ dons the towel and washes our feet once again.  We need His discipline, we need to be scolded once in a while, we need to be lead back to the right track and guided so we can avoid once again stepping into something we shouldn’t.

Back to servanthood, Christ asks us to wash each other’s feet.  Let’s look out for each other.  In serving each other, we can also help keep each other on the right path, help each other when we trip, and help wash each other’s feet when we step in something we shouldn’t by leading each other back to Christ who cleanses us of all our mess.  He is good.

Names of God: YHWH

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Last week we spent time with the mighty Elohim, this week we will seek Him as eternal YHWH.  I’m going to begin with addressing a debate surrounding this name.  Because the Hebrew language has changed so much over the years, there are some words in the ancient Hebrew that scholars are uncertain of how to pronounce.  YHWH is one of them.  There are two schools of thought on how it should be pronounced: the first (my preference) is Yahweh “yah-way”, and the second is Jehovah “J-uh-hoe-va”.  For this post and for following posts, I’m going to simply write “YHWH” and you can pronounce it however you deem proper.

YHWH first appears in the Bible in Genesis 2, however this name was not actually given to His people until Exodus 3 when He spoke to Moses from the burning bush.  YHWH is considered the personal name for God and is the most used name to refer to Him.  This name is considered so holy by the Jewish people that they long ago ceased using it for fear of breaking the third commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Ex. 20:7 ESV).

The name is built upon the Hebrew for “I am”.  When God says “I am”, He means He exists, in and of Himself.  He doesn’t rely on a creator or ruler.  He is self-sustaining and self-governing.

It means “eternal” or “self-existing”.  This means that God was not created.  He always existed and always will.  Google defines “eternal” as “lasting or existing forever; without end or beginning”.

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.'” – Rev. 1:8

He was and is and is still to come. Forever.

YHWH is everlasting.

“Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” – Psalm 90:2 ESV

Endless.

Eternal.

And it is only the Eternal who can promise us eternal life:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” – John 5:24 ESV

It is because of this that we can sing with the angels “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!“(Rev. 4:8 ESV).

See

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Today I knelt with Isaiah, hands lifted, heart laid bare, and even though his ancient words were written years ago, they resonate with my heart.  Please join me in Isaiah 63:15 – 64:9.  Read the words, speak them out loud, and feel their significance.  And through your mind’s eye “see“.

“Look down from heaven and see,
    from Your holy and beautiful habitation.”

Don’t we all long to be seen?  Though we may pretend we want to stay hidden, we really just want to be found.  To be rescued from our hiding places.

“Where are Your zeal and Your might?
    The stirring of Your inner parts and Your compassion
    are held back from me.
For You are our Father,
    though Abraham does not know us,
    and Israel does not acknowledge us;
You, O Lord, are our Father,
    our Redeemer from of old is Your name…”

Gentiles we are, yet we long for the love of our Father, our Redeemer.  We yearn for the work of His hands.  We know of His power.  We long to see.

…Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down,
    that the mountains might quake at Your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
    and the fire causes water to boil—
to make Your name known to Your adversaries,
    and that the nations might tremble at Your presence!
When You did awesome things that we did not look for,
    You came down, the mountains quaked at Your presence.

Your enemies are our enemies! They profane Your name! Let them see who is truly King!  Your power moves mountains!  Let them see.

From of old no one has heard
    or perceived by the ear,
no eye has seen a God besides You,
    who acts for those who wait for Him.

There is no other, Lord.  There IS no other Lord.  No one has seen.

You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
    those who remember You in Your ways.

Help us to remember.

Behold, You were angry, and we sinned;
    in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
We have all become like one who is unclean,
    and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
We all fade like a leaf,
    and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
There is no one who calls upon Your name,
    who rouses himself to take hold of You;
for You have hidden Your face from us,
    and have made us melt in the hand of our iniquities.

Here we shed bitter tears for our folly.  There are no words for our betrayal.  Who can save those who cannot save themselves?  You no longer want to see.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
    we are the clay, and You are our potter;
    we are all the work of Your hand.

Mold us, shape us, use us, but please, Father, never leave us!  Help us to see once more.

Be not so terribly angry, O Lord,
    and remember not iniquity forever.
    Behold, please look, we are all Your people.

Please see us once more.  We are all Your people.  Teach us to love, teach us to follow, and please, never give up on us.  Though we may stumble and trip and fall flat on our faces, please help us to keep on going.  Help us to learn from our mistakes, to forget our sin, and never look back, never turn our faces from You.  In the past is the darkness, let us always turn our faces fully to the Light, help us to see.  Forgive Your people and bring us home.  To You be all glory, forever and ever. Amen.