My Lent Words 9: LORD who is my God

The name ‘the LORD’, when it occurs in capitals in the Old Testament, is the name of God uses about himself. It translates, Yahweh, and is used from ancient times by Abraham’s clan and is the name which God uses to introduce himself to Moses.

‘God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is my name for ever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.’’ (Exodus 3:15)

If we are not aware of the difference between the biblical use of ‘Lord’ and ‘LORD’, we may well confuse those moments when God is intimate, and to be known by the name he gave to Moses, and those moments when the Bible is emphasising his nature as a sovereign.

‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ (Isaiah 6:3)

‘‘See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD Almighty.’ (Malachi 3: 1)

Jehovah, although not apparent from the English, is made up of the vowels of adonnai and the consonants of Yahweh.

Good news: God is both sovereign and personal.

My Lent Words 8: Lord who is King

In the introductory pages to a Bible, almost without exception, the translators explain their thinking behind their use of the words Lord or LORD in the text. Where the lower case Lord is used it translates the Hebrew word adonnai. It emphasises God’s sovereignty.

‘In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.’ (Isaiah 6:1)

So, in the year the King died, Isaiah saw a king sitting on a throne. When the seraphs’ voices are heard they identify the King as Yahweh by name.

‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord,
I lift up my soul. You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to you.’ (Psalm 86:3-5)

When I approach God I am approaching my sovereign who is Lord of all the universe.

My Lent Words 7: Holy enough to hide

If qados was about brightness yesterday, today is about distance. Not just a physical or geographical distance but a sense of otherness.

‘This is what the high and lofty one says – he who lives for ever, whose name is holy: ‘I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit…’’ (Isaiah 57:15)

The big surprise of holiness is that whilst the Bible says how holy God is even the Old Testament says that God is willing to be approachable and to make ordinary people holy.

‘But the man who makes me his refuge will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.’ (Isaiah 57:13)

Even more than that is the surprise that God comes to be with us Emanuel (God with us).

‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.’ (Isaiah 7: 14)

Lord thank you that your holiness does not leave me hiding

My Lent Words 6: Holy enough to approach

Qados is translated by the word holy. Opinion is divided as to whether this is based on brightness (can’t look at it), or separateness (too far away) but in fact both ideas are helpful.

Holiness is the characteristic of God. It is the adjective most often twinned with the name of God in the Old Testament. When Isaiah sees the Lord on the throne the seraphs are crying:

Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ (Isaiah 6:3)

For Isaiah, God is too bright to look at. Doing so, he feels ruined.

‘‘Woe to me!’ I cried. ‘I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.’’ (Isaiah 6:5)

When God invites me into his presence, he covers or blots out my sins and I can approach the unapproachable.

My Lent Words 5: Blotted out

Maha is translated variously as ‘blots out’, ‘wipes out’ and ‘sweeps away’. Forgiveness and the taking away of sin is something that flows from God’s inner quality.

‘I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.’ (Isaiah 43:25)

But the same word has a different feel elsewhere. Through his prophets God promised to clean up Jerusalem like someone washing the dishes and leaving them to drain. It is more like ‘blotting up’ than ‘blotting out’.

‘I will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes out a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down.’ (2 Kings 21:13b)

‘I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.’ (Isaiah 44:22)

David uses the same word when he asks God to be harsh with his enemies. In this example to blot out is to erase, as pencil writing is erased from a page.

‘May they be blotted out of the book of life and not listed with the righteous.’ (Psalm 69:28)

The literal translation of a Greek word Paul sometimes chose to use in this context is ‘wiping out’.

He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations…’ (Colossians 2:14)

Think – sinfulness is as nothing to God. He has soaked it up. It is lost in his infinite compassion and sacrifice.

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