Bill Lockwood: The Name of God
by Bill Lockwood
Alfred Edersheim, the Jewish commentator who became a Christian, explains why Matthew’s gospel (3:2) will use the phraseology ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ while ‘Kingdom of God,’ appears elsewhere (e.g. Mark 1:4).
According to the Rabbinic views of the time, the terms ‘Kingdom of heaven,’ and ‘Kingdom of God’ … were equivalent. In fact, the word ‘heaven’ was very often used instead of ‘God,’ so as to avoid unduly familiarizing the ear with the Sacred Name. This probably accounts for the exclusive use of the expression ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ in the Gospel by Matthew.
I was raised by a godly Christian mother who explained to me when very young that the Jews took such care when even writing the name of God in copies of the Scriptures that they washed their hands before putting pen to parchment to write it. I never heard her speak of God except in sober tones.
Kimberly Burnham, in the website ReformJudaism.org, posted an article entitled “Writing the Torah and Honoring the Name of God.” In it she interviewed Rabbi Kevin Hale who “talked about going to the river near his house to wash himself in a mikveh (ritual bath) before writing the name of God in the Torah scroll he worked on.”
The reason there are very few errors is the intentionality that goes into the writing of the name of God …‘Every letter is sung out as you write, and there is an acute awareness of begin in the presence of something great,’ Hale said, noting that the name of God is written with a unique quill using special ink, a 2,000-year-old recipe.
The third commandment of the Decalogue forbids “taking the name of the Lord in vain.” Vain means empty, nothing, worthless. Writer Kevin DeYoung, senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina, and assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, asks this pointed question: “How did ‘watch your mouth’ make the top ten?” The answer is simple: God wants us to revere His name.
That being said, how has it come to pass that Christians, who ought of all people, to honor the name of God, have allowed a hedonistic godless blasphemous culture to influence our manner of speaking and thinking in that “O my G_____ ”, or equivalent expressions have become the norm?
DeYoung reflects on light-hearted “nicknames” that people use to refer to one another. Then he comments,
“But funny nicknames given to us is one thing; irreverent use of God’s name is another. Everywhere in Scripture the name of the Lord is exalted in the highest possible terms. ‘O Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!’ (Psa. 8:1). ‘Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name’ (Psa. 29:2). The first petition of the Lord’s prayer is ‘Hallowed be your name’ (Matt. 6:9). The apostles proclaim that ‘there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12). Paul assured the Romans that ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Rom. 10:13). And the culminating event in all of creation is when, ‘at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of god the Father’ (Phil. 2:10-11). The Bible does not want us to forget the holy importance of the divine name.”
Nothing marks the godlessness of a culture as much as dishonoring the name of God.