When I was a kid, I literally wore the armor of God.
Does anyone else remember these kits? A big plastic shield had a plastic red banner over the center of it that read “Faith.” A helmet with a sliding plastic visor and the word “Salvation” on the top. And I fought off all manor of imaginary evil with the sword of the Spirit.
All of God’s armor is meant to strengthen and help us—but perhaps the most misunderstood item in the set is that shiny sword.
It happens more mornings than not. My phone alarm goes off at 5AM. I hit snooze. It goes off again. I snooze it again. Usually by 5:30, I’ve rolled out of bed.
With a blanket wrapped around me, I sit down with my Bible and journal. I open my Bible to the passage for the day, say a quick prayer, and start reading. Slowly, I read the passage a few times, looking for spiritual insight, trying to encounter God in the pages of Scripture. Too often, I feel like I’m just trying to stay awake in the garden with Jesus.
It always happens around this time of year. I get the itch to start fresh, to scrap the blog and begin again. Photos need updating, layouts need changing, and golly I could sure use a splash of color.
Part of this desire is good, I’m sure. It’s right to ask, “How can I make my work good and beautiful?” However, there’s one little problem that lingers at the back of my mind: More time fussing about the layout and design means less time writing.
I love listening to The Bible Project podcast. But almost every time Tim (one of the co-founders) reads from the Old Testament, he says, “Yahweh” instead of “Lord.”
This difference made me scratch my head. Is it okay to call God Yahweh? Shouldn’t I say “Lord” because it’s written in my Bible?
A Hidden, Holy Name
You can trace the origin of the name “Yahweh” back to Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush. We find this episode in Exodus 3:
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The LORD [literally, Yahweh], 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 forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (Exodus 3:13-15).
I remember reading this in the intro to a Bible once—whenever the Bible says L-O-R-D in all caps, that’s the divine name “Yahweh.”
The trouble is, I didn’t call God Yahweh. That was an Old Testament thing. A Jewish thing. A thing for Pentecostal Christians who blew shofars.
What I didn’t know is that the change from “Yahweh” to “LORD” isn’t a modern or New Testament move. Instead, it was an intentional choice by Jewish authors to honor the name of God.
Rather than writing “Yahweh,” to honor God’s name, they changed “Yahweh” to “Adonai,” taken from the Hebrew word for “lord.”
I’m used to reading the word “LORD” as a title instead of a name.
This is all great, with one major hitch—because of the English language, I’m used to reading the word “LORD” as a title instead of a name. That may seem insignificant to you, but this barrier prevented me from reading Scripture in a more intimate way.
“In my home, call me Dr. Marvin.”
Titles are important. They help us understand someone’s status or rank. Titles are important in the military to help you understand who you command and who commands you. But titles aren’t names.
I’m reminded of a scene from the movie “What about Bob” where Bob has landed himself at the Marvin’s house for dinner. After flaring up at Bob, Dr. Marvin stands up from the table. Watch the interaction below.
In Dr. Marvin’s office, he told Bob to call him “Leo,” making their relationship appear more personal. But once Bob invaded his life and drove him up a wall, he created distance by asking Bob to call him “Dr. Marvin.”
See the difference? A title shows status, but a name shows intimacy.
This hit home with me as I read Psalm 116 a few nights ago.
“I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy” (Psalm 116:1). With my wife sitting next to me, I realized: It’s one thing for me to say, “I love my wife” (any married man can say this). It’s another for me to say, “I love Kaylin.”
It’s one thing for me to say, “I love the Lord,” and another to say, “I love Yahweh.”
A title shows status, but a name shows intimacy.
God has a Name
So where does this leave us? It’s not wrong for your Bible to translate “Yahweh” as “LORD”—this comes from an ancient tradition of honoring God’s name as holy.
But we shouldn’t (as I’ve done for so long) read the all-caps “LORD” the same as “Lord.” Both appear in your Bible. One is a title, the other a name.
Maybe this reminder is enough to help you make God’s name more personal. But for me, thinking “Yahweh” when I see “LORD” in my Bible has opened my eyes to the Old Testament in new ways.
God wants you to know more than his status.
He wants you to know his name.
The Bible Project has a great video explaining the name “Yahweh” and the evolution of the name over time. Check it out!
You’ve done it, and I have too. You go to a Good Friday service, but as soon as you leave, you start talking with family and friends. Maybe you go home and watch a movie. Before you know it, it’s Sunday!
But enduring Good Friday as little as possible is indicative of a culture that ignores the reality of death.
Better to Go to the House of Mourning
On Monday, I heard the news that my boss’ closest mentor had passed away unexpectedly. Losing someone close leaves a hollow, throbbing ache felt only by those who have lost someone themselves.
It’s right for us to feel this way about death. According to the Bible, death was never part of God’s good design. We were made for eternity, but now a dark shadow saps our strength and robs us of life.
And into this dark reality, the Bible speaks—but maybe not as we expect.
A good name is better than precious ointment,
and the day of death than the day of birth.
It is better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for this is the end of all mankind,
and the living will lay it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by sadness of face the heart is made glad.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
We expect the Bible to give us a message of hope (which it surely does). But sometimes we need to remember our own brokenness to truly live a life of significance. Death does a lot to put one’s priorities in order.
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Ecclesiastes and the Cross
Last Sunday I attended our Sunday School on the topic of the crucifixion. During the segment, scenes were shown from the Son of God movie, including part of the crucifixion.
It’s no surprise some people said they couldn’t look long at the screen while the crucifixion was being shown. But what should our response be? To cry at the brutality of it? To weep for Jesus?
Yes…and no. We should mourn the reality of death and stop pretending any makeup, diet, or surgery could prevent death.
Sometimes we need to remember our brokenness to truly live a life of significance.
In a moving article, Greg Morse writes how Jesus told those with Him not to weep for Him but to weep for themselves. We should weep in recognition of the death brought by sin in each of us.
All of us have sentenced ourselves to death by choosing our own way over God’s way. And that should lead us to weep. But not to despair.
Not Without Hope
Because we live on this side of the curtain, we can look at Good Friday through the lens of the resurrection. Our tears can fall—not out of despair but out of faith.
Faith that Jesus knew what He was doing when He went to the cross.
Faith that He went willingly, and that we too can willingly come to receive His grace.
Faith that His blood has covered our sins, buried our iniquities, and banished our transgressions.
Christians, of all people, should be able to stare down the reality of death with both realism and hope. When we encounter death, we ache—but not as those without hope. We look to the crucified Savior, crying tears of faith, knowing in Him we have hope beyond death.
1 Peter 2:24
“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”
[callout]This Good Friday, I hope you’ll take time to attend a Good Friday service, and either way to pause and reflect on the death of Jesus. Much can be gained by way of humility, wisdom, and faith when we come at the foot of the cross.[/callout]