Thursday, February 11, 2016

Reflection On Exodus 20: God's Name

Often times, when I am thinking of God's law, I think of the tablets of stone on which were written the Ten Commandments. As a child, I can remember the drills we did on the JOY Bus in reciting the Ten Commandments. They began with, "You shall have no other gods." 
However, as I am reading text once again in Exodus 20, I am reminded that God did not begin with "You shall have no other gods." Instead, God began with "I am the LORD, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." As I am reading, I notice that LORD is spelled in all caps, which is the traditional way translators render God's personal name, "Yahweh." For a long time, I hadn't really noticed this. God says, with "I am YAHWEH, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." 
In a very significant way, these words affect how I read and understand God's law. God doesn't begin by throwing out a bunch of arbitrary rules and laws. Instead, God begins with his personal name, Yahweh. 
In Exodus 6, God indicates that this is something new. In past times, he appeared as "God Almighty," but not by his personal name, "Yahweh." This makes me think of times when I offer my personal name to people. I don't go around offering my name out to just anyone. When I offer my name, it is usually because I am initiating some sort of relationship. This makes me somewhat vulnerable to other persons needs and wishes. It opens up a greater possibility of being hurt by someone. This is why I don't just offer my name to everyone. 
Yet, God has given his personal name. He has initiated a relationship with his people. This is not a distant God merely giving arbitrary laws, but a God who is coming down to make a personal covenant with his redeemed people, a people he refers to as his special treasure (Ex 19:5-6). This is a God who has come down to be in their midst in his sanctuary tabernacle he will have them build.
This reminds me of when we took our wedding vows. It was an extremely personal and intimate moment. "I, John, take you, Stacey to be my wedded wife. . . " We were covenanted to each other to love, cherish, and honor each other. This is essentially what God does at Sinai when he begins with his personal name rather than with the first of his covenant stipulations.
This reminds me that God's word, like our wedding vows, are extremely personal and precious. It is next to the heart of God. God's word expresses how we are faithful in our covenant with God. We are now called by his name because we are his bride, and his children. No wonder the Psalmist had such a high regard and love for God's word in the 119th Psalm!

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