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As most of you who are reading this blog today already know, I am a member of half a dozen (or so) “Christian” or “Messianic” discussion groups. Constantly I see the same type of discussion being raised, and the main ones that generate the most passionate responses (which are often not very “Christian”, if you know what I mean) are ones dealing with the pronunciation of the name of God and the need to obey the Torah once you have accepted and asked forgiveness through the Messiah, which we call being “saved.”
The people who consider it paramount that we know and use the “proper” pronunciation for the name of God (and Messiah) are called “Holy Namers”, which is a somewhat derogatory epithet, but is accurate in that the names are holy. God’s holy name, which is made up of 4 Hebrew letters, is called the Tetragrammaton.
I, myself, do not use God’s holy name simply because I am Jewish and we don’t do that. It is our way of showing respect for God, as well as a “fence around the law” about not using his name in vain (which is Number 2 on God’s Top Ten Hit Parade of commandments.) I understand that there are those who use it often, and I have seen no less than 4 different pronunciations, each one being the only correct one.
When we talk about obedience to the Torah, well, we can go almost anywhere with that one. I mean, really- even within Judaism, there are 6 different sects that each have different ideas about how to obey the Torah. Not to mention the additional requirements under the Talmud! Oy! If we Jews can’t make up our own minds, how can we expect the Gentiles to make up their minds? Am I right?
Besides these two issues, there are other questions that come up: when does the day really start; how do we really know when the holy days begin (is it only when they see the moon in Jerusalem?); should we celebrate Hanukkah or any other traditional holiday if it isn’t specified in Leviticus 23?
These questions and many others are not invalid or unnecessary, but we need to ask ourselves: Are they important? And to answer that, we need to know just what is important. And I don’t mean what is important to us, I mean what is important to God.
I think it is, first and foremost, important for you all to know this: I cannot tell you absolutely how to determine what is important. Sorry- I am raising an issue I do not have an absolutely correct answer for. The best answer I have is that we each have to determine what we believe God wants us to know. If you are absolutely certain that you need to know an answer to something that you read in the Bible but don’t understand, then ask God first (I think we can all agree that is the best place to start) then ask others, those you trust and know to be spiritually mature. I suggest you also keep an open mind because, at least for myself, I truly do not trust my own judgment, and what I may think I am “hearing from God” may really only be my own voice with an answer I want to hear.
Sidebar: when I think I am getting an answer from God and it goes against what I would like the answer to be, then I feel pretty certain that it is from God.
Discernment should start with learning, which comes from reading the Bible and listening to others who have shown they have both a high level of biblical knowledge and spiritual maturity. Also, pray to God to show you through the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) the truth he has for you and to place in your path through life those who God wants to teach you.
He definitely did that for me, and I am very grateful to him for that.
I always use an “Acid Test” question when trying to discern what is important to know and what isn’t: I ask myself, “How does this affect my salvation?” To answer that question also takes a bit of discernment and spiritual guidance, simply because we humans want to know everything there is to know about everything, and God doesn’t work that way. He keeps those things secret that he wants to, and reveals those things that he will (Deut. 29:29), and I believe he will reveal different things to different people so what may be important to me may not be important to you, and vice-versa.
There is no end to learning about God and the Messiah. From this moment on, until you get to meet them face-to-face, be open-minded, be studious (a “Berean” of the Word), and be flexible and compassionate with others who may have different priorities than you do. If you know someone is on the wrong track, gently and lovingly advise them. If they refuse to listen, so be it. Maybe they really do have a valid reason to know what you consider to be nothing more than biblical minutia. Who knows?
Finally, trust in God that what he wants you to know he will make sure you do, and what you don’t know but want to, well….always ask yourself if it is really that important? Are we saved by knowing exactly when the moon rises on the 10th day of Tishri? Is God going to condemn you to hell forever if you mispronounce his name? If you celebrate a holiday that is a traditional celebration of God or Messiah but has a history that dates back to a pagan holiday, will your worship and prayers be rejected because of what that day used to represent, even though you are earnestly praying to the true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob?
I will end with something I do believe is important to know: I don’t think God is so thin-skinned to be upset by what something used to mean or how you pronounce whichever name you use when praying to him, so long as your prayers to and worship of God is from your heart and an attitude of faithful obedience and love for him.