Still Have to Ask, What’s in a Name?

The title for today’s message comes, obviously, from the play “Romeo and Juliet” by William Shakespeare. The point is that a name doesn’t really identify or dictate the type of person whom the name is assigned to. Juliet proves this later by pointing out that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

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Too many people have become zealous, actually to the point of being obsessed, with the pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton, the 4-letter word which God spoke as his name, as well as with the titles people have historically used to refer to יהוה, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

There seems to be little argument that the name God told Moses means “I am“, and in the context of a sentence (since Hebrew words are properly interpreted only by considering the context of the sentence they are within) it could also mean “I will be.”

So what the Tetragrammaton means is “I am that I am“, or “I will be that which I will be.”

No matter how we pronounce יהוה, it will always mean the same thing, which is that God is who he is. The name isn’t the important thing because no matter what we call God, whether Adonai, God, Lord, El, Yah, El Elyon, Adonai Tz’vaot…whatever…God will always be God.

And here is the most important thing that many “Holy Namers” forget: God knows the hearts and minds of his children, and when we pray to him, no matter what title or name or pronunciation we use, God knows who he is and who we are praying to.

I submit to you that when someone says using the term “Lord” means we are praying to Ba’al, or that when we use the title “God” we are praying to a false Semitic deity, these people are insulting the true God of Israel. They are implying that Adonai (which, by the way, means Lord) is incapable of determining who we are praying to. They are saying God is so prideful as to ignore a prayer from someone just because they call him what they have always known him to be, i.e. God or Lord.

In the Bible, we read how many referred to Adonai as the invisible God of the Hebrews.  In the Book of Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar refers to him as the God of Daniel, and the Philistines recognized Adonai as the God of the Jews. These people didn’t worship Adonai or even know what to call him, but they knew who he was. And when they called him an invisible god or the God of the Hebrews, it didn’t change who he was or who they believed him to be.

God is God no matter what you call him.

And this is the crux of the problem with people who insist on using their name for God: they have forgotten who God is. They have become so obsessed with the words “God” or “Lord” or the pronunciation of the Holy Name that they have forgotten all about the one who these names refer to. They now worship a name instead of the one who the name refers to.

I am not saying that a “Holy Namer” is wrong in their pronunciation, but I do say they are wrong in requiring others to use only the names they think are “right”, and that anything else is wrong and represents paganist prayer. Who are they to tell someone who they are praying to? Do they know the person’s mind? Do they see what is in that person’s heart?

Are they like Adonai, God Almighty, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob so they can say what is a proper prayer and what is not?

If you are someone who has is obsessed with what name is correct for God, please consider that we can pray to him any old which way we want to, and so long as our prayer is heartfelt and genuine, he will listen. He is not so stubborn and prideful about what we call him that he will turn away someone who is genuinely seeking him out, just because they use a word some other people use to mean someone else.

If I call a rose a tulip, clearly I am using the wrong name, but the rose is still a rose. I cannot change what a rose is by calling it a tulip, and if I hold up the rose and say, “This tulip smells wonderful!” people will understand what I mean, despite my using the wrong name for the flower.

And I would still be correct in saying that the flower smells wonderful.

Those of us who know the one, true God will always know who we mean, despite which title or word is used to describe him. But for those that do not know him, who are first learning about him, to teach them this wrongful idea that God must be called by a certain word or pronunciation, is no different than teaching that God can’t know what we feel and what we mean when we pray to him.

The idea that Adonai will ignore someone who is praying to him because of how they pronounce his name or which title they use for him is to teach a lie and is unfair to God! It totally ignores who God is.

If anyone says when using “God” or “The Lord” or not using their pronunciation of the Holy Name is really praying to a pagan god, that person is a liar. And they are insulting God.

I believe God knows who we mean when we pray to him, and whatever I call him doesn’t change who he is.

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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

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