Having been raised Jewish, even though we were not at all “religious” when I was young, the one thing that I have found universally true with all my Jewish friends and family is a respect for God and for His Holy name.
What I have found prevalent with Messianic and Hebraic Roots Christians (maybe as a left-over from being raised Christian) is a nearly universal disregard for the holiness of God’s name, in that it is used as often as any other person’s name. People constantly use the Holy Name of God, the Tetregrammaton, in postings and banners and as often as we would use the words “Lord”, “God” or “Adonai.” I don’t get it- if they want to be more “Jewish” why do they do what Jews would never do?
You know what? Maybe that’s the difference- maybe that’s what I have been missing all along! I have been thinking that Hebraic Roots and Messianic Christians want to be more “Jewish”, in their worship and their obedience to Torah, but that may not be what they want. I may be the one who’s missing the point here- maybe they want to worship more like Yeshua did, but they don’t want to be Jewish. They want to be comfortable with what they are used to and ignore what they don’t want to do. Christians grow up using “Jesus” all the time, and much of Christianity teaches He is God. Now that they have this zeal to know the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, I suppose they think they can use His name as often as they used “Jesus”, although Jews almost never use the Holy Name of God.
And more than that- some change how it is spelled! Many substitute a “W” for the “V” in the third letter, citing that this is how it was pronounced in Paleo-Hebrew. There isn’t a Jew anywhere that does that, but these new “scholars of Judaism” think they should change thousands of years of respect for God’s name because they are, what? Better than the Jews? More knowledgeable than the Jews? Closer to God than His own people?
I’ll tell you why they do this: it’s to make Judaism more comfortable, to make certain parts of it more like the Christian ways of worship they were brought up with. Just like the “Church” fathers of old that separated themselves from their Jewish roots, these new “converts” to Jewish worship want to keep what they are comfortable with, even if it goes against (and insults) the Jewish worship that they want to partake in.
Why do Jews distrust Christians? One of the main reasons is that Christianity has persecuted Jews, and why? If you ask me, it’s because Christians feel that Jews are “wrong.” They feel that because Jews haven’t universally accepted Yeshua that they are wrong, that they have rejected God, and (some believe) are no longer considered by God to be His people. And as such, Christianity has felt fully justified in changing all the Jewish laws and festivals to what they think they should be. No wonder Jews feel like second class citizens in a Christian world. And , at least to me, when I see someone using the Holy Name and/or changing it, or hear someone use Yahweh or Jehovah, over and over, I get a sick feeling in my stomach and feel like saying, “Excuse me, but God chose us and we have known Him a LOT longer than you have, so what makes you think you can just come in and change how we should address God?” The misinterpretation of Micah and other scripture to try to justify that God, Himself, says we should constantly use His Holy name (which He has kept hidden all this time) is just a way to “Christianize” Judaic worship, and is an insult to Jewish tradition.
It is one of the most important Jewish traditions that we never use the Holy Name of God. The Orthodox won’t even use the word “God”, and will substitute HaShem (The Name) or Adonai (which translates to “Lord”) instead. They would never, ever think of using Jehovah or Yahweh (which is not His name) in speech, or write the four letters in normal usage.
Traditions are important: they bind us culturally and religiously, and give a sense of comfort to those who see these traditions pass from generation to generation. I have introduced a few traditional Jewish prayers into the Hebraic Roots congregation I worship with, and some of those who had been raised Jewish felt a sense of “home” and belonging when they heard the prayers they were brought up with being used again.
The problem Yeshua had with traditions was not anything to do with traditions, per se- His issue was with those specific man-made traditions that were over-ruling the commandments from God. There is nothing wrong with tradition, so long as it doesn’t replace or change the commandment from God that it is based upon. For instance, Kosher laws are very difficult to work with, and the Rabbinical Halacha (“Way to Walk”, defined in the Talmud) adds many stringent regulations over the simple laws of Kashrut God gave us in Leviticus 11. But that’s not a bad thing because it doesn’t detract from or over-rule anything God said. As such, I keep Kashrut according to bible only, but if I wanted to have separate dishes, pots and pans, and if I turned lights on Friday before sunset so that they were on during Saturday, and if I didn’t walk any further than the distance I am allowed for a “Shabbat walk”, etc., I would not be doing anything “wrong.” If, however, I celebrated Shabbat on Sunday, that would present a problem, since God said Saturday is Shabbat and the traditional (i.e., man-made) tradition (of Christianity) is to celebrate it on Sunday. In that case, the tradition is wrong and I should not be a part of it.
For the record: traditions performed from love and respect for God and/or the Jewish people as their motivation is not “legalism”.
Using the Holy name is like calling God by His first name., and just because Hebrews 4:16 says:
So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God.
that doesn’t mean we can slap God on the back and ask, “Yo! Big Guy- WASSUP?”
Using God’s Holy Name is disrespectful- that is all there is to it. When you go to a restaurant, and the waiter says, “Hi guys– I’m Steve and I will be your server tonight.” don’t you feel a little put-off by the uninvited intimacy of addressing you as “guys”? Maybe I’m just an old fogey, but I do. I also feel insulted for my wife, who is not a “guy”. I am sorry, but I expect to be addressed as “Sir” and my wife as “Ma’am” until such time as I offer my name. We are not college pals or go bowling together, and as such this person should address us respectfully. If we are to address each other with respect, how much more so should we do it to the Lord of Lords and King of Kings?
We are told that God spoke to Moses face-to-face, as with a friend, but do you really think Moses talked to God using God’s Holy name? Moses was the humblest of all men, so it doesn’t seem likely he would have taken it upon himself to address God as he would have to Aaron or any of the other Israelites.
David was a man after God’s own heart, but do you really think he addressed God using the Holy Name? Everything we read about David showed he had the utmost respect for God and admiration. It doesn’t seem likely that he would have taken it upon himself, as with Moses, to use God’s Holy Name often, if ever.
I have gotten to the point of ignoring people that use the Tetregrammaton and change it’s spelling because as often as I have tried to get it through to them they are being disrespectful to God and to Judaism, they ignore me. I am tired of “kicking against the goads” and will leave it up to God to decide how He feels about it. As for me, I am not ever using God’s Holy name- not ever. If God tells me it’s OK, if He comes from heaven and stands in front of me and says, “Steve- you are allowed to address me as you would your drinking buddies because you and me, we’re mates!” , THEN I might use it. But probably not.
The name of God is spelled with a Yud, a Heh, a Vav, and another Heh, and no matter what anyone says, we really do not know exactly how it was pronounced by Moses, or the Hebrews up to the destruction of the Temple by Babylon. Or afterwards, for that matter. There are many different ways to pronounce it, and as many arguments that we shouldn’t use it as there are that we should. For me it all comes down to this: my people have respected God and not used His Holy name for millennia, so who am I to change that?
I will do what Jews have done since before the Exodus: I will show respect for God by not using His Holy name.
God is so far above us, He is the holiest of everything that is holy, and He is our Lord and King, so what makes someone think they can address God like He is their drinking buddy?