“God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you”‘” (Exodus 3:15). For understandable reasons, the Jews never use God’s name, “Yahweh.” That’s why we see “the LORD” in the Old Testament whenever God’s personal name is used. Out of reverence and fear of misusing God’s name, in writing, the Masoretic scribes switched the vowels around so that it doesn’t exactly read “Yahweh” and whenever they read the Scriptures aloud, they read God’s name as “Adonai,” which is Hebrew for “lord.” So, that’s why we have “the LORD” capitalised like that in our Hebrew Scriptures. There are also some Christians who for the same reason will write “God” as “G-d.”
Yet God gave us His personal name for a reason. Is there the risk of misusing God’s name? Certainly. But using His actual name erroneously is not the only way to misuse His name. We misuse His name when we “curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name” (SC, The Ten Commandments). You can do all these things by speaking His actual name, but you can also do these things without speaking His name. You can engage in satanic arts, for example, without speaking His name, such as when you consult a medium/psychic. Similarly, you can curse, swear, lie, and deceive by “God” or by “Yahweh” just as you can by “the Lord.” Just because you’re not actually speaking His name doesn’t mean you’re not misusing it. And even wrongful living takes God’s name in vain since our sinful living does not speak truly of Him. So, if we truly want to take every measure not to take His name in vain, we should literally do nothing!
As I said, God gave us His personal name for a reason. Revealing your name begins a personal relationship. That relationship can be great on some levels, such as with your family and friends, and it can be lesser on other levels, such as with your co-workers or the barista at Starbucks who asks for your name. Either way, there is a personal relationship because your personal name is involved, especially when there’s a nickname being used.
For me, when I introduce myself as “Ricky” instead of my birth name, “Garrick,” I’m intentionally inviting you to a closer personal relationship. (Although sometimes I will say “Ricky” instead of “Garrick” since everyone almost always pronounces “Garrick” wrong, such as “Garrett,” “Eric,” or “Derrick.” I even got a “Jared” once. “Ricky” is much easier for people. I’m convinced hardly anyone knows how to listen.) The same is true, in my case, when I tell my parishioners to call me “Pastor Ricky” instead of “Pastor Beckett” because I believe that by using my personal name, “Ricky,” it makes me a more personable and easily approachable pastor, whereas “Pastor Beckett” is more formal and doesn’t quite have that personal invitation. Some of them still call me “Pastor Beckett” because of their high view of the pastoral office, which is fine, but by introducing myself as “Pastor Ricky” I am inviting them into a more personal relationship with their pastor. When you begin a personal relationship, people use your personal name.
God gave us His personal name to initiate that personal relationship, and He intends for us to use it. For what purpose? As we saw from Luther earlier, not to curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name but rather to “call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.”
Consider the Lord’s Prayer. We begin the Lord’s Prayer with, “Our Father,” another version of God’s personal name. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). In the Lord’s Prayer, we call upon the name of God in trouble; and in Divine Worship we praise His name and give thanks to His holy name. Whenever we sing or say in the Divine Service, “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,” we are giving thanks and praise to His holy name. And whenever we call upon Him by any person of the Trinity in prayer, we are calling upon Him in trouble and need. This He has invited us to do so that He might be our heavenly Father who loves His dear children, and He loves to hear His name on their holy lips.
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