The Divine Name of First Importance
THE chief concern of most professed Christians as regards their religion is the “saving of their souls”. They give little or no thought to the glorifying and vindicating of the name of their Creator, Jehovah. They have little concern whether or not men “may know that thou alone, whose name is Jehovah, art the Most High over all the earth”. (Ps. 83:18, AS) All such reveal a woeful lack of understanding of their relationship to their Maker; a failure to appreciate how far superior He is to any of his creatures, and that he is the only true God.
But does not the Bible place emphasis on the salvation of creatures? Do we not read time and again about what we must believe and do if we would be saved? True, but God’s Word also shows that the honoring of Jehovah’s name and its vindication, which involves also the triumph of righteousness, is of far greater importance. Salvation of creatures is merely incidental thereto, or at best wholly dependent upon Jehovah’s vindication.
WHY MERCY AND DELIVERANCE
A careful study of God’s Word shows that it is because his name and supremacy are involved that he has extended mercy and provided deliverance to members of the human race. When Adam and Eve rebelled Jehovah could immediately have wiped them out, together with the adversary, and started anew. Why did he not do so? Because by causing Adam and Eve’s deflection the adversary had challenged Jehovah’s supremacy, had challenged his ability to put men on earth that would maintain integrity, had challenged Jehovah’s ability to carry out his purposes. That is why God mercifully permitted our first parents to live so many years after they had sinned.—Gen. 2:17; Job, chapters 1 and 2; Prov. 27:11; Isa. 46:11.
In dealing with haughty Pharaoh Jehovah showed much patience. Why did he not destroy Pharaoh at once? For the same reason: “For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, so that you would have been effaced from the earth; but this is why I have spared you: to show you my power, and to have my fame recounted throughout all the earth.” (Ex. 9:15, 16, AT) And those words, by the way, have even more force as applied to the greater Pharaoh, Satan the Devil.
That is why Jehovah delivered the nation of Israel from Pharaoh’s pursuing army; even though they “rebelled against the Most High at the Red sea. Yet he delivered them for his name’s sake, in order to make known his might”. Yes, not just because he remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and so had pity on their descendants, but that he might redeem them unto himself, “to make himself a name by doing great and terrible things for them.”—Ex. 2:24, 25; 2 Sam. 7:23; Ps. 106:7, 8, AT.
In the same tenor are Jehovah’s words to a backsliding Israel: “For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.” (Isa. 48:9, AS) By the prophet Ezekiel Jehovah repeatedly emphasizes this fact that he showed mercy to his people for his name’s sake: “But I wrought for my name’s sake, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations.” “And ye shall know that I am Jehovah, when I have dealt with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt doings, O ye house of Israel, saith the Lord Jehovah.” “But I had regard for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations, whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: I do not this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for my holy name, which ye have profaned among the nations, whither ye went.” (Ezek. 20:9, 44; 36:21, 22, AS) No question as to which came first, the honor of his name or the salvation of his creatures, as far as Jehovah is concerned, is there?
Consider the instance of the three Hebrews who were thrown into the furnace. Higher critics have used this incident, among others, to discredit the authenticity of the book of Daniel, claiming that such a miracle was without real point and therefore most likely merely an invention. But thereby they only reveal their lack of understanding, for by this miracle the name of Jehovah was greatly magnified. Note the decree that Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of the world power of Babylon, made as a result of that remarkable deliverance of God’s servants: “Every people, nation, and language, which speak anything amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dung-hill; because there is no other god that is able to deliver after this sort.” (Dan. 3:13-29, AS) Yes, the three Hebrews had assured the king that Jehovah could deliver them if it pleased him to do so; and it pleased Jehovah to do so, not just to spare their lives, but primarily to make Nebuchadnezzar know that the God of the Jews was indeed the supreme living God.
APPRECIATED BY MEN OF OLD
Novel as this thought, that the vindication of Jehovah’s name is more important than the salvation of creatures, may be to most professed Christians, God’s servants in times of old fully appreciated this fact. Consider Moses: When Jehovah expressed his determination to destroy the nation of Israel because of their rebellion at the time the ten spies gave a bad report, Moses pleaded for God’s mercy on the basis of his name’s being involved: “If thou shalt kill this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because Jehovah was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness.” On the basis of that argument Jehovah showed mercy even as he did on a previous occasion when the same issue arose—due to the Israelites’ making the golden calf and worshiping it.—Ex. 32:7-29; Num. 14:11-35, AS.
In view of the fact that Joshua was trained by Moses it need not surprise us that he also appreciated the importance of Jehovah’s name. When the small army he sent to take Ai was defeated Joshua was grief-stricken; he could not understand it. In deep sorrow he appealed to Jehovah: “Oh, Lord, what shall I say, after that Israel hath turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it, and will compass us round, and cut off our name from the earth.” And was that the extent of Joshua’s concern? Not at all. His chief concern was, “and what wilt thou do for thy great name?” Yes, that was the crux of the matter, ‘Jehovah, what will happen to your name if your name-people are wiped out?’—Josh. 7:7-9, AS.
Jehovah was not oblivious to the fact that his name was involved, but because an Israelite had taken some booty from the city of Jericho, which had been wholly devoted to destruction by Jehovah, he permitted Israel to suffer a setback. After the offending Achan was duly punished, Israel again proved victorious, to the honor of Jehovah’s name.—Josh. 7:10 to 8:25, AS.
Samuel, the last of the judges, had the same appreciation as did Joshua, the first of them. When the Israelites feared they would be destroyed because they had rejected Jehovah as King and asked for a human king, Samuel assured them, “Jehovah will not forsake his people for his great name’s sake, because it hath pleased Jehovah to make you a people unto himself.” (1 Sam. 12:22, AS) Again Jehovah showed mercy because of his name.
APPRECIATED BY DAVID, JEREMIAH, HEZEKIAH
David was outstanding for his appreciation of the importance of Jehovah’s name. Seeing and hearing Goliath taunt the armies of Israel incensed David: “Who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” Though a mere youth and armed with but a shepherd’s staff, a sling and a few smooth stones, David faced Goliath in confidence, saying to him: “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a javelin: but I come to thee in the name of Jehovah of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will Jehovah deliver thee into my hand.” Why was David so confident that Jehovah would give him the victory? Because it was Jehovah’s purpose to have all the earth “know that there is a God in Israel”, and that victory does not depend upon carnal weapons but upon Jehovah.—1 Sam. 17:26, 45-47, AS.
Whatever the circumstances, David looked to God for help on the basis of His name. “He guideth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” “For thy name’s sake, O Jehovah, pardon mine iniquity, for it is great.” “For thou art my rock and my fortress; and for thy name’s sake thou wilt lead me and guide me.” “For thy name’s sake, O LORD [Jehovah], save my life! In the vindication of thyself bring me out of trouble!”—Ps. 23:3; 25:11, AS; Ps 31:3; 143:11, AT.
Another sweet singer of Israel, Asaph, likewise appreciated this claim on Jehovah’s mercy on the basis of his name: “Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of thy name; and deliver us, and forgive our sins, for thy name’s sake. Wherefore should the nations say, Where is their God? Let the avenging of the blood of thy servants which is shed be known among the nations in our sight.” (Ps. 79:9, 10 AS) The prophet Jeremiah prayed a similar prayer: “Though our iniquities testify against us, work thou for thy name’s sake, O Jehovah; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against thee. Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake.”—Jer. 14:7, 21, AS.
King Hezekiah also showed that he appreciated that deliverance was for Jehovah’s name’s sake. When Sennacherib boasted that ‘none of the gods of the nations have been able to deliver out of my hand, neither can your God Jehovah’, Hezekiah prayed to Jehovah: “Of a truth, Jehovah, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the countries, and their land, and have cast their gods into the fire: for they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone; therefore they have destroyed them. Now therefore, O Jehovah our God, save us from his hand, that [we might be spared alive? No, but that] all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art Jehovah, even thou only.” And Hezekiah’s prayer was answered, Jehovah’s angel slaying 185,000 of the flower of Sennacherib’s army, because Jehovah’s name was involved. That name is indeed a strong tower.—Prov. 18:10; Isa. 36:13-20; 37:10-38, AS.
APPRECIATED BY CHRIST AND HIS APOSTLES
Christ Jesus also appreciated that the salvation of creatures was not the most important thing. As he himself stated, he came, first of all, “not to be ministered to, but to minister” and, secondarily, “to give his soul a ransom in exchange for many.” (Matt. 20:28, NW) To minister and serve in what way? By bearing witness to his Father’s truth and by glorifying his Father’s name. That is why he said to Pilate: “For this purpose I have been born and for this purpose I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.” And that is why he was able to pray on the night of his betrayal, even before he had given his life as a ransom in exchange for many: “I have glorified you on the earth, having finished the work you have given me to do.” He glorified his Father’s name in two distinct ways: first, by learning obedience by the things he suffered, thereby proving the Devil a liar when he boasted he could turn all men away from God; and also by ‘making manifest his Father’s name to the men his Father had given him’.—John 17:4, 6; 18:37; Heb. 5:8, NW.
And he impressed upon his immediate followers this same appreciation of the importance of bringing honor to his heavenly Father. In his sermon on the mount he commanded them to let their light shine before mankind. Why? So that glory and praise might be given to his Father who is in the heavens. (Matt. 5:16, NW) He expressed the same thought but with a different illustration in the counsel he gave his apostles on the last evening he was with them: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit and prove yourselves my disciples.”—John 15:8, NW.
The apostle Paul expresses himself similarly at Hebrews 13:15 (NW), saying: “Through him let us always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” Yes, letting our light shine, bearing fruit, offering sacrifices, all for the same purpose, that of bringing honor to Jehovah’s name. No wonder Peter wrote: “You are ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for special possession, that you should declare abroad the excellencies’ of the one that called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”—1 Pet. 2:9, NW.
Jehovah God and Christ Jesus both bear testimony to the chief importance of Jehovah’s name as compared with the salvation of creatures, as do also many of Jehovah’s servants from Moses to the apostle John. Those who are truly wise will therefore make Jehovah’s name superior in their lives by doing all they can to make known that name, by bringing honor and praise to it and by endeavoring at all times to conduct themselves in harmony with the righteous principles that Jehovah’s name stands for. Only by following this course can we appeal to Jehovah for mercy and deliverance “for his name’s sake”. Jehovah’s name is superior. Our salvation is incidental and dependent upon its vindication.
For this cause have I made thee to stand, to show thee my power, and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.—Ex. 9:16, AS.