God’s Name and Yours
RIGHTLY, your name interests you and is important to you. When it is mentioned, your ears perk up. But beyond your given name—be it Otto, Nancy, Carlos or another—your “name” can also imply your reputation. From this standpoint your name involves you as a person and what you have proved to be.
Likely those close to you call you, not by your family name, but by your given or first name. And you are happiest when they view you as someone with ‘a good name.’ (Prov. 22:1) We all have reason to be concerned about our name.
If this is so with humans, it certainly is even more true regarding the Creator of the universe. To humans, he chose to reveal himself as having a personal, meaningful name that identifies him as the Fulfiller of his purposes and promises. God could therefore appropriately refer to his name Jehovah as the “memorial” of him. (Ex. 3:14, 15; Hos. 12:5; Ps. 135:13) That name is connected with all that he has done and yet purposes to do.
Hence, should we not use and appreciate God’s name? Furthermore, does God know us by name—both by our personal name and by our standing as a person whom he approves?
The trend among most religious leaders, and even in many Bible translations, of ignoring or playing down God’s distinctive name works to hinder persons from having such a standing with him. Writing about the omitting of the divine name from some Bibles, Dr. Walter Lowrie wrote in the Anglican Theological Review:
“In human relationships it is highly important to know the proper name, the personal name, of one we love, to whom we are speaking, or even about whom we speak. Precisely so it is in man’s relation to God. A man who does not know God by name does not really know him as a person, has no speaking acquaintance with him (which is what is meant by prayer), and he cannot love him, if he knows him only as an impersonal force.”
That writer had particularly in mind the fact that in a recent Bible version the divine name appears only four times. Yes, though many of the clergy have taught their flock to pray, “Hallowed be thy name,” they have not taken the lead in using that name or urging its inclusion in Bibles.—Luke 11:2, Authorized Version.
Consider, as an example, the Common Bible (1973), approved for use by Protestants and Roman Catholics alike. Its Preface says pointedly that it will not follow the example of the American Standard Version (1901), which used God’s name thousands of times. Why abandon that name? One reason offered was the differing views as to its pronunciation. The second was: “The use of any proper name for the one and only God, as though there were other gods from whom He had to be distinguished, was discontinued in Judaism before the Christian era and is entirely inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church.”—P. vii.
But, as we have seen, there is more and more evidence that both Jews around the time of Christ and the early Christians did employ the divine name. And if the God of heaven himself says that he wants to be known by his “memorial” name, should we not accept his decision?
HIS NAME—AND OUR NAME
Much is involved, though, in our knowing God’s name. It is not simply a matter of being aware that the Creator’s personal name is “Jehovah”—or a variant thereof. We need to know also the Person represented by the name—his purposes, activities, qualities and requirements as revealed in the Bible. (Neh. 9:10; 1 Ki. 8:41-43) Thus, when Jesus said, “I have made your name known,” he meant more than simply that he used that name. (John 17:26) Certainly Christ did that when reading aloud the Hebrew Scriptures containing God’s name. But more than that, Jesus publicized and worked to advance the purposes with which that name is linked. Those who learned from Jesus came to appreciate Jehovah better, having increased assurance that God’s “eternal purpose” will be fulfilled.—John 14:10; 6:38; Eph. 3:11.
If we come to know Jehovah in that sense, we will also come to be known by him. (John 17:3) He will recognize us with approval; we will have a good name with him. (Eccl. 7:1) So our knowing God and his name can lead to his knowing our name, recognizing us. Malachi 3:16 illustrates this:
“At that time those in fear of Jehovah spoke with one another, each one with his companion, and Jehovah kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name.”
Surely, then, God’s name and yours should be of concern. We need to be interested in knowing, using and honoring that name. This calls on us to live in a way consistent with the purposes to which his name is attached.
For instance, Malachi mentioned that ‘persons in fear of Jehovah’ spoke with one another. Thus they chose as regular associates persons who also were interested in glorifying God’s name. We can ask ourselves, ‘In selecting my associates, do I consider whether they are individuals who know Jehovah and who are cooperating with his purposes? Does my desire to know God and to be known by him affect even such features of my daily life?’
And if in the regular course of our life—on the job, in the neighborhood, at school—we meet persons who are unacquainted with Jehovah, are we alert to use appropriate occasions to speak of Him? Above all, are we diligent to ‘make known God’s name’ by sharing to the full in the grand work that Jesus prophesied for our day when he said: “This good news of [God’s] kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations”? (John 17:6, 26; Matt. 24:14) Happily doing so shows that, to us, the name Jehovah is not a mere name of letters in a book. It is a part of our life.
A following article, “Let God’s Name Be Sanctified,” deals with other fine ways in which we can manifest that we know God’s name and desire to have him know us by name.
Our having an approved relationship with Jehovah, knowing him as a real Person, and making known his name to others, will result in his holding us in mind, for our lasting good. As Malachi said, it will be as if He wrote our names down in “a book of remembrance,” with eternal life as the reward.—John 17:3.