“I will glorify your name to time indefinite.”—PS. 86:12.
1, 2. In contrast with the churches of Christendom, how do Jehovah’s Witnesses view God’s name?
BY AND LARGE, Christendom’s churches have distanced themselves from God’s name. For example, the Revised Standard Version states in its preface: “The use of any proper name for the one and only God . . . is entirely inappropriate for the universal faith of the Christian Church.”
2 Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, are proud to bear God’s name and to glorify it. (Read Psalm 86:12; Isaiah 43:10.) Furthermore, we count it a privilege to understand the meaning of that name and the universal issue involving its sanctification. (Matt. 6:9) That, though, is a privilege that we must never take for granted. Accordingly, let us consider three important questions: What does it mean to know God’s name? How has Jehovah lived up to his great name, thus adding to its glory? And how can we walk in Jehovah’s name?
WHAT IT MEANS TO KNOW GOD’S NAME
3. What does it mean to know God’s name?
3 To know God’s name involves much more than merely being acquainted with the word “Jehovah.” It includes knowing Jehovah’s reputation, as well as his qualities, purpose, and activities as revealed in the Bible, such as his dealings with his servants. Of course, Jehovah grants this insight progressively, according to the outworking of his purpose. (Prov. 4:18) Jehovah revealed his name to the first human pair; thus, Eve used it after giving birth to Cain. (Gen. 4:1) The faithful patriarchs Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob knew God’s name. Moreover, their appreciation for it grew as Jehovah blessed them, cared for them, and revealed aspects of his purpose to them. Moses was granted special insight into God’s name.
4. Why did Moses ask God about his name, and why were Moses’ concerns understandable?
4 Read Exodus 3:10-15. When Moses was 80 years of age, God gave him a weighty command: “You bring my people the sons of Israel out of Egypt.” Moses responded respectfully with a question, one of profound significance. In effect, Moses asked: ‘What is your name?’ Considering that God’s name was long known, what was the point of Moses’ question? Evidently, he wanted to know more about the person represented by the name—facts that would convince God’s people that He really would deliver them. Moses’ concern was warranted, for the Israelites had been slaves for some time. They would likely wonder whether the God of their forefathers could deliver them. Indeed, some Israelites had even taken up the worship of Egyptian gods!—Ezek. 20:7, 8.
5. How did Jehovah shed more light on the meaning of his name in his reply to Moses?
5 How did Jehovah reply to Moses’ question? In part, he said: “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘I SHALL PROVE TO BE has sent me to you.’”* Then he added: “Jehovah the God of your forefathers . . . has sent me to you.” God revealed that he will become whatever he chooses to become so as to accomplish his purpose, that he will always prove true to his word. Hence, in verse 15 we read that Jehovah himself said: “This is my name to time indefinite, and this is the memorial of me to generation after generation.” How that revelation must have strengthened Moses’ faith and filled him with awe!
JEHOVAH LIVED UP TO HIS NAME
6, 7. How did Jehovah fully live up to his great name?
6 Shortly after commissioning Moses, Jehovah fully lived up to his name by ‘proving to be’ Israel’s Deliverer. He humiliated Egypt with ten devastating plagues, at the same time exposing the Egyptian gods—including Pharaoh—as impotent. (Ex. 12:12) Then Jehovah opened up the Red Sea, led Israel through it, and drowned Pharaoh and his military force. (Ps. 136:13-15) In the “great and fear-inspiring wilderness,” Jehovah proved to be a Preserver of life as he provided food and water for his people, perhaps numbering from two to three million or more! He even caused their garments and their sandals not to wear out. (Deut. 1:19; 29:5) Yes, nothing can stop Jehovah from proving true to his incomparable name. He later stated to Isaiah: “I—I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior.”—Isa. 43:11.
7 Moses’ successor, Joshua, also witnessed Jehovah’s fear-inspiring deeds in Egypt and in the wilderness. Hence, near the end of his life, Joshua could with heartfelt conviction say to his fellow Israelites: “You well know with all your hearts and with all your souls that not one word out of all the good words that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.” (Josh. 23:14) Yes, in no uncertain terms, Jehovah fulfilled his word—he ‘proved to be.’
8. How is Jehovah living up to his name in our time?
8 Likewise today, Jehovah is ‘proving to be.’ By means of his Son, he foretold that during the last days, the Kingdom message would be preached “in all the inhabited earth.” (Matt. 24:14) Who else but God Almighty could foretell such a work, see that it is done, and use many “unlettered and ordinary” people to accomplish it? (Acts 4:13) Hence, when we share in this work, we actually share in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. We honor our Father and show that we really mean it when we pray: “Let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matt. 6:9, 10.
HIS NAME IS GREAT
9, 10. By his dealings with Israel, how did Jehovah continue to add meaning to his name, and with what results?
9 Shortly after Israel’s Exodus, Jehovah became something new to his people. By means of the Law covenant, he became their “husbandly owner,” willingly taking on all the responsibilities associated therewith. (Jer. 3:14) The Israelites, in turn, became his figurative wife, his name people. (Isa. 54:5, 6) As they willingly submitted to him and kept his commandments, he would prove to be the perfect ‘Husband.’ He would bless them, keep them, and assign peace to them. (Num. 6:22-27) Jehovah’s great name would thus be glorified among the nations. (Read Deuteronomy 4:5-8; Psalm 86:7-10.) Indeed, throughout Israel’s history, many foreigners were drawn to true worship. They, in effect, said what the Moabitess Ruth said to Naomi: “Your people will be my people, and your God my God.”—Ruth 1:16.
10 For some 1,500 years, Jehovah’s dealings with Israel revealed many new facets of his personality. Despite the nation’s waywardness, over and over Jehovah proved to be “a God merciful” and “slow to anger.” He was a God of extraordinary patience and long-suffering. (Ex. 34:5-7) Jehovah’s patience, nevertheless, did have a limit, and that limit was reached when the Jewish nation rejected and killed his Son. (Matt. 23:37, 38) The fleshly descendants of Israel ceased to be God’s name people. In the main, they became spiritually dead, like a withered tree. (Luke 23:31) How did this affect their attitude toward the divine name?
11. How did God’s name come to be disassociated from the Jewish nation?
11 History indicates that, in time, the Jews developed a superstitious attitude toward God’s name, viewing it as something that they should not pronounce. (Ex. 20:7) God’s name gradually became disassociated from Judaism. It no doubt hurt Jehovah to see his name treated so disrespectfully. (Ps. 78:40, 41) However, God, “whose name is Jealous,” clearly would not forever attach it to a people who had disowned him and whom he had disowned. (Ex. 34:14) This fact should impress upon us the importance of treating our Creator’s name with great respect.
A NEW PEOPLE CALLED BY GOD’S NAME
12. How did Jehovah produce the foretold name people?
12 Through Jeremiah, Jehovah revealed his purpose to establish “a new covenant” with a new nation, spiritual Israel. All its members, “from the least one of them even to the greatest one of them,” Jeremiah foretold, would “know Jehovah.” (Jer. 31:31, 33, 34) That prophecy began to be fulfilled at Pentecost 33 C.E. when God established the new covenant. The new nation, “the Israel of God,” which included Jews and non-Jews, became “a people for [God’s] name,” or “people who are called by my name,” said Jehovah.—Gal. 6:16; read Acts 15:14-17; Matt. 21:43.
13. (a) Did the early Christians use God’s name? Explain. (b) How do you view the privilege of using Jehovah’s name in your ministry?
13 As “people who are called by [God’s] name,” the members of that spiritual nation used the divine name, certainly doing so when quoting from the Hebrew Scriptures.* Thus, when the apostle Peter addressed an international audience of Jews and proselytes at Pentecost 33 C.E., he used God’s name a number of times. (Acts 2:14, 20, 21, 25, 34) The early Christians honored Jehovah, so he, in turn, blessed their efforts in the preaching work. Likewise today, Jehovah blesses our ministry when we proudly proclaim his name and show it to interested ones, in their own Bibles if possible. We thus introduce them to the true God. What a privilege—for them and for us! That introduction may in some cases be the beginning of a wonderful relationship with Jehovah that will grow ever stronger and last forever.
14, 15. Despite the spread of apostasy, what has Jehovah done about his memorial name?
14 Apostasy later began to infect the early Christian congregation, especially after the death of the apostles. (2 Thess. 2:3-7) False teachers even adopted the Jewish tradition of not using God’s name. But would Jehovah allow his memorial name to be erased? Never! Granted, its exact pronunciation cannot now be determined, but the name has endured. Over time, it has appeared in various translations of the Bible, as well as in the writings of Bible scholars. For example, in 1757, Charles Peters wrote that “Jehovah,” in contrast with God’s many titles, “seems to be the most expressive of his essence.” In a 1797 book on the worship of God, Hopton Haynes began chapter 7: “JEHOVAH the proper name of GOD among the Jews; whom alone they worshipped; as also did Christ and his Apostles.” Henry Grew (1781-1862) not only used God’s name but also recognized that it had been reproached and must be sanctified. Likewise, George Storrs (1796-1879), a close associate of Charles T. Russell, used God’s name, as did Russell himself.
15 The year 1931 was particularly noteworthy, for in that year the International Bible Students, as God’s people were then called, adopted the Scriptural name Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Isa. 43:10-12) They thus announced to the world that they were proud to be servants of the only true God, to be “a people for his name,” praising that name. (Acts 15:14) These developments call to mind Jehovah’s words found at Malachi 1:11: “From the sun’s rising even to its setting my name will be great among the nations.”
WALK IN JEHOVAH’S NAME
16. Why should we view it as an honor to walk in Jehovah’s name?
16 The prophet Micah wrote: “All the peoples, for their part, will walk each one in the name of its god; but we, for our part, shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God to time indefinite, even forever.” (Mic. 4:5) That Jehovah allowed the Bible Students to adopt his name was more than just a great honor. It was also a reassuring indication of his approval. (Read Malachi 3:16-18.) What, though, about you personally? Are you making every effort to “walk in the name of Jehovah”? Do you appreciate what that involves?
17. What is involved in walking in God’s name?
17 Walking in God’s name involves at least three things. First, we must proclaim that name to others, recognizing that only those who ‘call on the name of Jehovah will be saved.’ (Rom. 10:13) Second, we need to reflect Jehovah’s qualities, especially his love. And third, we walk in God’s name when we joyfully submit to his righteous standards, lest we bring reproach on our Father’s holy name. (1 John 4:8; 5:3) Are you determined to “walk in the name of Jehovah our God to time indefinite”?
18. Why can all who honor Jehovah’s great name look to the future with confidence?
18 Soon all who ignore or defy Jehovah will be forced to recognize him. (Ezek. 38:23) That includes individuals who are like Pharaoh, who said: “Who is Jehovah, so that I should obey his voice?” How quickly he found out! (Ex. 5:1, 2; 9:16; 12:29) We, though, have willingly come to know Jehovah. We are proud to bear his name and to be his obedient name people. Hence, we look to the future with confidence in the promise recorded at Psalm 9:10: “Those knowing your name will trust in you, for you will certainly not leave those looking for you, O Jehovah.”
God’s name is a form of a Hebrew verb meaning “to become.” Thus, “Jehovah” means “He Causes to Become.”—Gen. 2:4, ftn.
The Hebrew text used by the early Christians contained the Tetragrammaton. Evidence points to the conclusion that the same was true of early copies of the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.