“Who has ascended into heaven and descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has wrapped the waters in His garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, or His son’s name?
Surely you know!”
This was the tantalising, prophetic musing of a man called Agur (Proverbs 30:4). We may not blithely supply an answer to this without asking ourselves why he asked after God’s name.
“What is His name?” His name is YHWH (Yahweh). That’s the name that Agur knew (verse 9). It comes from the verb ‘to be’ – ‘hayah’, which was what God called himself when he first revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:14) – ‘I AM’. Throughout their history, Israel knew their God as the one who ‘is’ – Being itself. They may not have developed a scholarly field of Divine Ontology, but his name would have been their daily meditation – or should have been. God IS. Or indeed, extrapolated as this name is in heavenly worship, he’s “The one who was, who is, and who is to come” (Revelation 1:4; 4:8). Yesterday, today and forever, the existing one. “He who comes to God must believe that He is,” says the writer to the Hebrews (11:6) – must believe that “YHWH”, we might say.
But if he is Being, what is he doing while he is being? And in the words of Agur, “what is His son’s name?”
This is where it helps to know Jesus’ Jewish name: Yeshua. It is interesting to realise that Jesus’ name isn’t so far removed from the Old Testament name of God as we might think. Greek translation/transliteration has obscured both the Old Testament name of God and Jesus’ Jewish name to us so that we don’t hear their relationship. Since the Greek translation of the OT simply used their word for ‘Lord’ to translate ‘YHWH’, English translations have followed suit, rather than putting his name in. And ‘Jesus’ is the Hellenised version of ‘Yeshua’.
But break ‘Yeshua’ down and it means that Yahweh (Yah) saves (shua) or ‘is salvation’. To the Jews of Jesus’ day – who, bear in mind, did grow up around a lot of people called ‘Yeshua’ (it was a popular name; another English variation is ‘Joshua’) – the association between ‘YHWH’ and ‘Yeshua’ would have been seamless.
YHWH is. And if he is Being itself, what is he doing while he is Being, or out of his Being? He is saving. YHWH revealed that he was existence itself – the very basis of reality; and his purpose, his action and activity, was revealed to be salvation, through his Son and image, his fullness bodily, Yeshua. Yahweh (Being) is salvation (saves).
This is significant for two reasons. One I have already mentioned: the association is closer than we realise when we read in our English versions ‘Lord’ and ‘Jesus’ respectively. We can’t hear the relationship. But it’s significant for another reason. Too much is made today of the apparent conflict between the ‘God’ of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New. One of the biggest challenges to this struggle is the fact that neither Jesus nor any of the early church seems to have wrestled with this conflict. Sure, there were differences in ages and epochs, commands which were superseded and excelled upon, but never a conflict. And when you met God’s representative to the world, and said his name, ‘Yeshua’, you would have breathed the very name of God as revealed through the Law and the Prophets as you spoke his name. The two cannot be separated, or made to be different Gods. The God of our fathers, of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, was fully and finally revealed in his perfect image, Yeshua the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
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