Thursday, May 1, 2008
Yahweh--The Source of All
Yesterday while we were working at our property an elderly couple drove by in their minivan. I knew right away they might be our neighbors up the hill. I went over to greet them and hoped they wouldn't be offended by my dirty tank top and muddy hands. I am so excited to tell you that not only are they seniors (those of you who know me know how I love having elderly neighbors) but they are Christians too! After a short conversation I discovered that they are retired from a lifetime of pastoring, but in no way are they retired from ministry. They continue a CD ministry to shut-ins and send out weekly Bible time CD's to children as well. Within a five minute conversation, my CD library grew by four CD's with a promise to send more each week! I was elated to the point of tears because having these godly people just up the street somehow confirms deep in my spirit that this is where God would have us--that He caused this to be. In addition, a Christian friend of ours is the contractor another house in this small neighborhood. Two Christian contractors we know are putting a bid in on another home that is soon to go in. At a time when building is progressing at a snail's pace in this hibernating economy, there are Christian builders and neighbors scampering about our new neighborhood like ants! I can't ignore that. I have to stop and say with certainty: "The LORD has done this and it is marvelous in our eyes." (Psalms 118:23) The word LORD in that passage is the most commonly used name for God in the Old Testament--used over 6,500 times. Translated as Yahweh, it means to cause to be. It oozes of self existence and self-sustainability. It informs all who hear it of God's presence before anything came to be, of God as the source of all life, all occurrences and all that is. The first time this name of God is used in the Old Testament is in the account Cain and Abel's birth. I hope you won't mind if I take the liberty of writing out that passage here with the definition of YAHWEH inserted everywhere that name is used. Eve said "I have created a man just as The One Who Causes All To Be did!" Then she gave birth to his brother Abel. Abel took care of the flocks, while Cain cultivated the ground. At the designated time Cain brought some of the fruit of the ground for an offering to The One Who Causes All To Be. But Abel brought some of the firstborn of his flock--even the fattest of them. and the One Who Causes All To Be was pleased with Abel and his offering, but with Cain and his offering he was not pleased. So Cain became very angry, and his expression was downcast. Then The One Who Causes All To Be said to Cain, "Why are you angry and why is your expression downcast? Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine? but if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it. (Then Cain takes Abel out and kills him.) Then The One Who Causes All To Be said to Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" And he relied, "I don't know! Am I my brother's guardian?" But The One Who Causes All To Be said, "What have you done?" (Gen. 4:1-10a) When you read this passage knowing the Hebrew meaning of the word translated into English as LORD in our Bibles it takes on an incredible level of irony. Did you pick up on that? First Eve brazenly claims that she brought forth a child just like God (the source) created humanity! She may have simply been astonished at the miracle of life--after all she'd never seen that happen before, but irregardless she has a great deal of audacity to literally say I created a man just like God did! I have to wonder if God was thinking No, Eve. That was actually me who placed that child within your womb. I AM the source of life, Eve." Then Cain is angry and down-trodden because his offering wasn't good enough for God. Again, it's so ironic. He missed the point entirely. God doesn't need our offerings--He causes our offerings to be in the first place. Cain actually believed in his heart that he was capable of pleasing Almighty God in his own strength. Cain then wrongly concludes that the source of his troubles was his brother Abel and removes that source of struggle. Wrong again. He didn't get it. God allowed that to happen. If he had stopped to acknowledge God as The LORD, Yahweh, perhaps he would have begun to understand that the things happening to him were coming through The God Who Causes To Be. He wrongly concluded that he controlled his own destiny. Finally, this tragic account is concluded with The God Who Causes To Be's question to Cain, "What have you done?" The source of all asks a mere man, "What did you do?" Every single event, person and thing that come into our lives are filtered through Yahweh God. Even the bad things that happen are allowed to come into our lives by Him. I know this is a tough concept. Look at Cain. I've always felt sorry for him. To me, it appears he wanted to do his best. Perhaps though, he was not usable by God because he didn't understand that even his very best was not remotely good enough for God. Perhaps he wrongly concluded that he could be good enough for God. We know how the story plays out--all of our righteousness is as filthy rags in comparison to God. None of us measures up. The thing is that had Cain realized that God allowed his brother to give a better offering and gotten on his knees before Yahweh and said, "LORD, I am humbled by your presence. Even my ability to produce the right offering will only find it's source in You. I ask You to help me to bring something that is pleasing to you." Perhaps the story would have ended differently. Acknowledging God as Yahweh changes everything. When my new neighbors pull up and I discover they are Christians I can quickly think about how lucky I am to have good people living up the hill from me. Or I can immediately stop and worship Yahweh, The God Who Causes All To Be. God allowed them to live up the street. That's GOD!! Let me tell you something else I found interesting. It isn't until Exodus 6 that the Israelites begin to know God as Yahweh. They are enslaved in Egypt and facing circumstances far more difficult that any I've known. Moses is frustrated that God has asked Him to deliver these people. He actually asks God why He's causes more trouble for them and calls God out on the fact that He has yet to rescue them from their bondage. Up until now, the name Yahweh has been used 215 times, but in this moment the lights go on. "God spoke to Moses and said to him, "I am the LORD. (The God Who Causes All To Be) I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name 'the LORD' I was not known to them." (Ex. 6:3) Though their forefathers experienced incredible miracles like Abraham's barren wife Sarah becoming pregnant with Isaac and though they saw the faithfulness of God's provisions like Jacob's family being fed by Joseph in Egypt, they had not known God as Yahweh. The Hebrew meaning of the word known speaks to an experiential knowledge of someone as opposed to an intellectual knowledge. I may know that chocolate is supposed to taste good, but until I've felt a morsel melt on my tongue, I've not known it to be true for myself. The same is true here. Though this generation of Israelites had known of God as Yahweh, they didn't know it to be true in their own lives. What a tragedy that generations of God's people didn't truly know Him. And yet, the reality is that we are no different. We have the entire written word of God, we have experienced the faithfulness of God in our lives and yet most days, we rise, eat, live and sleep without ever stopping to acknowledge the greatness of Yahweh in our lives. When I wake, the very first breath I take found it's source in the self existent Yahweh. When I eat, the very grains of my cereal found their origin in Yahweh. The very soil my husband digs out to create a spot for our home found it's beginning in the spoken words of Yahweh. These things we face daily--job losses, broken marriages, struggling children, sick parents, promotions, tests, new friendships, moves, love, births, deaths--they all find their source in Yahweh. It is my prayer that I'll know God as Yahweh every single day. It is my prayer that I'll not be oblivious to his presence like Cain was and that it will be said of me: She knew me as YAHWEH God. May my children's children's children know God as Yahweh. Amen.