The Name of the Lord; July 18, 2022

1 Chronicles 16:10 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice.

One thing about the Biblical period, and particularly that of the Old Testament, that we don’t identify with is the matter of rival gods. Missionaries of course deal with it, particularly in countries like India, but the average Westerner takes either monotheism or atheism as a matter of course. That removes the impact of the first half of this verse. The Japanese translates it as, “Make the Lord’s holy name your pride.” In other words, “We know Yahweh. How good is that?” In fact, we don’t understand all the fuss about “the Name of the Lord.” We just call Him God and are done with it! We have no emotional connection to other gods with other names. It’s actually a very big deal that the Moslem confession of faith is, “There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.” Put in Christian terms, we could be saying, “There is no God but Yahweh, and Jesus of Nazareth is His Son, the Messiah.” That would be obeying the first half of this verse! We don’t use the covenant name of God very often, largely, I think, because of the command not to take it in vain. (Exodus 20:7) We shouldn’t do it lightly, but I think we would profit from being more familiar with it, at the very least. The second half of the verse is of course why this passage came up under the theme of The Joy of the Lord, but the form leaves the question open as to whether this is a command or a prayer. The thing is, if we genuinely seek God we will find Him, just as He told Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 29:13) and encountering Him in repentance and faith brings unspeakable joy that can be had no other way. We miss out on so much joy because we fail to seek our Creator with all our heart. When we do fully encounter Him, He indeed becomes everything to us, as Dennis Jernigan put to music so memorably. Then we indeed “glory in His holy name.”

Growing up in Japan I was surrounded by other gods (and still am), but only a few names stuck with me. There were so many Shinto deities – the Japanese themselves call Japan “the land of 8 million gods” – that names tended to blur. Then, Buddhism claims there are no gods, but at the same time demands veneration of various “incarnations” of “the Buddha.” Early missionaries were at a loss as to what word to use for God. The early Catholics chose “Lord of Heaven,” which seems pretty good to me, but Protestants didn’t want to copy the Catholics and used the word that is applied to Shinto deities, when it is so broad as to mean essentially “spirit,” rather than any transcendent Being, and now we’re pretty much stuck with that, even though it doesn’t really click for the average Japanese. A few years ago a Bible translation came out that used Creator as the term for God. That’s theologically fine, but it becomes two words in Japanese and thus is awkward, keeping that translation from really catching on. I use the common Shinto word in song lyrics because of compactness, but in talking with individuals I often say Creator, particularly when explaining the concepts of accountability and sin, which are both very weak in Japanese culture. No language is perfect, but Francis Xavier, one of the first missionaries to Japan, said that Japanese was “A language invented by the devil to hinder the spread of the Gospel.” I can understand that feeling! I need to depend on the Holy Spirit at all times to communicate God’s Word through all the barriers, so that as many as will may repent and believe for their salvation.

Father, thank You for this reminder. The challenges are huge, but then they always have been. Likewise, nothing is too difficult for You, and it never has been. May I depend fully on You, so that indeed Your Name may be acknowledged as holy and Your rule and reign be established as Your will is done, as perfectly here as it is in heaven, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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