The Name of God; March 18, 2023

Psalms 9:10 Those who know your name will trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

A few days ago I saw a comedy sketch on the Internet that was to me quite insightful. The comedian was of Indian ethnicity, and he portrayed two characters in turn from the British Raj period. Using a perfect British “posh” accent, he was declaiming how God insisted on this, that, or the other, all things that today we would take as a matter of course. Then he switched to an Indian persona and asked what was the name of this god that the Brit was quoting. Going back to the British persona, he got all flustered and insisted that God was God, that was His name. The Indian persona then said that he was ridiculous, not even knowing the name of the god he was using as an authority. The Indian sounded very calm and reasonable, and the Brit sounded more and more unhinged. It was all very amusing, and painfully close to home at the same time. It’s not just that people from monotheistic cultures don’t know how to relate to polytheistic cultures, it’s that many of them really don’t know the God they say they believe in. You could say they believe in God, but don’t actually know Him. Someone well versed in the Bible could have answered the Indian in that exchange, “His name is Yahweh, and His Son’s name is Jesus.” Going from there to the concept of a singular Creator who loved His creation so much as to send His Son to die for us would have seemed fantastic to the Indian, but at least logically connected. There are in a sense three facets to evangelism: informing people of a loving Creator, telling them about His provision of salvation, and then helping them understand how totally they need that salvation. This verse in Psalms touches on the first of those, and somewhat assumes the other two. People in monotheistic cultures really have little grasp of why the Old Testament keeps talking about “the Name of the Lord,” or even why the 10 Commandments forbid the misuse of that name. It actually is a very big deal that our Creator goes by I AM, that is, The One Who Is. All other gods are cheap illusions, propped up by demonic activity. Who we worship, who we pray to, is actually a matter of extreme importance.

That comedy routine has really stuck with me since I saw it, and I need to let it impact how I share the Gospel. Shinto is certainly polytheistic, to the point that the Japanese themselves refer to their country as “the land of 8 million gods.” Buddhism is technically atheistic, but in practical terms it likewise has countless gods, because people pray to their ancestors. Xavier and those with him used the term “Ten Shu,” Lord of Heaven, which I think was very wise. Unfortunately, Protestant missionaries a couple of centuries later went with “Kami,” the Shinto term for gods, and I think that was a sad mistake. It’s awfully hard to change tradition at this point! I need to liberally sprinkle any presentation of the Gospel with terms like Creator, so people will have a better idea just who I’m talking about. And of course, my goal is for them to know Him as Father, and Jesus Christ as Lord.

Father, thank You for this insight. I don’t usually expect to get such insights from YouTube videos! Help me indeed hear You clearly however You choose to speak to me, and hearing, may I be fully and joyfully obedient, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!

About jgarrott

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