I post this with a bit of trepidation. I wrote it this morning, but never got to go back over it and edit it. But, I’m going to go ahead and share it anyway. Read at your own risk! *smile*
Much is passed around about the names of God. We find comfort and challenge in the many ways He manifests Himself throughout Scripture. But when reading the Bible, we also discover that there are three primary names by which He is known in a more general sense: God, Lord, and LORD.
The Hebrew word for God is the same word used for gods in general. It is plural, and it can either refer to the false gods of other nations or for the one true God. Context must be evaluated to determine which of these is meant in any given situation.
The Hebrew word for Lord is also a common one. It is a title referencing one who has authority. Again, context is required to determine whether the word refers to an earthly authority figure or the Lord God, Creator of all existence.
Finally, though, we have LORD. Notice the small caps that make up most of this word. This one, and this one alone, has only one meaning. It is the covenant name of God. Much discussion has surrounded this name. It has been translated in many ways as YHWH, Yahweh, Jehovah, and with the small caps found in many of our English Bibles. A common teaching is that the Jews would not use this personal name for God because of its power. Names meant much more to ancient people than they do to us today. YHWH is no exception.
Over the past few months, my husband and I have tried to pay more attention to the usage of God, Lord, and LORD in the Bible. It has been a very interesting study.
This past week we worked our way through Psalm 51, David’s prayer of repentance after Nathan called him out on his sin related to Uriah and Bathsheba.
The appearance of those small caps reveal that David uses the covenant name of God more frequently than any other author in Psalms. In fact, the covenant name of God seems to fade in usage after David and does not make a prominent return until the prophets. David had an intimate, personal relationship with God, and it shows in his songs.
But Psalm 51 is different. He never uses it in this prayer. He uses God and Lord, acknowledging God’s authority and deity, and there His power over David. But, it appears that David is hesitant to assume upon an immediate restoration of that intimate relationship with God as LORD, YHWH.
I nearly cried when I noticed the difference between Psalm 51 and David’s other songs and prayers. I have long seen this prayer as a beautiful and powerful cry to a restoration of intimacy. But, I have never noticed that the intimacy did not return immediately. When did it return? How long before David could call upon the covenant name of God?
My heart ached as I realized I have felt that same separation. It doesn’t take murder and adultery to separate my soul from its Maker. It’s less about the arbitrary intensity we affix to certain sins and more about the willful distance from a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. In verse eleven, David cries out, “Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” The king knew that he had something special in the presence of the Holy Spirit. He knew the intimacy that He experienced with God, the intimacy that allowed him to use His covenant name, came from the presence of the Holy Spirit. He knew that he, like Saul before him, could lose that Spirit.
Unlike David, you and I cannot lose the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. He is ours and we are His. But, we can bring about that willful distance between us that David experienced. We, too, can lose our ability to dwell in the intimacy of a relationship with our Savior.
I have no idea how long it took David to find restoration in that intimacy. But I know what his desire was. It’s expressed throughout these verses. He wanted it immediately. But he also knew he could not presume upon it. I can only imagine the joy he felt when he first sensed the restoration of that connection – the washing of peace that can only come through the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, I wanted to cry as I read these familiar verses in a new light this week. My heart ached. But it also rejoiced. Why? Because every time I find myself distanced from an intimacy with my Savior, I can read David’s words and remember – there’s always a way back. There is restoration. Oh, LORD, bring that restoration!