Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Name of the Lord

Jesus taught, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . . but seek first his (your heavenly Father's) kingdom and his righteousness . . . . Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you will get. . . . Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.  And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it."  (Matthew 6:25a, 33, 7:1-2, 24-27)

This past Sunday the Lord impressed upon me the need to get to know him and his name more and to make that name of his known.  The scripture he led me to seemed to indicate to me that talking, writing on this blog, in any way that causes hearers, readers to forget God's name is a way of leading people astray.  The scriptures I was reading were from Jeremiah.  It was God's word towards self-declared prophets, but still I found some food for thought in these.

How many times had I read something in the Bible about God's name, wondered: what is up with God's name?; what is God's name?; and then did nothing to seek for the answers.  So first the convicting readings, and then the answers.  Emphasis added by me.

"I did not send these prophets, yet they ran!  I did not speak to them, yet they prophesized!  How long are there to be those among the prophets who prophesy lies and are in fact prophets of their own delusions.  They are doing their best, by means of the dreams they keep telling each other, to make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name in favor of Baal.  I have a quarrel with prophets who make prophecies out of lying dreams, Yahweh declares, who recount them, and lead my people astray by their lies and their bragging. I certainly never sent them, or commissioned them, and they serve no purpose for this people, Yahweh declares."  (Jeremiah 23:26-27, 21, 32)

"And let him who receives a word from me, deliver my word accurately!  Had they been present in my council, they could have proclaimed my words to my people, and turned them from their evil way and from the wickedness of their deeds!"  (Jeremiah 23:28b, 22)

Humility is something that we can learn from the Lord and only grow in by the grace of God.  After all pride, which in essence is idolatry, was the cause of the original sin, and its residual is still strong part of our human nature now.  I think the way the Holy Spirit preserved Mary as sinless was to teach her early about the primacy of being humble, and clothing her in grace to perfectly grow in this virtue! 

Some of us, me for example, require more of God's grace to grow in the virtue of humility than others.  Many saints have mentioned how humility is primary in order to grow in intimacy with God.  I think humility is also necessary in order to hear and be led by God in whatever way he chooses to communicate with us.  Studying and meditating on the name of the Lord gave me a peacefulness in my soul.  I started a Bible study on the name of the Lord Sunday, and I'll probably be still in that study until the day when I can no longer read or listen to the Bible.

Just reading the passages on the name of God turned into praising God.  Praising God and humbling oneself before God in praise is unfailing way of defeating anxiousness, and any efforts by the unseen evil spirits to distract me from my God-given purpose in this life and the next.  Before I go to those verses, I want to relay what happened last Saturday at the Witness to Life at an abortion clinic in downtown Chicago.

I was blessed to actually get to talk with one of the young women that was brought to the abortion clinic for a surgical abortion.  I've been going twice a month for over 1.5 years and this was the first time I've had such a conversation.  I totally missed her, and was distracted by some other dramas that were occurring around the clinic.  Another counselor noticed her standing alone under a tree and went up to talk with her.  She needed a phone to call for her step mother, because her mother had brought her to the clinic demanding that she have an abortion.  It was an iphone 5 that I particularly like, so I told her, "I am not going to listen to your conversation, but I need to stay close you know, because it is my phone."

I didn't try to listen, but I did hear a few things and in general was hearing the emotion in the call.  The girl was upset and on brink of tears several times.  She mentioned that her mom was calling her names as part of the pressure to have the surgery.  She needed someone to get her out of there.  After she was done she stepped over to return my phone.  Neither of us moved.

I found out that she was homeless, just graduated, played small forward in basketball, and was pregnant.  Her mom was pressuring her to do this, and she didn't want to.  I said many things to try to connect with her, and I was very nervous the entire time.  Some things I said were probably unhelpful "Oh, I played guard because I was considerably shorter than you."  Something I said that I think was helpful was, "You are God's Beloved child, and you do not need to dwell on anyone calling you a slut or saying mean things in order to get you do this.  Your baby within you is God's Beloved child too.  You are beautiful, and I am sure this baby is going to be beautiful too."

She said, "I hope it is going to be a boy."

Me, very encouraged, "Trust God to provide for you and this baby.  God's providence is like a parachute.  Until you pull the string you have no idea how well it works.  I think you know God, and I encourage you to call this number (pointing to the center address and phone number on the sheet).  They have residential care, and funds to provide for you during your pregnancy and for caring for the baby after.  Also, please find a Bible read, and pray.  Trust God." 

I noticed I was nervous up until the time I mentioned the unseen, but most important reality, "You are God's Beloved child."

Now for the scriptures -

"God is both refuge and strength for us,
a help always ready in trouble;
Yahweh Sabaoth is with us,
our citadel, the God of Jacob.
Be still and acknowledge that I am God,
supreme over nations,
supreme over the world." (Psalms 46:1, 7, 10)

* citadel:  fortress, stronghold; Sabaoth:  of Hosts, as in angelic army inclusive of powers, principalities and all the other orders of angels.

"Blessed are you, Yahweh our God
from everlasting to everlasting,
and blessed be your glorious name
surpassing all blessing and praise!

You, Yahweh, are the one, only Yahweh,
you have created the heavens,
the heaven of heavens and all their array,
the earth and all it bears,
the seas and all they hold.
To all of them you give life,
and the array of heaven worships you." (Nehemiah 9:5b-6)


Praise, servants of Yahweh,
praise the name of Yahweh.

Blessed be the name of Yahweh,
henceforth and for ever.
From the rising of the sun to its setting,
praised be the name of Yahweh!

Supreme over all nations is Yahweh,
supreme over the heavens his glory.
Who is like Yahweh our God?
His throne is set on high" (Psalms 113:1-5)

"But from farthest east to farthest west my name is great among the nations, and everywhere incense and a pure gift are offered to my name, since my name is great among the nations, says Yahweh Sabaoth." (Malachi 1:11) 

St. Irenaeus of Lyons (130?-200?) explains that this is the Eucharistic sacrifice foretold (The New Jerusalem Bible, Saints Devotional Edition, p. 1197).  For indeed when the pure, immaculate and holy body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ are offered from the farthest east, to the farthest west, incense and a pure gift are offered to God's name.

What is God's name?  The Blue Letter Bible has a great page on the Old Testament names of God.  Yahweh Sabaoth is used over 285 times in the Old Testament and especially in Malachi.  Over 43.6% of the verses in Malachi reference the name of God as Yahweh Sabaoth.  Why?

From the English Standard Version Study Bible, p. 1775:
There is no greater comfort than the fact that the Lord has his invincible heavenly armies standing at the ready.  It is like the comfort that Elisha prayed for his servant at Dothan when they were surrounded by the Syrian armies: 

"'O Lord (Adonai), please open his eyes that he may see.' So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (2 Kings 6:17).  Perhaps it is like the comfort felt by Jesus before the cross:  "Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. 26:53). 

Have you ever read 2 Maccabees?  It is an exciting book of the Bible.  In it Judas Maccabeus leads a rebellion against the Hellenists that were oppressing the Israelites, he said, "They may put their trust in their weapons and their exploits . . . but our confidence is in almighty God, who is able with a single nod to overthrow both those marching on us and the whole world with them." (2 Maccabees 8:18)  Judas and his followers humbled themselves before God, prostrating themselves in the Temple, and begging for his mercy and kindness, "they and the populace with them begged the Lord with lamentation and tears to send a good angel to save Israel." (2 Maccabees 11:6)  What happened? 

"They were still near Jerusalem when a rider attired in white appeared at their head, brandishing golden weapons.  With one accord they all blessed the God of mercy, and found themselves filled with such courage . . . " (2 Maccabees 11:8-9a)

I found this beautiful explanation of God's name of Yahweh Sabaoth:

The name of God is "the God of Hosts".
"Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of hosts" is one of the frequent titles or names of God in the Old Testament. It is cited 260 times according to one scholar, 285 times according to another (cf. Theol. Dictionary of the OT [German edition], 6, 876-892). Though used less in the historical books, it is found very frequently in the prophets.
"It is the most sublime and magnificent proper name of God" (ibid., 692). 

Every day at Holy Mass we call upon God by this name, uniting ourselves with the holy angels when we sing: "Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth–Lord God of hosts", as it was formerly translated.
I pray this mediation on God's name was a blessing to you as it was to me.
Three more scriptures, for the road:
"Holy Father, keep those you have given me true to your name, so that they may be one like us."  John 17:11b
"The name of Yahweh is a strong tower;
the upright runs to it and is secure." Proverbs 18:10
"And now war broke out in heaven, when Michael (God's champion whose name means 'who is like God') with his angels attacked the dragon.  The dragon fought back with his angels, but they were defeated and driven out of heaven.  The great dragon, the primeval serpent, known as the devil or Satan, who had led all the world astray, was hurled down to the earth and his angles hurled down with him.  Then I heard a voice shout from heaven, 'Salvation and power and empire for ever have been won by our God, and all authority for his Christ, now the accuser, who accused our brothers day and night before our God, has been brought down.  They have triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word to which they bore witness, because even in the face of death they did not cling to life."  (Revelation 12: 7-11)

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