Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
I'm a new parent, but I'm smart enough to know that although mine and my wife's lives now revolve around our new daughter, she is not the center of everyone else's world. And yet, here I am beginning a blog by writing about her. Why? Because her name has import for your life.
My wife and I chose to name our daughter Hallie. No doubt this will be mispronounced as either Allie or Hayley her whole life. She may indeed grow up hating our name choice for this reason. Yet, still I love the name. It is a shortened form of of the word "hallelujah," which some consider to be the highest form of verbal praise we can give to God. It struck me this week that many of us don't know much about this powerful word, so it seemed a fitting time to briefly share some insights.
Hallelujah literally means "praise the lord." Not that fancy right. But the "jah" part is very special because it is the first part of the name that God revealed to us as His proper name: Yahweh. (I know it's weird but the "j" and the "y" are sort of interchangeable.) Remember the story of Moses and the burning bush? At one point in the story Moses asks God who to say has sent him. God's reply? Tell them "(Yahweh) I am who I am...I am has sent me." Now Yahweh has a range of possible meanings. It is normally translated as "I am who I am" but could also mean "I will be what I will be." It conveys a number of truths to us about God. First, it declares authoritatively that God exists. He is real, and is not dependent on our belief to exist. Second, it implies a sense of independence. God is not dependent on us for anything (Acts 17:22-34). He is not seeking our approval. He will be who He will be.
The Israelites understood this proper name for God to be very holy and treated it as such. They applied the third of the ten commandments to the name Yahweh (Exodus 20:7), so they were careful not to misuse this name. They treated it as a holy thing, set apart and special. As a result they often did not refer to God as Yahweh but by the more generic Hebrew word for lord. Often even in Scripture they didn't use the term Yahweh, but when they did it carried special potency. Even still when they would come across the name "Yahweh" when they were reading the Bible out loud they would not say Yahweh but would say the more generic term for lord instead. Many modern translations distinguish this use by signaling the specific instances of the proper name Yahweh in the Bible by putting the letters for LORD in all caps or small caps.
All of this made the term hallelujah that much more precious and holy a thing to say. It included part of the name of God. To say hallelujah was to say "praise to yah(weh)." It is mine and my wife's earnest prayer that Yahweh be praised for the birth and health of our daughter, but also that her life would be a sacrifice of praise to God (Romans 12:1).
Regardless of what you think of mine and my wife's choice of a name for our daughter, in what ways does this precious praise term challenge your everyday life? Do you know and celebrate that God is real and does not depend on you in any way? Are you careful to treat His name carefully and approach Him with the reverence and awe He deserves? Is your life an offering of praise to God? Today, take a moment to praise God. Praise Him for who He is. Praise Him for your life. Praise Him for making Himself known.