In referring to the scattered exiles of Israel’s Northern Kingdom the prophet Hosea wrote this:
I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing. (Hosea 8:12 NKJV)
It would seem that God’s words through the prophet have direct application to us modern followers of Jesus Christ (Yeshua haMashiach). Even though our God has recorded many great things both in His Law (Torah) given through Moses and in the Prophets, Christians tend to avoid those books of the Bible. Whether it is fear of “the Law” and potential legalism associated with observing it, or a perception that the Old Testament (Hebrew Scriptures, or Tanakh) does not carry the same weight as the New Testament (Apostolic Scriptures), there is a definite lack of understanding of the first two thirds of the Bible. This is a great tragedy, chiefly because it robs us of much blessing, including understanding of our identity as the seed of Abraham, spiritual depth, and fruitfulness in our walk of faith in Messiah.
Consider, for example, the revelation of Messiah Yeshua. The foundation of our Christian faith is in the identity of Yeshua of Nazareth as Messiah, but do we really know what that means? The answer to that question will be the subject of future posts. For now let us consider Messiah’s identity as God, inseparable from the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. This is one of the signs Yeshua gave in testimony of His credentials as Messiah. As with all the signs He gave, the origin of this one is in the Torah, in the revelation to Moses of God’s Name:
Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14 NKJV)
We miss so much when reading this passage in translation. We do not see the full revelation of the Name by which the Lord revealed Himself to Moses. The Name is transliterated into English in several ways, particularly “Yahweh”, “Yahveh”, or “Jehovah”. In Hebrew it is a four-letter Name called the Tetragrammaton, which is written like this (reading right to left):
The Name of God is so holy that Jews very rarely pronounce it. They say instead, HaShem (the Name), or Adonai (the Lord). This is in obedience to the Commandment not to take the Name of the Lord in vain (Exodus 20:7). This Jewish practice has carried over into Christian tradition as well, which is why we often say, “The Lord”, rather than “Yahveh”.
Are we missing something by not pronouncing the Sacred Name? Perhaps. We certainly are missing something by not understanding the Hebrew teaching about the Name. Consider, for example, what each of the letters mean:
י The letter Yod means “hand” or “arm”, with a form suggesting a hand reaching toward heaven.
ה The letter Hei carries the meaning, “look”, or “behold”, which is evident in the original pictograph form resembling a man holding up his arms. The Hebrew script form of the letter resembles a door slightly open, which conveys the further meaning of “reveal”, or “what comes forth”.
ו The letter Vav is a picture of a tent peg or nail. It is a connector, something that makes things secure or established.
As we put all this together we begin to see tremendous meaning in God’s Holy Name. The Yod tells us He is doing something by the power of His Hand. Since Hei appears twice in His Name, He is revealing two different things: salvation and deliverance. That is what the children of Israel learned as they went into Egypt at the invitation of Joseph, and as they came out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses (Genesis 45:7-8; Exodus 14:13-14). This speaks also to Messiah’s two missions. He accomplished salvation at His first coming; He will accomplish deliverance at His second coming when He judges the world and establishes His Kingdom. But what seals the meaning is the letter Vav. With this letter of the Holy Name we know that Salvation and Deliverance come forth by the Nailed Hand of God.
That revelation of the Holy Name is astounding, but there is yet more. Consider Yeshua’s exchange with the Jewish leaders in John 8. He caps the discussion with this statement:
Then Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He,and that I do nothing of Myself; but as My Father taught Me, I speak these things. (John 8:28 NKJV, emphasis added)
The word, “He” does not appear in the original Greek. That is why in our English translations it appears in italics. Thus Yeshua was saying, “You will know that I AM”. In other words, He was telling them that when He, the Son of Man, is lifted up, they would see God Himself. To understand the fulfillment of this sign we jump ahead to the crucifixion, to an incident recorded in all four Gospels. John’s account provides the necessary detail:
And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was:
JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but, ‘He said, “I am the King of the Jews.”’” Pilate answered, “What I have written, I have written.” (John 19:17-22 NKJV. See also Matthew 27:36-38, Mark 15:25-28, and Luke 23:38.)
What was it about this inscription that caused the Jewish leaders to be so upset? In Hebrew the translation was, “JESUS THE NAZARENE AND KING OF THE JEWS” (Yeshua HaNatzri, Ve-Melech Ha-YeHudim). It was written like this (reading right to left):
In Hebrew, as in English and other languages, a common technique for conveying multiple meanings is an acrostic. This is the practice of taking the first letter from the words in a phrase and combining them to form another message. Notice the Hebrew letters in red in the inscription above. The acrostic formed from these four Hebrew words is something that by now has become familiar to us:
Just as Yeshua said, when the Son of Man was lifted up, we saw I AM and the salvation and deliverance revealed by the nailed Hand of God.
For additional information, see the following resources:
“The Letter Yod” (http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Aleph-Bet/Yod/yod.html).
“The Letter Hey” (http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Aleph-Bet/Hey/hey.html).
“The Letter Vav” (http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Aleph-Bet/Vav/vav.html).
Notes for the letter Yod (http://www.elshaddaiministries.us/messages/notes/5772/20120227yod-notes.pdf).
Notes for the letter Hei (http://www.elshaddaiministries.us/messages/notes/5772/20120109-hei-notes.pdf).
Notes for the letter Vav (http://www.elshaddaiministries.us/messages/notes/5772/2011-1-30notes_vav.pdf).
- Monte W. Judah, “Secrets of the Name”, in YAVOH, He Is Coming, Lion and Lamb Ministries, Norman, OK, February 2002, http://lionlamb.net/v3/YAVOH-HeisComing/2002/02.
- Peter and Christie Michas, with Robert Vander Maten, The Rod of an Almond Tree in God’s Master Plan, chapter 10, “The Name of God is Revealed in Pilate’s Inscription”, Messengers of Messiah, Highland, CA, January 11, 2011, http://www.messengers-of-messiah.org/GodsMasterPlan/Ch10(1_21_11Final)Pilate’sInscription.pdf.