Saturday, December 09, 2006

What is Your Name?

[jIH] nob tlho' Daq lIj pong vaD lIj muSHa'taH pung je vaD lIj vIt

[I] give thanks to your Name for your loving kindness and for your truth Psalm 138:2b

Should you be fortunate enough to meet a Klingon, one of the first things you may wish to do is do is exchange names. Here's how you'd do that - to ASK for a name, you could say:

nuq 'oH ponglIj'e' - what is your name?

To REPLY, you can say:
Joel 'oH pongwIj'e' (at least, that's what you'd say if your name was Joel.)

The operative word here is the Klingon word pong, name. As in English, it can also be a verb, as in to NAME something. The Hebrew word here for name is "shem."

In our time we take names for granted - though I think moderns are beginning to return to the Biblical idea of the centrality of names. There was a time when the power of a name, as understood by ancients, seemed almost superstitious or magical, as if a name could contain power to conjure.

But in an era where identity theft is all too real a threat, we begin to appreciate the significance of a NAME. It is far more than a label, it is how we operate in the world of cyberspace, as we work and buy and sell around the world. Today there are legions of people in computer security who do little else but fight to preserve the integrity of people's names and the control of their identity. Names matter.

And here we listen as the psalmist direct his gratitude, not "to God" but, "to his name":

nob tlho' Daq lIj pong vaD lIj muSHa'taH pung je vaD lIj vIt

give thanks to your Name for your loving kindness and for your truth Psalm 138:2b

God's name was treated with tremendous reverence - there is a Jewish practice to NOT pronounce the Hebrew term, but substitute "adonai," Lord, in its place. That's why you see many English translations with LORD in all upper case, to represents the VERY carefully used name, made up of the four Hebrew letters. yod heh vav heh. In addition, applying the Hebrew definite article ha- to shem gives "HASHEM, which means "the name." Traditional Jews use the name "Hashem" instead of "God" to show their respect to God by not taking his name lightly and only using the proper name God in prayers.

This carefully protected name is not a thing to be used lightly - so to say we direct thanks to his NAME is indeed to be sending that thanks to God, in the most intimate way possible.

For what does this passage give thanks? God's loving kindness and truth. This calls to mind the trust of Psalm 117, where we hear the same two attributes (the same Hebrew words, Hesed and Emeth) extolled:

For his loving kindness is great toward us. The LORD's truth endures forever. (Psalm 117:2 WEB) (note: WEB uses "faithfulness" but the word is emeth, truth.)

God's name, his identity is a bedrock - something more reliable and faithful than our closest relative or dearest friend. The reliability of his creation, the truth of his promises are what we depend on - they are in a sense, his identity and name. Of course we ought to give thanks for this - it is with wonder and joy that we can turn to him. Malachi tells us God says:

I am the LORD, and I do not change. That is why you descendants of Jacob are not already completely destroyed. (Mal 3:6 NLT)

His reliability gives us hope.

It is true that everyone in this world does not prosper, yet though we may have ups and downs in our fortunes - God's world continues. The laws of nature that bring seedtime and harvest, sunshine and stars continue. And when we do prosper it gives us a chance to participate in the blesings God gives, as the Apostle Paul reminds us :

Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don't give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let's do what is good toward all... (Gal 6:9-10 WEB)

Give thanks! God, the name above all names is there, to call on in prayer as we turn to him with our requests, and to thank for all that he has give us. Rejoice!

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