Last time we discovered that God cloaks His glory within clouds and darkness. This time we’re going to try and go beyond the clouds to peer into what God’s glory is all about.
If we learn a Hebrew word, this will be a make a little more sense. The Hebrew word is shem. The word shem (pronounced shame) means “name.” Now, some of you might be smart enough to realize that this is Noah’s son’s name. That is an interesting detail worth looking into.
What does the word shem mean? For some reason, name just isn’t enough to really grasp what the word means. It is beyond the name; it is the character of a person. When you strip away all of the junk in someone’s life and their hobbies and their habits and their personality and their preferences and you look at the core of who they are, then you are looking at their shem. Someone’s name is their character. It is more than character in the sense of morality level. This kind of character is what all of the external things stem from. What is it that causes this person to enjoy science or history or art? What is it about this person that causes them to joke or to be serious?
When we’re talking about someone’s name, we’re really asking what the foundational aspect of their entire being is. Who are you at the very core and center and heart?
With this information, we look to Exodus 3. In Exodus 3, Moses meets God at the burning bush. God sends Moses to Pharaoh. Moses debates God. Moses asks God one last question: “What is your name?”
What is Moses asking?
The name is more than a name. We think in terms of “this is what God likes to be called.” That isn’t what is going on here. Moses asks God what the core of His being is…
Later, Moses asks to see God’s glory (Exodus 32-34). God tells Moses, “No one can see my glory and live. I will pass by you and hide you in the cleft of the rock and you can see my backside.” Once again, Hebrew isn’t necessarily saying what we interpret it as. When someone is in front of you, they are to your face. When someone is behind you, they are to your back. Here, to see God’s backside would be to see the place where God just was.
What do these two passages have in similarity?
In the one, God tells Moses the core of who He is.
In the other, God lets Moses see where He was just walking.
If we are to experience the glory of God, we will experience God as He is. To see His glory (or the place where His glory just rested) is to see the core of who God is. It is one thing to theologically know it; it is something else entirely to see it. It is one thing to be able to understand what I AM THAT I AM means from a theological aspect; it is something else entirely to walk in the light as He is in the light.
So when Moses hears the name of God, he learns about God. This can transform. This can revolutionize. But to see God act out that very character is something else entirely.
Lets break down what the tetragrammaton (YAHWEH) means.
There are many scholars that have spoken of how it is the verb “to exist” or “to be.” So it could be “I am that I am,” or, “I am that which exists,” or, “I am all that exists,” or, “I am all that will exist,” or, “I exist because I exist.” The thing about Hebrew is that it isn’t one of these options. It is all of them. It is every kind of translation possible of the sentence. All of them. At the same time.
But there is another aspect of the name that isn’t ever spoken of. Ancient Hebrew is different than Biblical Hebrew. What I mean by this is that when we learn Hebrew in school, we are taught the modern day script of the ancient text. The modern script is Aramaic block script. Hebrew uses symbols like a cryptograph. For the aleph, we use an ox head meaning strength. For the beth, we use a picture of a tent, meaning family or house.
The name of the Lord is yohd hey waw hey. The yohd was originally an arm or hand. The hey was originally a picture of a man with his arms raised. It means “behold,” or “reveal.” The waw was originally a tent peg. It would symbolize security, a hook, or even a nail or something like the tent peg.
So when we look at yohd hey waw hey, we are looking at a sentence: hand behold nail behold.
Lets flip the verb around so it makes sense: Behold the hand; behold the nail.
What is it in the Bible that we see nails and hands? Jesus got nails driven through His hands during the crucifixion…
Behold the hand; behold the nail. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Is the glory of God revealed within the cross? Is the foundational characteristic of God the cross of Christ? What is it about the cross that would cause for God to say that this is who He is at the very core?
We’ll try to look into these questions next time.