Daily Readings & Thought for November 21st. “BLESSED BE YOUR GLORIOUS NAME”

Today’s readings.. (Nehemiah 9), (Amos 1), (1 Timothy 4,5)

We have a most meaningful chapter (9) in Nehemiah today. It is the remarkable account of how the people “assembled with fasting and in sackcloth, and with earth on their heads. And the Israelites separated themselves from all foreigners and stood and confessed their sins …” [v.1,2] It was an all-out effort to renew their commitment ‘to God – to ‘get back on track’ as we would put it today. The leading Levites told them to “Stand up and bless the LORD your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.” [v.5]

Do we fully understand what this means? What is the “name” of God?  Just a word you say – just like when someone addresses you or I – by name?  How can a “name” be “glorious” in itself?

These Levites say (a prayer really) “You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it … You are the LORD, the God who chose Abram … You found his heart faithful before you … you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt … And you made a name for yourself, as it is to this day … you divided the sea before them …” [v.6-11]. 

It is invaluable to understand how God “made a name” for himself. In Exodus ch. 3  is the account of the encounter of Moses with God at the burning bush and his being told to go to the people and bring them out of Egypt (v.10,11)  Take special notice of how Moses responds, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” [v.13] 

We may be familiar with God’s answer, but we also need to think – and ask ourselves – why would Moses expect the people to ask, ‘What is our God’s name?’ It would be asked, Moses knew, in the sense of wanting to know his particular  reputation.  The people would be familiar with all the different reputations of the various Egyptian Gods. 

The essential meaning of the answer God gave Moses at the bush was that he was going to make a reputation for himself in what was about to happen.  This understanding is confirmed in this record in Nehemiah, but also in many other places, see Isaiah 63 v,12-14, Jerem. 32, v.20, Dan. 9 v.15

The challenging extension to our thoughts is how the meaning of God’s name changes in the New Testament, for now God has become a Father.  What did Jesus tell his disciples?  See John 17 v.6,26. How is the prayer of Jesus working out in the lives of you and I?  “I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”  Think through these words they lead to the deepest meditation.

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