Yahweh Is the Sweetest Name I Know [John Piper]

I receive devotionals from the Desiring God blog every day and am always blessed by what I read from them. Today’s writing by John Piper is so sweet I knew I had to share it with you. Please visit the Desiring God site, where you’ll find much wonderful reading!

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You are not wrong to sing, “Jesus is the sweetest name I know,” even though Yahweh is.

Here’s why.

God gave himself the name Yahweh. No man gave him this name. It is God’s chosen personal name. He loves to be known by this name. It is used over 5,000 times in the Old Testament. It is almost always translated by Lᴏʀᴅ (small caps). But it is not a title. It is a personal name, like James or Elizabeth.

You know the name Yahweh best from its shortened form Yah at the end of Hallelujah, which means “praise Yahweh.” I love to think about this when I sing. When I sing, “Hallelujah,” I love to really mean, “No! I don’t praise you Bel, or Nebo, or Molech, or Rimmon, or Dagon, or Chemosh. I turn from you with disdain to Yah! I praise Yah. Hallelu Yah!”

God announced his name to Moses in Exodus 3:15. God said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers. . . . This is my name forever.”

He preceded this announcement with two other statements so the meaning would be clear. He said, “I am who I am” (verse 14a). And he said, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you’” (verse 14b).

The Hebrew name Yahweh is connected to the Hebrew verb “I am.” So Yahweh is most fundamentally the One-Who-Is. “I am who I am” is the most foundational meaning of Yahweh. It means: My am-ness comes from my am-ness. My being from my being. My existence from my existence.

There are vast personal and covenantal implications of this. But this is foundational. No beginning. No ending. No dependence. He simply is, always was, and always will be. He communicates all of this with a personal name. To be sure, he has titles, and he has attributes. But this is a personal name. He packs the weightiest truth about himself into a personal name. Infinite greatness and personal knowability are in the name Yahweh.

Then in the fullness of time, Yahweh came into the world to seek and save the lost. The angel said to Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus is an English transliteration of the Greek Iesoun. And this in turn is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew Joshua. And Joshua is a combination of Yah and “salvation” or “save”. It means “Yahweh saves.”

So Jesus means “Yahweh saves.” Jesus is Yahweh with a human nature coming to save his people from sin.

Paul confirms this in Philippians 2:11. He says of the risen Jesus, “Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” That is a quote from Isaiah 45:23 where Yahweh is the one to whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess. Paul is saying that, in the end, the whole world will acknowledge that Jesus is in fact Yahweh incarnate.

So you don’t have to choose between singing, “Jesus is the sweetest name I know,” and, “Yahweh is the sweetest name I know.” Indeed you dare not choose.


For more on this topic, see John Piper’s three most recent messages:

Topic: The Supremacy of Christ

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.

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About Anna Popescu

I live in northern Arizona with my husband, Rick. I am blessed to say that Rick and I are at the bottom corners of a triangle where Jesus sits at the top corner. My children, Kathy & Alan, live in the Phoenix area and make this mom's heart thankful they have grown to be such wonderful and caring adults. Alan married in 2010, so I am also blessed with Denise as a special daughter-in-love. The Lord took my Mom home in 2007, and I miss her. My Dad and two sisters live in Florida while my two other sisters live in the Northeast. God has also blessed me and Rick with a local family of very close-knit friends. I love to write when I am able, but on the days when I am struggling with health issues and can't manage much of anything, I can at least crochet. These days I mainly crochet lapghans of various colors and sizes for area rehab centers and nursing homes.

Posted on July 24, 2013, in Hallelujah, praise, prayer, sing, song and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. John Piper has such wisdom and rich insight. I love the literal meaning of the name Jesus: Yahweh Saves — AMEN to that!

  1. Pingback: Daily Devotions, July 24, 2013 | The Eternal Life Series

  2. Pingback: I Am Yahweh | Worshiper of God

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