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