“Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the LORD of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. “He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the LORD offerings in righteousness.“Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
“Then I will draw near to you for judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers and against the adulterers and against those who swear falsely, and against those who oppress the wage earner in his wages, the widow and the orphan, and those who turn aside the alien and do not fear Me,” says the LORD of hosts. “For I, the LORD, do not change; therefore you, O sons of Jacob, are not consumed.” Malachi 3:1-6 (NIV)
Before we get started, you may want to take your shoes off. Because this first name (יהוה in Hebrew) is so holy, the people first entrusted with it don’t pronounce it or even write it anymore. Which speaks volumes about reverence. But it’s also a terrible loss.
Because this name isn’t just holy. It’s also the most intimate name of God, and the most powerful. The Bible describes it as a strong tower and a source of salvation.
What is it about this particular name that makes it so unspeakably holy, intimate, and powerful? Let’s look at the Hebrew word יהוה more closely.
It can be hard to distinguish the different names of God when we’re reading the Bible in translation. When you see LORD in all capital letters in the text, you know you’re dealing with יהוה (it’s used five times in the passage above).
It might be obvious to you already, but this name is based on a verb. It’s a form of the verb that means “will be.” When Moses first asks God’s name, the answer he gets is something like “I exist.” It seems kind of non-descript at first.
Until you take a moment and let it sink in. What does it mean to you to worship the God who exists, and always will? Every corner of the Earth is crowded with false gods, and yet it’s also filled to overflowing with the one God who is.
There’s more to uncover here, because, like every Hebrew word, this name has many layers of meaning. One way to discover them is looking at the characters themselves. Every symbol in the Hebrew alphabet represents a sound and an idea, like hieroglyphics. When we put them together, they often form a rich word picture that illuminates the meaning of the word in a fresh way.
If we start at the right (because Hebrew is read from right to left) we have a י which originally represented a hand. Next is the ה which depicted a person with arms raised and outstretched. It meant to behold, worship or pay attention. Often when you see it in the biblical text it’s like a neon sign highlighting an important truth (for example, the passage above begins with this Hebrew letter in the word ‘behold’). Next is the ו which depicts a tent stake. It originally symbolized the action of securing or firmly establishing. And to double our attention another ה.
So the total word picture has to do with a hand, a stake, and a double emphasis on attention and worship. Many believe this word picture points to Jesus as the Messiah. They say it was meant to draw our attention and worship to someone whose hands were pierced by stakes.
Whether or not the word picture is pointing to the crucifixion, it’s no accident that the name itself tells us twice to behold. To pay attention. In fact, this whole passage starts by asking us to focus. It’s full of vivid imagery designed to hold our attention. God’s messenger is coming with judgment and mercy. He wants us to notice the signs and be ready to receive him.
How does recognizing that God is, change things for you?
What’s one way you can redirect your attention to God during this busy season?