Trinity Sunday

When the Lord revealed his name to Moses, He said, “I Am, Yahweh, the Lord, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex.34:5-7).  

That’s God’s full name, not just Yahweh. When Moses interceded for the rebellious Israelites in the book of Numbers, he appealed to God’s name saying: “I pray, be what you are called, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression…(Num. 14:18)

I have trouble remembering people’s names and I feel terrible when that happens. One time I even forgot how to spell my own name!  I always use my middle name, Stephen. But on one occasion I had to sign a government document with my first name, which is Philip.  I couldn’t remember if my birth certificate spelled Philip with one L or two.  When you’re signing your name in front of a government official you don’t look up and ask, “Is Philip spelled with one L or two?

Yahweh, the Lord, is really the beginning of a long descriptive name for God.  People sometimes have descriptive nicknames.  Like one of the workers who installed our copper roof whose nickname is “Stretch” because he’s so tall.   My father’s side of the family comes from Belgium.  When my older brother and I went to a summer camp for boys in northern Wisconsin, the staff called my brother “Belge,” short for the Belgian.  The kids misunderstood and began calling him “Belch“.   Since I was his younger brother they called me “Burp“.

The prophets of Judaism cherished God’s full descriptive name. Jonah writes: “I know that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repent of evil” (Jonah 4:2).

The prophet Micah writes, “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity, and passing over transgression? Who does not retain anger forever but delights in steadfast love and will again have compassion(Micah 7:18).

Through the prophet Jeremiah, God reminded the people of his name when he said: “Return, faithless Israel, I will not look on you in anger for I am merciful, I will not be angry forever(Jer. 3:12).

The prophet Joel called Israel to repentance in God’s name saying, “Return to Yahweh, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and repents of evil (Joel 2:13).

The Psalmist rejoicing in God’s name writes, “Yahweh is compassion and love, slow to anger and rich in mercy. His wrath will come to an end, he will not be angry forever. He does not treat us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our faults(Ps. 103:8, Ps 145:8).

And there are others. This revelation of God’s full name is at the heart of the entire Hebrew Scriptures. But then a wonderful thing happened.  Yahweh, the Lord, became flesh and walked among us as Jesus, our Savior, embracing us with the love and compassion, the kindness and mercy that is His divine name.  Jesus taught us a new name for God that is at the heart of the entire Christian Scriptures, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three Persons in one divine nature, who want us to be sharers in their nature, in their name, so that we also can be called, “kind and compassionate, gracious and merciful, abounding in steadfast love and truth forever.”