The names of other gods got worked into the Hebrew religion. How’s that for the most boring sermon lead in ever? The names of other gods got worked into the Hebrew religion, for example the Canaanite word El, which we find not only in titles like Elohim and El Shaddai, in place names like Bethel and Israel, but also in people’s names like Daniel and Michael, names that in the original Hebrew spoke of the person’s relationship to God. But the oldest name for God seems to be Yahweh, a name connected with Israel’s time in Egypt, connected with the Midianites. You see, that wicked revolutionary Moses lead his small rag-tag band of slaves out of Egypt, and in the process Moses came to know the name of the God of Abraham, of the Patriarchs. In Hebrew it is something like the letters YHWH, and we have interpreted this ancient unspeakable name, this name without vowels, as Yahweh, and we dare speak it, we sophisticated modern folks who don’t believe that names have magic.
This ancient name, Yahweh, has been interpreted into modern languages. We refer to God as “I AM,” or maybe as “I AM WHO I AM.” This is a statement of being. But while I was in divinity school, some scholars suggested that in ancient times it could just as easily have been read “I AM BECOMING.” Because of complexities of tense and case in ancient Hebrew that are far beyond my understanding, these scholars argue that the verb is progressive. God is not static, God is becoming. And when I first heard this I thought “well all right then… this is a theology I can deal with, this is a God I can love.” Not the static scary god concept we stole from the Greek philosophers and tried to shove down on Yahweh, nope, this was a living God. “I AM BECOMING.” Well God, so am I, through your grace, so am I. Continue reading →