God Be Merciful To Me A Sinner (23/10/16)

God be merciful. Have you ever felt unsure of yourself?

Luke 18: 9 to 14:

[9] And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: [10] Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. [11] The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men [are], extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. [12] I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess. [13] And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as [his] eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. [14] I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

God be merciful 

God be Merciful to me a sinner

What do we do, these days instead of praying, ‘God be merciful’? I suppose not everybody does the same, but there is a certain ideal. Think positive, dream big, you can achieve whatever you want, if you put your mind to it. We are artificially positive!

This may even be an offence against the Commandment (Ex. 20: 7),

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

There is a chapter in Greetings from Paradise entitled ‘The Name of the Lord’. This chapter explains that this name may even be an exclamation of joy!

The Name of the Lord

The Ancients called God by two names, Yahveh and Yahoo, as in Benjamin Netanyahu. This name means Benjamin, given by God, the God Yahu! Yahu might mean an exclamation of joy. Yahveh, on the other hand, could mean an exclamation of misery, similar to the Geman Oh Weh.

This interpretation is the only way of making sense of Ex. 6: 2 & 3. It is just after Moses had gone to the Pharaoh for the first time. Instead of letting the people go, the Pharaoh made them work even harder. ‘And,’ Ex. Ex. 5: 22 & 23, ‘Moses returned unto the LORD, and said, “Lord, wherefore hast thou so evil entreated this people? why is it that thou hast sent me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in thy name, he hath done evil to this people; neither hast thou delivered thy people at all.”’ He complained in quite a challenging manner!

Part of God’s answer is Ex. 6: 2 & 3. King James translated, ‘I am the LORD: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.’ Difficult to understand, isn’t it? When one fills in the Hebrew expressions for God it is even more difficult to understand. The quote then says, ‘I am Yahveh: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of El Almighty, but by my name Yahveh was I not known to them.’ El means God, but usually the scripture refers to God as Elohim, which is the plural of God. Scholars often understand  this as a pluralis majestatis, i.e. the way one would address royalty.

In this form the verses even seem contradictory.

God called himself Yahveh. And he said that the men worshipping him didn’t know him that name!? Obviously King James recognized this difficulty. Therefore he wrote for the second Yahveh, JEHOVAH, and not ‘the LORD’, as he usually did; for example at the beginning of this sentence.

But in Hebrew this sentence is just incorrect! According to the Tanakh, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob spoke about Yahveh very frequently. Wherever it says LORD in the King James translation it says Yahveh in the Hebrew text. When it says God in the translation, it says Elohim in the original.

Even if you look at this sentence in isolation, there is a contradiction in this sentence, ‘I am Yahveh: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, …, but by my name Yahveh was I not known to them.

Could the original of this sentence have been different?

After all people transmitted this verbally for centuries from generation to generation before someone actually wrote it down. Could it have been this? ‘I am Yahu: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of El Almighty, but by my name Yahveh was I not known to them.’ This could mean, ‘I am Yahu, the God of joy and happiness: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of El Almighty, everything they did in my name went really well! But by my name Yahveh, the name of lamentation and misery, was I not known to them.’

Joy comes from God. We shall not try to force it. We shall pray, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.’ This does not mean, we shall wreck our souls with feelings of guiltiness. It rather means we should not exalt ourselves. ‘For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

So let us pray, ‘God be merciful.’

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding!

Amen!