Day 60: Yahweh Shammah

“The distance around the entire city will be 6 miles. And from that day the name of the city will be [Yahweh Shammah].'”

Ezekiel 48:35

Yahweh Shammah: The LORD Is There

Ezekiel is a heavy book. It is full of a good, loving Father who wants only the best for them striving with his “stubborn and hard-hearted” children (Ezekiel 2:4). It’s a book of His lamenting the consequences they have brought on themselves by their disobedience, of His pleading with them to choose better, of the enormous emotions this Creator of ours must bear watching His children walk away from Him and toward their own destruction. By chapter 7, “No hope remains.” All that is left is for God’s children to experience what they have done to others because they’re just not getting it any other way… and He lets them.

But the book is far from over at the end of chapter 7. There are 41 more chapters! What more can there possibly be to tell of this horrifically painful, broken parent/child relationship? They drove their God away. Their God who, in His presence, is fullness of joy. Their God whose glory transforms everything it touches into its most full, healthy, joyful, glorious self! The God whose presence makes the difference between Heaven and Hell – because His presence itself is what we call Heaven. Heaven is a person more than a place – it is wherever He is. And they drove Him away. Do we really want to know what happens next? Do we want to hear about their hell?

But if you quit now, you’ll never know.

You’ll never know what it takes to make peace after a war.

You’ll never know that bones so dead they’re dry can spring back together…and grow flesh…and breathe again.

You’ll never know what was rebuilt after everything was destroyed.

And you’ll never know, that after all their cruelty, all their idolatry, after all the shame and pain it caused, after they wounded Him, angered Him, and shoved Him away… Yahweh Shammah. These are the very last words in the book, so you must read all the way to the end to know that – after all of it –

The Lord Is There.

Day 59: El Hannora

“And now, our God, the great and mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of unfailing love, do not let all the hardships we have suffered seem insignificant to you.”

Nehemiah 9:32a

El Hannora: Awesome God

A definition of a word we have bleached pale by overuse:

awesome: (adj) extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.

Oxford Language

I love the book of Nehemiah. It is so charged with real emotion; so much of religion can be stoic, repetitive, ritualistic, voided of whatever feeling it once held by the burden it has now become. All the meaning of those rituals, all the value in their execution, is so often forgotten as other urgencies creep into our lives and usurp whatever time we had to remember. In the book of Nehemiah, though, the people were in the depths of memory, and just as much they were already stepping over the brink of the fulfillment of their greatest, most impossible dream for the future: return.

This declaration of God as the Awesome God was not a casual toss of a serious word as we are so use to hearing it. It comes pouring out of their memories of Israel’s repeated sins and God’s repeated (just) punishment; it comes pouring from their memories of crying out to God, their only hope, though they were the ones who had abandoned him, and finding his unexpected forgiveness waiting patiently for their call; it comes pouring out of their memories, recent and distant, of captivity, slavery, and yearning to own their own lives, and the surreal moment they now find themselves in, standing in the homeland they were never sure they would see again, worshipping the God they did not think would take them back, and relearning their identity as his people and – what is most – his identity as their God. And they are paralyzed, breathless at who they now see he is.

There is no word big enough to wrap around this God. So they choose the biggest word they have in hope it will convey enough for others to come and see for themselves, and fully share their awe: El Hannora, the Awesome God.

Day 58: Elohei Mikarov and Elohei Merachok

23 “Am I Elohei Mikarov” saith Hashem.
    “and not Elohei merachok?”

24 Can anyone hide from me in a secret place?
    Am I not everywhere in all the heavens and earth?”
    says the Lord.

Jeremiah 23:23 (OJB) and 23:24 (NLT)

Elohei Mikarov: God Who is Near Elohei Merachok: God Who is Far Off

We have a word for this truth about God: “omnipresent,” we call Him, at once both near and far away. Elohei Mikarov and Elohei Merachok, He calls Him; His presence is so important, it is His name.

This idea was revolutionary in the age He first spoke it; the gods of other nations were territorial and only had power in their own domain, which often, funny enough, took the shape of the borders of the nations that served them. It was as if the only power they had was the power…people…gave them. Like children pretending a doll is a real baby, making crying sounds for it and holding plastic food up to plastic mouths, they paraded their puppet gods up and down their own land, but they could not make them actually come to life.

Sometimes God’s people would get confused and think they could put their God on strings, too, and pretend He would do whatever they wanted Him to do. In Jeremiah 23, He is furious. He is furious because would-be “prophets” have been claiming their own words were His, their own ideas His, their own dreams His. They stole His authority to lend power to their own thoughts, and He, the Living God, says to them, “You know I see you, right?”

We would all be wise to remember Elohei Mikarov is Elohei Merachok, and Elohei Merachok is Elohei Mikarov. This God of ours has no strings to hold Him down. We do not control Him with our prayers, our thoughts are not His thoughts, and He speaks for Himself.

Our God is not a doll. He is Elohei Mikarov. He is Elohei Merachok. He is God, near and far.

Day 57: Yahweh Tsidkenu

“For the time is coming,”

    says the Lord,

“when I will raise up a righteous descendant[a]

    from King David’s line.

He will be a King who rules with wisdom.

    He will do what is just and right throughout the land.

And this will be his name:

    “[Yahweh Tsidkenu].”[b]

In that day Judah will be saved,

    and Israel will live in safety.”

Jeremiah 23:5-6

 But you are of Hashem in Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach Yehoshua who became to us chochmah (wisdom) from Hashem, our Tzidkanut (Righteousness) and our Kedushah (Holiness) and our Geulah LaOlam (Redemption to the world), [Jer 23:5,633:16]”

1 Corinthians 1:30, Orthodox Jewish Bible, emphasis added

Yahweh Tsidkenu: The LORD Our Righteousness

It’s funny how the connotations of words change over time. In the NIV version of the Bible published something like 30+ years ago now, the word righteousness is all over the place, but in the New Living Translation (NLT) publishes just a decade letter, that word has nearly disappeared. It has been replaced with “right with God” in almost all appearances in the New Testament, including in the 1 Corinthians reference above. It means the same thing, right? Except that righteousness is a more concise and expedient way to say what we mean. So what about this word – “righteousness” – has grown so distasteful that we sought a way to speak around it?

The problem is how many have confused the source – how many Christians began to call themselves “righteous” to distinguish themselves from “sinners” and forgot which name their own actions had earned them. Where self-righteousness tries to claim the name of true righteousness – Christ-righteousness – it smears the name and confuses the Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who fear God do not dare take credit for His actions as the self-righteous do. So language changes to provide distinction (we are not the same as they), and innocent and accurate words are lost to misuse.

I would by lying if I said the snares of self-righteousness had never trapped me, and that is why this name of God frees and settles my tumultuous heart. See, self-righteousness is death on my own sword; I may claim the credit for God’s actions once, but as I cannot reproduce them, I become ever more frantic and desperate in my attempts to maintain the reputation I stole, like a lip-syncer asked to perform a cappella with no sound equipment. The pressure will break me, my lies will be exposed, and I will lose control and fall on top of the sword I stole because it is too big for me to wield alone. By calling God by His Own Name, by giving it to the One to Whom it Belongs – Yahweh Tsidkenu, The LORD is my righteousness – I lift the pressure to perform beyond my abilities, and rest on His great ability instead. There is such freedom in giving credit where it is due!

This, then, is the pure, whole truth: The time that was coming is come. God has done what He promised; He has given us the king who rules with wisdom and does what is just and right in all the land. His name is Yehoshua, Jesus, and He is my righteousness, the One who makes me right with God. I am a sinner; He is my righteousness. He is my Tsidkenu – Yahweh Tsidkenu.

Day 56: Yatsar

How briefly your holy people possessed your holy place,
    and now our enemies have destroyed it.
Sometimes it seems as though we never belonged to you,
    as though we had never been known as your people.

Isaiah 63:18-19

You welcome those who gladly do good,
    who follow godly ways.
But you have been very angry with us,
    for we are not godly.
We are constant sinners;
    how can people like us be saved?

Isaiah 64:5

And yet, O Lord, you are our Father.
    We are the clay, and you are [Yatsar].
    We all are formed by your hand.
Don’t be so angry with us, Lord.
    Please don’t remember our sins forever.
Look at us, we pray,
    and see that we are all your people.

Isaiah 64:8

The Lord says,

“I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help.
    I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me.
I said, ‘Here I am, here I am!’
    to a nation that did not call on my name.

Isaiah 65:1

Isaiah 63 (raw honesty about how it feels), 64 (confession of sin), and 65 (God’s response) are worth another read today, all together, in full

Yatsar: The Potter

I don’t really know how to follow that. Do you feel it? Can you feel how truly abandoned each side feels? Do you feel the staggering weight of admitting we are in this situation of our own making; we are not godly, we are constant sinners, we cannot see a way we can be saved. We want someone, anyone else to be to blame. It’s almost like there is some solace in being an innocent victim, in having the ability to say, “I did nothing to deserve this,” but in being a sufferer of the consequences of our own stupid sin – of knowing we have broken our chances beyond repair, that we not only suffer this, but deserve it – even the barest whisper of solace cannot penetrate that despair.

And yet.

Our ending was never ours to make. We know: there is a way out, a way that will break us maybe every bit as much as our own destruction.

We must ask for what we do not deserve.

We must ask Yatsar, who has waited for us, called to us, waved His hands before our faces while we closed our eyes and ears – we must call now to Him, ask Him to help us, wait for His answer, and hope it is not the one we gave Him. And if He should ask – “Why should I?” – what would we say? Our only remaining merit is that He made us. Our only hope to say – “because broken as we are, we are Yours.”

He could punish us; that would be just. He could forgive us; that would be merciful. Through the chastening blood of the Lamb, though, Yatsar has molded an answer both just and merciful, both functional and beautiful, the way only a Master Potter can. ❤

Day 55: Yahweh Goelekh

Though you were once despised and hated,
    with no one traveling through you,
I will make you beautiful forever,
    a joy to all generations.
Powerful kings and mighty nations
    will satisfy your every need,
as though you were a child
    nursing at the breast of a queen.
You will know at last that I, [Yahweh],
    am your Savior and your [Goelekh],
    the Mighty One of Israel.[a]

Isaiah 60:15-16

Yahweh Goelekh: The LORD Our Redeemer

I don’t know if there’s a more beautiful idea in all the world than this one – redemption. The idea that something that was fit for nothing but the trash could be fixed, could be whole, could be “good as new.”

If I am an expert on anything, it is how easily things break. I prefer the term “undercoordinated” to clumsy, please and thanks. 🙂 I am reminded by my own hands every day how flimsy this world is, how easily broken, how passing. Very little of what I break is worth redeeming, worth fixing; in this modern world, it is quicker and cheaper and easier to just toss it in the trash and start over.

I wonder sometimes if it would be easier for God to just scrap us all and start over. Toss this fatally flawed batch of lemons in the trash and make the whole world over again. It’s no less than we deserve, and God is fully capable. So why doesn’t He?

The answer is always, always about Him. He doesn’t because that’s not who He is. He’s not the trasher, the scrapper, the thrower-awayer. He is the Redeemer. It is His very name. Our hope for our brokenness to be fixed has nothing to do with who we are or what we can do, and entirely to do with who He is and what He does.

He is Yahweh Goelekh. He is the Lord our Redeemer. And so we are not trashed. And so we are redeemed.

Day 54: Ish

For your Creator will be your [Ish];

    the Lord of Heaven’s Armies is his name!

He is your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel,

    the God of all the earth.

Isaiah 54:5

“Just as I swore in the time of Noah

    that I would never again let a flood cover the earth,

so now I swear

    that I will never again be angry and punish you.

For the mountains may move

    and the hills disappear,

but even then my faithful love for you will remain.

    My covenant of blessing will never be broken,”

    says the Lord, who has mercy on you.

Isaiah 54:9-10

Ish: Husband

There is something hush-inducing about a man in love. I find myself hardly breathing when I watch them, like some sort of majestic animal in the wild I don’t want to spook. Most of them would clamp down inside their shells if they knew how obvious their love is, but as long as they think no one is watching! I can’t help but think that this is the reason why the universe was created, why women were created, why God made a whole audience of angels in heaven to gasp from afar: to see what a breathtaking thing the pure, sincere love of a man can be.

And then He whispers the most incredible truth: “My love for you is like that, only more.”

Ish, the swooning husband of humanity whose love will not break though the world does, is yours. ❤

Day 53: Yahweh Moshiekh

Who can snatch the plunder of war from the hands of a warrior?

    Who can demand that a tyrant[d] let his captives go?

But the Lord says,

“The captives of warriors will be released,

    and the plunder of tyrants will be retrieved.

For I will fight those who fight you,

    and I will save your children.

I will feed your enemies with their own flesh.

    They will be drunk with rivers of their own blood.

All the world will know that I, the Lord,

    am [Yahweh Moshiekh] and your Redeemer,

    the Mighty One of Israel.[e]

Isaiah 49:24-26

Yahweh Moshiekh: The LORD Your Savior

“I will feed your enemies with their own flesh. They will be drunk with rivers of their own blood.” Well, that’s quite a vivid and violent picture, isn’t it?

Wasn’t I just saying in my last post that sometimes it can be hard to view God as El Tsaddik, the Righteous God? Wasn’t I just saying sometimes the brutality of this world is hard to reconcile with our own ideas of righteousness, with the kindness and love we believe of God?

Ah, so here we stand in one of those places, and we wonder how a good, righteous God could be so brutal.

But doesn’t He say why? “I will fight those who fight you. I will save your children.” Your children! Yahweh Moshiekh does not fight by His own desire or own His own behalf. He is not one of those souls who delight in the suffering of others. He does not destroy for pleasure. As a matter of fact, He destroys those who destroy for pleasure, those who would dare to destroy something as helpless as a child. And that is the difference. He is a Savior, not a psychopath.

He is Yahweh Moshiekh, who does not save halfway. When He rescues us, He does not let the evil escape to lurk behind another corner, to haunt us in our dreams, to terrorize us. The evil God destroys is utterly destroyed. Even if it is our own sin.

Day 52: El Tsaddik

“For the Lord is God,
    and he created the heavens and earth
    and put everything in place.
He made the world to be lived in,
    not to be a place of empty chaos.
“I am the Lord,” he says,
    “and there is no other.
I publicly proclaim bold promises.
    I do not whisper obscurities in some dark corner.
I would not have told the people of Israel[c] to seek me
    if I could not be found.
I, the Lord, speak only what is true
    and declare only what is right.”

Isaiah 45: 18-19

Consult together, argue your case.
    Get together and decide what to say.
Who made these things known so long ago?
    What idol ever told you they would happen?
Was it not I, the Lord?
    For there is no other God but me,
[El Tsaddik] and Savior.
    There is none but me.
Let all the world look to me for salvation!
    For I am God; there is no other.

Isaiah 45: 21-22

The people will declare,
    “The Lord is the source of all my righteousness and strength.”
And all who were angry with him
    will come to him and be ashamed.

Isaiah 45:24

El Tsaddik: The Righteous God

Of all the names of God, this is the one I have wrestled with the most. El Tsaddik. The righteous God. Righteous.

It is the weak hinge that I see break most often in others’ faith. The Righteous God.

It is the hinge I have felt barely hanging on in my own. The Righteous...

“El Tsaddik” means of all the souls in the universe, God’s is the one that is always – always – right. Just. Morally perfect. Innocent. Those are some of the words we use to define “righteous.”

But if we’re honest, truly, gut-wrenchingly honest… it doesn’t always seem that way sometimes, does it? Sometimes we expect El Tsaddik to act a certain way because He is El Tsaddik, and He defies our expectations. We know what the righteous do, and He did…otherwise. It’s the (we feel) cruelty He condones and sometimes commands in the Old Testament that we stumble over, or the horror stories we hear from others of things that happened in their own lives. It’s the things that twist our stomachs in disgust and terror, and we only human! It’s the things people are capable of doing to each other, it’s the natural things in this brutal, wild world that shock us, it’s that El Tsaddik would create such a world or even for a moment sustain it. (And yet, at the same moment, we’re grateful, surpassingly grateful, that He does!)

This world is so upside down, inside out, twisting, curving, coming fast – like we all have a bad case of the twisties when we try to figure out what’s right, like we can no longer tell which way is up or down until it slams into us hard. God bless Simone Biles for opening the world’s eyes to what that feels like, and the damage it can do.

It has crashed and broken many a strong and healthy-looking faith. But as Miss Biles so courageously pointed out to the world, health is more than the muscle and skill we see on the outside. True, full faith-health is founded on this one crucial, perfectly shaped Cornerstone: El Tsaddik, The Righteous God, is right.

When I don’t understand Him, He is right.

When I disagree with Him, He is right.

However I may feel, He is right!

Without this foundational belief to give shape to the rest, our faith will always be crooked, and crooked is weak, easily broken. What sits at the wrong angle to other things cannot give them its full support; if we do not believe in God’s rightness and righteousness over our own, our faith will never be strong enough. It will never land on its feet.

I believe God is right and does right.

Why is He right?

Because He is El Tsaddik, it is His very name, the exact, perfect standard on which the earth was made. When we can’t trust ourselves, we can trust Him. He never gets the twisties. 🙂

Day 51: Yahweh Bore

O Jacob, how can you say the Lord does not see your troubles?
    O Israel, how can you say God ignores your rights?
Have you never heard?
    Have you never understood?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    [Yahweh Bore] of all the earth.
He never grows weak or weary.
    No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

Isaiah 40:27-28

Yahweh Bore: The LORD Creator

We live in a world of unbelievable detail. Have you noticed? My older daughter recently threw her arms up toward the trees and declared that she was “born to be a nature scientist!” I’ve spent the last eight years following her interests with her, naming all the garden worms and “foraging” in our own backyard for food, pulling flashlights and books about animals and habitats out from under her covers in the morning, growing food for our pollinators and measuring the pH of our soil just to see. The more I study the world through her eyes and mine, the more I find this truth to be true: God never forgets a thing, not one tiny little thing.

I struggle to meet the needs of the creatures in my care sometimes. I forget the dog’s meds one morning, or wake up to find there are no more undies clean, or show up late to pickup so often it surprises them more when I’m early. I forget things we need at the grocery store, even if they were on the list I probably left at home. It’s hard enough to take care of myself sometimes, let alone the ones I love! So it amazes me to walk out my door and hear the happy humming of the bees while they gather nectar, to see the grasshoppers scatter from my every step! They’re so small, so forgettable – and God does not forget a single one. Every species of plant, every kind of insect, every creature that walks or swims or flies or slithers, the ones we trample or squish without hardly a thought! He designed down the minutiae of every. single. one. – even in the scope of a universe we cannot see the end of, of galaxies beyond count!

The flora and fauna of our world stands as evidence of the depth of God’s attention. He who holds the heavens in His hands created amoebas, too. Nothing is too big for Him to handle or too small for Him to see. Not even you, love. All of it, from the dog mess that won’t come out of the carpet to the loss of a loved one you didn’t think you could live without. Yahweh Bore sees you, and He cares.