Rather than “G-d” we should actually be typing things like “All-h” or “m-terialism” or “s-x” instead!

Pay attention to all that I have said to you, and make no mention of the names of other gods, nor let it be heard on your lips. – Exodus 23:13

It has long bothered me when someone types “G-d” for “God”. I never say anything because it is an attempt to honor the Third Commandment. As minor as that attempt is, it can still be an honorable attempt.

When I read the above quote from Exodus this morning it struck me that we should actually be typing things like “S-tan” or “All-h” instead! God wants us to honor his name, not avoid it. That involves much more than not employing it as a interjection or curse, it means honoring all of who he is. It is a call to not bring shame to his name by applying it to ourselves and then acting contrary to who he is and how he calls us to live. That is my harder than replacing vowels with hyphens.

But other gods? Their names are not even to be upon our lips! Those are the names to avoid. They are the ones we are to struggle to not be associated with. Maybe we should type “m-terialism” or “s-x” or “y-uth” instead.

Okay, all that said, what was Moses actually commanding here? Obviously God wasn’t prohibiting his people from ever naming the name of Baal, he put that name on the lips of his prophets. Also, there were cities named, for example, Baal-Zephon. The bad god’s name was right there! No, what God was commanding was not the prohibition of names, as if they had power in an of themselves, instead he didn’t want those names to be found amongst his people routinely. In other words, his people are not to flirt with other gods and incorporate their names into their vocabulary. As we speak, so we think.

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  • Outstanding! I truly appreciate this post. I have been working on similar concepts for some time and you have hit the nail on the head.

  • Donald, you win the “Lightening Commenter Award”! Just barely got this post up and you commented on it. :)

    Thanks, though. I’ve got another post brewing about the Sabbath too.

  • We had a native missionary from India speak at our church yesterday. He told about how most of the converts that he ministers to there change their names to a biblical name upon conversion because most Hindus are named for one of the many Hindu gods. They no longer wish to utter that pagan name or be identified by it or with it.

  • Ah, young faith! Again, commendable but not sufficient in and of itself.

  • I was listening to some Systematic Theology lectures from Covenant Seminary a couple of years back, and I remember the professor addressing this practice. Apparently, it originated with the suspicion among ancient Mesopotamians that a god’s name is the key to controlling that god (kinda like “Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice).

    Worshippers of YHWH picked up on that suspicion and, seeking to honor YHWH, tried to avoid writing or saying his name, choosing instead of substitute something else for it. Honorable intentions, but still wrong. God is not afraid of us knowing his name! In fact, that’s partly why his revelation of it to Moses was such a huge deal.

  • A fleeting thought I just had . . . “maybe the ancient Hebrews were just trying to be culturally relevant among worshippers of other gods by adapting some of their practices.” But no, still wrong. We’re called to receive some things of the culture, reject some things, and redeem still others. I think that this practice should be firmly entrenched in the “reject”/”redeem” category.

    Much like Paul who said “what you worship as unknown, now I proclaim to you”.

  • I don’t think the ancient Hebrews were that interested in being culturally relevant. The Biblical record seems to indicate either complete isolation or complete capitulation. I could be wrong but it just never came to mind.

  • Maybe not “culturally relevant” but pagan cultural traditions around them had crept into their worship. The prophets speak out against this many times. Your right it most often ended in capitulation, but the infiltration started with their making God into their own image (or the image of the gods around them).

    We certainly see this in American Christianity. Even in the most non-culturally relevant churches (like mine). We’ve adopted practices of the culture around us for no real reason. We’re crazy if we think we can isolate ourselves from our culture.

    That’s why your question and post is so interesting. Your questioning a tradition that does not seem rooted in Scripture. Interesting post – I’ve always wondered about the G-d language.

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