Welcome to part three of the series: The Titles of Jesus. I began this series without realizing it, starting with the Firstborn and continuing with the Lamb of God. Since it was so well underway, I thought this should be turned into a series. Thus, we come to the most preeminent title for Jesus: Yahweh. It is a most glorious name which points to the Son’s eternal nature and independence. Unlike us finite beings, the Son is not dependent on anything to exist; he exists in and of himself, forevermore, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Many Christians only associate the Father with Yahweh and the Old Testament. However, when one realizes that Jesus is Yahweh too, their eternal unity becomes more evident throughout the Bible. Indeed, the divine name itself, Yahweh, can remind us of their intimate relationship, their oneness, one in love and justice, together forever in everything. From eternity past to the infinite future, they have been together in perfect love, and they will always be together in love. Truly, God is love.
The divine name Yahweh is found all over in the Old Testament. However, it isn’t evident, because it is usually translated as Lord in all capital letters in modern English translations. (See this article for more information.)
Who did Isaiah see?
When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the Jews came out to welcome him with branches from palm trees that they were spreading out on the road before him. They cried out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Later even the Greeks came to see him (John 12:12–26; Matt. 21:1–11). Jesus prophesied about his death to the people and asked the Father to glorify his name. The Father responded with a voice from heaven, telling everyone with a loud voice that “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd marveled. Some thought it had thundered while others wondered if an angel had spoken to him. Jesus corrected them, telling them that the voice had “come for your sake, not mine” (John 12:30).
To the human eye, it seemed like the whole world had gone after him (John 12:19), but they hadn’t, not really. The Jews were seeking a messiah who would liberate them from the Roman oppression, not the Messiah who would liberate them from their slavery to sin. Throughout the gospel of John, Jesus kept telling them about their bondage, yet they had kept refusing to acknowledge it (John 6:44–46; 8:32–34; 10:25–28). After Jesus had finished speaking to them, John comments about the people’s disbelief by writing:
Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.John 12:38–41 ESV
Because of how difficult these words can be, most of us probably focus on the hardening part, completely overlooking the phenomenal assertion that John just made. Who exactly did Isaiah see?
Well, John tells us that the Jews’ disbelief was the fulfillment of two of Isaiah’s prophesies. The first citation goes back to Isaiah 53:1, the “suffering servant,” which so plainly describes the ministry and crucifixion of Christ: “Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” The second citation comes from Isaiah 6, the temple vision, where the Lord commissioned Isaiah to be a prophet to the nation.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Isaiah 6:1–3 ESVIsaiah 6:1–3 ESV
In this magnificent vision, Isaiah meets his maker, the thrice-holy Lord, Yahweh, sitting upon his heavenly throne, high and lifted up, surrounded by an entourage of angelic worshippers, proclaiming that he is “holy, holy, holy.” In Hebrew, words and phrases were repeated for emphasis, usually twice, but here they repeat it three times for even greater emphasis. Essentially, the Seraphim were calling God “Holy, Holier, Holiest.” God is the pristine being that transcends all of the creator order, infinite and perfect, so great that his greatness cannot be compared to our little world and our tiny universe, utterly unfathomable for our puny minds.
Isaiah recognized how unworthy he was of entering the Yahweh’s presence and pronounced a curse on himself: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Is. 6:5). When faced with God’s absolute holiness, Isaiah felt the unbearable weight of his own sin. He feared for himself because he knew that God wouldn’t tolerate uncleanness in his presence. Undoubtedly, he had read the part of the Torah, where God warned Moses that nobody can “see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Ex. 33:20).
So that Isaiah could stand in Yahweh’s presence, the Lord had to cleanse him of his sin using coal from the altar, a picture of Jesus’s work on the cross (Is. 6:6–7). Afterward, the Lord sent him out with a message of judgment for the people:
And he [God] said, “Go, and say to this people: “‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’ Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and blind their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.”Isaiah 6:9–10 ESV
This is the passage that John cites. He deduces that this refers to the Jews who had seen Jesus perform miracles and heard him speak about heavenly things, yet stubbornly kept refusing to believe. Then John writes:
Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue;John 12:41–42 ESV (emphasis added)
Pay attention to the pronoun (bolded). It is the same throughout the passage; thus, the person that Isaiah had seen was the same person that many even of the authorities believed in, but wouldn’t confess openly because of cowardice. Who was this person? Whose glory had Isaiah seen? Isaiah said he saw Yahweh. John said that Isaiah saw Jesus. Who then, was Jesus to John? Yahweh. Jesus is the eternal Yahweh, the God of all creation who sits upon the throne of righteousness in the temple, surrounded by angelic servants who perpetually sing his praise.
The Eternal Creator
The next reference is from the Psalter, Psalm 102, a personal Psalm to me because it was the first Psalm that I studied. The Psalm has also come up several times in conversation when I have been out evangelizing because of its subjects, which are uncomfortable, yet vital, for the modern western man to come to terms with: suffering and mortality. (People can’t see their need for Jesus if they believe that they’re going to live forever).
The Psalmist is going through a difficult time of affliction in his life where he desperately cries out to the Lord, Yahweh. First, he pleads with God, asking him to come and listen to his prayer: “Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you!” (Ps. 102:1). Amid his anguish, he draws repeated contrasts between his own fleeting existence and Yahweh’s eternal nature. The Psalmists days pass away like smoke (Ps. 102:3) and withers like grass (Ps. 102:11), while God is enthroned forever and remembered throughout all generations (Ps. 102:12). He reminds God about his promises towards Zion (Ps 102:13–22) and then pleads with God to spare his life while praising God’s eternal life (Ps. 102:23–24). Finally, after he has finished drawing a contrast between God and himself, he draws another one between God and the created order by saying:
Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you.Psalm 102:25–28 ESV
There can be no doubt that these words refer to the Lord, Yahweh, because of how the Psalmist praises him. The Psalmist extols Yahweh’s exclusive attributes:
- Yahweh will “remain,” he is “the same,” and “his years have no end,” in comparison to the created order which will “perish” and all “wear out like a garment.” The Lord is timeless and immutable; creation is ephemeral and mutable.
- The Psalmist praises Yahweh for his work: “Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” The Lord alone created the heavens and the earth (Is. 45:18). He stretched out the universe, meticulously sculpting everything down to the smallest detail, from the smallest meteoroid to the most massive sun, arranging every one of them and assigning them their orbit through time and space.
- The Psalmist hints at the day when everything will be made new when Yahweh will replace this fallen creation with the new creation. He writes that “They [the earth and heaven] will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away.” Even if the new creation isn’t in view, change and entropy clearly are. And nobody except God can be said to be in charge of how the universe changes and deteriorates.
To summarize, Yahweh is the Lord who is eternal, created everything, and changes everything. These are characteristics that are exclusive to Yahweh. It simply cannot be true of anybody else. Therefore, when the author of Hebrews cites this passage to describe Jesus, he is referring to Jesus as Yahweh.
But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”Hebrews 1:8–12 ESV
The entire point of the prologue of Hebrews is to establish the superiority of the Son, Jesus Christ, over everything in creation. The author cites a series of Old Testament passages to demonstrate the excellencies of Christ. Beginning in verse 5, the author tells us that in each of these citations, it is God the Father who is speaking about his Son and comparing him to the inferior angels.
- In the first three citations, the Father extols the Son (Heb. 1:5–6).
- In the forth, the Father draws a contrast between the Son and his subjects by saying that he “makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire” (Heb. 1:7).
- In the fifth and sixth, the pertinent citations, the Father continues to extol his Son (Heb 1:8–12).
It is crucial to understand that verses 10 and 12 are definitely addressed to the Son. The Father tells his Son that “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,” and “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands.” Which means, not only is the author of Hebrews and the Father describing Jesus as the Lord of Psalm 102, they are also ascribing Yahweh’s exclusive attributes to Jesus. Jesus is the Lord who is eternal, created everything, and changes everything. This fits perfectly with what the author wrote previously in Hebrews 1:3, where he said that the Son “upholds the universe by the word of his power.”
What does it mean that the author of Hebrews could take such an exclusive passage that can only depict Yahweh and apply it to the Son? Clearly, the author believed that the Son, was in fact, the incarnation of Yahweh himself. The eternal God who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundation of the earth had come down from heaven, walked along the dusty roads of Israel and been crucified for the author’s sins.
Plurality Within Yahweh
Furthermore, not only is Jesus repeatedly identified as the Lord, Yahweh, several texts also allude to the plurality within Yahweh in the Old Testament. For instance, when God created man, God says, “Let us make man in our image,” (Gen. 1:26), and when God was about to intervene in the construction of the Tower of Babel, God says, “Come, let us go down and there confuse their language,” (Gen. 11:7).
Next, before the judgment of Sodom and Gomorra, the Lord, together with two angels, appeared to Abraham, whom invited them to eat together with him (Gen. 18:2–5). After the meal, the Lord informs Abraham that he will destroy the cities because of their outcry and grave sin (Gen. 18:20–21). The two angels went towards Sodom while the Lord remained with Abraham. Abraham interceded on behalf of the inhabitants (Gen. 18:22–33). After the angels had entered Sodom and evacuated Lot and his daughters (Gen. 19:1–22), it says that:
The sun had risen on the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.Genesis 19:23–24 ESV (emphasis added)
Notice that the Lord, Yahweh, is referenced twice. There appears to be one down on earth who had eaten and spoken with Abraham and one who is up in heaven. This peculiar phenomenon is reiterated in Amos when God speaks about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.Amos 4:11 ESV (emphasis added)
Here, the Lord, Yahweh, describes the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra like an observer, like he was watching God destroy the cities. Texts like these only make sense with a Trinitarian view of Yahweh. The Trinity creates together, like when they created man, and they judge together, like when they destroyed Sodom and Gomorra.
Harmony in Atonement
There is a beautiful harmony and unity that exists eternally between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It becomes more apparent once you realize that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all identified as Yahweh. They share the one divine name, and I believe it is this name that is in view when Jesus gave the disciples the great commission:
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,Matthew 28:19 ESV
The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit take on different roles in the world, but they share the same divine attributes and are always in perfect agreement on everything, hating the same wickedness and loving the same righteousness (Heb. 1:9; John 5:30). All of them are holy, and none can live together with filthy sinners like us (Hab. 1:13; Ps. 5:4–6; Prov. 6:16-19). Before we could be admitted into their presence, we had to be cleansed of our sins, so they worked together to purify and save us. As Ephesians 1 describes, redemption itself is a Trinitarian work:
- The Father decreed and sent the Son into the world for our redemption (Eph. 1:3–6).
- The Son laid down his life for our redemption (Eph. 1:7–12).
- The Holy Spirit applies the work of redemption to our lives (Eph. 1:13–14).
There is no disharmony inside the Triune God. Their love for each other and the world is harmonious and perfect forevermore. It was the Father who so loved the world that he sent his Son to die for our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Eph. 1:4–5), and it was the Son who offered himself up because of his abundant love (1 John 3:16; John 15:13; Eph. 5:2). And because of their great sacrifice, the Holy Spirit can come into our lives and indwells us, bringing forth the fruit of love within us (Gal. 3:13–14; 5:22; Rom. 5:5). Everything that the Son loves the Father loves. Everything that the Father loves the Spirit loves. Everything that the Spirit loves, the Son loves. They work together in everything (John 5; 6:37–40; 10:27–30; Rom. 8:27), and all together they are love (1 John 4:8).
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.John 10:27–30 ESV (emphasis added)