“Then if they will really learn the ways of My people, to swear by My name, ‘As the LORD lives,’ even as they taught My people to swear by Baal, they will be built up in the midst of My people.” Jeremiah 12:16 NASB
As The LORD Lives – OK, you’ve read the verse in English. It doesn’t matter much which translation. Now reread it in Hebrew (hai-YHWH). The word “Lord” does appear. You already know that the English substitution “LORD” isn’t what the text says. The text contains the Hebrew divine name, YHWH (in English consonants to accommodate the technology of the delivery systems). Now think about what this means.
YHWH says, “If the nations (those who are not Israel) really learn the ways of My people (those who are Israel), so much so that their oaths of fidelity are attributed to My name, then they will be built up in the midst of Israel.” Let’s look at the implications.
The first thing we recognize is that YHWH is not saying, “As the LORD lives.” That isn’t His name. He is speaking of a time when the nations actually say His name, YHWH. Apparently, neither Jews nor Gentiles have taken this seriously. The very fact that our English translations use LORD instead of His name is an indication of how far we are from incorporating His fidelity into our lives – whether we are Jewish or Gentile. Do you suppose God said, “ . . to swear by a religious substitute for My name”? Of course not! YHWH envisions a time when His real name is proclaimed by every mouth.
The second thing we notice is the relationship between the nations and His people. Gentiles do not become Jews. The nations do not become Israel. The nations are built up in the midst of Israel. They are not melded into Israel. The distinction still exists but, when it comes to serving the one true God, it doesn’t matter. All of God’s worshippers utter the same oath of fidelity, “as YHWH lives.”
Next we see that once the nations actually taught God’s own people to swear by something other than His holy name. They accommodated to the culture. They adopted the pattern of the nations. They swore by a substitute. In other words, they fell into idolatry. They no longer swore allegiance to the one true God, YHWH. But YHWH brought them back, just as He promises to bring back the nations when they really learn the ways of His people.
That, of course, is the last of our lessons from this verse. The nations are built up if and when they adopt the ways of His people. Gentiles don’t get to decide what those ways are. The ways are already in place – in Israel. This is a matter of conformity to a pre-existing pattern, not a matter of altering the pattern to fit a new approach.
So, there you have it. It looks like both sides have a long way to go, doesn’t it? There’s no time like the present to get started. Are you ready to swear by His real name?
Topical Index: name, YHWH, Jeremiah 12:16, swear, LORD