This Week's Focus Passage

‘Holy and reverend is thy name.’

Focus Passage: Psalm 111:9

‘Holy and reverend is thy name.’

This is the only place in the entire Word of God where the term ‘Reverend’ is employed. Is this to be understood as adjectival? In other words, ‘your name is the reverend name’? Or is this to be taken as one of the names of our God; indeed, a personal pronoun, such as, ‘His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’………Reverend? It must be frankly acknowledged that many of our English translations have rendered the Hebrew word yare with choices other that ‘Reverend.’ Frequent is the use of awesome; ‘holy and awesome is thy name.’ We must remember that in recent English vocabulary usage ‘awesome’ has displaced awful, or full of awe. Some have opted for the translation, ‘terrible’ in the sense, I would submit, of awful; some even extending this concept by rendering the word terrifying; ‘holy and terrifying is thy name.’ Our concordances inform us that the Hebrew word means, or can mean, ‘to fear; to be had in reverence;’ i.e. godly fear; ‘to be feared, reverenced.’ We would immediately inquire, ‘are any to be truly feared or reverenced beside God? Our God is a jealous God! I Jehovah thy God am a jealous God—Exodus 20:5; thou shalt worship no other god: for Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—Exodus 34:14.

It needs to be confessed that we have for quite some time, been living in an age where the great majority of persons in the visible church of Jesus Christ much prefer to think of God in the Person of Jesus, the meek and lowly one, rather than in terms such as holy and terrifying. But we should recall the description given us in the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to His apostle John on the isle of Patmos. In the close of the sixth chapter, we read of what appears to be descriptive of the last day, the great day of wrath as the heaven is removed as a scroll when it is rolled up, that the mighty of the earth are crying out and saying to the mountains and rocks;

Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath is come; and who is able to stand? —Revelation 6:16-17

It is absolutely true that this Lamb spoken of above is the One who has certainly been declared to be holy, harmless, and undefiled. Yet He is also and distinctly the Lion of the tribe of Judah. More to the point, He is God manifested in the flesh. Surely He has the same jealousy for the Name as that which we read of in the Old Testament. It was the New Testament God-man that spoke the following words to His disciples while with them upon earth;

But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your teacher, and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father on the earth: for one is your Father, even he who is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, even the Christ. —Matthew 23:8-10

Jude echoes these reservations about men calling themselves Rabbi, or Father, or Master, in the following terse, yet significant statement;

For there are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.—Jude 4.

These words ‘our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ’ powerfully suggest that we ought not to call any other than Jesus Christ, Master. The proscription would seem to make the point that it would be tantamount to calling another, ‘Lord.’ One of the Names of God that is repeatedly made use of in the Old Testament, speaking, in a real sense, of a God that is jealous of His Name; of a God that is not only awesome, but full of awe; that is, in all of His holiness and reverence, still truly a consuming fire who not only fights for His people, but also fights for His Name, is an expression employed some 248 times, namely, Jehovah of hosts. Perhaps this Name is expressed, most pointedly, and most relevantly to our thoughts this week, in Isaiah 1:24, where the title relates conspicuously to particular actions;

Therefore saith the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies.

This is equaled in the New Testament by both Paul and James. Paul references the name, or term, in Romans 9:29, and James does so in James 5:4. Paul actually cites from Isaiah 1:9 where it is written, Except Jehovah of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom. His citation however is in the following language, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed. This demonstrates that Paul, at least, understood that the Lord of Sabaoth means Jehovah of hosts. He is the Mighty One of Israel, indeed; we should say, in deed.

We do not know when the practice began of men taking to themselves, or accepting from others, the appellation of Reverend. Like many aberrations, not only in the church, but in society in general, it probably came in slowly, but progressively over time. In other words, it became a part of tradition. There are many traditions that the church has begun, and continued to foster. These are extremely difficult to deal with once they have been established; accepted and practiced for years, even centuries in so many cases. We would wish to be able to imagine that those who are willing to accept such titles as Teacher, Master, or Reverend are not doing so because they actually believe that they are truly entitled. Yet, we doubt that to be the case. A well-known preacher in 19th century London was known as The Prince of Preachers.

We very much doubt that he would have approved the title; his views follow:

‘How good men can endure to be called “reverend” we know not. Being unable to discover any reason why our fellow-men should reverence us, we half suspect that in other men there is not very much which can entitle them to be called reverend, very reverend, right reverend, and so on. It may seem a trifling matter, but for that very reason we would urge that the foolish custom should be allowed to fall into disuse.’—C. H. Spurgeon.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church


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