Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Does God Hide His Face?

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When reading the crucifixion of Christ in Matthew 27:46, there is always one question that I asked.  Why did the Father forsake His Son?  Most commonly, the answer that is given is, "God is too pure to look upon sin."  Because Christ became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), the prevailing idea is that the Father could not look upon Him, and had to hide His face.  To me this answer seemed to encroach upon other established revelations of how the Father interacted with sinful man throughout earlier Scriptures.  Did God hide from Adam and Eve immediately after they ate of the fruit?  What about God revealing Himself to Moses in the burning bush? Moses didn't even know who Yahweh was, he had been in Egypt (sin) so long.  What about Paul, slaughtering the followers of Christ in the streets, did Christ not call out to him directly?

It seemed to me like every account within the Scriptures where Yahweh interacted with us, there was no prior "forgiveness" rituals that needed to occur, in every case it was the Father initiating the first move.  I then had to ask myself, where did this idea of God "hiding his face" come from? 

"You who are of purer eyes than to see evil, and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?"

Isaiah 59:2
" but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear."

At this point it would seem inescapable to come to any other possible conclusions than that of what is being taught today.  But I would offer that we must try and keep prior theological mindsets from preventing us from allowing the Scriptures to speak, interpret, and define itself.  What other possible conclusions could there be?  Well, since we are talking about God's sight, we have to ask what is it exactly Yahweh can and cannot see.

2 Chronicles 16:9
"For the eyes of [Yahweh] run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. "

Job 34:21
“For His eyes are on the ways of a man, and He sees all his steps."

Psalm 11:4
"[Yahweh] is in his holy temple; [Yahweh] is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; His eyes examine them."

Psalm 18:26
"To the pure you show yourself pure, but to the devious you show yourself shrewd."

Psalms 33:13–15
"[Yahweh] looks down from heaven; He sees all the children of man; from where He sits enthroned He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds."

Proverbs 5:21
"For a man’s ways are before the eyes of [Yahweh], and He ponders all his paths."

Proverbs 15:3.
"The eyes of [Yahweh] are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good."

Jeremiah 16:17
"For my eyes are on all their ways. They are not hidden from me, nor is their iniquity concealed from my eyes."

Jeremiah 32:19
"… great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds."

Hebrews 4:19
"And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

Yahweh's sight is able to encompass the entire earth, observe every person and creature, pierce even into the most evil heart, and is able to look at the iniquity of mankind.  If we are to believe the Scriptures – that nothing is hidden from Yahweh – then to create a loophole to fit theology would be to break the Scriptures, and we know that the Scriptures cannot be broken (John 10:34 – 35).  To hide something from Himself, even by His own Will, is by definition something hidden from Him.  Scriptures make no exceptions to who does the "hiding", it merely states that nothing is hidden from Him, even sin.  This is not to be confused with His forgiveness or forgetfulness of something.

In Isaiah 59:2 it says "but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear."  It should be noticed that Yahweh first makes it clear in 59:1 that His "hand is not shortened that it cannot save, or his ear dull that it cannot hear."  He is not the one that is affected or weakened, we are the ones that have built up a wall and look away from His face, praying in the other direction.  How can we expect a reply if we are not even speaking to Him for Him to hear?  Israel had walked so far away from God's Teachings (Torah) that their turning away from God's ways placed His face at their back, they became deaf to the voice of God by abandoning the truth and justice (Isaiah 59:15) of His Teachings.  Isaiah goes on to say that "Yahweh saw it, and [it was evil in His sight] that there was no justice."  Brackets for original Hebrew

Isaiah 59 was not stating that Yahweh had distanced Himself from Israel, or could no longer hear or see them because of their sins, but rather as indicated in Isaiah 59:1, He was proclaiming His power over there iniquities.  From Isaiah 59:16 Yahweh exclaims His frustration at the fact that no one was interceding on behalf of the now wayward Israel, and proclaimed that it would be His own right arm that would eventually bring about their salvation.

Instead of Yahweh crying out against rampant evil and idle onlookers as in Isaiah 59, we now have in Habakkuk 1:13 a prophet watching from the other side.  As Israel is being taken over by the Chaldeans, Habakkuk pleads to Yahweh, "why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent."  Before asking this question, he describes Yahweh as being "of purer eyes than to see evil, and cannot look at wrong."  If we seclude this one text from the rest of the context, we began making contradictions and thereby breaking the Scriptures through our theology.  As we have noticed in previous Scriptures, Yahweh in fact does "see evil", even within this very verse we have a prophet stating that Yahweh is "looking" at what the traitors are doing.  How can we have in one sentence Habakkuk stating that Yahweh is looking at evil, yet stating in the next sentence that He is too pure to do that?  I would posit that we cannot.

Habakkuk 1:2 – 4
"O [Yahweh], how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?  Or cry to you 'Violence!' and you will not save?  Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.  So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth.  For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted."

In the phrase in verse 13, "you are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong", the root word for look there is Nabat [Strongs: 5027], which is "a primitive root; to scan, i.e. Look intently at; by implication, to regard with pleasure, favor or care -- (cause to) behold, consider, look (down), regard, have respect, see."

In the ancient pictographic form the letters Nun (continue/perpetuate), Beyt (family/inside), and Tet (store/mud) gives the imagery of continually doing something and storing it within.  The contents gathered and stored are being placed inside the family tent, which means it is something desired or favored.  Much like the Bible states that the eyes are the windows to the soul, because in looking, the imagery is stored within ourselves.  Re-examining the passage again, we can see why some translations render it differently.

Habakkuk 1:13
"You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?"  ~ ESV

"Your eyes are too pure to approve evil, And You can not look on wickedness with favor. Why do You look with favor on those who deal treacherously?  Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they?" ~ NASB

We began to notice a trend arising between both prophets, we have one speaking from Yahweh's perspective, and we have another speaking from His children's perspective.  Both are proclaiming Yahweh's Word as being set aside, and because of this, "justice goes forth perverted."  The question being asked is "You see all the injustice that is going on among the earth, and to your people, what are you going to do about it?"

Even amidst the extreme departure from Yahweh's ways, it is His "own arm" that offers the hand of salvation and redemption to us.  Because no man seeks after God (Romans 3:11), and Israel was unable to keep their covenant with Yahweh, He could not sit idly by and let His name be profaned (Ezekiel 39:7), He is the God of justice and mercy.

In Psalms 22, David prophetically envisioned the death of the Messiah from the eyes of Yeshua (Jesus).  He described everything with such great detail so that when the time came, those who would be watching the events take place, would not lose heart at the sight of their Messiah being put to death.  They would understand what was happening and that results would make Yahweh's name known among the nations.

Yeshua, in His very final breaths of life yelled the only words that He could muster.  In His final minutes, experiencing the greatest torture any human could imagine, the prophetic words of David were on His mind.  "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"  Reciting His Fathers promises found in verses 24, as they were being fulfilled in Him right then, “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.”  Indeed, the Father heard His cry, and Yeshua gave up His final breath.

In our deepest, darkest times of human testing, it often feels like our sins have pushed the Father away from us.  Feeling so alone and scared, we can't help but ask "why have you forsaken me?"  Even in Yeshua's deepest moments of anguish, He couldn't help but experience what sin makes us feel like.  He cried out for His Father, and Yahweh did not hesitate in responding.  Though sin may make us feel as if the Father is far away from us, unable to hear us, we must always remember that our Heavenly Father's love for us never fails.  He will never abandon those who are in true covenantial relationship with Him, all you have to do is cry out to Him, and He will answer.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Where The "Law" Meets The Road

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Whenever you hear the words "commandments", "law", or even "Torah", I'm sure you're inundated with images of God in a military uniform, barking orders of what you are, or are not to do.  Failure to abide by these rules are grounds for punishment, no matter the reasoning.  What if I told you that our Western way of thinking forces us to paint a far different picture than the author (in this case, God) intended?  In a world now in chaos, what better way to bring order and liberty for the people you love, then to show them how to remove disorder in their lives, despite living in a world of dysfunction.

Hebrew vs Modern Thought

In the West, we pride ourselves in having our society founded on the concepts of the great Greek philosophers, who felt that there was no force greater than "the power of an idea."  We, as they did then, think in vague abstractions; concepts that are not found within the realm of the five senses.  But for the nomadic tribes of the Hebrews, they did not have, nor like this way of thinking, but established their language on observations found in their everyday life.  I'll use brackets to emphasize original Hebrew manuscripts.

1 Samuel 20:34
And Jonathon rose up from table with [burning nose]
So Jonathan arose from the table in fierce anger...  KJV

The Hebrew for burning nose, "aph" [Strongs: 639], can also mean “a flaring of the nostrils in anger," and is something we observe when people actually get angry.  We in the West also tend to place adjectives onto objects based on how they appear, where as the Hebrew writers liked to use verbs, and focused on the function of the object they were observing.  Root words, with its base description, act as anchors for words that are built from them.  For example, the word "ar" is an enemy, which is found within the word "sho'ar" which is offensive or vile, or "arav" is to grow dark.  Much of the meaning of a word can be found through its root, which can help to confirm or correct our understanding of a word built from it.

As the West focuses on abstract concepts, and describes things based off of how they appear, we have to question whether or not we are perceiving the content correctly that has been given to us by the ancient writers.  We should not define words based off of our modern definitions, but rather how they were understood then.  Was "Commandments" or "the Law" the right English words to use to describe the objects given to Moses on Mount Sinai, and how could David find such delight in something that was supposed to be "a curse" in the New Testament?

The Path of Life.

We, like the nomadic Hebrew tribes, go through life struggling to provide for our families, and prepare our kids for the type of world that we live in.  As an agrarian society, their life consisted of following paths from one watering hole and green pasture to the next, strategically ordering their moves, unsure when the next meal is going to be.  Like them, we wander through the cities in a constant state of disorder, fear, distraction, trying to grasp ahold of something that will remove this "daily grind".

Psalms 23:1 – 4
"[Yahweh] is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me [beside waters of rest].  He restores my soul. He leads me [in right paths] for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the [valley of deep darkness] I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me."

When God pulled the Hebrews out of Egypt, and freed them from their bondage, they agreed to follow Him and everything that He directed them to do.

Deuteronomy 26:17
"You have declared today that [Yahweh] is your God, and that you will walk in his ways, and keep his statutes and his commandments and his rules, and will obey his voice."  ~ ESV

Deuteronomy 33:3 – 5.
"Yes, he loved his [peoples]; all his holy ones were in [your] hand; so they followed in your steps, receiving direction from you, when Moses commanded us a Law, as a possession for the assembly of Jacob. Thus [Yahweh] became king in Jeshurun,"

The most common word people recognize as being associated with the Old Testament is the above word "Law", which comes from the Hebrew word "Torah" [Strongs: 8451], which is derived from the root word "yarah" [Strongs: 3384] literally meaning to cast or point.

Exodus 15:4
“Pharaoh’s chariots and his host he cast (yarah) into the sea, and his chosen officers were sunk in the Red Sea."  ~ ESV

1 Samuel 20:36
“And he said to his boy, “Run and find the arrows that I shoot (yarah).” As the boy ran, he shot an arrow beyond him."  ~ ESV

Exodus 15:25
"And he cried to [Yahweh], and [Yahweh] showed (yarah) him a log."  ~ ESV

Leviticus 10:11
"and you are to teach (yarah) the people of Israel all the statutes that [Yahweh] has spoken to them by Moses."  ~ ESV

From these verses we can see that the verb "yarah" not only speaks about casting physical objects (Exodus 15:4, 1 Samuel 20:36) but can be attributed to causing someone else to cast their gaze (Exodus 15:25) to point out a particular object, or to point out certain ideas (Leviticus 10:11).  From this verb can be found two nouns, "moreh" [Strongs: 3384] meaning "teacher", and "torah" meaning "teachings", the directions pointed out by the teacher.

Proverbs 5:13
"I did not listen to the voice of my teachers (moreh)…" ~ ESV

Proverbs 1:8
"Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching (torah)," ~ ESV

To view the Torah (commonly the first five books of the Bible) as the "Law" is like giving our earthly fathers the title of "enforcer".  If following God's template, their duties here are much more than just to punish us when we do something wrong.  Like our heavenly father, their "instructions and teachings" guide us along our path to maturity and help us cope with the realities we will face growing up.  We are not praised so as to just reinforce obedience, but for rightly understanding and applying what we've been shown.  Likewise, we are not punished for not meeting expectations, but praised for our efforts and counseled on future encounters, except on the accounts of willful disobedience.

So too God gives us, His children, His Torah in the same way.

Psalms 94:12
"Blessed is the man whom you discipline [Yahweh], and whom you teach out of your teachings (torah)," ~ ESV

If God is trying to point out or teach us something, what is it, what in His Teachings are doing the pointing?  In Deuteronomy 26:17, and many others, we hear that Israel has accepted the responsibilities of being the chosen people of God by participating in certain statutes, commands, and rules laid out by God.  However, did Israel see God as just another Pharaoh, ruling over them with an iron fist, dictating their every move?  If we were to use our English understanding of the word command, certain people would say yes.

Deuteronomy 6:25
"And it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all these commandments (mitsvah) before [Yahweh] our God, as he has commanded us.’"

The word commonly translated to commandment comes from the word "mitsvah" [Strongs: 4687], and is based off of the root verb "tsavah" [Strongs: 6680].

Exodus 16:24
"And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: (tsavah) and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein."

Deuteronomy 1:19
"And we departed from Horeb and walked through all that great and fearful wilderness which you saw by the path of the mountain of Amorites just as Yahweh our God directed (tsavah) us and we came unto Qadesh Barnea."

While I'm sure you've noticed, you'll find in most translations, the above word "directed" is more often translated to "commanded" or "ordered", which is what gives us the imagery of God as a general barking orders.  But based on what we understand about word structure, and the words we have been introduced to so far, the motif of a teacher pointing out the way to solve our problems, doesn't seem to fit the idea of being ordered to do so.  A teacher directs us towards a problem, guiding us along a path towards finding the solution, and whose end goal is to instill in us confidence to be able to solve it every time.  This accomplishment is what brings us joy, because not only are we proud of ourselves through Him, there is fulfillment knowing the Father is proud of us as well.

Psalm 119:10
"With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your directions (mitzvah)!"

Psalm 119:32
"I will run in the way of your directions (mitzvah) because you have enlarged my heart!"

Psalm 119:35
" Lead me in the path of your directions (mitzvah), for I delight in it."

Psalm 119:176
" I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your directions (mitzvah)."

The Greek used to translate the Hebrew word "mitsvah" is εντολη entole [Strongs:1785] combining two words, εν en [Strongs:1722], meaning “in” or “with,” and τελος telos [Strongs:5056] meaning “end” or “goal.”  Again, like a teacher's instructions, every one of their "directions" comes with an "end goal" in mind, guiding you or pointing you towards a solution or path to success.  The disciples themselves wondered what the end goal of the teachings were, what was the great direction or instruction?

Matthew 23:36 – 40 (from Shem Tov Hebrew Matthew)
"'Teacher, which is the great direction (entole/mitsvah) in the Teachings (torah)?' And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first direction (entole/mitsvah). And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two directions (entole/mitzvah) depend all the Teachings and the Prophets.'"

For Jesus, the question wasn't asking which one of the instructions were the most important, but rather, what was the direction the entire teachings were pointing us.  Love the Lord with everything you are, and love your neighbor as yourself.  From these two, all the rest of the Scriptures come together.

A related set of words from the verb "tsavah" (to direct), and the noun "mitzvah" (direction), comes the root "tsiy" [Strongs: 6716] (nomad: ship), as one who wanders the "tsiyah" (Strongs: 6723] (dry land, desert), following a "tsedeqah" [Strongs:6666] (trail one walks), and who uses a "tsiyon" (landmark) [Strongs: 6725] as a means to guide his way on the path.

Isaiah 2:3
 “Come, let us go up to the mountain of [Yahweh], to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion (tsiyon) shall go the teachings, and the word of [Yahweh] from Jerusalem."

As we travel through our lives, God is giving us His directions as the very means to help teach us His ways and His paths, firmly planting Himself as the central "landmark" for us to keep our bearings.

Psalm 119:105
" Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path."

Hopefully you can begin to see the imagery unfolding before you as you understand that the instructions of God were to be a lamp helping to "point out the direction we should go", and illuminating the path before us.  Helping us see things before we encounter them, giving us direction on how to get there through the darkness that surrounds us.

It is no coincidence that the Word will go out from Jerusalem, and that God uses the wilderness to bring about order and completeness, not only for the Hebrews after being released from the bondage of Egypt, but for us as well, who have been released from the bondage of sin and grafted into the same heritage through the work of Christ.  The word  "davar" (word) [Strongs:1696] is the root of the word "devorah" (bee) [Strongs: 1682], and "mid'bar" (wilderness) [Strongs: 4057], which on the surface seem to have no correlation.  Words must be in order to make a functional sentence, bees must maintain order for the hive to survive, and the wilderness maintains a perfect order within its parts in a self-sustaining balance of life.  Each of these words convey a need for order, a process by which wholeness and completeness is obtained.  Jerusalem is a combination of the root word "yarah" (cast, point) and "shalom" (restoration, peace).

So according to Isaiah 2:3,

“Come, let us go up to the mountain of [Yahweh], to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of this landmark of God shall go the teachings, and the order of Yahweh, pointing to restoration and peace."

Psalms 37:23 - 24, 30 – 31
"The steps of a man are established (made erect, straight) by [Yahweh], when he delights in His way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for [Yahweh] upholds his hand…The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom, and his tongue speaks justice.  The teachings (torah) of his God is in his heart; his steps do not slip."

Proverbs 3:1 – 4
"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my directions...write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man..."

The teachings were given to us not as a means to dictate our every move, but point us back to the path that leads us towards complete wholeness with God and man.  It is the very behavior of the teacher Himself, who He is and how He operates.

James 1:22 – 25
"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing."

After the fall of mankind, the completeness of the creation had been thrown into disorder and dysfunction, and the means for mankind to flourish and prosper have become all the more difficult as man mistreats man, and lives a life of perpetual selfishness, altogether forgetting the ways of God.  Yet every day we find people yearning for a Utopian society, trying to remove God from our political system, yet trying to create "laws" that He tried to point us towards all those centuries ago.

Matthew 24:12
"And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold."

His directions instruct to us the solution to our problem, provide a pattern to convey love, restore wholeness, and execute justice.  We know that He is within us because we begin to walk according to His directions that have been written on our hearts, illuminating the path before us from within, through the light of His Word, confirming that we "know Him" because He is His Teachings and we follow in His image.

1 John 2:3 – 5, 9 – 11
"And by this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His Directions (entole/mitzvah).  Whoever says “I know Him” but does not keep His Directions (entole/mitzvah)  is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His Word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in Him: whoever says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked… Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in [it] there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

2 John 1:5 – 6
"… not as though I were writing you a new direction (entole/mitzvah), but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to His Directions (entole/mitzvah); this is the direction, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it."

In short, the "Law" and the Old Testament is better understood as the Teachings of our heavenly Teacher, pointing out the direction of His Path, illuminating His Ways, leading to complete restoration within ourselves, creation, with the rest of mankind, and with our Creator

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Truth of Taking God's Name In Vain

For a long time, I understood the 10 Commandments as a set of easily understood rules that a professing "follower of Christ" should live their life by, and were not commands that difficult to figure out: "Love the Lord with all your heart, No graven images", etc. But getting older, and viewing the Bible Hebraicly, I began seeing the 10 Commandments – as well as rest of the Word – in a more profound manner.  I see that my early understanding of the Bible was only in basic over–generalities and cliché "pastorisms ".  Though at times I would feel just a little insecure about these pastorisms, I still blindly held onto them as absolute truth.  Today, I want to talk about Exodus 20:7.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain."  ~ ESV

I'm sure like me, you understood this to mean that we are not to use God's name in a meaningless way, or in conjunction with profanity.  I can see why this sort of rule would be made, stub your toe on the edge of a coffee table just once and tell me if you don't feel the urge to call upon His name.  A look at this verse led me to wonder if there weren't an alternative intention.  The words that stuck out to me the most were "take", "name", and "vain".  For example, vain or vanity, are not only used to emphasize the meaninglessness or futility of an action on or towards an object, but also to do something to one's appearance that garners attention to oneself; self-exaltation.

With this in mind, I wondered if it were possible this commandment was telling us not to take on some aspect of God, so as to appear more righteous or godly.  Thus rendering our "good" behavior meaningless, or worse profaning God's holiness through our actions.

To find out, I first looked at the original Hebrew word used.  Strong's Hebrew 5375 renders the root word "na–sa" as to lift up, carry, take.  Strong's does a good job of getting a person close to a general idea of the usage of a word, but to get a proper understanding of what my specific word was intending to say, I needed to see all its occurrences.  My word "tis·sa" was used 25 times and gave the imagery of gaining something (material or immaterial), that could be carried or displayed.

Leviticus 19:17
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him."  ~ ESV

"Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him."  ~ KJV

Exodus 23:1
"You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness."  ~ ESV

"Thou shalt not raise a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. ."  ~ KJV

Numbers 11:17
"…they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you may not bear it yourself alone. ."  ~ ESV

"…they shall bear the burden of the people with thee, that thou bear it not thyself alone. ."  ~ KJV

1 Kings 5:9
"…And I will have them broken up there, and you shall receive it. And you shall meet my wishes by providing food for my household.”  ~ ESV

"…and will cause them to be discharged there, and thou shalt receive them: and thou shalt accomplish my desire, in giving food for my household."  ~ KJV

Proverbs 9:12
"…If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it."  ~ ESV

"…If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it."  ~ KJV

Ezekiel 12:6
"…In their sight you shall lift the baggage upon your shoulder and carry it out at dusk… "  ~ ESV

"…In their sight shalt thou bear it upon thy shoulders, and carry it forth in the twilight…"  ~ KJV

One of the major problems with this word "na – sa" is that it is quite versatile and can have many different applications.  The idea of "take" is used in a way where the object (sin, in the case of Leviticus 19:17) can be put onto something or someone, can actively be multiplied, and spread out (Exodus 23:1), received openly (1 Kings 5:9), has weight (Ezekiel 12:6), but the weightiness is often an abstract burden; like the "weight of an idea", "burden of proof", or even the "weight of sin" (Leviticus 19:17, Numbers 11:17, Proverbs 9:12).  In a sense, this "bearing" of the object has an effect on you, it changes you, both inside and out, and is seemingly on display for everyone to see.

Next, I wanted to look at vanity; Strong's Hebrew 7723 "la – shav – ve" which means emptiness, vanity, vain, and is used about 11 times.  Strong's tries to explain further by stating, "evil (as destructive), literally (ruin) or morally (especially guile); figuratively idolatry (as false, subjective), uselessness (as deceptive, objective; also adverbially, in vain) -- false(-ly), lie."

Deuteronomy 5:20
‘And you shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."  ~ ESV

"Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour."  ~ KJV

Job 35:13
"Surely God does not hear an empty cry, nor does the Almighty regard it."  ~ ESV

" Surely God will not hear vanity, neither will the Almighty regard it."  ~ KJV

Jeremiah 18:15
"But my people have forgotten me; they make offerings to false gods; they made them stumble in their ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads, not the highway…"  ~ ESV

"Because my people hath forgotten me, they have burned incense to vanity, and they have caused them to stumble in their ways from the ancient paths, to walk in paths, in a way not cast up…" ~ KJV

Psalms 24:4
"He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully."  ~ ESV

"He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully."  ~ KJV

it is interesting to note that "la – shav – ve", translated to "vanity" (Exodus 20:7), is the very same word translated to "false witness" (Exodus 20:16, Exodus 23:1) in the commands following it.  It is seemingly an empty action, futile, not derived from the heart, or towards something that is itself nothing at all.

What we seem to have so far is all a command telling us that the object is not something that you bear or do in emptiness.  When you receive this object, you are actually doing something meaningful, it is not for show or a lie.  You are not putting on a display like a peacock, but carrying something of value.

The question for me became, what is this object? Is it really God's Name, or is it something else?  Most assume that Exodus 20:7 is stating that "God" is His Name, when in fact it is a position.  Many words are translated vaguely to "God", which are words that describe His many different characteristics.  One such word is Elohim (el – oh – heem), which describes Him as our ultimate power and authority.  Another is Immanuel; "God with us".

I began to wonder what the commandment may mean by "God's Name", since the Hebrew word "shem" was simply just "name". 

On Mount Sinai, God declared a covenant with a group of people who willingly accepted an agreement with Him to abide by a set of laws, statutes, and ordinances that went along with this marriage covenant.

Deuteronomy 4:13
"And he declared to you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and He wrote them on two tables of stone."

Exodus 19:5 – 8
"Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation…So Moses came and called the elders of the people and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, 'All that the LORD has spoken we will do.'"

God wanted these commandments to be so deeply ingrained into His people that they would be the very actions and virtues displayed.

Proverbs 3:1 – 4
"My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments...write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man..."

Proverbs 7:1-3
"My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live, keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart..."

The law would be as if it were a mark upon the hand, or a seal upon the forehead.  God's people would become so changed by this sealing of the law in their heart and mind that their mourning at the sight of evil, and their deeds would be like a mark distinguishing them from other peoples.

Deuteronomy 6:8
"Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads."

Isaiah 8:16, 20
"Bind up the testimony; seal the law among my disciples…To the law and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn."

Ezekiel 9:4
"'Pass throughout the city of Jerusalem,' the LORD said to him, 'and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the detestable practices committed in it.'"

Revelation 7:3
“Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.”

Even Abraham was set as an example for those who followed in his steps of how obedience through faith was like a "seal of righteousness".

Romans 4:11–13
"He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.."

Unfortunately, while Abraham and many others were able to see God through the spirit of the law, those who willingly accepted this covenant, broke it.  They abandoned their covenant to be the image of God among the nations, thereby tainting His very name.  He set out to create a new covenant, changing the heart of His people by His own hand through His Spirit, again making Himself known among the nations by way of a people displaying the seal of God through obedience in faith.

Ezekiel 36:23, 25
"And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes."

Jeremiah 31:33
"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Romans 8:3a, 4a, 7.
"For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son… in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit… For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot."

2 Corinthians 5:21
"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

2 Timothy 2:19
"But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: 'The Lord knows those who are his,' and, 'Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.'”

I began to realize that those who have been forgiven, whose hearts have been changed and infused with the Spirit of God, submitting themselves to God's law written on their heart, becoming His righteousness, would be sealed with His Name because their submission made them known as God's own people.  God equated His name with the righteous character produced from obedience in faith, to the law written on the heart.  His Commandments were the characterized attributes of God Himself.

It seems that Exodus 20:7 is telling us that we are not to bear God's character in false witness, or as a front.  That we are not to do things unrighteous in the sight of others and proclaim them to be righteous acts, or so ordered by God.  Doing so not only makes us hypocritical, but profanes Him among those observing these actions.

One very obvious example would be the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, or any other murders "in the name of God".  These people elevated themselves to being God's voice on earth, and committed several atrocities under the guise of godliness, thereby doing a great disservice to the character of God for centuries to come.  More internally, would be those of the Pharisees and Sadducees whom Christ continually set before us as an example of how not to behave.  Continually appearing godly before the masses, yet according to Christ, being a "brood of vipers" making their converts "even more the sons of hell" then their converters.

Ask any atheist what their biggest problem is with "Christianity", and the majority of the responses will be, "how can I follow a God who would condone murder in his name?"  It becomes very clear why God said that He would not hold anyone guiltless who would do evil things using God as the source of those deeds, or those who would put on a form of godliness in order for self exaltation or personal gain.

Now you must ask yourself, have you called yourself a follower of Christ yet bore His image in emptiness?  Has your life shown God's name or character positively, or have you portrayed all good God has done as meaningless?