YAHWEH IS ONE OF GOD'S NAMES, and Moses was the first one he told it to. Maybe it means "I am what I am" or something along those lines, and maybe it doesn't. At other places in the Bible he is given names like Elohim, El Shaddai, and the Lord. Jesus called him mainly Abba, which is Aramaic for "father." Yahweh doesn't seem to care too much what people call him as long as the lines of communication are kept open.

He "inhabits eternity," says the prophet Isaiah (57:15). That means before there was anything, he was, and long after there's nothing much left, he still will be. But you can't apply tenses like was or will be to Yahweh literally any more than you can apply the names of colors literally to the sounds of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards playing "Amazing Grace." He doesn't inhabit time like everybody else. He invented time.

"If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy hand shall lead me," says Psalm 139 (vv. 9-10), which means that any place you can possibly think of is a place where Yahweh is because there's no place you can possibly think of that's a place where Yahweh isn't. He no more exists in space than Norman Rockwell exists in the covers of the Saturday Evening Post. Space is the canvas he paints creation on.

But all this doesn't mean for one second that he doesn't keep on turning up in time and space anyway. On the contrary, that's what the whole Bible is all about. Adam and Eve heard the sound of him "walking in the garden in the cool of the day," says Genesis (3:8), and one way or another he's been down here throwing his weight around ever since. He sounds off through prophets. He raises Cain through kings. He leaves all the splendor and power of nature for his calling card and makes the whole thing fresh, like bread, every time the sun rises. He makes himself known through the best impulses and wildest longings of the human heart, and Saint Paul goes even so far as to say that when people bog down in their prayers, "that very Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words" (Romans 8:26).

The time he outdid himself, of course, was when "he so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). To put it another way, his final word to the world was the Word itself wearing flesh like a uniform and dwelling among us full of grace and truth (John 1:14). What is Yahweh all about and what do human beings have it in them at their best to be? Yahweh's answer to those formidable questions is not a theological blockbuster, but a biological human being, in a way the only real, honest-to-God human being who ever was. Jesus was his name and Christ was the title that went with his job. "He who has seen me has seen the Father," Jesus said (John 14:9), and "God is love," said John (1 John 4:8); and the basic plot of the whole True Romance of history seems to be just that Love will have us lovely before he's through or split a gut trying. He will badger us, bulldoze us, clobber and cajole us till in the end we all make it "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

Even Nebuchadnezzar, you say? Even Hiram and Herod and the queen of Sheba? Even Jacob and Jael and Judas, of all people? Is it possible that he intends to do a job on Saddam Hussein and Genghis Khan, not to mention Groucho Marx and Madame de Pompadour and Warren Gamaliel Harding, for Christ's sweet sake? Exactly. For Christ's sweet sake. And not the least staggering thought is that it seems he has similar plans in mind not only for the author of this outrageous compendium, but for every last Jack and Jill who read it and even the ones who don't.

Nobody ever claimed it was going to be easy, least of all Jesus, who continually said to take up our crosses and follow him, not just our picnic baskets and tickets to Disneyland. A lot of barnacles are going to have to be scraped off and a lot of horse manure shoveled out and a lot of rooms stripped bare and redecorated before the final product emerges bright as a new penny, to mix a metaphor or two. But peculiar as we are, every last one of us, for reasons best known to himself, Yahweh apparently treasures the whole three-ring circus, and every time we say "Thy kingdom come," it's home we're talking about, our best, last stop.

"I am the Alpha and the Omega," Yahweh says, "the beginning and the end" (Revelation 21:6), and he will have everybody aboard at last, because if even just a couple of stragglers fail to show up, the party simply won't be complete without them.

-Originally published in Peculiar Treasures and later in Beyond Words 

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