A reader named Ken Murphy asks:
In Ps. 110:4 the word LORD is spelled in all capitals. Why?
It stands for YHWH, the proper name of God which was revealed to Moses at the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:14-15), which is in turn short for the divine proclamation I AM WHO I AM. This title declares God's eternal self-existence.
Thus, the words "the Lord" are not actually a translation, rather it is a substitution performed throughout translations of the Old Testament in order to avoid writing the Sacred Name. In some of these translations, the word LORD is placed in all capital letters so that you know when this was done. (In some Jewish versions of the Bible, they instead substitute HaShem (which means "the Name"). There is another Hebrew word "Adoni" which actually means a lord (this word could be used of a human ruler as well as of God), so that way you can tell which word is being used. (These types of things can be learned by reading the "translator's preface" in the uninspired pages of your Bible located before Genesis 1:1.)
In the first verse of Psalm 110, we actually have both types of "Lord" appearing together. King David prophesies of a greater king than himself when he says:
YHWH said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet. (Psalm 110:1)
Since Hebrew was written at the time written with consonants only, the vowels in between these four letters are unknown, but modern Hebrew scholars tend to think it was pronounced something like "Yahweh". The old-fashioned pronunciation "Jehovah" was based on inserting the vowels in "Adonai".
The Third Commandment says "You shall not misuse the name of YHWH your God, for YHWH will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name." (Ex. 20:7). God made himself more tangibly present to the Israelites by giving them his Name, but in doing so he opened up the possibility that his Name could be abused and used flippantly or as a curse, instead of as a blessing. For this reason, God commanded that his Name, which made the Israelites holy, must be held with respect. Vulnerability is the flip side of intimacy. As it is written:
I will walk among you; I will be your God, and you will be my people. (Lev 26:12)
Some people might think that misuse of God's name can't really matter very much, but that would mean that using it doesn't matter either. If reverent use of the Name sanctifies God's people, then irreverent use will, conversely, coarsen and corrupt the sense of being dedicated to God. For this reason Jesus taught us to pray, "Hallowed be your Name" (Matt. 6:9).
This is one of several ways in which the Torah says that placed aspects of himself among the Israelites, others being the Holy Spirit, the Shekhinah [Glory Cloud], and the Temple. Somewhat surprisingly, the Temple is often referred to as the place where God's Name dwells. For example, when God promises King David that he will have a descendent who will reign forever, he says:
He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. (2 Samuel 7:13)
Here "my Name" is a metonymy: it stands for the presence of the God whose Name it is. As it is written:
Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am YHWH their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am YHWH their God. (Ex 29:43)
It was always part of God's plan to find a place to rest on the Earth. Not that he can really be confined to a Temple built with human hands, for as Solomon says:
But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built! Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, Lord my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. May your eyes be open toward this temple night and day, this place of which you said, ‘My Name shall be there,’ so that you will hear the prayer your servant prays toward this place. Hear the supplication of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place. Hear from heaven, your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. (1 Kings 8:27-30)
Nevertheless, his Name can be spoken, and in this way he can be honored or dishonored.
At first, the Jews freely used the name YHWH to refer to God, even in ordinary conversation, as can be seen from the Old Testament. However, as time went on, this came to be regarded as unsafe and presumptuous. Eventually, the rabbis decided that the best way to satisfy the Third Commandment was never to say the Name at all. That way there would be no chance of accidental blasphemy. The High Priest could use the Name on Yom Kippur [The Day of Atonement], but that was it. After the Temple was destroyed, the Name was never spoken again by halakha-compliant Jews.
This was the opposite mistake from careless or flippant use of the Name. Instead they played it so safe that God may as well not have revealed the Name in the first place. God had put himself on a first name basis with Israel, so to speak, and they declined to exercise the privilege.
So what did God do? Did he rectify this situation by telling people they were missing out? Did he put things back the way they were before? No, instead, in his divine wisdom he had a completely different plan. As it is written:
Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares YHWH. “Many nations will be joined with YHWH in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that YHWH Sabaoth has sent me to you. YHWH will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” (Zech. 2:10-13)
Rather than restore the old intimacies, God gave new ones. He himself came and lived among us. Greater intimacy implies greater vulnerability. The new name he has given us to speak aloud is the name of "Jesus",
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:6-11)
When Paul says that God gave to Jesus "the name that is above every name", there is only one Name which a first century rabbinically educated Jew could have in mind. The first century Christians might not have ever spoken the name YHWH, but in passages like this there is an implicit allusion to the Name of God.
When you see the name Lord in the New Testament, this is the Greek word kyrios. In principle, this word, like Adoni, could itself refer to an ordinary human being. However, the New Testament writers continually quote from the Greek Septuagint, which uses kyrios as its substitution for YHWH. This puts an important overtone into the word.
People argue about whether the New Testament really refers to Jesus as God. What they don't realize is that in the Greek linguistic context, calling Jesus theos is actually a surprisingly ambiguous statement of Jesus' divinity (and many of the passages calling Jesus theos can be explained away). What is quite unambiguous is calling Jesus kyrios and then applying to him Old Testament passages in which kyrios is a substitution for YHWH. For example "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Rom 10:13)"
To those of my readers who are baptized, remember that you have been dedicated into "the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit"! What name is this? It is a singular name. "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit" is grammatically plural, not singular. So the "name" must refer to some unmentioned name which belongs to all three persons equally. The mystery of our faith is that all three persons are one YHWH, the eternal existence. This passage is another example of an implicit reference to that Name which no first century Jew would ever say.
This is the Name into which you were baptized, making you into God's Temple. If you defile this Temple, you also dishonor the Name which God placed in you. But if you honor him, he will honor you, by coming to live with you.