OceanSide church of Christ

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A Truly Misunderstood Word

Wayne Rodgers


So many in today’s society in trying to be respectful have used and misunderstood the word “reverend.”  On numerous occasions, I have been called or referred to as “Reverend Wayne Rodgers.”  While I understand that they were only trying to be respectful, it amazes me to see the term “reverend” used so loosely.  The word, “Reverend” should be reserved for use only with the name of our Lord.  The Psalmist stated, “holy and reverend is his name” (Psalm 111:9).   When one reads and studies their Bibles they find out that the word “reverend” used here is the only time it is used the whole Bible.  And it is used here, only with reference with God.   It is rather a special word, reserved in the Scriptures for God alone.  We use it frequently, but seldom do we ever use it to refer to God. Instead, we have used a word that has been used specifically for God to refer to man. Therefore, it has become familiar in its use for man, and like everything that is familiar, reverend has lost its distinctive meaning.


The Hebrew word for “reverend” is ya^re^' which means “to fear, to revere, to frighten, to make afraid - terrible” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible).  And that is the word used exclusively in the Scriptures for God.  The King James has it, “Holy and Reverend is His name” and the New King James has it, “Holy and awesome is His name.”  The American Standard Version says, “holy and reverend” and the New American Standard Version has, “holy and awesome.”  But the Revised Standard Version translates it, “Holy and terrible is His name.”  The idea is that God Himself is holy and reverend, awesome or terrible.


Since we use reverend so commonly referring to men, and since we have trivialized awesome to mean just about anything that is a bit unusual or delightful, perhaps the word terrible is the most fitting of the three English words used to describe God.  “Holy and terrible is His name.”  There may be some that would never think of God as “terrible” or “frightening.”  However, this is a part of the nature of God that is revealed in the Scriptures that modern man just does not care to know or to think about.  He would much rather think of God as a loving, gift-giving, buddy that you would never even have to dress up for.  Someone who you can joke with or joke about, someone who makes you feel good about yourself.  If this is the way you feel about God, then please reconsider.  Again, “Holy and reverend is His name.”  What an awesome thought to be in the very presence of God.


In the New Testament, in the model prayer given by our Lord in Matthew 6:9, Jesus taught: “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.”  “Hallowed” literally means “to make holy, to purify or sanctify, to venerate.” In prayer and other avenues of worship, God’s name and God Himself is to be revered as the one and only, distinctive one.  Therefore, when we come into His presence in prayer or other avenues of worship, we fall or bow down before Him in respect, adoration and honor.


I find it very interesting that in today’s society we have made the decision when it comes to the worship of God that we feel as though we can be casual about the way we dress and approach the presence of God.  It is sad indeed that there are many today who have advertised that one can come to “their church” and you will find a laid back, casual approach to worship.  This is the Lord’s Day is not “casual Friday!”  The Scriptures teach us to give our best to God.  To always put Him first in our lives and to revere His holy name. In Exodus 19, we read of a time when Moses went upon the mount to be in the presence of God and to receive the law of commandments written on the tables of stone.  The people were not permitted to come and go with him.  They were not even permitted to touch the mountain under the penalty of death.  They were instructed to wash their clothing and to bathe and to be ready.  Does that sound like a God that does not take notice of how we appear before Him?  Lest any of them should take it lightly, God sent Moses a second time to tell them to bathe, wash their clothes, and not to touch the mountain.  Hebrews 12:21 says, “And so terrible was the sight that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.”  Moses, obviously, did not descend from the mountain with dancing and shouting as some want to do today “in worship.”


We must understand that God’s very presence is not to be taken carelessly and casual.  May we all be concerned with how we approach God and man.  Let us do away with the idea that the popular perception that God is just some casual friend.  He can be a friend, but He is so much more.  This has caused such a irreverent approach to the way many try to give honor and glory today.  Let us all remember the words of the Psalmist, “Holy and reverend is HIS name.” (Ps. 111:9).  Let us be respectful to man, but save the “reverend” for God.