In our liturgy we read "Yahweh" when the Hebrew text uses the Tetragrammaton YHWH to refer to God. Most of our English translations continue to translate YHWH as LORD, distinguishing it from the Hebrew word adonay ("lord") by the use of small or large caps formatting. Actually, substituting LORD for Yahweh is not a translation at all; it's erasing one word and replacing it with another. I am convinced that this perpetuates a very unhealthy tradition and makes for a muddled reading of Scripture. The time has come to break that tradition once and for all and restore the divine covenantal name given to Israel to the public reading of Scripture.
It is better for us to read Yahweh rather than LORD in our translations, Scripture reading, and preaching for these reasons:
1. Yahweh was given to Israel as God's "memorial name" (Exod. 3:15). This personal name of God was revealed to Israel so that they might use it in prayer and thus remind God of his covenant so he would act for them. God's personal name for Israel was not "Lord" but "Yahweh." As Psalm 20 says, "Some trust in chariots and some in horses but we will memorialize the name of Yahweh our God." The name of the God of Israel was not "Lord" or "LORD" but Yahweh. They were to call on God to remember (that's what "memorialize" means) his covenant by using the name he gave them for that purpose. I should say here also that all the gnostic theologizing about what this name really "means" is a distraction. Yahweh is not a "term" that refers to something else, like God's infinite majesty or whatever. Yahweh is a concrete name given to the Israelites to use, to call out in prayer and praise in their worship.
2. "Lord" is a title not a name. You can make the word "Lord" into all caps, italicize it, bold it, or whatever, but that doesn't change the fact that it means "Master" or "Sir" and is not a name, certainly not God's revealed personal name. So when one translates passages like "Let them praise the name of Yahweh" as "Let them praise the name of the LORD" you muck up the meaning badly. In fact, this is not really a translation at all but an altering of the text for some external purpose. God's revealed name in the Hebrew Scriptures is not "Lord" or "LORD" but Yahweh.
3. The abbreviation YAH is not replaced with LORD in our English translations. We still say and sing "hallelujah," which means "praise Yah[weh]." Why don't we sing "hallelu-LORD"? Silly, you say? Just as silly as replacing YHWH with Lord. If saying the whole name is so spiritually hazardous, why isn't saying part of the name just as dangerous? But YAH was not even replaced by superstitious Jews who refused to say the whole name for fear of judgment. In addition to Hallelujah we still have all the proper names that include Yahweh in them, like Joshua (Heb: Yah-shua - "Yahweh saves"). The best we can say is this is inconsistent; the worst is that it's evidence of how stupid this superstitious avoidance of the name Yahweh really was and is.
4. Later Jews superstitiously refused to vocalize the name. I'll get to when this happened in a moment. But the practice of replacing Yahweh with Lord was an act of rebellion, pure and simple. God gave this name for the Jews to use in memorial prayers, Psalms, and worship. Not using it means that they thought they were wiser than God. This is part and parcel with the Pharisaical "fencing of the law." In order to avoid transgressing the 3rd Word ("taking the name of Yahweh in vain") the wily Pharisaical Jews decided to just avoid the word altogether. And we want to follow that tradition?
5. What modern Jews think about what we do in our translations is irrelevant. This is a red herring anyway because we have enough in our Bibles to madden the Jews as it is. But more importantly, we need to remember that post AD 70 Judaism is a different religion than that practiced by OT believers before Christ. There are no simple "OT believers" around today. Adding Yahweh to our translations wouldn't make a difference at all. The superstitious avoidance of the vocalization of Yahweh didn't become "official" until after the first century AD, probably in response to the Christian argument that Jesus is Yahweh. Even so, why should we coddle them in their superstitious rebellion anyway? It seems to me that the real offense would be to Evangelicals who THINK the Jews would be offended. I doubt very much if most Jews would even bother to sigh.
Go to part 2.