Friday, January 6, 2012

What's in a name?

It's a question I've been pondering a lot lately during my morning devotions. Whether I'm in Acts for my personal quiet time or reading the advent Scriptures to the kids, I can't help but notice the importance the Bible places on names, especially the name (s) of Jesus. If I'm honest, I'd say I've almost been irritated by this obsession with names at times because I don't fully get it. How can a name have so much weight? Aren't someone's actions and heart disposition weightier than the name he or she's been given? Is it just something the Hebrews cared deeply about but not something we need to worry ourselves with these days?

Before I go any further, I want to clarify that when it comes to Jesus' name, I fully believe in its redeeming power. There are many instances when, gripped by fear, all I could do was yell the name of Jesus and there was instant comfort. He's the Lord of the universe and saying his name is praying for Divine intervention. It's acknowledging my powerlessness and His omnipotence and sovereignty in my helpless situation. From the moment I believed in His name, He has altered the course of my life forever...and so I acknowledge that there is power in His name.

To go back to my initial thought though, it  has been fascinating for me to encounter so many verses during my Bible reading lately that mention the word 'name', and to observe the context in which this word comes up.

As I read...
Exodus 3:13 The Moses said to God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them?" God said to Moses, " I AM WHO I AM";  and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'" God, futhermore, said to Moses, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abrahama, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.' This is My name forever and this is My memorial-name to all generations."

Isaiah 7:14 Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son ad she will call His name Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor; Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

 Matthew 1:21 (The angel told Joseph) She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.

All the I AM statements by Jesus in the Gospel of John referring back to I AM THAT I AM in Exodus.

John 14:13 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

Acts 2:38 Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 4:18 And when they (the Council) had summoned them (Peter and John), they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.

Acts 4:29-30 "And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus."

Acts 8: 12 But when they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized men and women alike.

Acts 9:15 (When Ananias was instructed to meet Paul in Tarsus) But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake.

Acts 10:43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.

I realize this list of verses offers only a tiny glimpse of the monument that God/Jesus' name is in Scriptures, but it was enough to spark an interest in me as I considered all the name changes that occur in Scripture from Abraham to Paul,  the many mentions of the meanings of names throughout the Bible (whether it's referring to a person or location), and finally, the idea that there is power in speaking in THAT name, the name above all names.

With these thoughts swimming in my head, it was so encouraging to make a discovery about Brielle's name the other day. One of the activities that this year's advent reading program asked us to do was to look up the meaning of our names online. I thought it was ironic that we'd be asked to do that when I'd been intrigued with names for a while. What's funny is I thought I knew what all of our names meant. For instance, I fully expected the websites to say that Brielle's name meant 'of cheese'. To my surprise, 4 out of 5 websites listed as their first definition for the name Brielle 'the Lord is my strength'. I was astounded, not only because it didn't match any of the definitions we had encountered when we initially gave her the name Brielle, but because of the weight this 'new' meaning had in Brielle's particular situation. Surely our petite Brielle who has low muscle tone and a weakened brain needed to know that the Lord is her strength.  Surely I needed to know that He's her strength and that He's mine as I try to be there for her!

The most interesting thing is, though I can't say this was a true name change like the ones we encounter in the Bible, it certainly has had the same effect in my life. I am finding much comfort in knowing that her name means the Lord is my strength....that that promise applies to her so specifically. I honestly don't know how the meaning of her name could have changed over the course of 7 years...but I will take it as a gift from my Father's hand. Maybe...just's His way of answering my question.

So I ask again: what's in a name?

My answer: at this point, it would seem there's a lot more to a name than I've been willing to admit. I'll keep digging for answers, though, and will definitely continue to call on THAT name that is above all names.  "The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe." Proverbs 18:10

Brielle: The Lord is my Strength

Isaiah: Salvation is from the Lord

Andrew: Man, Warrior

Anne-Marie:  Gracious, Full of grace (Anne), Sea of Sorrow or Lady of the Sea (Marie)

And a name that has had an impact in many lives and one that's never far from my thoughts...

Selah: Pause and Reflect; Measure the Value