#Article (Archive)

What's in a name?

Apr 22, 2015, 11:18 AM | Article By: Galandou Gorre-Ndiaye

“The name of the Lord is like a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” (Proverbs 18:10)

Would ‘nothing’ be your answer to the question ‘What’s in a name?’ Really?  Think again! That could have been a rapid response! Names speak volumes! In Old Testament days in Israel, circumstances at birth could determine the name of a child.

Hannah named her son Samuel, which means ‘because I asked the Lord for him.’ Another mother named her son Jabez which carried the memory of the pain she bore during child birth. Guess how Isaac got his name? When God promised the couple a child, Abraham was a 100 years old and Sarah 90. Sarah laughed at the idea because she thought that rather ridiculous – a mother at 90? Finally when the child was born he became known as ‘laughter.’ Jacob earned his name because right from birth he could not wait for his turn. As Rebecca was delivering twins it was observed that the second son was holding tightly to his twin brother’s feet and they were birthed together. For this reason he was named ‘deceiver, a trickster.’

Pharaoh’s daughter named the baby she retrieved from the river ‘Moses’ which literally means ‘out of the river I drew him.’ Simon, one of Jesus’ disciples, behaved like his name that is ‘a reed’ - one who did not have a strong character, someone ‘impulsive, weak and indecisive.’ He underwent a name change to Peter after his encounter with the Master and that transformed him from ‘a reed’ to ‘a rock.’ No more wavering! He was to become solid as a rock. For someone who was earmarked as the head disciple he had to be firm. He was not the only one in the Bible to be ‘operated on’ though. Jacob became Israel, Abram became Abraham and Sarai, Sarah. From the foregoing, we deduce that people behave according to their names.

Prior to undertaking his mission, Moses questioned God; “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’ and they ask me, what is his name? Then what shall I say?” (Exodus 3:13)  Tell them, “I AM, has sent me to you.” (verse 14) That is the name God gave himself, yet there are several names that we have come to know him by - names given to him based on the circumstances surrounding his interaction with his people. When a ram was provided as a substitute for Abraham’s sacrifice (his son Isaac), Abraham referred to God as Jehovah-Jireh–(God will provide). Severally, God is known as Jehovah Rapha - (The Lord my Healer), Jehovah Nissi – (The Lord my Banner), Jehovah Shalom – (The Lord send Peace) Jehovah Shammah - (The Lord is there), to mention but a few. Other names God has been identified with are; Adonai and El Shaddai.

Only a few children were given their names before birth and these were revealed by angels. John the Baptist and Jesus fell in that category. John means ‘beloved,’ and Jesus ‘Saviour.’ The angel said to Mary: “You will be with child, and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. (Luke 1:31) “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

Jesus’ name is no ordinary name; in Scripture he is called ‘Son of the Most High,’ ‘the Lord’s Christ,’ ‘the Great shepherd,’ ‘the Bright and Morning Star,’ ‘the Lion of the Tribe of Judah,’ ‘the Branch,’ ‘the Word,’ ‘the Lamb of God,’ ‘the Alpha and the Omega,’ ‘the Vine,’ ‘the Holy One of God,’ ‘a Friend that sticks Closer than a Brother,’ ‘a Man of Sorrows,’ ‘Emmanuel,’ ‘Friend of Sinners,’ ‘a Ransom,’ ‘the King of the Jews,’ and many more.

His Father called him ‘My Beloved Son.’  ‘He called himself ‘The Son of Man,’ ‘The Son of God,’ ‘The Light of the World,’ ‘The Bread of Life,’ ‘The Resurrection and the Life,’ and ‘The Water of Life.’

We call him Lord, because he is the Creator and Ruler of all the earth. When Thomas, one of his disciples, expressed doubts about his resurrection because he was not present when Jesus first appeared to the others, he asked him at his next appearance to “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” (John 20:27) Thomas exclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” (verse 28)

Because Jesus was obedient to his Father’s will and faithful to his mission on earth, “... 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 shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”(Philippians 2:9) Call on his name!