What’s in a name?


Last time we considered who God says he is, I wonder how many of us scrolled through the scriptures to find out?

Maybe you thought it really doesn’t matter that much or you thought it was just a waste of your time and energy!

When studying the bible, you get the impression that names are important to God, we see him giving people names and sometimes changing their names too. He even gives different names for himself at different times.  Why is this?  What can we learn from the names that God uses in the bible?

Let’s turn to the bible and see if we can unravel a bit of this mystery of why names are important to God and maybe should be important to us too.

In the first verse of the bible God introduces himself to us using the name Elohim in our modern-day translations it simply says ‘God’ however, in the Hebrew God’s first introduction to us is ‘Elohim’, it is not a singular name it has a plural meaning here we see God introduce us to the Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How can we come to this assumption because in Genesis Chapter 1:26 it says ‘Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ NIV.

God refers to himself as ‘us’ so we can deduce from these two references that God introduces himself in terms of a relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit therefore we now know that our existence stems from the purpose and means of a relationship.

Just this small amount of information demonstrates the plans God has for his creation and confirms that relationships are God’s ultimate purpose for us all; in fact, we were created out of a relationship for a relationship with God.  This truth is well worth pondering and considering how this can and should impact on our lives.

I don’t plan on unravelling every term God introduces himself as but I will continue with a couple more examples of the importance of names.

In Genesis 17:4 God changes Abram’s name to Abraham why, why would God change his name after all Abram is what he is called why is it important for God to change his name? The Hebrew meaning of Abram is ‘high father or exalted father’ however Abraham means ‘father of a multitude’ here God demonstrates Abraham’s change of status from being a promised father to the fulfilment of becoming the ‘father of a multitude’ God changed Abraham’s name as a fulfilment that God would carry through his promise to make him into a great nation.  This was also true for Sarai his wife her name originally meant ‘princess’ but by changing her name to Sarah God was declaring that she would become ‘mother of nations’.

Therefore, we see in the example of Abraham that God uses names to describe who the person is or will become.  The ultimate example of this is Jesus himself, God told Mary and Joseph that their baby must be called Jesus which means ‘God saves’ which is the promise to God’s creation that he plans to rescue them however further on in the New Testament he is referred to as ‘Christ Jesus’ this is a means to explain that he not only saves but was the promised ‘annointed’ one from God therefore fully explaining that Jesus has come from God to save /redeem his creation.

In Isaiah 9:6 we are told ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’. NIV

In Isaiah, we learn more about who Jesus is and what he came to do approximately 700 years before he did it; in this passage of the bible we see that Jesus takes on the image of the Godhead Father, Son and Holy Spirit he is a complete representative of all three aspects of God.  Jesus declares himself to be fully human and completely God therefore he is the only one who has the right to be called ‘The Christ’ because he is the only one who came from God to be fully human and was God therefore is also completely holy.  This demonstrates to us that he is the only one who has the both the weakness of flesh and power of holiness to take on the sin of the whole of creation, pay for the debt of our sin and have the ability to overcome death therefore showing us the way to eternal life.

Spend sometime reading through Isaiah and wonder at the detail God shares with us so that we can understand and respond to his purposes for our lives.

The greatest impact of Jesus’ name for me came a few years ago, when I was suffering from an emotional breakdown, life felt completely out of my control and I felt I was losing my mind.  Nothing made sense, my relationships were messy and my marriage seemed to be falling apart.

However, it was in the midst of this mess that Jesus challenged my thinking and challenged me to consider who He really was, not who I thought He was.  He showed me that I had been treating him as some sort of lucky charm turning to him when things were difficult but not fully giving my whole heart to him.  Over a period of a couple of months he showed me, through passages in the bible, that I was holding back my emotions from him and trying to present myself to him complete and in control.

The phrase ‘Do you believe I am who I say I am’ kept coming to my mind.  It took me awhile to turn to Jesus and say ‘OK then who do you say you are’ then the passage of Isaiah 9:6 kept repeating in my mind particularly ‘Wonderful Counsellor’ it was then that I realised that there was someone who could deal with my unruly, demanding emotions, Jesus himself.  He wanted me to stop expecting my husband or other people to be the solution to my demands expecting them to meet the needs that seemed to want to burst out of my heart.

Jesus himself wanted me to be honest with how I felt and in that declaration of honesty he showed me the healing I needed, he showed me that he was the only source that could provide me with emotional stability.  It took a lot of soul searching and a willingness to trust Jesus with every emotion going including; anger, bitterness, rage, jealousy the list seemed endless and painful. In time, he showed me the people I needed to forgive, those I needed to apologise to and those I needed to serve.

Today I can declare that I have emotional stability that I no longer demand my husband meets the needs I have, I no longer expect another human being to come along to solve my problems, my first port of call is Jesus himself; now I know what it is to make Jesus number one in my life and I am continually learning day by day how to do this.

This has resulted in an ability to trust others, to see their hurts and have a desire that others know Jesus the way I do, so they too can know of Jesus’ desire to care, ability to transform and provision for our eternal life.

The apostle Paul declared in 1 Timothy 1:15-17 ‘Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen’.

Not that I am comparing myself with Paul’s standing with Jesus but I understand his motivation; that the reason I want others to know Jesus is that I know the power of Jesus’ forgiveness.

So what’s in a name? Our identity, the very essence of who we are.

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