This weekend I joined my sweetie at his family’s reunion. It was something awesome and beautiful to behold – more than 300 family members being reunited or meeting for the first time; sharing stories, laughs and love and, of course (because we are in the South), engaging in this reminiscing over a scrumptious meal. I especially enjoyed the family photos and the history that was documented from the early 1800s until present day. The research included a history of the family name which, in this case was Irish and Korean!,
What’s in a name? Shakespeare’s Juliet declared that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Juliet was in love with Romeo, yet he bore the name of a rival family, Montague. Juliet would argue that the name of a thing, or in this case a person, mattered not and did not affect who are what they really were.
But names are powerful.
Everyone recognizes himself or herself by name – family, given, nickname… The power of a name and its value has long been immortalized in prose, poetry, history and religious ceremony. Some families devote much thought to the naming of a new baby. Others, I fear, don’t spend enough, but that’s a personal pet peeve and, perhaps, another blog post. Names are enduring and there are those, like the Kabalarians, who believe that the quality of one’s mind—thoughts, desires, opinions, likes, dislikes, reactions—can be measured by the linking of the most personal form of language, one’s name, to mathematics. They suggest that when language is used to attach a name to someone this creates the basis of mind, from which all thoughts and experiences, strengths and weaknesses flow.
Scripture, too, suggests that names are powerful and important often having considerable influence on the development of that child’s character. Names were not only descriptive but at times prophetic. As an example, the name of the patriarch Jacob, or Ya’akov, means “usurper”; it describes both how he tried to usurp his brother Esau’s birth from the womb by grabbing his heel during birth (Ya’akov in fact derives from ekev, “heel”) and how he ultimately usurped Esau as the heir of their father, Isaac, and grandfather Abraham and stole Esau’s birthright. Similarly, the name of the prophet Samuel, or Shemu’el, means (according to some scholars) “the one about whom God heard me,” referring to his previously barren mother’s prayer for a child. There are times, too, when special meaning was also attached to the name. Consider Nabal, whose name means “fool.” Abigail explains to her husband David in 1 Samuel 25:25, “For as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.”
The most powerful name? The name of the Lord! Psalm 148:13 tells us to praise the name of the Lord; for His name alone is Excellent, and Proverbs 18:10 says His Name is a strong tower. We may make the mistake of thinking God to be an “it” or a “thing” to which we pray, but He is Our Father, Our Master, Our Lord, Our Shepherd, Our Righteousness, Our Everlasting God, Our King and Our Savior.
In Luke 11:1, one of Jesus’s disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. Obliging this request, Jesus responded, “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” Wikipedia says that to hallow a thing is to make it holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate.” To hallow the name of God is to regard Him with complete devotion and loving admiration. How do we do this? Consider, God knows us by our name.
Isaiah 43:1 “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
John 10:14-15 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Jeremiah 1:5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
John 10:3 “To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. ”
Essential to our ability to glorify God – to Hallow His Name – is having knowledge of God and knowing Him personally in view of that knowledge. God knows us by our name. Shouldn’t we know Him by His?
THIS WEEK begin studying the Names of God. A good first step might be learning then praying specific names and attributes of God. One resource might be found at http://www.navigators.org/Tools/Newsletters/Featured%20Newsletters/Disciple-%20Monthly/September%202014/September%202014/30%20Days%20of%20Praying%20the%20Names%20and%20Attributes%20of%20God.