Thursday, October 13, 2011

What's in a name?

What is in a name indeed. If you ever had a child you know the importance of naming the child a name that fits with the family, is consistent with (hopefully) the child's character, and doesn’t rile up or offend relatives hoping to have their name go into the next generation, lol.

I was named Elizabeth, and my mother made much of that. She said it was after Queen Elizabeth (the first or the second, the story changed). I always liked Elizabeth. She often said how hard it was to get the family to call me by my full name and not a nickname. It turned out that it was a losing battle, because growing up, I was Beth. When I went away to college I introduced myself to people as Elizabeth and the name stayed that way.

As I grew older I looked into the origin of the name. What did it mean? What was its history? There were several biblical references to Elizabeth, all of which perplexed me, because I wasn't religious at all. In some interpretations, Elizabeth- Elisheba or Elisheva in Hebrew- appears in the Old Testament where Elisheba is the wife of Aaron, while the Greek form appears in the New Testament where Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist. It means "God's promise," or "I am God’s daughter." In other interpretations it meant "Consecrated to God." That one confused me most of all. I was far, far from God and certainly not set aside for a specific religious purpose, which is the definition of consecrated.

I often used to muse about that, why I was named something that meant I'd be set aside to perform a certain religious purpose, when I had no religion and didn't ever see myself getting one. I used to think, "Ho, that is a big miss!"

Names are important in the bible. In the bible there are certain individuals where the expectant parents are told by a messenger angel from God what to name the child. Specifically named people who come immediately to mind are John the Baptist (Luke 1:13), and of course Jesus. (Luke 1:31).

There are individuals who were specifically renamed by God. Abram was renamed Abraham by God (Gen 17:5). Abram, meaning 'Father is exalted' was changed to 'father of myriads.' Jacob was renamed Israel by God (Gen 32:28). Jacob meant heel or deceit, and was changed to “to prevail” to become great in number. And of course, Sarai was renamed Sarah by God (Gen 17:15). This renaming usually indicated the start of a covenant with God.

Saul was also known as Paul the Apostle (AKA Acts 13:9) but was not renamed as far as I can tell in the biblical record. He was Saul, known also as Paul. Simon was given an additional name of Peter by Jesus (Mt 16:18) but was referred to as Simon, Peter, and Simon Peter throughout the bible at various times and not specifically renamed. Peter which means 'rock' in Greek was a reminder to Simon of how God wanted his behavior to be.

Some people were given nicknames. Barnabas, Paul's helper and also an apostle (Acts 14:14), was given the name Joseph at birth. He was so encouraging though that he was given the nickname Son of Encouragement. (Acts 4:36). How wonderful to be known in the biblical record for all eternity as so helpful that his very nature was reflected in his nickname. As for James and John, "These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”)..." (Mark 3:16-17). Sons of Thunder is another way of saying 'hotheads', lol.

As I mentioned, the giving of a new name usually meant the beginning of a new covenant, as evidenced by Abram, Sarai, and Jacob's new names. This thought is carried through to eternity, when in Revelation 2:17 we are given a new name by Jesus that only we will know. "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it."

So for 42 years I wondered about my name. What it meant, why it had religious overtones, and whether God had anything to do with me ending up with the name I was given. For many years I thought that I could not be further from God if I tried, and I liked it that way. Yet at age 42 what He knew all along came true for me, that I was set aside for a certain religious purpose and I did become God's daughter. I believe the Lord impressed upon my parents to give me this name. I am so glad that no sin, no distance, and no time period can be too wide or too deep or too long to separate us from Him if we repent. I enjoyed my name for secular reasons and now that I'm saved I enjoy it all the more for His reasons. I am looking forward to being renamed in eternity, too.

You can have a new name if you repent. The first new name will be "Child of God" and "Friend of God" instead of 'enemy of God.' He might rename you or you might get a nickname that suits the purposes He has outlined for you. Or you might grow into your name once and for all. The point is, He has a purpose for you and it is a good purpose. His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:30). Jesus is love and He is also your Father ready and eager at you being born again, so much so, that He wants to give you a name He has picked out Himself. "I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth; Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him." (Isaiah 43:6-7)


4 comments:

  1. Love this post!

    I used to be upset because my name was Emily and my mom's name was Sally (a variation of "Sarah.")

    Emily-- industrious worker.
    Sally/Sarah-- princess.

    I used to think I got jipped. But you know what? I'm a princess, anyway, because I'm a daughter of the King! And I hope I would live up to my own name's meaning, too! An industrious worker for the kingdom of my Father!

    -Emily, extendingeagerhands.blogspot.com

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  2. Curious on your view. Who and what, person(s) and name, would God honor, and recognize: the devout Christian mother and the name she gave her child at birth, or the thieves claiming to be Christians, who stole her child, and the name they called her child, with no legal right to, even though they knew the name the mother gave her child?

    Should the mother and her child be separated many years, (thus the child live unawares, under that other name she didn't give her child) until being reunited in heaven, what name will her child be recognized as, called by, what name will God honor? The original name she gave to her child at birth, or the name her child was called by those who stole the child?

    JL

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  3. JL, I'm really not sure what you're asking.

    However I will say that I do not believe God honors us. We honor God. A Christian usually takes a long time to think of a name, and prays and seeks Holy Spirit's wisdom on the matter. A non-Christian will name their child whatever according to their traditions, likes, and whims.

    Finally, if a child is stolen and renamed, it is a police matter, not a theological one.

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  4. Hmmmm, I thought my question was straight forward and easy to understand.

    You made a point about names and their significance, and not just on an unsaved level, rather, more so, on a spiritual level.

    You write of names coming from God, in particular how you believe God impressed upon your parents the name you were given.

    All knowledge derives from God. Anything in existence, is because of Him. What we people think we create, we come up with all on our own, is merely what God has allowed to be expressed through us, whether it be the good of Him, or the bad, of the devil.

    If a Christian mother names her child, surely you can't say the name she chooses and gives her child, had no influence from God, or that God doesn't respect it, in light of what you wrote, especially concerning your name.

    And to correct you, God most assurdely does honor His children, the scriptures say so.

    John 12:26
    26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.

    Romans 2:10
    10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

    So based on those scriptures, it would be a contradiction if God didn't honor the name given to the child, of one of His own. Either a child would be recognized by the name given by the authentic parent, the one God chose to bear the child, or it would be the name those who stole the child, called the child, and why would God honor thieves and liars, over one of His own?

    I already knew the answer to my question, that God is going to honor the name I gave my son, because I know I only came up with the name because of God in the first place. And I am His daughter, and I know God's honor is on me, because I believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, my Savior. The scriptures don't lie.

    Thank you and God bless you.

    ReplyDelete

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