Friday, December 18, 2015

What's in a name? Everything

In Romeo and Juliet, it appears that in the famous line "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" that Shakespeare is arguing that names don't matter.  It is the thing itself, not its name that is important.

Yet in the Christmas story I find it fascinating that names seem to matter to God quite a bit.  When Gabriel announces to Zechariah that he and his aged wife are going to have a son, he gives Zechariah a very specific name for the boy.  His name is to be John.  It was and is Jewish tradition to name a son after his father or a close family member.  That is why the Scripture let's us know in light of Zechariah's inability to talk that the family and friends are confused when Elizabeth wants to give their son the name John.  Here is what is said:
   On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”  They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” (Luke 1:59-61)

John means Jehovah has been gracious or has shown favor.  That name was true for Zechariah and Elizabeth but it was also true for us all as a whole.  John was going to be a herald out in front for the Lord and announce how God was being gracious in sending the Messiah.  His name was a part of God's story.

Mary and Joseph both were told to name the son she would bear Jesus.  In Hebrew, it was Yeshua, or Joshua.  It means the Lord saves.  To quote Gabriel, "you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)  His name mattered.  It was part of God's story.

Do you know what your name means?  You see there were other boys with the name John.  There were other Joshuas.  But for these two boys, their names described perfectly the role God had for them.  It was part of the story.

So how does your name fit God's role for you?  My name, Patrick, means noble. I desire (and ask the Lord daily to help me) to live a noble life before Him.  Some of us may not be living up to our names at this point or may be oblivious to its meaning.  I encourage us all to know what our name means because I believe God even directs such little things as the name we are given.  It is part of our story.

And the good news is this:  No matter our name now, there is one day when every one of us who knows Jesus will be given a new name that only He know.  (Revelation 2:17; 3:12)

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