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What's in a Name?

There's a special connection between a person and his name.  It's a connection that is very personal.  Not only does it identify a person, but it also carries a part of the person's personality.  In any training for a customer service type jobs, they advice the employees to use the customer's name often just for that very reason.  Also, how many times have you been embarrassed by not remembering your friend's name on the spot?  It's ok for not remembering their age, their profession, etc... but there's something special about a person's name.

When someone works hard they say that they're trying to make a name for themselves.  When another person departs leaving nothing behind it is said that their name is wiped out from the earth.  When someone loves another person dearly, they call them with a special name, a term of endearment, or a nickname that nobody else uses.  When another person wants to insult someone they call them names.  When you label a student as a "lazy student", that label/name somehow turns out to be true.  On the other hand, when you label the same student as a "clever student", even if that student didn't do so good on a test it would be considered an exception and the student will continue to live up to his/her "name".

Thus, there's a special connection, and special power to names.  The Bible tells us that the Lord God, the true shepherd, "calls his own sheep by name" (John 10:3).  This means that The Lord God not only loves the whole world, but he loves each one of us in a very individual and intimate way.  "He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name" (Psalm 147:4).  He knows His creation and knows how to deal with each one of us to bring us home to His heavenly kingdom.

In our study of the Bible we find many names.  Some names are of people and other names are of places.  Learning these names, their meanings and who names these names reveals these special connections.

Meanings of Names:

The meaning of names in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament, have a direct correlation with the story of the named person or place.  Below are a few of these examples:

People:

  • Adam = Earthly man
  • Eve = Mother of all Living
  • Abraham (Gen 17:5) = Father of Many
  • Isaac (Gen 17:18, 18:15) = Son of Laughter
  • Edom (Gen 25:30) = Red, or hairy
  • Nabal (I Samuel 25:25) = Fool

Places:

  • Garden of Eden (Gen 2:8) = Joy:  God created man to be in Joy
  • Nod (Gen 4:16) = Lost or Disturbed.  This is the land that Cain lived in after killing his brother.

The Name Giver:

The name giver has authority on the named.  For example, God created Adam and named him.  God also created the Sun, the Moon and all the stars and called them all with their names.  This is because all these submit to God's will.  God however let Adam to name all the animals because God gave Adam the authority over all the creatures.  Also Adam named Eve which is a prefigure of the Orthodox Marriage where the wife submits to her husband (Ephesians 5:22, Colossians 3:18).  We note here that submission doesn't belittle the state of the woman.  Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself submitted to the will of His Good Father without being any less than the Father.  Saying that Jesus is any less than the Father falls under Arianism.  The submission here is a submission of love and respect, which is the same as that between a husband and wife.

Lastly in Revelations, our Lord puts His Father's name on His followers' forehead.  As for Satan, his followers get the mark of his name (Revelations 14:1).  This too shows the authority of the name giver over the person, and the submission and loyalty of the person to the name giver.

Name Changes:

In certain cases a person's name changes.  The name change usually indicates a new purpose of life assigned by the person giving the name.  Below are a few of the examples:

  • God changed Abram and Sarai's name to Abraham and Sarah to fulfill God's new purpose in becoming the father of many fathers (Gen 17).
  • God changed Jacob's name to Israel, assigning him the new purpose in his life of being a person that depends on God rather than his own cunningness (Gen 32)
  • Pharaoh changes Joseph's name to "Zaphenath-paneah" (Gen 41:45)
  • King Nebuchadnezzar changed the names of Daniel to "Belteshazzar," Hananiah to "Shadrach," to Mishael "Meshach," and Azariah to "Abednego." (Daniel 1)
  • Our Lord Jesus Christ called Simon "Peter" (Matthew 16:18)
  • God Changed Saul's name to Paul to signify his new Christian mission (Acts 9)
  • During Baptisms and clergy ordinations, the Orthodox Church usually gives the person a new name by which they person should carry out their new mission in life.

Your Name:

Now we come to your name.  We're not talking about your earthly name by which your parents call you.  We're talking about your heavenly name that the Lord God calls you with.  In the book of Revelations we read "...To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it." (Revelations 2:17)  This is your heavenly name given to you by your Heavenly Father.  Remember, the meaning of your name is closely tied to who you are, or who you'll end up being.

If your earthly life were to end today, what do you think God would call you?  What would your name be at this point?  Are you satisfied with this name?

What about if your life didn't end today and you still have a chance to be named something else, what would you like your name to be?  What would you like your Heavenly Father to call you?  David "The Beloved"?  Michael "Who is Like God"? Raphael "The Mercy of God"?  What is your name?

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Posted in: Old Testament

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