What’s in a Name?

wonderfulThis month in our Advent devotionals, as a way to prepare our hearts for Christmas, we are going to consider the names of Jesus, in particular those related to his birth. Why are names, and more specifically the names of God so important?

Names, in times past, had more meaning and significance than they do now. One of Adam’s first acts was to name all the animals, giving him authority over them. Names, like Nabal, often described the nature of a person in Scripture. The word “name” in Scripture is translated in some places as reputation or character. It stands to reason, then, that the names of God indicate something about God.

A name of God identifies the nature and character of God, because God is known and best identified by his self-revelation. God is incomprehensible, but not unknowable. God reveals himself in his special revelation through his Word and through Jesus. God’s names, his self-identification of Jesus, enable us to comprehend him better.

Particular names of God identify particular attributes for which we can worship God. When God revealed himself to Moses, he declared his name, which was declaring his attributes and character to Moses (Ex. 34:5-6ff). To call upon his name is to worship God. “At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord” (Genesis 4:26). Taking God’s name in vain denies and defames his nature and character (Exodus 20:7).

Worshipping God’s name and worshipping God are synonymous in Scripture in many places, because the name identifies who God is. Notice in these three examples the identification of God by his name.

  • “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” (Psalms 8:1)
  • “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Psalms 115:1)
  • “I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.” (Psalms 145:1–2)

The emphasis on the importance of God’s name continues in the New Testament. The great passage on Christ’s humility in Philippians 2 emphasizes the name that God has bestowed on Jesus, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9–11).

The reign of Jesus is stated by Paul in Ephesians through the truth that Jesus is seated “at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named” (Ephesians 1:20–21). The author of Hebrews exalts Jesus through the superiority of his name. “After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Hebrews 1:4).

Finally, in the book of Revelation, the authority of the rider on the White Horse is highlighted through the greatness of his name. “His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God… He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:12–16).

As we highlight the names of God this month, meditate on the importance of his names. Consider that we are called Christians for a reason. Remember that in the end, John prophesies in Revelation, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads” (Revelation 22:4). Rejoice that those who trust him will be called by his name!

 

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