Word association…with names. When I mention a name, something will come to mind -- think about it. David…David Koresh, Elvis, Curious George…George Bush, Amelia Earhart, Bob & Larry, Tony & Jessica, Joseph…Josef Stalin, Ruth…Babe Ruth, Judas Iscariot, Peter, Jesus. All of these people provoke unique thoughts and feelings – some good, some bad, some passionate, some ambivalent. What we come to realize is that names are significant, names are personal. Names in the Bible had great significance. Even our own names have their own significance. For example, my own name is Donald…named after my grandfather Donald Shales and Wesley…named after my uncle, my mother’s brother. I am thankful for these names as it reminds me of my heritage. This is the case in many families.
When we consider the Word of God, we can see that people’s names often had to do with their heritage, as well. Abram and Sarai's own names had significant meaning…particularly the new names which the Lord gives to them. In Genesis 17, the most significant name in the chapter appears in v.1. This is the first time that the name El Shaddai occurs in the Scriptures. And it is almost exclusively translated “God the Almighty.” Expanded, what the name says about the Lord is that He is the “all-powerful and all-sufficient God who can do anything and meet any need”…a reference to God’s omnipotence. Why would God reveal this name to Abram at this time? Because He is about to tell His friend that Sarai would have a son…they will be 100 and 90 respectively. What God is trying to help them to understand is that He is more than sufficient to bring about this miracle birth.
In order to further emphasize His covenant with Abram, God gives him a “new” name. Abram means “exalted father” whereas Abraham means "father of a multitude." God changes his name in order to reflect his new situation in life. A new name is given to Sarai. Her name is changed to Sarah, which means “princess.” The final name is Isaac, which means “he laughs.” Abraham laughs with joy when he hears that his wife will give birth to the promised son (17:17); Sarah laughs in unbelief when she hears the news (18:9-15), then laughs for joy when the baby is born.
In the New Testament, shortly after the day of Pentecost (Acts 3-4), Peter and John go about teaching in the name of Jesus. This quickly upsets some of the Jewish religious leaders who thought they had done away with the business about Jesus. Peter and John, wondrously tell them, “we can’t contain it…you can beat us, flog us, throw us in jail, or even take our lives if you must, but there is nothing that can restrain us from telling others about our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I guess we could say that they were living with certain conviction. :-) The apostles recognized that the name of Jesus was the name by which they would live, move and breathe. They recognized that -- not only do names have meaning, but in Jesus’ case…there is power and authority. When demons were cast out and other miracles performed in Acts, whose name is it in? It was in Jesus’ name. When we pray, whose name do we mention? Jesus’. When we baptize, whose name is it in? Jesus’ name. Jesus is the name above all names. Why? As the song says, He is our blessed Redeemer and glorious Lord! He shed His blood on the cross to set us free.
As Jesus’ is the most significant name, it underscores the importance of names. Our own names are important as well. What is the most prized possession that a person has? Their name. We may not be able to remember a lot of things about people that we meet as we travel the road of life, but the most important thing to them...is their name -- and so it should be to us. If we can work at remembering names, it is a worthwhile pursuit. Not only this, but remember the names of friends and family before the Lord. And one day...the Lord is going to remember our names -- they are written in His book...the Book of Life! Blessings,