What’s In A Name

November 4, 2019 // by Laura Malone

When I was young, every morning before school, my dad would load me and my brother up in his old black pickup truck he named Ms. Piggy.  I have memories of him walking outside while it was still dark, head down, hands in his pockets, getting her engine cranked up and heater blowing. He said since she was old, she needed a little extra time to warm up before we hit the road. Then, as her exhaust spun around him in the crisp air and with credit card in hand, he’d stand in the street and carefully scrape the ice off the windshield, layer by layer. Peering out the living room window, I’d wonder why he named her Ms. Piggy.

Well, I’m still not sure what was so special about Ms. Piggy (other than she was a great gas guzzler), but I do know that she was different. The whole family was heartbroken when we had to let her go, mostly because we knew Dad loved her so much. It was hard for him. There were other trucks and cars that came and went over time, but I don’t remember him giving any of them a name.

Names Create Connection

We name things that are special to us, don’t we? We name our children, pets, cars, boats and sometimes even things like plants or laptops. When there’s someone or something that we’ve somehow made a connection with, we like to give it a name. It’s a sign that it’s important to us or we have some type of a relationship with it.

Then there are times when something that may not currently be very special to us can become special because we gave it a name. It’s like when the neighborhood stray cat comes strolling through the yard and your heart stops as little Johnny smiles and says, “Look, Mom. I named her Fluffy.” You know in your gut that now that it has a name, it may never leave.

Giving something a name creates a connection.

It becomes a part of you – a part of your life.

Names are Important to God

God uses names to connect with us, His children. In our culture today, most people choose names based on how they sound or what’s currently popular, but names in the Bible are very different. They are more than just a label or pretty words to God. He chooses names to tell us something about a person and reveal who they are to Him. Their names give us a picture of their journey.

When the angel appeared to Mary, he told her three things – She was going to conceive, have a son and name him Jesus, which means God saves. The name was so important to God that He chose it and let Mary know what it was to be. God wanted to assure His people that this was the Messiah they had been waiting for. There would be no question about Jesus’ mission. He was to be our Rescuer, our Savior.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other
name under heaven given to mankind by which we much be saved.  Acts 4:12

Here are a few examples of biblical names and their meanings. If you’re not familiar with these people and their stories, go read about them and you’ll see how these names so perfectly fit them.

  • Isaac (laughter), Genesis 21;
  • Rebekah (captivating), Genesis 24;
  • Ruth (friend), Book of Ruth;
  • Daniel (God is my judge), Book of Daniel;
  • John (God has shown favor), Book of John.

And finally, even the names of cities were meaningful in the Bible:

  • Jerusalem (city of peace) – The city of God’s people and where Jesus died, resurrected and one day will return. When Jesus returns, the new Jerusalem will be a city of peace.
  • Bethlehem (house of bread) – The city where Jesus (who called himself the “Bread of Life”) was born.
  • Nazareth (separated, a shoot or sprout) – The city where Jesus grew up and began his public ministry.

God Changes Names

Something else that’s interesting is that God often changed people’s names. Think about the people whose stories we love in both the Old and New Testaments. They began their walk with God with one name and as they grew in character, God changed their name to represent the person they were becoming. Here are some examples:

  • Abram (high father) became Abraham (father of a multitude of nations),
  • Sarai (my princess) to Sarah (mother of nations),
  • Jacob (trickster) to Israel (having power with God),
  • Simon (God has heard) to Peter (rock).

What God Says About Your Name

If you’re a Christian, God will give you a new name. He says in Revelation 2:17 that when we join Him in heaven, Jesus will give us a new name that only we will know. That name will reflect the change from who we were on earth to who we will be for eternity in the presence of God and other believers. The name will be so personal and specific to our individual lives that nobody else could truly understand and appreciate it like us and our Creator. It’s like an inside joke – Nobody gets it like you and the other person that was there. No one else will know or understand the intimate name God gives you, except you and the Father.

He counts the stars and knows each of them by name.  Psalm 147:4

Names of God

Since names are significant to God and we understand how He uses them to tell us about a person, what does God name Himself?

God has described Himself with over 700 names in the Bible. He shares these names with us because He knows that’s where the connection happens! It is His desire for us to truly know Him because when we know Him, we will be drawn to Him. These names put Him under a microscope for us to bring His heart and character into focus. And it’s mind-blowing that God is so incredible that it takes over 700 names to explain Who He is! 

Let’s look at just a few of God’s names (some are in the original Hebrew), their meaning, and the Bible reference where they are used. Knowing these can deepen your understanding of Who He is and Who He wants to be for you.

  • Elohim (Strong Creator) – Genesis 1:1;
  • Jehovah, Yahweh, I Am (Self-Existent, Unchanging) – Exodus 3:13-15;
  • El Shaddai (God Almighty) – Genesis 17:1-2;
  • El Roi (The God Who Sees) – Genesis 16:13;
  • Jehovah-Shammah (The Lord is There) – Exodus 13:21-22;
  • Jehovah-Jireh (The Lord Will Provide) – Genesis 22:8;
  • Father – Luke 15:18-19;
  • Lamb of God (The Sacrifice for Our Sins)– John 1:29;
  • Helper – John 14:26;
  • Messiah, Christ (Anointed, Promised One) – Matthew 16:13-17.
And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:10

Many blessings to you this week as you connect with God. May your name always be in His thoughts each day of your journey.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.           Psalms 20:7

Hugs,

Laura

P.S. Resource for Families

Last year, I read God’s Names by Sally Michael with my children (ages 3-13 at the time) and we loved it!  It is a valuable resource for parents as they seek to disciple their children and it’s written to be interactive between the parent and child. Each chapter discusses a different name for God, the meaning of the name and a story from the Bible to illustrate why the name was given. The book covers 24 names in a few pages each, with three or four discussion questions for each chapter. I highly recommend adding this one to your library.

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