What's in a Name?

I was recently thinking about the significance of a name.  If I were to mention some historical folks from the past such as Abraham Lincoln, Leonardo DaVinci, Mother Teresa, Helen Keller, or Thomas Edison, most everyone would be able to link a particular event, quote or personal characteristic or accomplishment to each of them.

But what if I named people such as Adolf Hitler, Stalin, Jack the Ripper, Richard Nixon, or Lee Harvey Oswald?  What connotation would you form?

A name has significance.  It's the first thing we learn to write as children.  It's something that is pondered over by expecting parents.  It defines who you are, to whom you are related to, what you have accomplished or even what you've failed at.  It says a lot about you, so therefore, should be treated with the utmost care.

Being a police wife, I've heard a lot of names over the years.  Some are frequent fliers with the law (repeat offenders) and others are just starting out to build their reputation.  What these folks fail to realize or care about, is exactly what the Bible describes in Proverbs 22:1..."A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."

God takes names seriously.  There are several instances throughout His Word that He changes a persons name when they've been called (by Him) to take on a new mission or task.  Take for instance Abram and his wife, Sarai.

In Genesis 17, God makes a covenant with Abram to be the father of many nations, thus He changes Abram's name to Abraham, which describes who or what he has been called to be.  God also changed the name of Sarai, Abraham's wife, to Sarah, stressing the fact that she would be the mother of nations and kings.

The two were no longer of the old order.  They were now called out by God to be His servants in the plan He had chosen for them.  God even told them to go to a place they did not know, and the Bible says that they picked up everything and went without hesitation.

Then there is Simon Peter, one of Jesus' most loved disciples.  Being a fisherman by trade and impetuous by nature, Jesus changed his name to Peter (detached stone or rock), in order to pronounce a future foundation that Peter would help establish, something now known as "the church".

Lastly, there is Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee and chief persecutor of Christians.  Jesus met him on the road to Damascus and questioned him about his vengeful behavior.  There Saul was blinded temporarily then sent to a home to recover and await the arrival of Ananias, a man called by God to go to Saul, restore his sight and baptize him as a believer in the one true Son of God.  Not long afterward, Saul began to preach and teach, using the name Paul.  He had truly become a new creation, thus needing a new name.

With each example, an old order had passed away and a new direction or assignment had been given.  Each of these folks left their mark on  history and are still being read about thousands of years later.  Truly, their name change set the tone of who they were to become.

But what about those who tarnish their name?  I thought about that as well.  Satan was once a beautiful angel named Lucifer.  He had all the benefits of Heaven, yet he chose to puff himself up and rebel against a holy God.  Part of his punishment was a name stripping.  No longer would this fallen angel be known as Lucifer, but would now be given a title - Satan, which means adversary.  He was no longer worthy of a meaningful name, but reduced to a title that described his character.

Though we are never stripped of our name, we can tarnish it.  Living in a world where labels run rampant, it does not take much to attach ourselves to something unkind or unbecoming, and it's hard to break out of that label.

The good news is, that there is Someone who can change our name!  Just as He did with each of the above, if we are quick to turn to Him for help and lordship, He is quick to offer us grace and mercy.  Our name becomes entwined with His, and we are marked as righteous (holy, blameless, pure).

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.  To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it." Revelation 2:17

What's in a name?  A whole lot!  "Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.  Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man."