Importance of Names

Featuring Worshipedia Posted on May 14, 2010

In biblical thought, a name is more than a designation differentiating persons or things. A person‘s name encompasses his complete identity, reputation, and character and refers to his whole self or person. In the Scripture, the phrase my name is often used in place of I or me, and his name means him. Thus, the Lord assures Moses that his name will be in the angel who goes before Israel, meaning that the Lord himself will be present (Exodus 23:20-21). When God‘s people are commanded to praise the name of the Lord, they are in fact being told to praise the Lord himself. The sanctuary is the place where the Lord causes his name to dwell (Deuteronomy 12:11), or establishes his name (Deuteronomy 16:6; 26:2), which is to say that his people may worship there in his presence. 

One‘s character is known by one‘s name. Nabal‘s reputation with his wife was reflected in his name, which meant fool (1 Samuel 25:25). Jacob‘s name, supplanter, was descriptive of a life-style (Genesis 27:36), until the Lord changed his name with the idea that his behavior would be modified accordingly. Even much later, in New Testament times, a person‘s name might be changed at a significant turn in his or her life. Jesus gave Simon the new name of Cephas (Aramaic) or Peter (Greek), meaning rock, when he first met him (John 1:42) and again when he became the first to acclaim Jesus as the Christ (Matthew 16:13–20). Saul became Paul, exchanging his Jewish for his Roman name, when he changed from a persecutor to a preacher of the gospel. In making a covenant with Israel, Yahweh first revealed his name to Moses as an indicator of his character in the covenant relationship. The term God is not really a name but a title, describing the office that Yahweh holds. 

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