A few weeks ago it seemed to me that God gave me the topic for last Sunday. It was something I’d been thinking about for a while and tied in to my quest to understand how God works through us today. That weekend I spent the afternoon looking into the name of Jesus and wrote down some of my thoughts. It was only on Saturday before I was to speak that I got the revelation that put it all together.
In the previous installment I pointed out how the meaning of Jesus name, Yahweh Saves, sums up the gospel and the reason why we can wear His name. This became even clearer to me as I saw how the pattern was woven between the old and new testaments to bring the message to completion. To set this up I need to go back and do what I didn’t think I had time for at last writing. I need to provide at least a little background on the significance of naming.
The giving of a name indicates authority. This is illustrated in several accounts in the Old Testament where Kings changed the name of their subjects, but we’ll focus on the instances where god did the naming. In so doing we will address another aspect of naming, meaning. Even today, most of our names have a meaning. We generally don’t choose names that way anymore, but especially since many of them have Biblical roots, a bit of research will turn up a definition. We are more likely to choose a name because we just like the sound of it or because we want to honor a relative. In ancient times a name often reflected the circumstances under which a child was born or something of meaning to the parents. After all, if we go back far enough there isn’t’ a lot of family around to draw from.
Here are some examples of authority and meaning in names we all know well. Abraham was born Abram. Yahweh (not yet known as Yahweh) called Abram out of his country to make a nation of him and set his grand plan in motion (Gen 12:1-3.) Though he and his wife were childless God changed his name to Abraham, which means Father of a Multitude. He also changed Abraham’s wife’s name to Sarah, meaning princess. Because they laughed at the idea that they should conceive a child in their old age, God gave them the name of their son, Isaac, meaning he laughs (Gen 17-18.)
Now who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? Can you imagine this elderly, childless couple calling across the field to one another, “Father Of A multitude!” “Yes Princess?” How must that have amused those around them even as the idea amused them? Then God delivers the ultimate “I told ya so” by calling their son He Laughs.
We see another illustration of prophetic meaning in Jacob. He was born holding on to the heel of his twin brother and thus was named one who takes by the heel or supplants (Gen 25:26.) Jacob would indeed supplant his brother Esau, taking from him his birth right and his father’s blessing (Gen 27.) Why it is that God worked through such a situation is another subject that I don’t think I will understand as long as I live here, but I think it is yet another example that shows us how far God is willing to go and just who he is willing to save. In the next chapter of Genesis Jacob gets his new name. After wrestling with the angel of God all night, he is given the name Israel, Strives with God. This is his story and the story of his nation throughout its history. Yet God will redeem His people. It is a fitting name for all of those who will be saved through the name of Jesus.
Now we come to the name of God. Herein is the wondrous beginning and end of the story. When He appeared to Moses in the burning bush and instructed Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt, Moses asked His name. Here’s that bit of the conversation.
Ex 3:13-15: 13 Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.”
Note the change in verse 15 from the translation of His name to the capital letters LORD. This quirk of modern translation comes from the overzealous application of the commandment not to take His name in vain by Jewish scholars. Yet it is clear from the context of scripture that this extreme caution did not originate in ancient Israel. Nations far and wide knew the name of Yahweh. Today it is relatively unknown. Many passages in the Old Testament will make much more sense when read with this understanding.
There can be no better description of God than that which He chose in his name. He is outside of any reality we can ever comprehend. He defines what reality is. He simply is; no other explanation can do Him justice. Yet we would like to have that thought completed. He is what? The entirety of scripture is dedicated to giving us that answer. Books have been written around the various names given to follow I AM.
Yet one stands out among the others. It is the name He gave to his only son. It is the ultimate completion to the question. Read what the angel told Joseph.
Matt 1:21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Jesus’ name is the Greek rendition of the Hebrew Yeshua, meaning Yahweh Saves or Yahweh is Salvation. See how God took something we view as almost trivial, (until it’s our name) to provide a powerful illustration of His plan for mankind! The name of Jesus is so special and so wonderful not primarily for the authority given to us through it, but because it shows us the reason why relationship with Yahweh is even possible (Luke 10:17-20.) Consider also Peter’s words, as he responded to the religious authorities who questioned by what name a miracle had just been performed.
Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
Whose name is it? Just in case there should be any doubt, let me show you a couple of places where the connection is made between the name of Yahweh and the name of Jesus. Both instances quote the Old Testament prophet, Joel.
The first reference comes from Acts chapter 2. One might call this the official launch of the church. The quote is taken from Joel 2:28-32 and begins at verse 17. The second is Romans 10:13. This is part of a passage well known to many Christians. It was probably read to you when you were saved. Look first at the excerpt from Joel 2:32 below and see if you make the connection. Remember what we learned about the rendition of God’s name in the Old Testament.
Joel 2:32: “And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD will be delivered…
Rom 10:9-13 9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13 for “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”
From this we can see that the name of the Lord is Yahweh and that the name of the Lord is also Jesus. It is the name of Jesus given to us by which we believe and are redeemed. In the very meaning of that name is the entire story of the Gospel and God’s relationship to man. I hope this strengthens your faith as much as it did mine. What started as a rather cynical attempt to call out those who profane it by using it for their own purposes became something so much better. I have been reminded of the true power behind Jesus name and the source of life to be found in His word in the Bible. If you have yet to make the decision to follow Him, I hope that this will encourage you to know more than His name. He made the ultimate sacrifice because He loves you and wants you to know Him completely. In a book that is itself miraculous, having been written over millennia and assembled by mere men yet all fitting together to proclaim His message, He has given us the path to life. Don’t wait any longer! Accept the truth! Call on the name of Jesus. Give yourself to Him and be saved.