What's in a Name?



What’s in a Name?
Text: Isaiah 42: 8 “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.”
Matthew 1: 21 “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS, for he shall save his people from their sins.”
Key verse: Acts 4: 12 “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
          William Shakespeare once said that “a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet.” or words to that effect.  Perhaps he was asking; anyway, it doesn’t matter. His point was that names are unimportant. He was wrong.
          On June 26, 2002 Judge Thomas Goodwin of the 9th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in San Francisco handed down a decision that said using the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance amounted to an unconstitutional government endorsement of religion. As terrible as this decision was, it was not as bad as the way many people tried to defend the words, saying that each person could think of whatever god he or she chose, and apply those words accordingly. You could think of Buddha, or Allah, or even the sun god or fish god if you wish. One god is as good as any other. This is how we defend our Christian heritage? Does the god we worship, or the name of our god really matter? I believe it does. 
          In Old Testament times, people were given names that described who they were, who their parents hoped they would be, or that described events surrounding their birth: After Cain killed Abel, effectively leaving Adam and Eve without a son, a third son was born to them, and they named him Seth, which means “compensation”(Gen. 4: 25). When Hannah prayed for a son, God heard her prayer and gave her a son, and she named him Samuel, which means “heard of God”(I Sam. 1: 20). When the Philistines took the Ark of the Covenant from Isreal, the daughter-in-law of the High Priest named her son Ichabod, which means inglorious, or, “the Glory has Departed”.
          Names of people are important to God as well. Many people had their name changed by God. Abram (a lofty father) was changed to Abraham (father of many nations). Jacob (deceiver, supplanter) was changed to Israel (a prince of God). Jesus changed the name of Simon (a common name with little or no meaning) to Peter ( a stone; John 1: 42; Peter and Cephas mean the same).
          In marriage, the bride takes on the name of the groom, signifying that she is no longer an independent person, but is now a part of her husband. (...they two shall be one...Eph. 5: 31).
           If the names of people are important to God, do you think that the name of God should be imprtant to us? Just as the names of people represent who they are, the name of God does even more so. Each name given for God, from LORD God, (Jehovah) in Genesis 2: 4 to “Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending... which is , and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” in Revelation, is descriptive of who God is, and, from the beginning, each name was more descriptive than the one before, as God revealed more of himself to mankind. 
          When God fulfilled his ultimate plan for our salvation, and took on the form of a man, he gave that man the name Jesus, which means “ Jehovah has become our Salvation”. When we refer to the Lord Jesus Christ, what we are saying is “God our Saviour, the annointed one”. 
          Is the name important? Absolutely! When Peter and John healed the lame man at the gate called Beautiful, the Jews asked “by what power or by what name have you done this?” (Acts 4: 7). Jesus said we would be “...hated of all nations for my name’s sake.” (Matt. 24: 9).   Finally, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: ... Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name that is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in Earth, and things under the Earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phillipians 2: 5, 9- 11)
          Don’t be ashamed to wear His name and to proclaim it to the world!
Food for thought:
  Try to remeber a time when someone important to you forgot your name.
  Contemplate how you would feel if someone that you had given or given up everything for refused to acknowledge your name.

This lesson is adapted from "What's in a name?" study for small groups,  by James Colegrove Sr., copyright 2002

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