My daily proverb reading has turned up an interesting verse, one that seems timely, given the message last week. Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” If you haven’t listened to Pastor Brad’s podcast from 7/11, check it out, here. He talks about names and what they might mean. In the past, names connoted a person’s identity, he said. I disagree – I think they still do.
There are names you would never think to name your child. Readers recoiled in horror at the cake decorating incident last year, where the parents of Aryan Nation and Adolf Hitler were surprised that the Shop-Rite Bakery refused to personalize their children’s cakes. Obviously, the three-year-old Adolf was not to blame for the Holocaust, but the choice his parents made for him will have some pretty obvious repurcussions. A good name, as the proverb points out, is worth more than great riches. Good names are more than a pleasing collection of letters; we give children names that mean something, at least, my opinion is that we should. I like to use family names — names that connect us to a rich past, names of godly men and women who have gone before and blazed a spiritual trail. What I’m hoping for, is that my children will seek to live up to their names.
In the traditional South Indian culture, their caste becomes part of their name, as does their place in the family, for instance, according to this tradition, I would be something like Herdejurgen-Kristin-Lower Middle-Class, only, it’s not that simple, think… much more complex. But essentially, what naming like that does is to pinpoint exactly where in society one belongs. I’m born into this family, my given name is based in religion and I am identified by my social class. This name says, “you can only come so far, and that’s it.” The name is powerful because it creates a person’s identity. I am fond of saying language, in this case, my name, is consitutive. It makes me – I have to describe myself using language, and what is the first descriptive word I use for myself? My name.
What I find fascinating is that “God” is a title, and not a name. As Pastor Brad mentioned in the sermon, Moses wanted very badly to know God’s name. The Hebrew language, when written as the Bible is, has no vowels, so, the name of God looks something like YHWH – I watched a Nooma video that discusses that further, so, if you have time, check out Rob Bell’s video titled, “Breathe” – the name of God, when pronounced, he says, sounds like a breath and the word for breath is the same as is used for “spirit.” My interpretation of that is that when God breathed life into Adam, he was infusing Adam with his very spirit and being – his own Holy name. That isn’t to say that Adam became holy in that moment, something divine, but that God dwelt with him.
The Bible tells us that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:32). That name, the one that is above all other names (Philippians 2:9) is the only one by which we can find salvation (Acts 4:12). In order to be saved, that name must be on our lips, and that name must reside in us. I have often turned a name over in my mind, played it across my lips, questioned its feasibility on a person, combinations of sounds and imagined its teasing potential. God had more to consider when choosing the name of his son – Jesus – The Lord is our Savior (Matthew 1:21), Immanuel – God with Us (Matthew 1:23). His name speaks his purpose. That name does more than identify him, his name kept his father’s will always before him. There is no better name than THAT name, worth more than all the riches of the world, a name that does not just identify him, but a name to sanctify us.
If I have a good name, it is because my life is lived as a testament to THAT name. May my actions proclaim the goodness of THAT name that has the power to create, to heal and to save.