Prayer for the day
In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice; early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you.
Scripture for the day
Have you noticed that we don’t really attribute meaning to names anymore? Unless of course you’re a celebrity, in which case you invest strange and sometimes incomprehensible meanings in the names of your children. But we ordinary folk eschew all that highfalutin “meaning” and stick to ordinary names. Particularly in North America, we name things either what they are, or we pick something that sounds nice.
Not so in the Bible. The First Testament passage for today speaks of Sukkoth, El Elohe Israel, El Bethel, Allon Bakuth, Israel, Bethel, Ben-Oni, and Benjamin. Our Second Testament passage lists the names of the twelve disciples, some with epithets and some without. What is it about these Hebrews that makes names so important?
For much of the Ancient Near East, naming a place or a person had incredible power.
1. The power of memory
When you don’t write down much, and you’re a nomad, it’s important to be able where things happened and why. That knowledge was able to be passed on when a place bore a memorable and descriptive name.
2. The power of identity
When we share a name or bestow a name, we are sharing or bestowing a part of ourselves. In the Ancient Near East, that was to bestow power on the listener. Once I hear your name, once I know it, I hold some portion of power over you.
3. The power of experience
Our ability to name a thing, an object, a place, or a person, allows us to name an experience of that thing etc. As Wittgenstein said, “the limits of my language are the limits of my world.”
With these three kinds of power conferred, it makes sense that naming would be a sacred act in the Ancient Near East. But what about today? Do names still carry meaning?
There are several names that carry significant weight in the Scriptures. The most obvious examples are the name of God (YHWH) and the name of the Son of God (Yeshua or Jesus). But there are a few more names that bear thinking about. Names given to people who belong to this God.
Names like Son. Daughter. Brother. Sister. Beloved.
When we belong to God, we are assigned these names, and these names are able to overcome the names we used to bear. Names like Unwanted. Un-Cared-For. Undesirable. Unloved.
Know then that as you have been accepted by God, your name has changed. And revel in the newness of being Beloved.