What’s in a name

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” (William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, II, ii, 1-2)

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In our society, the meaning of names is often times irrelevant. Is it popular? Does it flow well with the middle and last name? In fact, as a joke, someone told me to practice yelling the entire name to see if it had a good feel or if I stumbled over saying it since I would inevitably be yelling it at some point. Likewise, when naming siblings, do the names go well together?

In Biblical times, names held a great deal of weight. They weren’t just a title to identify the person, but a word spoken to their character. In scripture the same is true for the names of God. They are promises and pictures of His character—a snapshot of a piece of who He is. In a Google search, one site had over 900 names listed for God. God would reveal Himself in different ways, showing another piece of His infinitely complex character, revealing another name to His people—a promise they could stand on as they developed a knowledge of God, both as a revelation and as a personal relationship.

But what it boils down to is that God’s character is always faithful and ultimately good. Not good as the world defines, but the perfect completion of virtue and righteousness. We are inherently unable to be good. Thankfully, God ensured a way to know Him despite our shortcomings. We are made completely righteous through Jesus—through knowing Him and having a relationship with Him.

After the resurrection, there was an incident of two men walking on the road to Emmaus. Jesus appeared to them, but the Bible tells us that “their eyes were restrained, so they did not know Him.” (Luke 24:16, emphasis mine) Later, upon breaking bread and blessing the meal, “Their eyes were opened and they knew Him.” (Luke 24:31, emphasis mine) The word used for “know” in both of these instances is epiginosko. Ginosko means to be known (obviously seeing how it was translated), but more than that it is to have knowledge gained by personal experience. It’s not just facts and figures, it’s intimate. The prefix epi is used as an intensifier.

These men didn’t just know about Jesus, but they had lived life with Him. They walked with Him, learned from Him, ate meals with Him. They were friends with Him. When their eyes were opened, I believe that they were able to see the fullness of who Jesus was (and is still today).

The same can be true for us. As we study Scripture and learn the names of God, He is faithful to reveal His character to us. We are able to know (epiginosko) who He is and trust Him because, ultimately, God is only good.

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