To Spite Our Face (What’s In a Name. part 6)

The name “Zanoah” means “rejected” (He’s mentioned in passing a couple of times in the Old Testament). Why would one name their son “rejected”? While some of the biblical practices of naming one’s progeny (because I believe it meant so much more then than today) are above my understanding and certainly of another culture than my own, I must confess that I couldn’t bear to walk around with this meaning.

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)

It takes a lot of strength to be able to endure this kind of treatment. Just because Zanoah’s name signifies the same, does that mean he felt it? Or was he in and among situations that caused those that stood by, however otherwise they’d be inclined, to treat him as such? I see names as super dense words. I mean when you think about it.

The verse from Isaiah is referring to Jesus. For a time, when you look at Him, all you see is the scars and the toll that sin had upon Him. If you endeavor to look through that–which necessarily includes acknowledging the rejection and the hate and the sin–you’ll see Him as He is. And your vision will only grow as you build upon that foundation.

“The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain.” (2 Timothy 1:16, emphasis mine)

Paul writing to Timothy. I think about the last part of this verse. If you know someone who has written about them, an air of being rejected, take some time to comfort them and rewrite it. You have that ability, whatever your name. I firmly believe that God allows people to go through a phase of rejection and misunderstanding so that they would see what the Lord (whose name means “God is salvation”) was willing to go through on their behalf. And then help others to do the same. Onesiphorus, the man who “sought [Paul] out very diligently and found [him]” (2 Timothy 1:17), his name means “bearing dignity”. It would seem he knew how to live out his definition.

Think about the name God uses to call you. This is something my dad told me a long time ago. That God has a name for you no one else knows. How else is He able to get your attention? With a word. Something spoken that you respond to because it corresponds with you. And so, the upside of being named “rejected” would be that one was able, throughout their life, to share in the sufferings of Christ.

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.” (Philippians 1:29-30)

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Non-Anonymous (What’s In a Name. part 5)

Near as I can tell

“But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” (Hebrews 2:6)

The writer of Hebrews is speaking of David though they don’t identify him by name (see Psalm 8:4-5). The writer of Hebrews doesn’t identify themselves, either. And while it’s comforting to know who penned the Word of God–the very words that we have been given to reorient our thinking in this world–it’s not necessary, I guess. While I’m not a professional theologian or Bible scholar, the tenor of the epistle seems to flow in line with the other things Paul wrote. But since it doesn’t explicitly say, I suppose it’s not my place to wrangle and wrestle out some answer where none is provided.

But look at what they’re quoting. That’s where it’s at. They (Hey, it could’ve been a woman who wrote it. I’ve heard that argument.) are reiterating the astonishment of David that God would take notice of us. That He would essentially stoop to our level to see how things were going, maybe die for us if need be. And I don’t mean to be flippant, need was. “Though the Lord be High, yet hath He respect unto the lowly…” (Psalm 138:6a)

The son of man that thou visitest him…

With that word “visitest comes the idea that God is inspecting, selecting, looking out for, watching. The same idea is expressed in the story of the Prodigal Son. Where Jesus speaks of the Father waiting and watching for His child to return.”And he arose, and came to his Father. But when he was yet a great way off, his Father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.” (Luke 15:22) We’re not anonymous to God. It’s when we dwell on the goodness of God to seek us out, one by one, and establish a one-on-one relationship with us that we see the enormity of the Call. Let alone the fact that He made us in the first place.

“For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.” (Isaiah 45:4)

This is God speaking to King Cyrus, letting him know that even though he subscribed to a different pantheon, and didn’t know the God of the Hebrews at all, that wasn’t going to stop God from calling him out by name, using him for His purposes, and naming him (an additional name is the connotation in the Hebrew). The name Cyrus essentially means “sun king”. “King Cyrus” is almost redundant–or resplendent, depending on how you look at it. Point is, God is working through him to secure a stable future for His kids. He says the same thing to His children in Isaiah 43:1, “I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.”

As far as I can tell

“He telleth the number of the stars; He calleth them all by their names.” (Psalm 147:4)

God is an individual who has taken pains to re-reveal Himself to the world. Not just through His Son, but through the Body of Christ.

“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building.” (Hebrews 9:11)

Here, the writer of Hebrews is referring to Jesus establishing “the temple of His body” (John 2:21). As the letter to the Hebrews is essentially a guidebook on transferring from one Covenant to another, from an outward dwelling of God, to an indwelling by the Spirit, it’s fitting that the author would refer to Christ forming a place “not made with hands”, i.e. something that God Himself has made. And while the writer of Hebrews says God put us “over the works of Thy hands”, the building “not made with hands” is talking about our spirit. The essence of who we are minus our body. It’s who God sees first when He looks at us. It’s who He uses, anonymous or not, to get His business done in this world. How many times do you interact with people who don’t know your name? Who don’t know you from Adam? I would say a lot of our human-to-human interaction takes place without learning one’s name. And as we represent God, essentially symbolizing Him to the world at large, it’s Him who we’re meant to leave an impression of. Anonymous or not.

John says “No man hath seen God at any time” (1:18). Granted, there are places in the Bible where God speaks to people face-to-face (Moses, Jacob, Job, etc.) and that’s true. But I believe what John’s referring to is our being able to precisely define His features as we would any human being. That’s something that Jesus had to stand in for.

“Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship Him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship HIm must worship Him in Spirit and in truth.” (John 4:24)

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew Himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward Him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)

God calls us by name. A name that He thought up and that fits us perfectly. It’s our place, now, to respond.

Far From the Tree (What’s in a Name. part 3)

How much insight can one glean or gain regarding someone–from their name alone? As most names have a positive definition we’d do well to know what they mean for us. It’s what your parents had in mind prior to releasing you into the world. With many of the biblical figures, their Hebrew definitions are pretty straightforward.

I’m thinking of Jonah. An eminently Hebrew name, it literally means “dove” and its understandable how some character traits inherent in his name would tell as to why he’d respond to God’s command the way he did: by running away.

Look at a dove. Hopefully there are doves where you live. There are near me. The thing about doves–in this case mourning doves–is their sensitivity. They waddle around looking none the wiser. Trust me, they know you’re there and when they take off after you’ve gotten too close, it’s a cacophony of coos and calls and a flash of feathers. Altogether unlike the aloof way they present themselves to the rest of the world. If you dig deeper into the origin of the name “Jonah” or “yownah“, it’s from the same root word as “wine” and implies the expanding fermentation process. The correlation between “dove” and “wine”, in this case, is “heat” (the doves’ warmth during mating, you see). This is why Jesus says that you must put “new wine into new bottles” (Matthew 9:17). Because the fermentation expansion will break open an old, dry wineskin. Have you ever felt that way? Like you’re ready to burst from whatever’s going on inside? I have, many a time.

“For I am full of matter, the spirit within me constraineth me. Behold, my belly is as wine which hath not vent; it is ready to burst like new bottles” (Job 32:18) Says Elihu to Job. “Burst like new bottles” you say?

I suspect Jonah had a problem with his temper, as evinced by the dove-like sensitivity coupled with the emotional “fermentation” tendency that he showed. After God spared Nineveh through Jonah’s warning, Jonah still harbored anger and resentment for whatever reason. Who knows? God asks him in the fourth verse of the fourth chapter: “Doest thou well to be angry?” Sometimes, that’s all we can do. Feeling like no one understands what’s going on inside of us. Trust me, God knows. And any input, any “matter” that is causing contention and confusion–inner turmoil–is not from God. God had a job for Jonah, which he in turn barely performed. We leave off with his little book and he still in his tantrum phase. But doesn’t he see the conversational relationship he shares with his heavenly Father? I digress…

And thank God we have Jonah’s anthroponomastic etymology from which to glean these insights. Look at the definition of Jonah’s father’s name “Amittai”: “veracious (i.e. truthful), stability, trustworthiness, certainty, firmness” and an outlying connotation of “turning to the right hand” (so says Strong’s Concordance). Cut and dry. Just try living up to that without any encouragement.

“For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7)

Paul writes Timothy and tells him not to be afraid. “Timothy”, or “Timotheus” means “dear to God” from the Greek. There had to be a reason why Paul would open his second letter with this gentle admonition. In the next verse, he tells him to “be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord.” These things resonate with me because two things I’ve encountered in my life are an inordinate inner sensitivity (I think) and a severe case of existential doubt stemming from maternal abandonment. Oh don’t worry, I’ve overcome all of that (with God’s help of course) but without these verses and the lessons therein, I don’t know how else I could have overcome. I suppose I could’ve pulled myself up by my own bootstraps, but that’s un-Christlike. And even though my name’s “Joshua” meaning “God is salvation”, there’s a time where I wasn’t living up to that definition. I think the same could be said for Tim. Those two negative character traits don’t lend themselves to the confident expounding of Jesus’ Gospel, you know. Toward the end of his first letter to him, Paul tells Timothy to “drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach’s sake and thine often infirmities.” (5:23, emphasis mine) Who knows what that refers to, it certainly doesn’t sound pleasant. I don’t know why, but every time I think of “Timothy”, I think of “timorous” which essentially means “afraid”. Different roots, opposite definitions, similar sounds, oh well.

Timothy’s parentage yields interesting insight as well (the Bible has a thing for genealogies):

“When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois (meaning either warrior, or most beautiful, both sound good to me), and thy mother Eunice (meaning victorious, same root as unique); and I am persuaded that in thee also.” (2 Timothy 1:5)

One of the ways to succeed is to have the right kind of people encouraging you to become who you’re meant to be so you can do what you’re called to do. And maybe Jonah didn’t have this because God certainly showed great patience in spite of Jonah’s pissyness. I’ve been there. Fortunately, for me, it was both God and my dad. My dad’s name is Charlie, which means “manly” by the way. So, yeah.

And thanks to Arie Uitenbogaard for help with the name “Lois”!

Naming Names (What’s in a Name. part 2)

Namensvetter

A German word if ever there was one. Literally translated as “name cousin”. It’s interesting how other languages have one word for a concept that takes at least two in English. I’m sure it goes back and forth. Where English has other languages beat is in the synonym department. A dozen words with such subtle distinctions as to render the foreign language speaker lost in a sea of same differences. Language is a fascinating phenomenon. And when it says “name cousin”, it means a person or thing that shares the same name as someone, or something, else.

Even the word noun. That part of speech that’s used to describe a “person, place or thing” comes from the same word as “name”. “Name’s” “name cousin”.

So, my name’s Josh. Short for Joshua. Incidentally, Joshua is the Greek form of Yeshua, which as you may know, is Hebrew for Jesus. You’ve no doubt heard the phrase “just joshing you”? The phrase originates from the late eighteen-hundreds where one Josh Tatum, a deaf/mute young man, got the bright idea to cover nickels in gold alloy and pass them off as five-dollar coins. He did quite well for himself until he was caught. And thus the phrase was born. I’m pretty sure that my namesake is deeper than that. Hopefully it has nothing to do with the phrase that essentially means to joke around and be generally inane. Don’t get me wrong, I love to be sarcastic and silly. But when it comes to choosing my appellation, that which is the overarching definition of who I am and what I represent by my given name, I’d like to identify myself with the original origin. Joshua means “God is salvation”. And boy, am I far from perfect (but that’s beside the point).

Whenever we call someone by their name, we are essentially repeating a word that contains the definition of its sound. What is your name? What does it mean? Is it positive? It should be. Have you ever thought about just what goes out into the ether whenever your name is spoken? We’d do well to strive to live up to what we have that defines who we are. What’s in a name? It’s more powerful than we know.

“But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.” (Isaiah 43:1, emphasis mine) God is salvation. God is everything His name says He is. God is everything that Jesus showed Him to be. That’s why He has that name. Because God saves.

Names are funny. Sure you can study linguistics and etymology and discover the meanings and origins of the words we use. Cite the similarities from other languages and reverse engineer the language you speak all the way back to its Indo-European roots. And further. But names are a different story. The study of names however–the proper names of people, is called Anthroponomastics. Yay!

The second chapter of Song of Solomon, first verse, opens with “I am the rose of Sharon”. Jesus is that rose. His name is all that’s needed to bring all the power of Heaven to bear for your life. And this is why it’s important to know Jesus. Not just “Christ”. His name is Jesus, “Christ” simply means “King” in Greek. Of course, He’ll answer to both, but you’re on a first name basis now…

Juliet asks,

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Not with Jesus though: “for there is none other name under Heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

What’s In a Name. (What’s In a Name. part 1)

Not a question.

Consider this amazing statement of David’s (Psalm 138:2): “I will worship toward Thy holy temple, and praise Thy name for Thy lovingkindness and for Thy truth:” listen, “for Thou hast magnified Thy word above all Thy name.”

What more imperative do we need to make the study of God’s word one of the most important things we can do for our life? God gives us His word in a concerted master stroke over the centuries and then it culminates in the revelation of Jesus Christ. As a person. As the living word. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) The whole “disposing thereof” is airtight.

What are some of the things in the Bible that describe the importance of understanding, not only the words contained therein, but also the importance of knowing the Living Word? Because, let’s face it: “the letter killeth” (2 Corinthians 3:6). And before I go any further, what Paul is saying here to the Corinthians is that the law is the law. What it says, goes. The law of God as handed down to the Israelites through Moses was immutable. There was no way around it, in other words. Even worse: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all“, says James (2:10, emphasis mine). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) The Old Testament law is what holiness looks like when put on paper. All of the inherent messiness of human existence is, in a sense, not taken into account one whit. Because of original sin, it’s not perfect—not even close. Therefore God must judge. This is why, from a very narrow, almost selfish perspective, it’s so remarkable that God would even lift a finger to help the Israelites out of their predicament(s), time and again. Same goes for us. Because God is holy, we are not. And this stringent, strict holiness is what Jesus walked in perfectly for thirty-plus years. I’m digressing, I know, and I will digress a touch more when I say that, in my opinion, Jesus’ ministry of grace and of the interior began when He received the full measure of the Holy Spirit at His baptism in the river Jordan (see Matthew 3:16). All digressions aside, in order to understand what it means to have the entire revealed law of God be not only, “above Thy name” as David says in Psalms, but also contained in Jesus as the Living Word, necessarily takes the Holy Spirit. The spirit of the law. That’s what Paul is saying. “Who (God) also hath made us able ministers of the new testament (grace, after what Jesus did for us); not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” (2 Corinthians 3:6, emphasis mine) It’s the same Holy Spirit who Jesus was baptized with at Jordan. It’s the same Holy Spirit who is symbolized as flowing, like water from Jesus’ side when He was pierced by the spear as He hung on the cross (John 19:34). And it’s the same Holy Spirit who’s there with you whenever you study your Bible. And “it’s” not a thing. He’s a person with feelings, agency, will, and above all, the same qualities as both the Father and the Son, yet without a body. Wrap your mind around this: you are His body. “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16) We’d do well if we never, ever forgot this ever again…

So, what are those things contained in the Bible that show the importance of what I asked earlier? The answer is whatever the Holy Spirit wants to emphasize for your life. Simple as that. Just ask.

“But the comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26, emphasis mine) When we submit to the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit, we are taught by the best.

“But go ye and learn what that meaneth…” (Matthew 9:13)