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Lessons From Animals--"Names"

"You shall not misuse the Name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His Name."
Exodus 20:7


If you've been tracking this series of articles, you've probably already caught the names of my two cats: Sneezy and Squawker. Aside from being unorthodox names (then again, is there such a thing as an "orthodox cat name"?), the genius of their names is that you know, immediately, their personalities. When I first adopted Sneezy, he had a terrible cold, and was constantly sneezing. Even after he recovered from the cold, the sneeze stayed with him--get him purring long enough, and he'll inevitably let out a messy nose twitch. Squawker was named before I even got him home from the Humane Society--he simply was, and still is, a noisy cat!

I'm being VERY patient...What's in a name? It's interesting to me how we name our children before they're born--we don't even know them yet! We don't know who they are! Not every culture does this. Even Biblically, the process of naming children was approached differently. In the Bible, a name was an important thing--it was either an aspect of who that person will become, or it related to a circumstance of their birth.

For example, when God told Abraham and Sarah--ages 100 and 90, respectively--that they would have a child, their reaction was understandable: they laughed. God, whose sense of humor often seems as boundless as His power, essentially responded by saying, "Fine, you wanna laugh? Name the child Isaac." Isaac means, "he laughs." And when Isaac was born, Abraham and Sarah were all too happy to name him "He Laughs"--because now they were laughing for a different reason. Sarah says it best: "God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me" (Genesis 21:6). Even Abraham's name has purpose: originally, he was named Abram, which means "Father is Exalted." This was not good enough for God, however, who renames him Abraham--"Father of a Multitude." This was God's promise to Abraham--Abraham's name invoked God's Covenant.

In the eyes of God, our name is an important element of our identity. It's not just what we are called, but who we are--our very character. The third of the Ten Commandments, "Do not misuse the name of the Lord", is significant far beyond the commonly held assumption of swearing. If we understand that Biblically, in God's eyes, a name denotes character and circumstance, then we also understand that when we accept God's Name, we accept His character and circumstance. And as the command states, that is not something to be taken lightly.

Many scholars speculate that when the word "Christian" first crept up in Antioch, it was used in ridicule--"little Christs". The early Church accepted that name, though, with pride--"Yes, we try to be like Christ!" Henceforth, a Christian became a person whose behavior and speech was like Christ. This, too, is not something to be taken lightly. As Christians, when people look at us, they should see a representation of Christ. Paul tells us, "We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us" (2 Corinthians 5:20). Suddenly, a name becomes gravely important.

Even this very website has accepted a name that represents the character and circumstance of those who read it: Rely On Christ--the ROC. It is what we do: we rely on Christ. It is who we are: a people who rely on Christ. It is a recognition of who God is: He is the Rock (Deuteronomy 32:4, Isaiah 26:4). If to be a Christian means to be a "little Christ", then perhaps we could also say that to be a follower of the Lord means to be a "little Rock"--to be a ROC, one who Relies On Christ.

That's what's in a name: character, circumstance, acceptance, responsibility. Hey, meet me at the ROC…and together, we'll discover what it means to rely on Christ.


 In Christ,


--Pastor Dan 


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