What’s in a Name?

The Word of God is the most important book ever written. Every word on every page is valuable… but what is the purpose behind the long genealogies, the names found in lists of people who were at a certain place or took part in a certain event? Obviously God did not include them simply to add physical weight or length to His Word. And He did not add them so people would stumble over their pronunciation…

Of the many reasons why each name in the Word is included—to teach, to confirm the truth of the happenings, etc.—the one that we will be exploring involves their prophetic meanings.

By Any Other Name:

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a popular quote from William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet, but, while perhaps an agreeable picture, it does not stand wholly true. Because names hold power… both spiritually and physically.

God, as shown by His actions and words, considers names to be important. So important that…

  • God taught us His Names and thereby provided a portion of His character to us.
  • God allowed Adam the authority to name the animals of the earth, giving them in many ways characteristics that remain to this day.
  • God saw fit to include hundreds of names in genealogies, in events, in occupations, etc.
  • God renamed Abram, having him be called instead, Abraham—the name Abram means, “exalted father” or “noble father,” while the name Abraham means, “father of many.”
  • God renamed Sarai, having her be called, Sarah—Sarai means, “princess,” while Sarah means, “mother of nations.”
  • God renamed Jacob, having him be called, Israel—Jacob means, “he who supplants,” while Israel means, “one who has prevailed with God.”
  • God wrote His own name upon the city of Jerusalem.

While only a few examples, these show us that God considers names to be important. Abram’s name was not bad. It meant something good, but it was not going to work in the new season or the new promise. Something had to shift, and by changing Abram’s name to Abraham, something did…

By changing the name to adhere to the promise, not only would Abraham better remember and believe in the promise, but what was being spoken out, even by those who disliked Abraham, would be in alignment with God’s plan.* In other words, every time someone spoke out his new name, the promise was being prophesied out! Who God created him to be was being made known in Heaven, on earth, and in the realm below.

*Not only did the meaning of his name change, but traditionally the letters in words—such as in names—hold numerical value, which in turn have meaning. The prophesying was not limited to the literal meaning of the name, but included the biblical significance of numbers.

“…You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name.”—Isaiah 62:2

With this knowledge it is easier to understand why God includes the names of so many within His Word. Even those of whom only a little is known beyond their name… because God not only wants things and people remembered to honor or admonish them, but because each name speaks more than to that one person. It speaks to the situation, the place, and everyone involved. It speaks to us today, because God chose to have us know each of those names.

Names that Speak:

What we call a person or thing has power. Not only because of the meaning of the name, but by the very breath within us. This breath comes from God… He created us in His image with the ability and authority to speak as He does.

We have the authority to speak into people, and throughout history we have. Through names given at birth, or through names we have given after, each we have used to paint pictures. Pictures that are hard to erase…

The long-used name, “Christ-killers,” is one such example. Despite the New Testament stating clearly that blindness in part happened to the Jews for the salvation of the Gentiles, despite Jesus’ forgiveness, despite the Word stating that God did not intend to have the Church replace the Jews, but graft in to them… for well over 1,600 years the Church has not been shy about blaming the Jews for Jesus’ death. Providing the name “Christ-killers” so that they could steal the God-given inheritance meant for both… thankfully, in the case of this example, the true names and promises given by God to the Jewish people override such horrid names. But such names still hold power. They still serve ungodly purposes.

“Indeed the Lord has proclaimed

to the end of the world:

‘Say to the daughter of Zion,

“surely your salvation is coming;

behold, His reward is with Him,

and His work before Him.”’

And they shall call them The Holy People,

the Redeemed of the Lord…”—Isaiah 62:11-12

Earthly kings and queens have been condensed to the names their subjects or enemies gave them throughout history as well. “Bloody Mary”—Mary I, Queen of England—has largely been remembered by the name given to her by those who opposed her reign. Yet, that name is misleading. After all, compared to the kings and queens who ruled before her, records show that she did not give the death sentence to any more people than they. Yes, there was violence during her reign, there was cruelty, but other rulers had been far worse and none had earned the title of “bloody.”

Names speak, even after the one who bore the name no longer has breath…

Still, these are examples of names that did not come at birth. Indeed, most of the examples explored thus far have been either names changed by God Himself, or false names given by others. But what of birth names?

Before you or I were in our mother’s wombs God knew us (Jeremiah 1:5). Even before we knew Him, He knew us and all we would do. The names we have been given serve a purpose. Though we may not realize it initially.

Click here to get the free 25 Names of Jesus download.

Gifts and callings of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29) and therefore able to be used for good or evil depending on what we do with the free will that God gave us. Likewise, the meanings and purposes behind our names can be used for good or evil, based upon our choices.

Many of the kings of Judah and Israel had names that meant things that could have been used for good, but few actually used them as tools to follow God. For instance, Ahaz was a king who reigned in Jerusalem for sixteen years, his name meaning, “one who seizes, grasps, takes, or possesses.” He could have grasped the hand of God, returning the nation to Him. He could have taken possession of the promises and future promised to those who follow after God. But instead, Ahaz chose to use the promise of his name for wickedness… seizing anything his flesh wanted.

Alternatively, Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, ruled in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His name meaning, “Yahweh strengthens.” Because Hezekiah chose to ignore the ways of his earthly father and follow after his Heavenly Father, the name of Hezekiah was used for good. He was strengthened by Yahweh, for the good of the nation and for himself. He brought down the idols and brought prosperity and peace that only comes through a relationship with God…

Like the kings of Judah and Israel, each of us possess names that prophesy into our lives. But just as Ahaz and Hezekiah each had the ability to choose how and for whom their names would speak, so do we possess that choice. We can choose to keep God first and foremost in our lives, thereby utilizing the prophetic meaning of our names for His good, His glory, and His Kingdom. Or we can choose to put ourselves, our self-interests, and things not of God first and foremost in our lives, thereby failing to not only use the prophetic gift of our names for good, but also scarcely tapping into all we could be or do.

Yes, names are only a part of the equation when it comes to God’s plans and purposes for each of us, but their prophetic role cannot be denied…

Therefore, let us choose to use what God has placed within us for good things, Heavenly things—via our names and all He has for us! Let us follow after our God with passion, speaking life as we go!

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”—Jeremiah 29:11