What’s In a Name?
Names have always fascinated me: first names, last names, nicknames. For many people, their last name may have been derived from the job or trade an ancestor performed generations ago. When a child is named by its parents that name could be based on a favorite Bible character, a favorite friend or relative, or a name that has been in the family for many generations. Then there are the nicknames, or names by which one might commonly be known to close friends. Nicknames are often a variation of one’s first name, last name, or just something silly that matches an individual’s personality. Through the years, as I have paid attention to various names, I have known of a football player named Tee, a golfer named Chip, a weatherman named Winter, and a preacher whose last name was Bible. I also knew a preacher named Boring, but let’s not get into that here!
Most of us, I’m sure, have noted how names in the Bible have significance and meaning. Some are strong and powerful: Joshua (Jehovah is my salvation), Daniel (God is my judge), Ezekiel (God is my strength) and Zedekiah (Jehovah is my righteousness). Some are less flattering though, like Jacob (scoundrel, cheat) or Nabal (fool, foolish). Then of course there is the youngest son of Jacob. His mother Rachel named him Ben-oni (son of my sorrow) because she was dying in childbirth. Jacob wisely changed his name to Benjamin (son of my right hand). After all, who wants to go through life named, “I caused my mother’s death?” The name Abimelech means “my father is/was king.” Whether Gideon named him this or Abimelech changed his original name, it certainly reflects some unauthorized political ambitions.
All of this is to simply show that names mean something. Names show a connection, an affinity or a relationship, and names can often reveal personality or inner character. So what of our names, spiritually speaking, today? I’m not talking about what name we might happen to put on a sign outside our meeting place. I am talking about the name we wear that indicates our relationship with God; the name by which others might know us or even call us when they think of who we are spiritually. Christian? Saint? Believer? A part of the Way?
Peter refers to the name Christian in 1 Peter 4:16 and admonishes us to “glorify God in this name.” While many scholars believe this may have originally been used as a term of derision, the word “called” in Acts 11:26 frequently refers to divine communication or ordination. Sadly, today the name Christian often means nothing more than a citizen of a country who is not Jewish or Muslim. Literally it means “that which belongs to or pertains to Christ.” It is not something to be taken lightly or casually. Like a family name or a given name, it shows a peculiar and distinctive relationship. In similar fashion the term “saint” shows a relationship, but it also should reveal personality or inner character. The word means “holy one; one sanctified and separated.” While perhaps not a proper name, saint was a term used in reference to Christians, followers of Jesus. Ananias used it this way in Acts 9:13 and Paul often addressed his letters to those who were “called saints” (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2). Do we wear these names in a manner befitting their meanings, or do we simply wear them ceremonially?
If we truly live our lives reflecting the names we wear spiritually, there is another name that awaits us. This is a name which will be given to us by God and by which we will be known to God. In Revelation 2, as the Lord encourages the saints at Pergamum to be faithful and overcome, He references this new name. “To him who overcomes…I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (2:17). In Revelation 3, to the saints in Philadelphia, a similar promise is made. “He that overcomes…I will write upon him the name of my God…and my own new name.” This is likely a reference to Isaiah 56:1-5, where God tells His people of the blessings which await those who are faithful and righteous. “Unto them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name….” (Isaiah 56:5).
We may be known by many different names and titles to friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors, but we must always conduct ourselves as those who belong to Christ. We must live like He lived. As saints we should not only consider ourselves separated from the world, but we should behave and live daily as citizens of a heavenly kingdom. Our name means something, and if we hope to receive a new name, an everlasting name from our God and Savior, we will remember this fact on a daily basis.
Strength from the Psalms
The poetry of the Old Testament has always held a special appeal for me. I am certain that a large part of that appeal has been due to my enjoyment of poetry as a style of writing Through sound patterns, imagery, structure and metaphor, the poet is able to combine his words into a musical language that has an intensity not found in other types of literature. The Psalms employ these characteristics to convey some of the deepest emotions of the human heart and are as beautiful as the poetry of any nation.
Eventually, however, I gained an appreciation for the Hebrew poetry that is much deeper than its literary style. I realized much more fully that the Psalms should be viewed as practical Scripture to apply to my life. As a result they have contributed much to helping me have the contentment and peace that I believe all Christians should have in life (Philippians 4:7; John 14:27).The words of David, Asaph, and the other poets can be helpful for a Christian woman in any age.
Among their words, some of the most meaningful to me are in the thirty-seventh Psalm. The exhortations given by David in this passage can be used as the keys to peace and contentment on the earth. Consider three of these.
1. "Trust in The Lord" (verse 3). One of the most prevalent ideas in the Psalms is that of trust in God. This often-repeated advice is essential for anyone who wants to do God's will. We must have an attitude of complete trust, total dependence, and willing submission. We must believe that God will take care of us no matter what circumstances may develop in our lives. Whether we acquire many material possessions or relatively few, we must trust The Lord to "uphold the righteous" (verses 16 and 17). Whether we are alone in this life or have family and friends to comfort and support us, we must believe that God "does not forsake his saints" (verse 28). Truly and deeply trusting in the promises of God we can "say of The Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in him will I trust" (Psalm 91:2).
2. "Commit your way unto The Lord" (verse 5). Another very evident spiritual characteristic of the psalmists is commitment. We can never attain true joy and peace in our lives without having made the decision to serve God at all costs, even when the "wicked plots against the just" (verse 12). Anything less is hypocrisy and can only lead to our being unhappy on earth as well as to our suffering eternally. In order to have this dedication and determination, we must have the law of God in our hearts (verse 31). Obviously, we must know God's word and understand it; but really to have it in our hearts, we must also find enjoyment in the ways of The Lord. "Delight yourself also in The Lord" (verse 4), David says. With the resulting commitment will come involvement in whatever is necessary to put God first in our lives. Life in this society and this century requires much involvement in earthly affairs - from job responsibilities to efforts involved in raising children. But when hobbies, extra jobs, or social activities (even with other Christians) hinder our study, prayer or acts of love and concern for others, something must change. Total commitment to God will prevent our becoming so involved in this life that we neglect preparing for the next life.
3. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him" (verse 7). Even as trusting, committed Christians we may wonder occasionally what God has in mind for us. We may become discouraged when difficult times cause us to stumble. But we must not be "utterly cast down" (verse 24). The Lord will hold us up and direct our lives. Sometimes the way is hard to understand. At times God's purposes are unclear and uncertain. But we must take comfort in God's word and constantly improve our submission to His will. We must wait on the Lord because those who do so "shall renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31). David tells us that he "waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined to me and heard my cry" (Psalm 40:1). If we truly believe that "the Lord is faithful to all his words and kind in all his works" (Psalm 145:13, ESV), we will be able to maintain our faith through any circumstances in life with patience and contentment.
In whatever situation a Christian woman finds herself, the Hebrew poetry of the Psalms can and should be used as encouragement for righteous living. May we always find comfort in these ancient words: "But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their strength in time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them; he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him" (Psalm 37:39-40).
Two Men Sleep On A Boat
I have never been in a circumstance in which I would be sleeping on a boat. I have never been on a cruise and the only “sea” fishing trips I have taken were in the gulf for 6 hours. I’m sure it’s pretty easy to sleep on a cruise ship (unless it’s a Carnival cruise ship), but it’d probably take some time to get used to sleeping on a fishing boat. They rock, make noises, and could not be comfortable.
Yet in the Bible, we read of two individuals who seemed to find it quite easy to go to sleep on a ship. Not only did they go to sleep on a ship, but they were sleeping through terrible storms. The storms were so bad, nobody else could sleep and everybody else thought the ship would be destroyed. Who were these men? You are probably already thinking about Jesus, but the one that you might forget about is Jonah. In their stories we have two men, sleeping on ancient ships, being sound asleep, a doing so during horrible storm. It sounds like their situations would be very similar, but their state was as different as night and day.
Here is Jonah’s story: “Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, "What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish." And they said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.” (Jonah 1:3-7)
Here is the story of Jesus: “And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:36-41).
Jonah was asleep in the belly of the ship because he was running from God. He was filled with guilt and most certainly anxiety. I am sure Jonah knew deep down inside him that he could not run or hide from God. Yet he was doing it anyway. Jonah was asleep trying to avoid doing what he knew he should do… preach to a lost world. He was sleeping in that ship in disobedience to the Lord. He was sleeping outside of God’s will. The storm died down and the winds ceased that night only because they threw Jonah overboard into the sea where he was swallowed by a great creature.
Jesus was also asleep in the belly of a ship. But Jesus was asleep because He had fully given Himself to doing the Father’s will. Jesus was exhausted from teaching a lost world. He was asleep in complete trust of His Father. He was sleeping free from guilt knowing He was living in obedience to the Father. He was sleeping out of feelings of contentment, peace, and fulfillment. This storm also died down, but because Jesus stood on its deck and commanded the winds and waves saying, “PEACE BE STILL”
We usually don’t find ourselves trying to sleep in the belly of ships that are in the middle of horrible storms. But we do find ourselves every night in bed trying to sleep in the midst of the storms of life. We all lay our heads down on our pillows at night either in peace and or in conflict. We are either worn out from running from God, or we are worn out by running with God. We have exhausted ourselves by trying to avoid serving God or in service to Him. We close our eyes with filled with anxiety and guilt or trust and peace. We fall asleep knowing we are living in God’s will or we fall asleep knowing we are outside of God’s will.
The stories of Jesus and Jonah are very different, but there is a similarity. Jonah spent three days in the belly of that sea creature before God caused it to spew Jonah out on the shore. Jonah became a figure of what would happen to Jesus. Jesus said, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Jesus, like Jonah, spent three days in the belly of a beast. The beast for Jesus was the grave. On the third day, Jesus arose from the dead and came forth from the grave. Death could not hold him. Because Jesus conquered death, we change the way we sleep. We don’t have to sleep like Jonah, we can sleep like Jesus.
Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:3-5). And later he adds, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21).
"Just Go In the Temple and Hide"
Nehemiah was in the process of rebuilding the walls of the temple (Nehemiah 6); in fact, he had it all done except for the doors being put on the gates. The enemies of Israel were not happy. They were actually plotting ways to delay or possibly attack Nehemiah and stop the work. They tried "friendly" meetings (6:1-4) and slander against Nehemiah (6:5-9). But I think the third way they tried to stop the work being done was the most interesting.
A secret informer was sent to Nehemiah in chapter 6:10-14; "Afterward I came to the house of Shemaiah the son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was a secret informer; and he said, 'Let us meet together in the house of God, within the temple, and let us close the doors of the temple, for they are coming to kill you; indeed, at night they will come to kill you.'" The informer tried to persuade Nehemiah to go into the temple and hide because there were those trying to take his life. Can you imagine how tempting this would have been for Nehemiah? However, Nehemiah knew that only priests were allowed in the temple, and this would have violated God's word. In 2 Chronicles 26, King Uzziah - who was not a priest - went into the temple, and God instantly struck him with leprosy.
I believe there are two very good lessons in this story to be learned when we consider God's word today.
1. We can never compromise God's word because of fear.
Shemaiah tried to create fear in Nehemiah and tried to get him to disobey God based on this fear. Religion that compromises avoid persecution, which is exactly what Jesus said we would endure if we are faithful (Matthew 5:10). Being a true follower of God means we must decide whom we belong to in our heart and be ready to give an answer of the hope within us with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15).
We cannot compromise. “He seeks to persuade Nehemiah into an easy-going, compromising religion that will shirk persecution, that will carry no cross, and that is governed by fear of the opinions of other people (Redpath).”
Do we compromise or carry our cross? Jesus was also offered a way out of the cross from the devil - just worship him, and all the kingdoms of the world would be delivered to Him. Jesus would have none of it. Never compromise!!!
2. Religious talk can be deceptive. If Nehemiah believed Shemaiah’s religious talk, he would sin and give others something to find fault with and discredit him with. It was wrong to go in the temple… period. I hear things today like "that's your interpretation", or "that's the wrong hermeneutic", but the truth is, if God said it, then it came from Him; thus we must follow it (1 Peter 1:20-21, 2 Tim 3:16-17). We can call it whatever we want, but only God's word has the power of salvation (Rom 1:16). I also hear things like "God's grace will cover that" in reference to a sin. God's word teaches us that grace will not continue if we continue to sin (Romans 6:1). The fact is sin is transgression, and by the blood of Jesus we will be forgiven if as Christians we repent and make confession (1 Jn 1:9-10). We must be careful that we do not follow false religion or religious talk, (Matthew 7) and that we follow the teachers of God's word. According to Jesus’ own words, our love for Him is defined by our willingness to obey His teaching (John 14:15-23). And His teaching did not end with His death on the cross. After His death, the Spirit would return (John 14:15-23) and continue to reveal and teach God’s Truth through the apostles (John 16:12-14, 17:6-17).
Let us always see the importance of teaching only what Jesus Himself taught, whether in Person, or in the Spirit through His hand-picked apostles. (2nd Peter 1:3-12, Jude 3).
Among the Heroes
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Enoch, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, these were men who could see the unseen. They believed in God and in believing, they found approval. Enoch walked with God. Noah built the ark. Abraham offered his son of promise. Moses delivered the Law to the people. These men preformed deeds that all would remember. These stories were passed down from generation to generation as parents sought to teach their children of the importance of following God.
We still study these stories today. However, have you ever noticed how Hebrews 11 ends? “Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourging, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (Heb. 11:35-38). Have you ever wondered, who were these women? Who were these men? Why were their names not recorded and their stories not given equal time and recognition? Perhaps the answer is this: they didn’t have to be.
We have often recognized someone as a hero for some great and marvelous deed. However, these unnamed brethren were included among the heroes that we look to and preach about. They, even though unknown, were just as heroic. They were people who served as examples for all whose lives they touched.
Among the heroes are people of godly character. They are servants. They seek the Lord in humility. They understand Paul’s words in Romans 5:3-5, “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Men and women of godly character rejoice in their tribulations and hold fast to their hope. They gird themselves with the armor of God and they contend earnestly for the faith. Day by day, those of godly character arise with a singular goal: “Lord, let me live like you.” Night by night, they beseech the Father: “Lord, help me to do better tomorrow.”
Among the heroes are people of quiet action. They do not live for recognition. The scribes and the Pharisees would practice their faith with the desire to be seen by men. They wanted to be recognized by all as great teachers - people to be admired. The scribes and Pharisees sought praise. They would fight against anything and anyone who threatened their status. From the mountain, Jesus warned those who would be His disciples to refrain from such pretense. He said, "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 6:1). Among the heroes are those who do right, because it is right. Their motivation is pure. People of quiet action know and understand that God is watching and the reward which He bestows is enough for them.
Among the heroes are people of rock solid faith. They look toward the promised land. In a world filled with doubt, pain, and trouble, these heroes are not shaken. They have confidence that they serve a benevolent Lord. They ask. They seek. They knock. These heroes leave examples to follow. Examples of people who stood for the truth in the face of opposition. They wander in deserts (Heb. 11:38), yet not without aim. Their focus, their aim, is on the Lord. They understand that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).
Heroism is defined simply as having great bravery. Great bravery can be shown in many different ways. Moses displayed his bravery as he led the people out of Egypt. David’s bravery was seen as he battled the mighty giant. However, you need not preform some great deed or overcome a huge obstacle to be a hero. Be a hero to all those around you by quietly being an example of godly character and faith. This is the high calling to which we have all been called. If this calling leads you up mountains, be strong. If this calling leads you across the street, be ready. In doing so, your name will also be listed among the heroes in the Lamb’s book of Life.