The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the Lord will name. Isaiah 62:2
There’s a phenomena I’ve noticed and been irritated by since I was little. It’s people’s tendency to shorten or completely change a person’s name. I talked with a friend recently during Muffins with Mom at our sons’ school about how we ended up with our children’s names. She shared that her youngest (a preschooler) has a hyphenated first name that he insists people call him by. I found his attachment to his name and his expectation of others to respect it fascinating.
As a little girl I remember my dad telling me of his immigration at age 15 from his small island home in the Caribbean to England to find work. On job sites, he introduced himself by his name, Adolphus, but instead employers and co-workers renamed him Henry. Now, he was a kid who needed work so as long as they paid him he let them call him Henry if they wanted to. I have to say though, hearing that as a child ticked me off. I thought, “Who did they think they were to call him by a name other than what his parents gave him?”
That story had a profound impression on me. Only my family and friends, I’ve given permission, can shorten my name. Anyone else is quickly reminded to call me Vanessa. It’s the name I was given after much thought, means something I think is beautiful and describes my journey perfectly…butterfly. When you shorten my name you lose the meaning and therefore the real beauty of it.
When it comes to our children, my husband and I are very passionate about them being called by their given name. It never ceases to amaze me how people assume they can call my son Josh simply because there are many other Joshua’s who go by that. Now some may people may have named their son Joshua because they like how it sounds without knowing what it means. We have taught all of our children to politely ask that they be called by their given name. Why? If you look through Scripture you’ll see that people’s names were very intentional. They were often either a testament to who God is or an indication of who or what the child would become. Their name was something more than a collection of syllables having a nice sound as they rolled off the tongue; their name signified their identity. Every time that child’s name was called, people declared something. There was nothing casual or haphazard about their names.
God gave me a husband who also believes that names still testify and give direction today. Funny enough, God gave us the names for all of our children before I conceived them. For example, Joshua is a Hebrew version of Jesus’ name meaning “Yeshua (Jehovah) is salvation”. Every time anyone calls Joshua’s name they are declaring, knowingly or not, that Jesus is salvation. You can see why the enemy would want people to say Josh instead. There’s a whole lot lost in that abbreviation and the devil hates anything glorifying Jesus. There’s no other name by which men can be saved and I think it’s awesome that God can use something as simple as a name to bear witness of His Son! Faith comes by hearing and when you say the name Joshua you are hearing the gospel in a nut shell.
This name-changing business reminds me of one of the enemy’s tactics. Although he’s not content to mess with our names, he’s really after our identity in Christ. Every believer is a new creation in Christ with the promise that old things are in the past. Yet there is no shortage of people the enemy “inspires” to remind you of who you used to be and the mistakes you’ve made. His goal is to distract you from where you’re going to where you were. The result: self-consciousness and doubt. You take your eyes off of the Savior and doubt your life will ever bring Jesus glory. Well God is serious about names. All throughout Scripture you see God changing people’s names to signify the change in their identity and destiny. All of their lives eventually bore witness to the meaning of their new names. As believers we’re called according to Jesus’ name and have (right now) a new nature. As we identify with His name our lives bear witness to the totality of its meaning: deliverance, preservation, safety and health.
SOUL FOOD (Scripture References)
NT 4991, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
2 Corinthians 5:17
Hebrews 12:1, 2
© Vanessa A. Harris and The Legacy of Faith, 2012.