Sermon at First Presbyterian Church Lockhart
"What’s In A Name?”
by James Greene
In our current culture we don’t pay much attention to the symbolism and the impact of the use of names, but we should. The readings today reflect the theme and the focus of the importance and the symbolism in assigning names. It is all about “What’s In A Name”.
Names have always fascinated me, - especially the symbolism and the history behind names. Have you ever noticed how names have an identifying purpose for their significance, for places, things and people?
We keep hearing in
the news these days, how we are no longer a Christian nation. Yet, if
you look close enough, you will find in
Streets names reflect their purpose:
People’s last names are linked to
a craft: Smith, Cooper, Wheeler, Boatwright. Symbolic first names: James: “Successor”,
The Name, in the Old Testament, was related to the personality or characteristic of the child, or the parent’s response in gratitude to God, or their aspirations for the child. The name describes the circumstances at the time of the child’s birth, or, God gives the name for a divine established role that the child will play in history. In the Old Testament, when they name something it gives them power over it, and for a child is to take responsibility for the child, or animal.
The Lord names the prophet’s children in
This is done,
along with the fulfillment of Hosea’s prophesy. His first
son Jesreel which means “God sows”, reflects the destruction of the Northern
Yet, even in the midst of all of this rejection there is the prophesy, that God, will not totally abandon His people. “In the place where it was said to them “You are not my people”, they will be called “Sons of the living God”. They will still be a part of God’s family. Even in their rebellion, the God of Israel still cares for them.
In Psalm 85 we see the call upon God to show his unfailing love and extend His forgiveness, and restore His People. We see a call that reminds God to remember his Righteousness and to offer salvation to the people that bear his name.
II What is in the Name of God?
The Jewish idea of the divine nature, and the relationship of God to the Jewish people and to the world, is demonstrated in the sacredness of the names of God. This was the means of showing respect and reverence for the sacredness of God.
In Hebrew the name spelled out is YHWH (called the Tetragrammaton –
the 4 letters/symbols) is found 6,828 times in the Hebrew Bible. It is in the archaic third person singular imperfect of the verb "to be", meaning, therefore, "He is". When God is speaking it is used in the first person — "I am". In the Hebrew text we see it translated as “O Lord”, or “Lord”, or “The One”
This is to express that, God exists by himself (for himself) and is the uncreated Creator that is independent of any concept, force, or entity; therefore as we read and we understand in Deuteronomy "I am that I am".
This four-letter name of God, YHWH, is forbidden to be uttered except by the High Priest in the Holy Temple on the day of atonement Yom Kippur. The name consists of four vowels that are unpronounceable together. In the Old English this is translated as Jehovah. But for Christians to pronounce the name is considered an offense to the Jews. The reason behind this (to pronounce the name) limits and defines God! With the unpronounceable name: the concept of God is unlimited. The key element in all of this, is that the name of God is and should remain unpronounceable.
III Titles of God
Adoni (master) we use “Lord” in English translations, El (mighty one),
El-Shaddi ( mighty one, almighty) Elyon (most high), Elohim (mighty one of authority), Avinu (our father), Shekhinah (presence, manifestation, glory, dwelling among humanity), Kadosh Israel (the Holy One of Israel), and the Rock of Israel,
Other titles that we have heard and know in English - The Ancient of Days, The Eternal One, the God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, The God of Israel, the Shepherd of Israel, The Lord that heals, The Lord our Righteousness. These pronounceable titles describe the actions and attributes of God. These all reflect the divine aspects, which are attributed to Him, but they do not fully define God.
The title and the term Father, identifies that he is the origin of things subject to him. He is a supreme and powerful, authority and protector. Fatherhood is inherent to God's nature, and his eternal relationship with the creation and his people. In Judaism, God is called "Father" in a unique sense of familiarity.
In Colossians we see the fullness of God in Jesus the Christ. It is Jesus alone who can provide us with the divine assistance and is the key to our salvation. We belong to Christ and Christ is sufficient to save us. He is the Son of the living God, and he points us to God for our redemption.
Jesus in Hebrew is Yeshua – “God saves”, “God helps”, “salvation”. His name is divinely symbolic and reflects his divine purpose not only for God’s people but also for all people and all creation. His title “The Christ” means “The anointed One”.
He comes to show us The Way to God. It is
through him, that we have access to the father. In Luke
he teaches the apostles and
us “how to pray” to God the Father. It is with that same familiarity of a Hebrew father. It is also through him that we are grafted
onto the root of
V What is In A Name?”
We see that God’s name is unpronounceable. It cannot define or confine him because he is the creator of all. Yet God does hear our prayers. He does hear us even when we call upon him in our human condition. He still fulfills the roles of his titles. He still is a Father to us, and our highest goal is to glorify his name.
In contrast to this, the name of Jesus, the Son of God, can be pronounce. He is our access, our way, to the father. He helps us to understand the power and authority that we have through him when we pray to the father “in his name”. It must be with the sincerity, integrity, and the righteousness that is in alignment with God’s Will.
It is to God, and “in his name” that calls upon his power and authority that we can pray to God. What is in a name? The unpronounceable love of God towards His Creation. That is why we can call upon that love….
In the name of… The Father, and The Son, and The Holy Spirit. A-men