A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
Loving favor rather than silver and gold. Proverbs 22:1
You’ve probably seen that verse quoted somewhere, tied in one way or another to naming a baby, probably in an effort to get parents to name them something nice and not-too-weird. Well, I agree–it’s nice to have a “good name”. I do pity children whose parents named them things like “William Williams” or “Candy” or *Brock Lee” or “Kyd” or “Bartholomew” or… well, you get the idea.
But I have a hunch there’s a lot more to this whole “good name” thing than that.
Back then (whenever that was…) your name was more than the letters that made up the sounds that made up your name. There’s two main aspects of this thought…
First, in the Bible, the names that were given were very significant. Parents didn’t just pick names based on whether or not they liked them–they were fitting to the situation, to the child, to the prophecies that the child would fulfill, and so on. There are many examples of this…
And the Angel of the LORD said to her: “Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has heard your affliction.
And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
They were even sometimes changed as circumstances changed, such as in the case of Naomi (sweet) who wanted to be called Mara (bitter) after things went badly for her.
The second aspect is the main point of this post. Your “name” was your reputation. If you were a honest, hard-working, pleasant citizen, you would have a good reputation and thus a “good name.” And, obviously, the opposite was true as well.
Your name was who you were.
Now I can say this all I want, but you’re probably wondering if I actually know what I’m talking about. So… where do we go in cases like this? To Webster’s 1828, of course! 😀
4. Reputation; character; that which is commonly said of a person; as a good name; a bad name.
5. Renown; fame; honor; celebrity; eminence; praise; distinction.
What men of name resort to him?
6. Remembrance; memory.
The Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. Deut. 29.
7. Appearance only; sound only; not reality; as a friend in name. Rev. 3.
8. Authority; behalf; part; as in the name of the people. When a man speaks or acts in the name of another, he does it by their authority or in their behalf, as their representative.
9. Assumed character of another.
10. In Scripture, the name of God signifies His titles, His attributes, His will or purpose, His honor and glory, His word, His grace, His wisdom, power and goodness, His worship or service, or God Himself.
So, in light of this, all the stuff about “the name of Jesus” suddenly becomes even more powerful and makes even more sense.
Just the mere words without the character of Christ behind it doesn’t do anything. His name itself is not a magic word. It’s His character–who He is–that makes the difference. The enemy is not afraid of a few vowels and consonants stuck together–He’s deathly afraid of the reputation, the character, the… essence of Who Christ IS.