Names distinguish us from everybody else so when Jason is called in from the playground, everyone else doesn’t come running. Over time, names represent our nature and behavior—who we are and what we do. But how important is a name?
In kindergarten, I didn’t know much about names.
I noticed people calling my father “Alvan.” I thought this was interesting, since I only knew him as “Daddy.” I quickly learned more about names. Some people had nicknames. In jest, my Uncle Henry said I was “full of prunes” and called me “Butch.”
“No, I’m not,” I said. “You’re full of prunes.” For decades after that, I always called him “Uncle Butch.” That name made our relationship unique.
I never cared much for my middle name, because when I heard my full given name, Franklin Henry Ball, I knew I was in bad trouble. “Frankie” was my friendly name. I liked that one.
The next time I saw the neighbor kid across the street, I asked what his father’s name was.
“Cox,” he said.
“No, that’s his last name. What’s his first name?”
“Daddy,” he said.
“I know he’s your father,” I said, “but what do other people call him?” I rephrased the question several different ways, but got the same answer every time. The boy only knew his father as “Daddy Cox.”
Knowing the name doesn’t mean we know the person.
I might say I “know” people at church, because I see them frequently and can call their names. But I don’t know what they do for work or for pleasure. I see how they act at church but not anywhere else. The truth is, I don’t know them very well.
The people I live with are the people I know best. How well I know others depends on how much time I spend with them.
If I want to know God, I need more than his name.
The Bible mentions many names for God. When Moses asked who was sending him back to Egypt, he knew God as “I AM.” Abraham knew him as Jehovah-jireh, the God who provides. Jehovah-tsidkenu is the one who makes us righteous. And Jehovah-rapha identifies God as our healer. Naming our creator as simply “God” is like naming a cow, “Cow,” or a dog, “Dog.” Perhaps that’s why we might find a hundred different names for God in the Bible.
As I walk with the Lord and know him better than the old familiar names, I think of new names that describe more about his nature and what he does.
For example, God has taken me in directions I never expected. He has accomplished more in my life than I could ever have dreamed. That’s why I sometimes think of him as Jehovah-sneaky.
As an ordinary human being, Jesus subjected himself to death on the cross. Therefore, God has promoted Christ to the highest of all positions and has made the name Jesus greater than any other name. — Philippians 2:7–8