The first man, Adam, was the very first human being to come up with names, and not just a few, a lot of them! In the second chapter of Genesis we read how he gave names to all animals of the animal kingdom, from big Elephant to small Fruit Fly, just about anything God presented to him. When the first woman ever came along Adam named her “Mother of Life”, aka: Eve.
Name-giving was very intentional in those days. Names were supposed to reflect the identity of the name-bearer and therefore were descriptive, precise and meaningful. There is power to a name. We realize that in name-calling, which is a bad experience, but proves a point. Call for instance someone a loser and that person might end up acting like one.
Typecasting is the twin brother to name-calling. When Isaac’s sons were born, their names were given based on first impressions (Genesis 25:25-26):
“The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them.”
Esau sounds like a Hebrew word that means “hair”. The parents named their firstborn “Hairy Guy” while they named their second son “Heel” – which is what “Jacob” sounds like in Hebrew. And when they named their heel-grabbing little son “Jacob” they really associated him with being a Trickster. They basically called their son a deceiver. I don’t know about you, but I would not like to be called “Deceiver” for the rest of my life. Thankfully, Jacob did not get stuck in that mold. As we find out later in the story, God changed his name to Israel, which translated means “Strong Man of God”.
Going from “Deceiver” to “Strong Man of God” is a great story; and we can make this our story. Our life experience has a way of molding us, and in God’s hands we will change for the better (Isaiah 64:8):
“Yet you, Lord, are our Father.
We are the clay, you are the potter;
we are all the work of your hand.”
Not only are we safe in God’s hands, we also become the best version of ourselves. I find this truth very encouraging. Ever sighed that sigh: “Oh, will I ever change?” No reason to give up hope if we put ourselves in God’s hands.
Last but not least: God’s name. Does God have a name? If so, who gave Him that name? This is problematic – since God is eternal, nobody preceded Him to actually give Him a name. So in this case name-giving does not apply. Moses ran into this issue when he asked God for His name. Here is a snippet of a conversation between God and Moses (Exodus 3:13-14):
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”
When God revealed His name “I Am”, this was the best possible answer Moses could have received. And to this day, God’s answer has given us something to work with. Personally, I view His name as an invitation to get to know Him. Who is this “I Am”? What does He mean with “I Am”? What does “I Am” stand for? These questions are ours to explore and by the way, in my experience God loves to be explored. What happens if we keep knocking on Heaven’s door? This, my friend, is for you and me to find out.