God (Elohim/Deity) is known by many names, and we have looked at but only a select few. We’ve seen him as Yahweh — the Self-Existing One. He is Jehovah — the One who IS. He is Adonai — Lords and Masters, and El Shaddai — God who IS enough. He is El Hakkadosh — the Holy One. He is Chesed — Love, and Davar — the incarnate Word of God. Yet of all of God’s names, His favorite name must be Abba — Daddy.
Jesus used this Arabic expression when in the garden of Gethsemane. In Mark 14:36, we read that Christ, while praying for the possibility of not having to suffer for humanity’s sins, cried out in despair, “Abba, Father!” The Apostle Paul wrote, in his letter to the Romans, that as believers we have “received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him [the Holy Spirit] we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’” (Romans 8:15)
The CCM group known as NewSong reminds us to call out to our heavenly Daddy, in the song entitled Your Favorite Name is Father. The chorus reads, “Your favorite name is ‘father.’ You love to hear your children calling. You’re there to catch us when we’re falling. Your favorite name is ‘father.’” God is our “Abba Avinu,” our divine Daddy, and He cares so very much for us.
Even something as seemingly minor as our names, matter to God. Did you know that understanding just what our names mean can open up opportunities for us to glorify God? Scripture tells us that God concerned Himself with human names to the point that, when necessary, He would rename those whom He called. Abram was called by God, the Father, to become the father of His chosen people. God renamed Abram “Abraham,” which means in Hebrew “Father lifted up.” Abraham’s grandson (Jacob) was renamed by God, “Israel,” which in Hebrew means “Turns the Head of God.” On and on throughout Scripture we see many of Abba Avinu’s chosen renamed. So, why rename them? Do names really matter to that degree? Yes, I believe they do. Look with me at Jacob, again.
How great of a leader would Jacob have been without his name change? As a man, his character was being defined by what his heavenly Father was doing in his life. People surely would have followed him despite his name, if God was really ordaining him as his chosen ruler over His nation. Sure, God could’ve made Jacob into the patriarch He called him to be without the name change, but Jacob’s name meant “He grabs the heel” and this name described his old nature. That name “Jacob” symbolized his former life as a shyster, a con-artist, someone who was shady in character. That wasn’t Jacob’s new life, he no longer was living a life of deception. Jacob was now following God’s statutes. Jacob was now Israel — “Turns the Head of God.” Israel had God’s attention, he had the Father’s favor. Now that is a man capable of leading a nation, a man people can follow. A man who’s name and character had been changed, by God, for the completion of His divine plan. (You can read Jacob’s complete story in the book of Genesis, primarily in chapters 25-35.)
Even the Apostle Paul went through a name change. The man whom God used as His instrument for spreading the Gospel message through out Asia-Minor (a.k.a. Anatolia), and Rome, and who also was moved by God to write 13 of the 27 books in the New Testament, was originally named Saul. Saul, whose name in the Hebraic language means “Inquired of God,” was the son of a Pharisee and was himself a Pharisee. Saul studied the Mosaic traditions under the teachings of Gamaliel, and was known as a “Jew of Jews.” Strangely enough, Saul was also a citizen of Rome. You see Saul, though raised in Jerusalem, had been born in Tarsus, which was the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia. This birth right enabled Saul to claim a dual citizenship, between Israel and Rome.
Saul was in Jerusalem when Christ was crucified, and he became an integral part of the Jewish leader’s attempts to silence the Gospel message in Israel. Saul, too, was the man who held the cloaks of the men who stoned Stephen to death, and it was also Saul who was charged by the Jewish leaders to hunt down and kill all who preached the resurrected Christ. It would be this charge that would send Saul throughout Judea, and beyond the borders of Israel, executing the followers of Christ.
Now while Saul was traveling the road leading to the Greco-Roman city of Damascus, to continue his persecution of the followers of Christ, he saw the very message he was trying to silence appearing before him — the resurrected Jesus, Himself — the incarnate Word of God. From that moment on Saul devoted his life to spreading the Gospel message, not silencing it, and sometime after his decision to follow Christ he began to answer by the Roman name Paul, which means “small” or “humble.”
Whether God, the Father, changed Saul’s name to Paul, or whether Saul did this on his own, we really don’t know. Scripture and history don’t really tell us one way or the other, but what is significant here is the meanings of the names being changed. Saul, the Hebrew, was a man very proud of his blood line. He was a man living large in the ideals implanted into his life by the Pharisees and the Sanhedrin. Remember Saul’s pedigree made him a “Jew of Jews,” a man who “Inquired of God” to elevate himself above the Jewish masses. Paul, on the other hand, as a follower of Jesus came to realize just how small he was before God and humbled himself to serving the resurrected Christ and mankind. As with Jacob’s/Israel’s names, the name “Saul” represented his old life, but the name “Paul” connected him with his new one. (You can read of Saul’s transformation into Paul in the book of Acts, largely in chapters 7-13.)
So with that being said, was William Shakespeare correct when he wrote this phrase, in his tragic play Romeo & Juliet, “A rose by any other name is still a rose”? Certainly on a cellular level this statement is true, physically creation is what it is, but where people are concerned this phrase is false. Humanity is more than cellular, we are also mind and soul. Names and titles can affect people’s attitude, behavior, character, emotions, and thoughts. Just as a costume or fashion ensemble effects human behavior and thinking.
Most of us have worn a costume, at some point in our lives, or a fine ensemble of clothing and experienced a change in our behavior; how we felt about ourselves. Maybe it wasn’t a drastic change, but a change nonetheless. In a very similar way, names and titles can also cause this affect. For example, let’s say the name “Carl” happened to be your name, and you discovered that in Nigerian this name means “unintelligent” or “idiot.” How would you feel about your name? What thoughts would begin going through your mind about your parents giving you that name? How would you begin to see yourself, as you reflected on your life and how your name related to your experiences, both past and future? In contrast, say your name is “Aaron” and you discover that in Hebrew your name means “Strong and Powerful.” Now what do you begin to feel and think about your name, yourself, and your parents giving it to you? Our names aren’t hollow words and we can be affected by them, moreover affect others with them.
Now before we all go crazy looking up the meanings to our names, and possibly begin going about changing them too, let’s take a deep breath and allow for some clarification on why I included this topic in this study. Every aspect of our life, no matter how significant or insignificant we see it as being, is meant to glorify and worship our heavenly Father. Our names can be apart of that. Consider this when naming your children, parents. The names you give your children will affect them in some manner, at some point, in their lives. You, as an adult, may consider a name change due to a drastic conversion experience, or maybe upon accepting the Father’s calling on your life, but that should only be done if you are certain the Holy Spirit is moving you to do so. The attempt here was to simply engage our thoughts to the realization that names have meanings and that those meanings can affect our lives.
In closing, I want to bring your attention to the names in Noah’s genealogy. They are found in Genesis chapter 5, verses 1-29, and are as follows: Adam, Seth, Enosh, Kenan, Mahalalel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah. Now note their Hebraic meanings. Adam means “Man.” Seth means “Appointed.” Enosh means “Mortal.” Kenan means “Lamentation,” or “Sorrow.” Mahalalel is an “el” construct meaning “Blessed of God.” Jared means “Descending.” Enoch means “Instruct.” Methuselah means “When He Dies, Judgment.” Lamech means “Made Low,” and lastly Noah’s name means “Comfort.” According to a study of Biblical names, conducted by the founder of Koinonia House, author, and Biblical scholar Chuck Missler, when these particular names are placed into a sentence structure we read these words:
Man (Adam) is appointed (Seth) mortal (Enosh) sorrow (Kenan); the blessed of God (Mahalalel) will descend (Jared) instructing (Enoch) that when He dies, judgement (Methuselah) will bring the lowly (Lamech) comfort (Noah).
The Gospel message hidden in the genealogy of Noah. You see? Our names, God’s names, all names are important. Get to know Abba, Father’s many names and truly begin to worship Him.
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Chuck Missler‘s study entitled “Meanings Of The Names In Genesis 5,” Copyright © 1996-2012 by Koinonia House Inc., P.O. Box D, Coeur d’Alene, ID 83816, can be found at: http://www.khouse.org/articles/2000/284/
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