names

Is Your Name Well-Known?

7 June 2024

6.7 MINS

Most of us may be nobodies, but God knows who we are.

OK, here is a little quiz for you – let’s see how many of my readers can identify them correctly. Who are the following people? Do you know who Meshullam is? What about Binnui? Or Bavvai? And a few more: Malchijah. Pedaiah. Hattush. Meremoth. OK, give up yet?

If you know of none of them, do not feel bad, as almost all other people would not know them either. Some of you at least will be thinking that these are more than likely biblical names. Well, I will shortly reveal to you just who they are and why they matter, but for now, a few thoughts about names.

We all have names. Well, possibly an unwanted baby abandoned by his or her mother may not have a name, but if rescued by someone else, a name will eventually be forthcoming. And some names are much more important or well-known than others.

Most of us will never be very familiar to others – me included. Sure, because of the work I do, if you google my name, you will find well over a hundred hits. But in earlier times, there were many more. Indeed, with all my online articles written or shared, they alone would take my name into the thousands. So, fair enough if they decided to radically cut back my internet appearances.

I suppose it helps to have quite a unique name, at least Down Under. When I first came here I would check out the white pages of each major city to see if there were any other Muehlenbergs in the country. Nope. So, for some time, there were only five of us in all of Australia (but now just four, with my wife’s passing).

If your name is more recognisable (say, John Smith), you may well find many thousands of search hits – but they may well not be you!). Of course, some names are more widely known or important, based on who the person is or what he or she does.

Thus many folks would know of Trump or Biden or Trudeau or Jagger or Madonna or Michael Jordan or Venus Williams or the Kardashians. And most Australians know the names of John Howard or Anthony Albanese or Russell Crowe or Nicole Kidman or Donald Bradman. Name recognition certainly varies, depending on various factors.

Name Above All Names

This is true for Christians as well. Most would know of Billy Graham or John Bunyan or Martin Luther or Augustine or Joel Osteen or G. K. Chesterton or C. S. Lewis. These are all familiar names. Of course, there is one name that is the most important of all. Consider just a few biblical texts on this:

“And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8-11)

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

“But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’” (Acts 3:6)

Identity

As many believers know, names are important in the Scriptures. We saw above in the Matthew passages that “Jesus” means “saviour”, for example. In the Hebrew culture, names said much about a person’s identity. Let me offer just two examples from the Old Testament. I recently wrote a piece on King Uzziah. In Hebrew, his name means “Yahweh is my strength.”

A negative example is found in 1 Samuel 25:23-25, where we find that “Nabal” means “fool” in Hebrew:

When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him.”

Sometimes we have name changes, such as Abram becoming Abraham (Genesis 17:5), or Jacob being renamed Israel (Genesis 32:28). But all this will have to be the stuff of another article to more properly, and in more detail, examine the importance of names.

I have mentioned all this by way of introduction. I must now return to my pop quiz – a quiz that most of us would have failed miserably. So, where did I get all those strange names from? Well, from my daily Bible reading. They happen to come from Nehemiah 3. They were just some of the many names mentioned of those who were involved in rebuilding the damaged walls of Jerusalem after some Jews came back from captivity.

While you and I and most people on the planet would know nothing about these individuals, it was decided that preserving their names for all times was quite important. They may be nobodies to us, and perhaps they were just ordinary Joes back then, but because they were doing God’s work in God’s way, their names are permanent parts of the biblical record.

That should encourage all of us. We may not have our names recorded in the Bible or in a newspaper today, but if we are faithful to our Lord, HE at least knows all about us. And our names ARE written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:27).

And consider these words: “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:19-20)

Of course, it is not just names of good people and God’s people that are recorded in the Bible for all of us to read about. We also have the names of bad people and ungodly people recorded as well. When it comes to the rebuilding of the wall, we also learn of those who opposed the work. In particular we read of Sanballat and Tobiah. We read about them in the book of Nehemiah as well.

But it is those who love and serve the Lord that I am mainly interested in here. There are other lists of names of God’s people found in Scripture. For example, in 1 Chronicles 23-27, we find lengthy lists of Levites, priests, musicians, gatekeepers, officials, and others involved in the temple. Most may not be household names, but once again, their names have become immortalised in Scripture.

Obviously, the many genealogies we find in both Testaments can be mentioned as well. The genealogy of Jesus Christ found in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 would be the most famous and vital. Some names, such as Abraham or David, are quite well-known, while others are not as familiar to us.

Again, that will be true of most of us. Only a very tiny, tiny fraction of humanity has ever heard of me, and that is largely because of the internet. Far fewer folks would know of me apart from my online presence. And that is true of most of us.

Eyes on the Prize

We are basically nobodies in this world. Certainly, non-believers know little or nothing about us. Sure, they have heard of some big-name televangelists and the like, but that is about it. So, the great majority of us will simply seek to serve our Lord day in and day out with little or no recognition.

We will have to be content to be nobodies for the Lord. But that is OK. That is the normal way that God works. He takes us nobodies and, by His grace, turns us into somebodies. And the recognition that we might crave will mostly have to wait until the next life.

If most folks knew nothing about us and cared nothing about us in this life, that will not be the case when we reach our eternal home. And the first thing we will all want to hear and rejoice in will be these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

So being a nobody now is quite all right. It is the main means by which God gets His job done on planet Earth. As Paul put it in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31:

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

One could add to that list: God has not chosen many who are photogenic or telegenic, who are superstars or well-known celebs, or social influencers or Hollywood heartthrobs. Instead, He has chosen very ordinary folks like you and me.

As D. L. Moody once put it about a very well-known character: “Moses spent forty years thinking he was somebody; forty years learning he was nobody; and forty years discovering what God can do with a nobody.” That should be how we personally look at these matters as well.

Forget about the celebrity culture. Forget about the rich and famous. Concentrate on being everything God wants you to be. His recognition of you is more than sufficient. His deep familiarity with you is more than enough.

___

Republished with thanks to CultureWatch. Image courtesy of Tobe Roberts.

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