28.7.08

what's in a name...

a few days ago i came across a startling article on abcnews.com

in it, a family court judge from New Zealand is disgusted with a set of parents who named their child at her birth “Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii”

no, i am not joking...that is her full name written on the birth certificate

the judge awarded the little girl a new name (which was not given to the public) and also decided to take custody out of her parents’ hands after the child was ridiculed to the point of humiliation by everyone around her

among other names New Zealand registration officials have blocked in the past are Fish and Chips, Yeah Detroit, Keenan Got Lucy and Sex Fruit (yes, parents actually named their children this)

New Zealander official Brian Clark made the statement that New Zealand law will not permit such names that could lead to offense of a reasonable person, etc...

the same day, another
article appeared, in which the parents of a beautiful baby boy had donned him “4REAL” at his birth, claiming that they came up with the name after seeing his sonogram for the first time and saying “is this for real?”

the New Zealand judge in this case also ruled the name “blocked” for the child’s sake and had the parents rename their child


i am quite sure most of you are thinking what i thought when i read these reports...why would they do that to their child?

in Biblical days, what a parent named his or her child was so important to them that the parent believed the child would become what he or she was named, and would personify the meaning of the name...parents did not just pick a name out of a hat for their son or daughter

however, in several Biblical accounts, God would often decide that a person should be named something different than what his or her parents named them...for a Jew, changing names was something that only God could do...you see, a name was not an arbitrary title, or something random, but a designation which pointed to a person’s true identity...when someone named another, especially God, it was a token expressing loving authority

for example, in the Old Testament, many characters had had their names changed...usually God would change persons’ names based on the circumstances he or she was surrounded by and what He wanted them to become or to do...think of the moment when Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, and Jacob became Israel...each of these name changes spoke primarily to the plans which God had for the individuals...a name was a person’s identity, and an identity was a person’s vocation or calling...but only God could give one his or her life’s calling...it is for this reason that an orthodox Jew would have been excommunicated had he legally changed his name on his own


a name change also communicated ownership of the one bearing the new name by the one who bestowed it...the first duty of Adam after being given “dominion” over the earth was to name the livestock, birds, and beasts (Gen 2:19-20)...this, no doubt, is what the Babylonian chief official had in mind when he changed the names of his Jewish captives Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, to Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 1)

in the New Testament, it was Jesus who changed some of his disciples’ names... think about how Peter and the other disciples heard and understood what Jesus was indirectly claiming through the changing of Simon’s name to “Peter”...He also changed Saul of Tarsus’ name to Paul, giving him a new life and a new name...Jesus believed that he had the same right to reassign a person’s name - and therefore a person’s life calling and destiny - as did Yahweh in the OT...this understanding of Jesus’ bold claims and actions makes much more sense of the reaction elicited from his audience so much of the time... “Who does this man think he is?” “By what authority do you do these things?” were the common responses that followed so many of Jesus teachings and actions...his hearers understood that he was claiming, by his actions, prerogatives which God alone possesses, thereby making him equal with God

when God gave His name to Israel (Deuteronomy 28:9-10), it signified the joining of the two in unity...for those who become followers of Christ, who place their faith in Him, it becomes the same for us...when we are baptized into His name, we are placed under a new parent, a Father in Heaven, who wants to claim us as His own...it is as though He gives us a new name

when we experience God in this way, when He gives us a new “name”, we are changed, just as the men and women in the Bible were changed...He sets our feet on a new path and directs our lives in a new way...we become part of His household (John 1:12-13)...Jesus says that our mother and our brother and our sister are those who do the will of God (Matthew 12:50)...even more promising for us, we read in the book of Revelation that in the end God will give to each one of His people “a new name…known only to him who receives it” (Rev 2:17)

whether our name is something awful our earthly parents gave us, like “Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii,” or something as common as Bobby or Susie, we all need God to change our name in a spiritual sense...we need Him to place a calling on our lives and direct us where to go...if not, we will be lost...this is one reason why so many in the world are completely unhappy with their lives...they are trying to walk down a path that was never even meant for them

has God given you a new name? if not, won’t you let Him today? allow Him to show you who He created you to be, and He will not leave you to walk down a path in life alone

I will change your name,
You shall no longer be called:
wounded, outcast, lonely, or afraid
I will change your name.
Your new name shall be:
confidence, joyfullness, overcoming one,
faithfullness, friend of God,
one who seeks My face.
("From Despair to an Heir" by Wayne and Diane Tesch)

2 comments:

The Pink Potpourri said...

oh yes, i saw that article. poor kid. i couldn't believe it. thanks so much for this post on names! its really great to learn about this, as kids will be in our future! great post!!

S. said...

Wow! I am just getting a chance to catch up on blogs,etc... All I can say is wow....
Camp was great by the way...be looking for a post on it soon...

S.