Matthew 1: What’s In A Name?

When I read Matthew chapter 1, there were many important things that we could talk about, but the thing that stuck out to me the most was the naming of Jesus.  Do you ever find it interesting that the angel didn’t just come and tell Mary and Joseph that they were going to have a special child that is God Himself and will save the world, but he also told them what specifically to name the child:  Jesus (Jehovah saves).  Then, the angel takes it one step further and tells them what their child will be called (in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah):  Immanuel.  Immanuel means “God with us.”  Doesn’t that just take your breath away?
Most of us hear the story of salvation and intellectualize it, probably because we’ve heard it a million times.  Yeah, God put on skin and came down, died on a cross and rose from the dead.  And yay, we have eternal life.  Think about what we just said:  GOD put on skin.  He came to us when we could not come to Him.  You know why we could not come to Him?  He is holy, and we are not.  If we ever entered His presence without being cleansed with the blood of Jesus, we would be crushed.  The Almighty God of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE who created the heavens and the earth, not to mention US, who breathed life into every creature and plant, put our planet into motion with day and night, and literally COUNTLESS other things PUT ON SKIN and came to us.  Immanuel:  GOD WITH US.  WOW. 
I am told that my name (Chelsea) means “safe harbor.”  I don’t think my parents knew that when they named me, but maybe they did, I don’t know.  It’s interesting when I look at my calling and what I deeply desire to do to my life:  to care for orphans.  Essentially, I want to provide a “safe harbor” for them from the people and the things that wish to cause them harm.  Intriguing, is it not?
I look at my dad’s name:  David.  David in the Bible was known as a man after God’s own heart.  I definitely see this in my dad.  He doesn’t command attention, but faithfully serves and maintains his relationship with God.  Ever since I was little, I knew that if I woke up before my dad went to work, I would find him in his rocking chair reading the Bible.  Every single day.  As far as I know, he has never missed an appointment to this day.
In the United States, we don’t necessarily name our children based on who we want them to become.  We think, “oh this name sounds pretty” and occasionally we will name someone after someone else who is important to us, but we don’t pay too much attention to the meaning.  This is definitely not the case in many other cultures, especially in Hebrew culture.  Ever since the time of Abram, naming a child was a BIG deal.  Isaac means laughter, because Sarai laughed when she heard that she was going to have a child in her old age.  Esau means “hairy”, well, because he had a lot of hair.  Jacob means “deceiver”, which comes to be true of his character later on in his life when he tricks his father into giving him the blessing which belonged to the eldest son.  However, the naming thing becomes even more radical.
God was always giving His people “new names.”  Abram became Abraham.  Sarai became Sarah (which is a vast improvement, good for You, God).  Jacob becomes Israel.  They all have deep meanings.  God not only gave them prophetic names in the beginning, but also redeeming names as they committed to following Him.  Do you remember how Jacob’s name meant “deceiver”?  Yes, he was a deceiver, but God is a redeemer.  He changed his name to Israel, which means, “he struggles with God.”  Even beyond this, when he wrestled with God that night at Peniel, God said to him, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”  That’s pretty cool.  Names must be pretty important to God.
Well, I have decided that I am not going to name all my children with strong names.  I don’t want war to break out in our house.  However, it goes much deeper than that.  We are given new identities when we follow Christ.  We may still be called by the name we’ve had our entire lives, but we now bear the name of Christ, and that is an honor and a responsibility.  Can you imagine the Savior of the world entrusting His very name to US?  I think of how many times I have failed Him.  However, God isn’t looking for perfection.  He is looking for a heart that is willing to be transformed…or maybe a better word for it is:  REDEEMED.  In Spanish, we don’t often say “my name is such and such”; it is translated literally “I call myself such and such.”  That’s pretty significant.  What is your name?  Or better yet:  what do you call yourself?

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