A Biblical Theology of Name (Part 4)

naming-prozess“We do not know our names – who we really are – until God tells us” (Peter Hubbard, Love Into Light. 87). All attempts to identify ourselves apart from Him are futile, they end in frustration and disappointment. But the God of the Scriptures pursues His people and throughout the Bible His pattern is to rename those who belong to Him. God is in the process of renaming His people, a people who do not deserve His pursuit of them. This biblical theology of name points us, then, to God’s great mercy. A biblical theology of name invites us to embrace the gospel.

We see this process beginning with Abram. God takes an unknown man, an ungodly man, in Ur the Land of the Chaldeans, and says of him, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Gen. 12:2). He changes Abram’s name to Abraham, father of a multitude. He changes his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah. He names their son too, Isaac (Gen. 17:19). Later he will rename their grandson, Jacob. “Heel grabber” or “trickster” will now be called “Israel” (Gen. 35:10). From this trickster he will build a nation, a chosen people. Israel, of course, is a troublesome people throughout the Old Testament. They consistently rebel against God. But God continues to rename them. The Prophet Hosea records:

And I will have mercy on No Mercy, and I will say to Not My People, ‘You are my people’; and he shall say, ‘You are my God.’” (Hosea 2:23b)

God is creating a people for Himself. The testimony of the Scriptures reveals God pursuing his people, giving them a new identity, renaming them in relationship to Himself.

A biblical theology of name gives us a picture of the gospel. A picture which reveals that a rebellious people, those seeking to name themselves apart from God, are nonetheless pursued by God. Though Abram, Sarai, and Jacob did not deserve God’s blessing, though Israel did not earn His care, though the world did not invite God’s love, He pursued them all. The God of the Bible is bent on pursuing and renaming a people for Himself. A biblical theology of name highlights the grace of God.

Here is the beauty of the gospel: though we reject our names, and reject the name giver, he pursues His people. He has a name to give and He continues to call His people to Himself. We go by a different name apart from God, but he is ready to call us something else. “I will have mercy on No Mercy.” He is ready to call “My people” those who are “Not My People.” A biblical theology of name invites us to turn from naming ourselves, to turn from running and rejection, and to embrace this Namer. It invites us to receive grace and mercy from Him. A biblical theology of name invites us to believe the gospel!

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