Names are important, aren’t they? They’re one of the first things we ask for when we want to get to know a person. They are the reason parents spend so much time poring over lists of baby names and their meanings. They are how we are known, an essence of who we are.
Names are important to God also. Have you ever tried reading through those names listed in the genealogies in the OT and wondered why? Why are they in here and why should we care? But think about it. Each of those names matter to God and, to the early readers, they were family. Each name listed represents a father, uncle, brother, son, or in a few rare instances a mother, a sister, a wife. Names like Bukki and Uzzi may only be something we stumble over or snicker about today, but to someone at some moment in time, those names meant everything.
In the Bible, God tells us He knows each one of us by name. When talking to his people in Isaiah, God said this:
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
I have called you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1 [NLT]
In the New Testament, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd who knows each of His sheep by name. [John 10:3]
Did you get that? God knows your name. Yes, GOD, the one who made the universe and everything in it, knows your name.
Do you understand what that means? It means He knows YOU. He knows the very essence of who you are. And because you are His child, your name has deep meaning to Him.
I love the stories in the Bible where God changes someone’s name. I’ve been pondering the life of Peter lately getting ready for a class I’m planning to teach next semester. Do you know what happened when Peter met Jesus? He got a name change. Here’s how the Bible described their meeting.
“Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, ‘Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas’ (which means ‘Peter’).” John 1:42 [NLT]
Here are a few items I noted when I read this passage:
- First of all, Jesus knew Peter’s name—his given name, Simon. Not only did he know his name, he knew his father’s name—John. He knew this man without ever needing an introduction.
- But Jesus didn’t merely know who Peter was, He knew what he would become—He saw his potential. Did you catch that? His name was Simon, but Jesus told him, “you will be called (future tense) Cephas” or “Peter” which means “rock.” Can’t you just picture this scene? Peter’s brother Andrew was standing right there. I have a brother. My husband has four brothers. I can pretty much imagine what Andrew was thinking, “This guy? A rock? Ha! You obviously don’t know my brother.”
And If you think about it, Andrew would be right. The Peter who walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry really wasn’t very rock-like. He was more like a spark or a firecracker whose enthusiasm would flash quickly and then die out. This was the man who one minute was walking on water and the next was drowning beneath the waves. This was the guy who boldly proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah earning his Master’s praise and then, a few verses later tried to keep that same Messiah from following his destiny, earning his Master’s sternest rebuke. Jesus actually called him Satan. Ouch! This was the same Peter who assured Jesus at the Last Supper that even if everyone else turned away, he would have his back and would follow Him even to death. Well, we all know how that turned out.
But before we get too critical of Peter, let’s remember that the way he started was not the way He finished. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter did become a rock-solid leader of the early church. He boldly proclaimed the gospel in the face of imprisonment and persecution. And in the end, he gladly gave his life as a martyr.
- Jesus saw Peter’s potential and we see his potential come to fruition because when we give our all to Christ, He makes us like Him. If you look up the word ROCK in the Bible you will find it overwhelmingly used to describe GOD, not Peter. Psalm 18:31 probably says it best:
For who is God except the Lord? Who but our God is a solid rock?
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus told Peter that he would be the rock on which He built His church, but Ephesians 2:20 explains that although Peter and the other apostles were certainly the foundation of this living thing that is the church, Jesus Himself was the cornerstone.
You see, God’s main purpose for our lives is to make us LIKE HIM.
“ But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 [NLT]
There’s a song playing on Christian radio these days called He Knows My Name by Francesca Battistelli. When it first came out, my husband copied off the lyrics and gave them to both sixteen-year-old girls living in our house right now because they are so often looking in the mirror and seeing only their flaws. But aren’t we all like that? Whether we’re sixteen or eighty-seven, when we look at ourselves, we often focus only on our failings. But as a line from that song says, “He made Something out of Nothing.” If you’ve never heard the song, click HERE to listen to the lyrics and as you do, consider these three things:
God knows your name.
He sees your potential.
He’s making something out of nothing because He’s making you like Him.