Monday, November 29, 2004


Names are a big deal. People in ancient times believed that names define a person's lifestyle, their characteristics, and their personality. I've talked many times in this forum about how different people in the Bible had their names changed at the point of major life changes. Names are intrinsically linked with identity.

Even "secular" texts recognize this. Think Cinderella was born with that name? Think again. How about Aragorn from LOTR? He was called Strider when he was a Ranger, but only took on his true names when he accepted his true self.

Right now, I'm reading an amazing book about the names of God. It focuses on the Old Testament, addressing each name of God as it appears in the Bible. Right now, I'm on the second name, El Roi, "the God who sees me." Last week's name was Elohim, the Creator God.

The book gives a daily devotion, Monday through Friday, followed by some more passages for weekend meditation. Each daily entry looks at a different aspect of the name and its meaning.

It reminds me of what I read recently about Hebrew understanding of the name of God. Frogtown Pastor Pat (a fellow U2 fan) writes that there came a point when the Hebrew people were so reverent of the name God gave Moses, "I AM" (Yahweh, or YHWH ), that they stopped speaking it, or even writing it, for fear of saying it.

They didn't feel worthy to speak God's name.

I don't personally think this is necessary, but it is certainly not wrong. Out of obedience, out of reverence, they refrain, lest they err. I could do with a little more of that myself.

I've noticed that how I address God depends on my (perceived) standing with Him. Or rather, on the condition of my heart when I address Him. Penitent Dave calls him simply "God." Forgiven Dave calls him "Father" or "Father-God." I don't do this intentionally. It just happens.

Divine name-dropping isn't always a positive, sadly. I still catch myself throwing God's names around as expletives, sometimes. And as I read Spangler's book, I'm becoming more and more aware of how dangerous and ugly this is. Because names are powerful, and they mean something. When someone gives you their name, they give you a level of intimacy that strangers do not have. To betray that confidence is shameful.

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