Jacob had many sons (maybe you know the song from the musical) and a daughter. In this part, Benjamin had not yet been born – but I know he is on the list too. I may not agree with Jacob’s methods for getting sons, but it seems that the past struggles are gone, there is no longer a barreness in his family, except with the one wife that he did love. Jacob has been blessed and multiplied over and over. No longer would this promised nation of GOD grow in ones and twos, but now it would expand quickly.
It seems, however, that he never named any of them, but instead, it was the mothers that decided. That was probably their culture. Some of his kids had names with lovely meanings … and some didn’t. But the meaning of the names given to each child were very important. The meaning could become a significant influence on the child’s character. There is even reference to a name being able to illustrate a person in 1 Samuel 25:25 when a man is described as like his name.
Even the names of Jacob’s sons seem to indicate some of the future for them as individuals and as future tribes. I especially like Levi ‘Attached’ – his ancestors became the priests that would go before GOD for the people. They attached the people to GOD.
Names are important. Names give a person a sense of being and existing. Names offer uniqueness either in their spelling, pronunciation or shortened versions. Names allow us to single people out from the crowd.
I know that when I was pregnant with my children, I either knew what they should be called or I was still having the conversation with my husband in the delivery suite! I still feel it a little now. When I write, choosing a name can take time and often their meaning reveals something of the role of the character. I feel there is an importance attached to a name that we live with all our lives, so choosing a name for someone else carried weight.
Yet we can very quickly dish out names and labels to ourselves and others. We can call ourselves clever or stupid, courageous or fearful etc …, we can easily refer to ourselves as the role we take on in our everyday life e.g. mother, student, cook, architect, etc. We take on board what others say about us and even consult personality and strength tests which seem to describe us to some extent as introvert, extrovert, strategic, achiever, etc. They are all valid to a point, but perhaps we put too much weight on them. If I consider the people in the Bible living up to their names, I start to wonder how many times I have lived up to the name or label I have adopted either rightly or wrongly. It encourages me to throw off these inadequate names that cannot tell me who I really am and look elsewhere for my identity.
Some of the names that the Bible references for us as GOD’s people when we have put our hope in Him include: chosen, created in His image, royal, citizen of Heaven, GOD’s temple, beloved, new creation, more than a conqueror … These are universal names that identify each and every person that has given their life to GOD. They talk about our new identity in Him. Check out the link Who are we …
Personal names can have wonderful and lofty meanings, but they can also feel like they are down to earth and worthless. Have you ever been in a room and someone calls out your name, you turn and it wasn’t you they were calling? At those times it has left me feeling unnoticed and silly. If you have an unusual name, you have probably never had this problem, but then you have issues with buying souvenirs bearing you name. Then, maybe, you have the feeling that you are not important enough to even be considered. I seem to fit in both these camps. I am grateful that God knows my earthly name (which is both common and unusual – and which I happen to love) but He calls me by a name that only He knows. When He calls that unique name out, I am the only one who is able to turn. When He writes it in the book, it is spelled correctly. I hope to get to know that name as time goes by and as I walk into it. That name carries far more authority than earthly labels and when He speaks it, He creates the space for me to walk into the fulfillment of it too.
When GOD says He has called you by name (Isaiah 43:1), it carries authority. It talks of Him knowing you and desiring to have relationship with you. It gives purpose and direction.
My challenge … listen out for the name that GOD gives to you and then be bold and step into it.