A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).
In this passage, “a good name” is referring to a good reputation…but in Hebrew culture, the name itself was just as important as the person and reputation it represented.
Names were meant to describe the individual. Often, parents chose names based on their hopes for the future of their child. There were many times when God changed the names of those who followed Him to better suit the plan He had for their lives. Simon became Peter, meaning “a rock.” Abram became Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude.”
Likewise, when we are “born again” we receive a new name — Christian, meaning, “follower of Christ.”
I once heard a story of young man who died from a motorcycle accident. While I personally didn’t know him, I knew many people who did and heard his story. At the time of his death, the boy had been in a relationship with a young woman who was an atheist. While her boyfriend’s death had been hard on her, from the tragedy she gathered comfort from the Savior and became a Christian. The boyfriend’s name was Jesse. Jesse means “God exists.”
How cool is that?
On the other hand, not everyone was given a name of honor. Take Jacob, for example. His name means “supplanter” or “usurper”–one who wrongfully seizes the place (throne) of another. And boy, does his name fit him! In Genesis 25, we see that Jacob exchanged stew for his starving older brother’s birthright, and in chapter 27, we see how Jacob tricks his near-blind father into bestowing that birthright upon him.
So, must we always live up to our names? Some people may need to live their name down. For instance, my name, Leah, means “weary.” I certainly don’t want to go through life as a weary person…and many times when I go through somewhat weary spells, it feels as if I will. It’s something I have to fight–I have a name to live down. Ironically, my middle name is Kay, which means “Joyful.” This gives me hope as I strive for an attitude of joy through the weariness I sometimes face.
Although Jacob’s story begins with him living up to his wretched name, ultimately he lives it down when he receives the name Israel, meaning “Prince of God.” Israel is very much like a prince. He later fathers a vast nation chosen by God, much like the eldest prince is chosen by the king to lead. This vast nation also takes the name Israel.
So what does your name mean? If it’s honorable, do you live up to it? If it’s not so honorable, can you/do you live it down? What if your name doesn’t seem to have much of a meaning at all?
If your name is like Brooke, meaning “stream,” you may be dismayed at first. It doesn’t seem to carry much importance. But what about for ancient civilizations? Streams and other small bodies of water were at the center of all cultures. People couldn’t survive without the water that these streams provided.
Do a little research on your name. If you have the name of a Biblical character, read their story and learn about the type of person they were.
Also, take the time to meditate on the name of God. The Bible calls Him many names, and each shows a different face of our Lord.
A few of the many names of God:
Jehovah-tsikenu: Jehovah our righteousness
Jehovah-m’kaddesh: the Lord who sanctifies
Jehovah-shalom: God our peace
Jehovah-shammah: the Lord who is here
Jehovah-rapha: Jehovah heals
Jehovah-Jireh: the Lord my provider
Jehovah-nissi: Jehovah my banner
Get to know Him better by getting to know His names. Strive to imitate them. Strive to be a David, a man after God’s own heart. And strive to create for yourself a holy image so that one day your name will be remembered for all the good that you’ve done.
Some common names and their meanings:
Jenna: “Small Bird”
Caitlin: “Virginal Beauty”
Makayla: “Who is like God?”
Elizabeth: “My God is a vow”
Written by PI Girl, Leah