What’s in a name?
My son, Joshua, texted me this week to ask me a question.
“Mom, what is it about Joshua of the bible that inspired you to name me after him?”
Josh has been asking a lot of “bible questions” lately, which thrills my heart, and are undoubtedly specific answers to prayer for this momma! He and his wife and our youngest granddaughter live about five hours from us, in north Texas.
I explained that Joshua became the leader of the Hebrew people after Moses led them out of Egypt after 400 years of slavery. He was a man of great faith, courage and commitment to God. Joshua and Caleb, along with ten other men, were sent to scope out Canaan, the “Promised Land” that God had promised to give them. Ten of the spies came back with bad reports, fearful of the “giants” in the land. “We look like grasshoppers compared to them.”
Joshua and Caleb, however, reported a “land of milk and honey”, and assured the Hebrew people that with God’s help, they were well able to possess this land which God had promised them.
Joshua means “God saves” and “God is generous”. The original Hebrew meaning is “Yahweh is Salvation”. I chose this name for my second son with the prayer that he would become a man of faith, courage and leadership, like Joshua of the bible.
In biblical times, names were usually chosen for a child with great meaning attached, either of what was happening at the time of the child’s birth, or as a hopeful future for the child. Jabez was a fitting example. The writer of 1st Chronicles takes time out of a genealogical record to mention this “honorable man”, whose name meant, “I gave birth to him in pain (or sorrow)”.
9 Jabez was more honorable than his brothers. His mother had named him Jabez, saying, “I gave birth to him in pain.” 10 Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, “Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. 1st Chronicles 4:9-10 (NIV)
There were many people in biblical world history who had shameful beginnings or “bad names” (reputations and character), but God changed their destiny by graciously and sovereignly “overruling” their previous less-than-stellar existence.
Rahab was a prostitute from Canaan who lived in the city of Jericho. Remember Joshua and Caleb? As they spied out the city, Rahab offered to help them if they would assure the salvation of her family when they overthrew the city. Rahab confessed to the two men that she knew of the miracles and fearful wonders the God of Israel had done for His children, and evidenced her newfound faith in God by helping His messengers. (Read the actual account here.)
Although Rahab started as a prostitute (a “harlot” in the King James version), she was brought into the very lineage of Christ by her faith in God and His mercy. She became the great-grandmother of Kind David, and is named in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew chapter 1. She’s even honored in the “Faith Hall of Fame” in Hebrews 11:31. Faith and obedience to God changed her destiny!
Gideon was a fearful man of many doubts, according to the bible. The Israeli people, as so often happened, had rebelled against God for many years, so the Lord “handed them over to the Midianites” for seven years. They were cruelly oppressed with crops and animals ravaged by the enemy, leaving them impoverished and without any hope of deliverance. The passage in Judges Chapter 6 recounts the conversation when “an Angel of the Lord” appeared to Gideon.
12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
13 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”
14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”
15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”
The last thing that Gideon would have called himself is a “man of valor” or a “mighty warrior”, as God called him. In his own strength, he was correct. But in God’s strength, nothing is impossible, humans can be filled with God-like strength and wisdom, and destinies change! God used Gideon and a band of only 300 men to defeat the Midianite army of thousands and deliver (once again) His people!
[bctt tweet=”With God, nothing is impossible; humans can be filled with God-like strength & wisdom, destinies change! #inspiringhopeblog #newdestiny” username=”becky_wright”]
Esther was an orphaned Jewish girl living in an oppressive kingdom who were adversaries of Israel. By God’s providence, however, she became the Queen of Persia, and delivered her people from annihilation. Read the incredible account here.
Sarai (which means “bitter”) had her name changed by God to “Sarah” (which means “princess”), as God opened her womb at the age of 99 — to give birth to her son Isaac.
The Samaritan woman who met Jesus at Jacob’s well had rightfully earned her shameful reputation. She’d been married five times, and was now living with a man to whom she was not married. As Jesus compassionately looked into her soul and offered her “living water” (new life by believing in Jesus and turning from her sins), her entire destiny was changed. She ran back to Samaria and told everyone about this Messiah who had set her free!
Lee Strobel was a skeptical Atheist who thought the idea of God was stupid. Lee used his journalism and legal training to investigative the evidence of Christianity. I was struck by hearing his powerful testimony when he spoke at the Oklahoma State Evangelism Conference in 2015. A legal editor and journalist for the Chicago Tribune, Lee questioned and investigated everything to find “the truth”.
Lee Strobel began as an Atheist, but is now an outspoken proponent of the Gospel of Christ and the authenticity of the Bible. Mr. Strobel is not so different from Paul of the bible, who formerly ordered the torture and murder of Christ-followers, until his radical conversion to Christ. I highly recommend Strobel’s books, for yourself and for others who may have questions about the Bible, Jesus and Christianity. (I just ordered one of Strobel’s books for my son, Joshua.)
So what’s your story?
Do you, like most of us, have a shameful past (or present situation) that seems to overshadow any hope of a better future? Well, “Gospel” means “good news”! We can be changed, “born again” through Jesus Christ and His death and resurrection! Just as every “hero of faith” (male or female) named in the Bible was an imperfect, fallen human being, by God’s grace they surrendered to Him in faith — and helped change the world.
Ponder these truths today, and share with someone who needs to hear them — and find hope:
“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV)
“Don’t you know that the unrighteous will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be deceived: No sexually immoral people, idolaters, adulterers, or anyone practicing homosexuality, no thieves, greedy people, drunkards, verbally abusive people, or swindlers will inherit God’s kingdom. And some of you used to be like this. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1st Corinthians 6:9-11, NIV; emphasis mine.)
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13 (HCSB)
“I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” Isaiah 61:10 (NIV)
King Jesus removes our filthy garments by His grace and given us a royal robe of righteousness, which He earned … and we could not. THAT is our new destiny in Christ!