What’s in name: Destiny? Security?

Judy Brandon: CNJ columnist

What’s in a name? First think about the name Fran. Each hurricane this season will be named a name. The National Weather Service will give the new hurricane a name, track its path and predict the direction it is going. Back in September 1996, hurricane Fran hit the East Coast and left $1 billion worth of damage. Then the National Weather Service retired the name of Fran. Never again will that name be used to identify a hurricane.

Consider the name Judas. As a child living in Kansas City, I learned this name early on because of our jaunt everyday from Kansas City, Kan., to Kansas City, Mo. The highway was a viaduct that spanned the stockyards and as we crossed it, I could look overhead and see the enclosed livestock bridges that stretched above and across the highway. On many trips, Judas, the old ram, was a common sight. He led the rest of the animals to slaughter. We could look up and see Judas leading a line of animals to a sure death to the slaughterhouse on the other side.

What about the name Nero? Tradition says he played the violin while Rome burned. He put to death many Christians and anyone else he took a mind to kill. Years ago, an uncle of mine owned an old dog that he kept in the barnyard. The dog’s name was Nero. My uncle kept old Nero chained up. Anytime anyone would come around, Nero would growl, show his teeth with fierce anger and lunge with his chain on at visitors because he was always in the attack mode.
Rarely do we hear the name of a person who is named Nero or Judas.

Yet, there is spiritual perspective to this name concept. The Bible talks about a “new name.” To the first-century Christians, this had a unique meaning. Names carried a destiny with the early people. Jacob means trickster, and when Jacob tricked Esau, Esau remarked, “Is he not rightly named Jacob for he took away my birthright?” Abram became Abraham, and Jacob humbled himself before God and became Israel. In the New Testament, Saul became Paul after his conversion.

The ancient concept of immortality was based upon the continuation of one’s name. I read in a history book covering ancient Egypt that people believed that the soul could be eradicated with the disappearance of one’s name. In ancient Egypt, a pharaoh would have his name inscribed upon monuments. If his successor did not like him, the successor would have the names chiseled off. It was believed that if all the names of a dead person could be eradicated, his soul would be destroyed in eternity.

In New Testament days, the courts observed a custom that said when one had been accused of crime, and if that person was tried and acquitted, he was given a certain white stone as a symbol of release. This was proof to any official that the person was cleared of the old charge. For the Christian, this new name idea is found in Revelation: “To him that overcomes, I will give him a white stone and a new name written which no man knows, except he that receives it” (Revelation 2:17).

What’s in a name? For the believer, it is absolute security and a name for eternity.

Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at:
cbrandon@plateautel.net