What’s in a name?

By Michelle Wallace

When I was a little girl, two tornados swept through our town. What began as a nice sunny day quickly turned, as ominous black clouds formed on the horizon. My mom was at the grocery store and my dad was taking a shower. As the winds picked up, something told me it was time to go to the basement. The lawn chairs from the back of the house blew around to the front, and I anxiously pounded on the door of the bathroom to warn my dad. He was a bit of a storm chaser, unafraid to be outside even when it was lightening, so he dismissed my pleas to take cover. I remember we had just brought home a new puppy. I scooped the little guy up in my arms, and with my younger brother and sister in tow, made my way downstairs. I could hear the hail and the wind. On the small radio that we had with us, we heard warnings of tornados touching down. Then, silence. Everything went black. I’m not sure how long it lasted, but when we came upstairs the house was in tact and my dad was casually walking out after finishing his shower. On the other side of town, my mom wasn’t so fortunate. The windows of the grocery store had blown out and several buildings in town were destroyed. Thankfully, my mom found safety under a check out counter, and wasn’t hurt. No one in our town lost their life.

Years later, as The Lord brought this memory back to me, I wondered if that’s where some of the irrational fears I worked through as a young adult might have stemmed from. Then, that all too familiar voice spoke to my heart. Michelle, this is where your sense of worthlessness comes from. In that instance, along with others like it, you got the idea that you weren’t worth fighting for. Not true! God reminded me that He was in that basement with me, and that I’m worthy because He considers me worthy. In that moment, my lie of worthlessness was completely consumed and I understood His deep and powerful love for me.

There’s an awesome passage of scripture in seventh chapter of Deuteronomy about God’s people that reads:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations—the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you— and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.”

The interesting thing to note is that each of these nations derive the meaning of their name from a negative and confining emotion or word. For example, the root meaning of the Hittites is fear, Girgashites is rejection, Canaanites is shame, Perizzites is insecurity, Hivites is defilement, Jebusites is hopelessness, and Amorites is worthlessness (however, the root word here is not clear, as there is no known origin of that word, probably because they weren’t even worthy of a name).

In the verses following God’s charge to utterly destroy these nations He tells them why. “Do this because you are a people set apart as holy to God. Your God chose you out of all the people on Earth for himself as a cherished, personal treasure…The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! He did it out of sheer love!”

Today, the land that the enemy takes possession of is our heart. When you and I let him take us captive through fear or any other lie, we are no different than the children of Israel. We have given him ground– and that ground belongs solely to God! You are a personal treasure, chosen, and wildly loved by God. Sometimes, it’s simply a matter of knowing who you are.

Jesus asked his disciples who people were said thatHe was. There were various responses. Then He asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter stepped up to answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God,” but the conversation didn’t end there. Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”

Jesus addresses Peter by the name others know him by—Simon Bar-Jonah. Simon meaning, “reed-like” or “wavering,” Bar-Jonah meaning son of Jonas, which can be translated as “wine-bibber.” Roughly translated, Simon Bar-Jonah means “unstable son of an alcoholic.” Now, Jesus gives him a new name. The antithesis of unstable, Jesus tells him, “You are Peter,” meaning piece of a rock! And with the new name comes the promise of God. The gates of hell will not prevail! Matthew 16:19 (MSG translation) reads, “And that’s not all. You will have complete and free access to God’s kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven.”

Jesus wants Peter to understand what it means to be chosen by God. Dear one, don’t get caught up in who you’re not, God has set His love upon you. He’s given you a new name.

Paul says, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! To Him be glory forever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)

Connect with Michelle at HandoftheKing.com