What’s in a name? (Advent)


“Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.” (Isaiah 8:18)

Isaiah had two sons and he gave them names symbolic of how God was dealing with his nation. We have many African friends who give their children names as tokens of future promise: Blessing, Favour, Promise. It’s a lovely custom. Isaiah’s two sons, however, have names that speak of God’s justice, as well as His mercy.

Shear-jashub‘s name means “a remnant shall return” (Isaiah 7:3). It’s a sign that no matter how bad things look on the surface, God has an ultimate optimism for our future. It means mercy.

The second son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, has a name that means “He has made haste to the plunder!”  which communicates a line of justice and wrath.  Judgment is imminent, and the once-proud nation will be plundered by outsiders. Justice is coming.

But to us, God offers both justice and mercy together. They are indissolubly linked in the cross of Jesus, where judgment over sin and every form of evil is expressed and overcome through  the mercy and love of God in Jesus, dying for us. The point is that both aspects –both children– form the whole truth about God is, and it is good news! The judge is also the rescuer.

Lord, never let us underestimate you by seeing only one of your roles in our lives.

Help us to enjoy your love and kindness while recognizing how much you hate sin.

But  that’s not quite the end of the story. The last section of Isaiah brings another word about naming:  “The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow.”  (Isaiah 62:2)

God Himself has a new name for you, new blessing, new favour, new possibility. I wonder what it is!

In that lovely little story Hind’s Feet in High Places, the character Much-Afraid, after many trials finds that her new name -her real name-is Grace-and-Glory.

Perhaps there is more to you than meets the eye. When you once accept both justice and mercy from the hand of God, then you are ready to receive your new name…





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