And those who know your name put their trust in you,
for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
When my wife became pregnant with our second child, she and I were overjoyed. We had hoped and prayed for another baby and were thrilled to know one was on the way. When we learned that our baby was a girl, we started thinking of a name for her. We decided upon Kara (pronounced CARE-uh), not only because we liked the sound of that name, but also because it was an Anglicized version of the Greek word meaning “joy.” We felt great joy over the pending birth of our little girl and wanted our joy to be captured by her name.
We never realized, however, just how perfect this name would be. Even when she was a baby, Kara rejoiced in life. She is still one of the most enthusiastic, fun, and, indeed, joyful people I know. It’s almost as if her name summarizes the essence of her existence. If you know that “Kara” means joy, and you know my daughter’s name is Kara, then you know her.
In a similar but far more profound way, God’s name represents God’s own nature. God first revealed his name to Moses at the burning bush (Exod 3:14-15). God calls himself “I AM WHO I AM” or, more simply, “I AM.” This name is related in Hebrew to the name Yahweh (which was once rendered Jehovah and which is usually translated in English Bibles as LORD). The name of God captures God’s unique, self-determining identity. Moreover, in the context of Exodus 3, the name of God conveys his saving love and grace. This is made explicit in Exodus 34:6, where God explains the meaning of his name this way: “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
In light of Exodus, we can better understand the sense of Psalm 9:10: “And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” If we know God’s name, we know that God is compassionate, merciful, slow to anger, and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. Thus, we trust in God as he has made himself known through his name.
As Christians, we trust in God as he has revealed himself through Jesus. The name “Jesus,” an English rendering of the Hebrew Yehoshua or Joshua, combines the divine name with the Hebrew word for salvation (Yahweh + hoshea). Thus, “Jesus” means “Yahweh is salvation.” This name beautifully represents his saving work. Jesus accomplished through his death and resurrection that which his name signifies. When we know the true meaning of his name, when we know that he is the Savior, we put our trust in him and live each day centered in him.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION:
Can you think of a person (either real or fictional) whose name captures the essence of that person’s character?
How have you experienced God’s grace, mercy, and love?
How is your life different today because you trust in the LORD?
Thank you, Lord, for revealing to us, not just your name, but also the meaning of your name. Thank you for the way your name embodies your compassion and mercy, your love and grace. Thank you for the embodiment of your name in Jesus, our Savior.
Help me, dear Lord, to know you more truly, more deeply, more intimately. As I come to know you more, may I trust you more and more and more. Amen.
Photo: Mark and his daughter, Kara, hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California when she was in elementary school.