In today’s society, many names are given because they sound appealing or because a best friend in grade school had the name. It could be that the name has a link to a family member or a person of renown in history. Some choose names because they’ve belonged to wise men or women, or to one whose life has been remarkable in some way.
Originally, names were meant to state a purpose or to signify a reality or event. The first man, Adam, was so named because
God made him of ground or earth (adamah in the Hebrew.) His female counterpart was named Eve (life or living in the Hebrew,) because she came out of Adam and was the hope of all future generations. Their union began the human race and their first sons had specific names. The firstborn, Cain, was given his name by Eve because she said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.” (Genesis 4:1, NKJV) Abel was the second son born to Adam and Eve and, that Hebrew noun, means “breath.”* Once Cain killed his brother Abel, Cain’s name became synonymous with murder or murderer (The name Cain is identical to the Hebrew word קין (qyn) meaning spear, coming from the root cluster קנה ,קין and קנן:)*
So some names began as descriptions of an event, some as attributes, identities or distinguishing characteristics, and some referred to a child’s lineage. Sometimes, as in the case of Jesus, the parents were told what name the child was to be given.
The biblical account of Jesus’ genealogy is found in the book of Matthew. Matthew 1 gives his ancestry back to Abraham and begins with, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the son of Abraham….” But in verse 18 Matthew recounts Jesus actual birth and begins with the facts that Mary is already pregnant and Joseph is upset because it’s not his child. He wants to divorce her secretly, because they were engaged and as good as married in Jewish tradition, and is mulling over what to do when an angel shows up in a dream. The angel says:
“‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet saying: Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.'” (Italics are quoted from Isaiah 7:14; all in NKJV)
As we look at this, we realize that the importance of a name in the culture of Israel, was not taken lightly. God wanted to make a statement about this baby. He wanted Jesus’ earthly father to know that this child growing inside Mary was already special because God Himself resided there. God had come in human form! He wanted Jospeh to know who the true Father was, but also to understand the reason He was being born. Jesus means Joshua in the Greek, and in Hebrew it is literally Yahweh saves. Jesus was later given the title, Christ or Messiah; Jesus the Christ or Jesus the Messiah. Christ means “anointed one.” (Christos in Greek or mashiach in Hebrew.) Let’s look more closely at the verb mashah (to anoint) in the Hebrew.
“It seems that this verb is employed where attention needs to be drawn; it does not simply denote a physical act but much rather a marking, a setting apart. It’s no surprise therefore that the most common usage of this verb entails the ritual of “anointing” someone in office, and only the offices that had no earthly superior: the King of Israel (1 Samuel 16:3), a prophet (1 Kings 19:16, Isaiah 61:1) or a High Priest (Exodus 28:41).
One obvious derivation of this verb is משחה (missha), meaning anointing oil. This very special oil was manufactured according to a precise recipe (Exodus 30:22-25), and misuse or even duplication of it was strictly forbidden (30:21-33). Whoever could call himself משיח (mashiah; our word Messiah) in Israel had had his head anointed with this highly guarded oil.”*
Jesus was set apart by God Himself. The Gift of a Redeemer was for everyone who desired a restored relationship with God; one that had been broken by the introduction of original sin in God’s beautiful Garden of Eden. God wanted the restoration more than any of us, and He was willing to make the greatest of sacrifices. When Jesus finally paid the cost of redemption, He was totally separated from His Father because God cannot even look on sin. He was totally alone for that redemptive act, and He paid it for you and me….
As we think of the names on our list this holiday season, let’s remember that we can never outgive the God who created us and Who continues to love us. Once we accept the Gift of Jesus for the payment of our sin, God sees nothing but the red blood that was shed for each of those mistakes, deliberate or not.
According to Ephesians 1, Jesus’ name is above every name! He is seated with God in Heaven, (Ephesians 1:20) and He is always talking to His Father about us. (Hebrews 7:25) Will you let another of Jesus’ birthdays pass without receiving the greatest of ALL gifts? I pray that His Gift will be yours this year!
*found in Abarim Publications’ Biblical Name Vault; http://www.abarim-publications.com/