2015-2016 Bible Challenge, devotionals

What’s in a name? (a devotion)

Below, you’ll find a second devotion for week 1 of our two year journey through the Bible. May it encourage you as we read and learn together. I also want to encourage you to check out this blog at Desiring God entitled “Don’t Just Read the Bible for Yourself” (click here).

What’s in a name? (by Pastor Mike)

21 “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). ~ Matthew 1:21-23 ESV

Names. We all have one (if not more). On occasion, you still might hear a person talk about having a good name or making a good name for himself/herself, meaning the reputation a person has. Some names bring quick recognition (good or bad): Billy Graham, George Washington, George Bush, Barak Obama, Oprah, Napoleon…

In the Bible, many names carried a purpose beyond reputation—they spoke of hopes, fears, and promises. God changed Abram to Abraham (father of many) upon a promise he would become the father of many nations. With sadness in her heart over the loss of her husband and sons, Naomi (pleasant) told people to call her Mara (bitter). Jesus, seeing beyond the brash and unsteady nature to what he would become later, nicknamed Simon as Peter (rock).

With the birth of a child to Mary and her husband-to-be Joseph, through the power of the Holy Spirit working in a virgin’s womb, God the Son became a man, a human being like us. God with us who started life on earth the way we all do as a child. An angel told the boy’s stepfather, Joseph, to give him a particular name: Jesus.

An English variation of Greek and Latin, Jesus is from the Hebrew name Yeshua (Joshua), meaning: “YHWH[1] is salvation.” In the case of Jesus, his name stands as a promise of God to humanity: God is our salvation, and he will save his people from all their rebellion, brokenness, pain, and evil (sin and the consequences of sin). To be his people, we trust and follow Jesus as Savior and King. As his people, we receive God with us.

Yes, God was with humanity as Jesus walked on the earth 2000 years ago. But before he returned to heaven, he promised to be with us always (Matthew 28:20). Yet even more than this, as Jesus’ followers we have the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of Christ—Romans 8:9-11) as God in us. This all ties in to the promise found in the name of Jesus.

What’s in a name? In the case of Jesus—life, salvation, hope, joy, and the presence of God with us forevermore.


[1] YHWH, often pronounced Yahweh and sometimes as Jehovah, is the proper name of God throughout the Old Testament. Most English translations of the Bible will render YHWH as Lord (often with all caps: LORD).

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