What's In A Name?

November 21, 2016
by JJ Ollerenshaw

Isaiah 49:16a – See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (NIV 2011)

Our eighth grandchild is due in the next week or so, and though he or she already has a place in our hearts and in our family, thus far, the baby doesn't have a name. Hundreds of names have been deemed unsuitable. Our name is our identity, and if you've ever had your identity stolen, you know the importance that we place on our name.

The Babylonians understood, and tried to wipe out their captives' previous identity by assigning new names to assimilate them into their culture. Daniel, meaning God is Judge, was called Belteshazzar, meaning Bel (a false god) will protect.

Some names are passed down through the family for generations and give a sense of belonging. Some have special meanings with stories behind them. But for various reasons, some of us have a name that we don't consider a blessing. We may try to change it, but unless we do so legally, we find that we're stuck with it. It turns up unexpectedly on official papers, and we look at it askance: Is that me? It doesn't feel like me. We don't identify with it.

We may wonder, if God planned when and where we'd be born, why did He allow our parents to give us this name? It often helps to find the meaning or origin. Isaiah prophesied that the coming Messiah would be called "Immanuel", meaning God with us. When the angel announced to Mary that she would become pregnant by the Holy Spirit, the baby's name was to be Jesus, in Hebrew Yeshua (Joshua), meaning God saves. However, the Bible also gives us dozens of different names for God and Jesus. We become familiar with each one as we get to know Him personally.

In this world, our name and our identity are so important, but God knows what kind of person we can become: our true nature, our real identity. When we are born again and adopted into God's family, our nature is transformed by the renewing of our mind. God is thoroughly familiar with us. The Bible tells us that He knows the number of hairs on our head. What's more important, God is totally familiar with our heart. He knows our true identity. He can't forget it. It's tattooed on the palm of His hand. And when we enter our true home, heaven, we'll receive a new name:

Revelation 2:17 – To the one who is victorious, I will give … a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it. (NIV 2011)

When our precious, new grandchild enters this world, he or she will be washed and given a name. The white stone that Jesus referred to was a symbol for "Not Guilty". Our sins forgiven, we're washed clean just like a new baby.

If you have a name that's a stumbling block, I encourage you to find your identity in Christ. "If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV 2011)

Prayer: Father, we're thankful that we belong to You and that You know exactly who we are. You know every detail about us. Thank You for forgiving our sins. Jesus, name above all names, we adore You and look forward to living with You for eternity. Amen.

P.S. Welcome to the world, Sophia Mary! May God bless you and keep you!

About the author:

JJ Ollerenshaw <sandjollie@yahoo.com>

Belleville, Ontario, Canada


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1 Comment

  • PresbyCan Feedback says:

    God knows you by your name.


    Thanks for the encouraging word JJ.


    What an insighful encouragement, and what a wonderful postscript!


    JJ, thanks for sharing this wonderfully well written and informative devotional with us. Blessings.


    Loved your devotional, but wanted to add; that is why it is so important to be baptized in Jesus name. We take on his identity. We are buried with him in baptism, for the remission of our sins.


    Dear JJ,
    Congratulations on the birth of your new granddaughter. Eight grandchildren, lucky you. I have four and they are so precious. I thank God always for these wonderful little ones.
    Blessings to you and yours.


    This devotional reminds of the Ann Landers column my mother cut out for me when I became a school principal almost 50 years ago… and was something I read to my students..and once in church after I read the scriptures where the sermon was similar.
    (ON)


    Eight is a wonderful number for grandchildren! We have rejoiced over each of our eight and know they are called by name by God.
    Thanks for this personal and special devotional.
    (Texas)


    Sophia – how wonderful. Wisdom.
    I was named Hope because at the time of my birth, my father was in a sanitorium with tuberculosis. Sadly, he did not live. I grew up hating my name because it was so different. Also it rhymed with “dope” and children can be cruel. Now I cherish the memory of why I was named.
    Thank you for today’s devotional.


    Really enjoyed your writing today. We were pleased to read “he or she” which told us the old element of surprise is still alive and well. We’re sure little Sophia Mary is a true blessing. My name means “lost and bewildered”!! I’m sure many friends who love me and get a kick out of teasing me enjoy this information! Blessings for a happy holiday season with your brand new little family member.
    (NH USA)


    Dear JJ Ollerenshaw,
    Such a great devotional! It began well, and kept getting better.
    And surprise, the baby is born, Sophia Mary! Yes may God cause her to be a blessing in his kingdom on earth, and for ever more.
    To your prayer I say AMEN! AMEN!
    (Ontario, Canada)


    Hi JJ,
    When my daughter-in-law was expecting they found out the sex of the child. They had a name picked out but did not share that information with us. With the names people choose these days I was a little concerned that it could be some strange name. Then the baby was born and the name revealed.
    Her second name was after both grandmothers. Her first name was a name that they liked. What they didn’t know was that it was my grandmother’s name.
    I was pleasantly surprised.
    Thank you for your devotional.


    Then what is your name JJ? A cousin of mine was embarrassed by his name. Another thought to add is that in India children are not named until they are several months or even a year old. They choose a name that suits their personality.

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