Meaning behind the name

“And she conceived again and bore a daughter. Then God said to him: ‘Call her name Lo-Ruhamah, for I will no longer have mercy on the house of Israel’” (Hosea 1:6 NKJV).

Don’t you often wonder why other people name their children what they do? This question arises within one’s own language and culture, but is especially frequent in cross-cultural situations. Sometimes it is simply a matter of a word (name) being totally unfamiliar, such as “Tuhin” or “Mridol.”

In other cases it is recognition that we just would not have thought of that particular name. One of the administrators of Khulna Bible College named his son “Abishai,” after the second son of King David’s sister, Zeruiah (2 Samuel 2:18). There is certainly nothing wrong with that name, and I knew of its Old Testament use, but I had simply never known any modern person to whom it had been given. When I considered Biblical names to suggest to those who requested it, Abishai was not one which occurred to me.

There are names, however, that have negative connotations, either by association or by definition or etymology. Consider the names of two of the prophet Hosea’s children, Lo-Ruhamah (literally “No Mercy,” or “Unloved”), and Lo-Ammi (“Not My People,” Hosea 2:6, 9). Imagine carrying God’s condemnation of your nation around like a badge for all of your life. What a burden to bear!

In our modern culture many are highly critical of God’s nature because of such commands in Biblical times. They argue, “How could a loving God hang such a tremendous handicap on an innocent child?” But such opinions fail to recognize both the totality of God’s nature (which includes justice), and the enormity and evil of sin. Israel was rebellious, wicked, and unrepentant. Their extreme wickedness demanded an extreme response.

We often identify prophets only with the foretelling of future events. But their ministry was much more involved and complicated. Some, like Hosea, lived their lives as a statement of God’s judgment against his people. He was a living message, so that those who witnessed his life were given dramatic proof of God’s response to their unfaithfulness. He did not merely deliver an oracle from God, He, along with his family, was an oracle from God.

Whatever one’s given and family names might be, those who have declared obedient faith towards Jesus Christ also wear his name – they are called “Christians” (Acts 11:26). Though it may have originally been intended as a derogatory reference by enemies of the gospel, this label was quickly acknowledged within the church as a mark of one’s calling (1 Peter 4:16). It is a mark which demands to be lived up to. As Paul wrote, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1). Though “calling” here has wider meaning than simply the name given to believers, living up to the name of Christ is certainly within the legitimate application of the Apostle’s request.

Those who wear the name of Christ must acknowledge his authority (Luke 6:46), acquire his character (Romans 8:9), and follow his example (Ephesians 4:1-3). To do otherwise is to negate any claim to be his followers. To claim his name is to submit to his rule. Those who do so sincerely may suffer as a result (2 Timothy 3:12), but even when that occurs they will not be ashamed (1 Peter 4:16). Rather, God will be glorified and his people will ultimately be blessed (Matthew 5:11-12).

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