Men talk too much of gold and fame, And not enough about a name; And yet a good name’s better far Than all earth’s glistening jewels are. Who holds his name above all price And chooses every sacrifice To keep his earthly record clear, Can face the world without a fear.
– Excerpt from “A Good Name” by Edgar Albert Guest
Our poet is in agreement with wise King Solomon, who proclaimed:
A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold. – Proverbs 22:1
The “name” of which these two men speak is derived from the Hebrew word, Shem. This word is commonly translated as “name” in scripture, but is also closely related to words such as “fame” and “renown”. A person’s name, whether they like it or not, is associated with their character and how others view them. One might say, for example…
“Jack? Yeah, I know him. Nicest guy you’d ever meet. Always making others feel warmed and welcome, and he’d give you the shirt off his back if you had need of it. His wife, Jill, on the other hand is a real battleaxe. I wouldn’t want to get on her bad side, even on her best day.“
In this example, Jack’s name carries weight in a positive way, while Jill’s name induces a negative reaction from the hearer. Thus, both names are memorable…but only one is reputable.
In today’s lesson, we will be following in the footsteps of King Solomon by comparing “a good name” to money. A person needs money to successfully get by in this world, and certainly they also need a good name for their success in this world and the next. Do you have a good name, my friend? I hope so – because you’re going to need it.
First of all, you’re going to need it…
The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; and you will be called by a new name which the mouth of the Lord will designate. – Isaiah 62:2
Both money and names alike are desirable for the jingle.
When a man has a bit of extra money in his pocket, he walks about with an air of grandeur. Having wealth within his reach gives him the power to choose: he has the choice to save his money, or to spend it. He has a choice as to what to save for or spend on. He could choose to give away his money, or he could save it for a rainy day. So many options, but the mere jingle of coins in his pocket will inevitably have him holding his head a little higher.
When a woman fancies the jingle of her name, she carries herself with confidence. Possessing a beautiful name assists her sense of self-esteem: there is no reason for timidity with a name she is proud of. When others call upon her, she does not inwardly wince at the sound of her own name. Rather, she feels pleased and contented with her identity.
A good name has the best kind of jingle. Isaiah 62:2 (above) speaks of the Lord calling us by a new name…from His mouth. Could anything lift the countenance more than that? Being “named” by the Lord is something to glory in, even more so than pocket money or a beautiful name. You might be thinking, what’s so important about a jingle? Here’s what’s important: a positive self-image affects our mindset, and subsequently, our behavior. If I take pride in my good name, it stands to reason that I will do all I can to hang onto it! Being called by the name “Christian” should cause you and I to stand tall – we have intrinsic value as His name-bearers. Let each of us do our best not to mar or stain the good name that we have in Christ. Chin up, and be proud of the jingle you carry as a child of the most high God.
So you need a good name for the jingle, but you’re also going to need it…
Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying…no longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. Then God said to Abraham, as for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and indeed I will give you a son by her. Then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people will come from her. – Genesis 17:3,5-6,15-16
Both money and names alike are desirable for the journey.
When a man embarks on a journey, he must go prepared with plenty of money in his bank account. Without money, he won’t get very far. Fuel, fares, and food alone will quickly deplete his savings…not to mention the cost of any luxuries he may wish to purchase once he arrives at his destination. Experiences, attractions, souvenirs, and the like all have one glaring thing in common: they’ll cost him beaucoup bucks!
When a woman prepares to open up a shop, she pores over the perfect name for her new business journey. From the little old lady at the health food store who calls her biz “Mrs. Mason’s Market” to the young hairdresser who finally settles on naming her salon “Krystal’s Klips ‘n Kuts”, you can bet that each woman toyed with a hundred different ideas before she found just the right name to suit her liking. She is convinced that if her business is ever going to amount to anything, it must have no less than the perfect title.
A good name will take you on the best kind of journey. Genesis 17 (above) recounts the history of Abraham and Sarah receiving a name change from the Lord. God tells the “why” of these name changes: to prepare this couple for the new lifestyle that was soon to be theirs. They were to become the father and mother of many nations, they were to be given a new land in which to live, and they were to be covenanted with their Father in Heaven. Those were Abraham-and-Sarah-sized-blessings…far beyond what “Abram and Sarai” could handle. A new journey demanded a new name for both of them. This puts me in mind of the “old (wo)man” that I used to be before I became a Christian. The old me was not equipped for the “new (wo)man”-sized tasks that the Lord had prepared for me when I rose up out of the waters of my baptism. When we enter into a covenant with God, His grace gives us new reputation: a good name for the journey.
So you need a good name for the journey, but you’re also going to need it…
But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! – Isaiah 43:1
Both money and names alike are desirable for the junction.
When a man comes to a junction in the form of a toll road, he must make one of two choices: a) he must pay money to advance and continue on the path he is taking, or b) he must take the nearest exit and find a new path to travel. If he tries to whiz past the toll booths without paying the toll fees, he will find himself paying a hefty fine in the near future. Staying linked with his present route will cost him one way or another. It’s pay to stay or stay away.
When a woman enters the junction of marriage, she takes on her husband’s last name as a sign that she belongs to him. This custom proclaims to all that she and her man are one. Any children she bears for her husband will also carry on his surname. It’s a subtle, common, yet meaningful tradition that tells the world, “this family is joined together under the headship of the man of our home. We play for the same team around here…his team.”
A good name will bring you to the best junction. Isaiah 43:1 (above) is a nod to Jacob’s name change as recorded in Genesis 32:28. If you recall the original account, Jacob was renamed by God after his unique encounter (re: wrestling match) with his Maker. Jacob was given the new name “Israel” as a merit badge of sorts for striving with the Living God and coming out a victor. Our Isaiah passage adds an enlightening layer to Jacob’s name change: “I have called you by name; you are mine!”, the Lord proclaims. The authoritative act of naming Jacob would be a way for God to mark their newfound junction (joining, union, convergence) with one another. Notice how God calls himself the “creator” of Jacob, but the “former” of Israel. Translation: this man of God was born a Jacob, but God leveled him up to an Israel on His training ground. When we link up with God, our growth is inevitable. The way we start out will not be the same way we end up.
There is a very special reason that names are on my mind and in my heart this month. If you are reading this article, then you are about to become privy to a surprise that my husband and I have been keeping to ourselves for some time. Now that it’s documented and official, I am ready to let the cat out of the bag:
I have legally changed my name.
I realize that this probably comes as a shock, and many of you will wonder: why on earth would she do that?! Here’s why I did it…
I did it For the Jingle. With nothing but respect towards my parents and the blessed upbringing they gave me, I simply am not a fan of my given name. When I was a little girl, I would spend hours looking at the baby name book from the family shelf; dreaming of what it would be like to have a name I perceived as beautiful. I have always felt a slight unease at being summoned by name…the one I was born with is just not “me”. This was and has always been a matter of personal taste, and not a poor reflection on the beloved namer or anyone else who is fond of my former name. I humbly ask that you, dear reader, respect my sentiment as I respect yours. At the end of the day, I am the one who knows myself and the name that aids my self-confidence. My decision has brought me much joy – please share in my excitement!
I did it For the Journey. I am on a mission of self-improvement. If the version you knew of me was from 10 years ago…5 years ago…even 1 year ago, then you don’t know me. I am striving every day to be a better daughter to God, a better wife to my husband, a better mom to my kids, a better employee for my company, and the list goes on. The path ahead of me is so much brighter than the path behind me, and I’m not turning back. My name change is a way to commemorate the person I’ve become through God’s infinite grace. Like Abraham and Sarah before me, I’m headed for Canaan’s Land…and I’m taking a new name with me as I venture on. I’m not who I was.
I did it For the Junction. My favorite part in my renaming story is where I got my name. The man whom I love above all others, the one who put a ring on my finger and covenanted with me forever before God and man…chose it for me. We have toyed with changing my name for years and now we have finally reached the junction where a well-suited name has come to rest in my husband’s heart. You might think, “that took long enough!” Remember, it took a while for “Jacob” to evolve into an “Israel”, too. But when the Lord saw Jacob as he was, face-to-face, He knew that he was Jacob no longer. There came a day when “Woman” evolved into “Eve”. When her husband saw her as she was, there was no doubt about it: she was an Eve, and he named her as such. My love has called me by name…and I am his.
Though I am laying my former name to rest, this is a time of celebration and not sadness. One door from my past may be closing, but another blessed new beginning is opening for me. When it comes to endings and new beginnings, King Solomon said it best:
A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one’s death is better than the day of one’s birth. The end of a matter is better than its beginning. – Ecclesiastes 7:1,8a
Check back in three days for the revealing of a good name. I can’t wait to share it with you.
For God’s Glory, To Be Revealed on July 4, 2021
Mrs. Dustin Bolks is a church of Christ minister’s wife, and the home educating mother of two children. She and her family currently reside in Northwest Iowa.