F. A. Hughes.
Names in Scripture are numerous and almost beyond comment, but a careful study of them, so far as one is capable, yields much interest and a deep moral challenge. It is purposed in this article to glance at very few, desirous of promoting an interest in a subject which can promote considerable spiritual profit — especially if the Scriptures from which suggestions are taken are carefully read. One cannot be interested in this subject without gaining a fresh impression of the unlimited knowledge and greatness attaching to Divine Persons. Adam was given intelligence which enabled him to give names to all creatures, but God alone could number and name the countless millions of stars — "He counteth the number of the stars; He giveth names to them all" (Psalm 147:4). How preciously significant that this verse follows the words "He healeth the broken in heart." The Lord Jesus calls the myriads of His own sheep "by name." "I know them" He says — each name recorded in the eternity of the "Lamb's book of life." What marvellous wisdom and power; what infinitely precious love!
Names in Scripture often denote the characteristics of those who bear them, the name given to the first man born into the world amply shows this. As God in His wisdom took account of potentialities, so He changed names — Abram to Abraham; Jacob to Israel; Simon to Peter; etc.. The alteration of Saul to Paul deserves the most careful attention — especially in regard to the precise occasion on which it took place! Sad indeed the circumstances which prompted Naomi (pleasant) to change her name to Marah (bitterness). The blessed Lord alone can preserve us from similar failure. Yet this incident provides us with one of the choicest genealogies in Scripture.
The last verse of Judges refers to a point in Israel's history of extreme failure and departure from God — a condition of complete anarchy and disregard of God's will for His people. "In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes." The book of Ruth tells us that a famine in Israel resulted.
Alas! an almost exact picture of conditions prevailing in the world today! It is in such circumstances that the name "Elimelech" appears. Belonging to the city of Bethlehem Judah (the house of bread and praise); bearing the name "whose God is king" he goes to sojourn in the fields of Moab — reaping nothing but death and barrenness. We touch the details but briefly. God is in command — He visits His people with bread — the devotion of Ruth and her cleaving to Naomi and subsequent union with Boaz, result in the blessed God reaching His great objective — His king, David (Beloved). In my early Christian life I was gently rebuked when I remarked to an older brother (we were discussing the book of Ruth) that I never took much notice of genealogies. "You have missed the great objective of the book," he replied. If this little incident energizes the young brethren to realize that "all Scripture" is divinely inspired, spiritual progress will result. "No king in Israel" — "God as king" unsought — but God reaching His great thought in the last word of the book — "DAVID." This is the first mention in Scripture of that name. Brethren, however dark conditions in Christendom are, the blessed God has secured everything for His glory and the blessing of His people in David's Son and Lord — God's beloved Son.
In the following book, Samuel, God having now reached His objective in David (as yet in promise only) begins to work out the preciousness of that which fills His own heart, in the hearts of His people. From a scene of barrenness Samuel comes to light, one who found his rest near the Ark and whose every word was established by God. In 1 Samuel 2 (called the prayer of Hannah although she does not ask for anything) in her outburst of praise to God for all His mighty acts, she reaches the same end reached by God in the book of Ruth — "His Anointed." The Christ of God. May we possibly read that this was in her heart in verse 5. Later in the chapter it is evident she bore six children — but in this verse she says "the barren beareth seven" (perfection); was she looking on in faith to the one whom Samuel would anoint — David the type of God's perfect Man — Christ — His Anointed?
In the midst of very many names and generations in the Bible there are but two "books of generations" — "the book of the generation of Adam," and "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ." In the former (Genesis 5) we read over and over again, "and he died" (Enoch the exception). We need not elaborate — "death has passed upon all men." But in "the book of the generation of Jesus Christ" (Matthew 1) the sovereign mercy of God would include the names of four women who otherwise would have no claim to be there; three openly wrongdoers and one a stranger to God's people — a universal testimony to God's abounding grace. In this "book of generations" the Lord Jesus is presented first as "Son of David" and then "Son of Abraham," a different order from that line of succession which follows — the rights of God's throne must first be upheld before His promises in grace and mercy can be dispensed.
Briefly we refer to Paul's letters to Timothy in which the atmosphere of "generations" may be seen. Although by nature the son of a Greek, Timothy is greeted by Paul as "my true child in faith," and again "my beloved child." His childhood and his youth are also affectionately referred to by the Apostle. Then, too, he is addressed as a "man of God," the only person so addressed in the New Testament. His genealogy as given in 2 Timothy 1 is deeply instructive. The name of his grandmother, Lois, indicates "that which is better," and his mother's name Eunice speaks of "victory." In such a circle the sacred letters were valued and practised, the results of which were manifest in Timothy — "one who honours God." Precious indeed the atmosphere of such a home, where parents seeking help to instruct their young in the Scriptures, where the love and blessedness of Christ and His interests are found, receive the reward of seeing the children developing features and practises which "honour God." In 2 Timothy 2 we have what may be called the generation of the Christian testimony. Paul's vision was not limited by prison walls, nor impaired by those defecting from the faith. He had much to pass on to his son Timothy; knowing too that Timothy in turn would have the wisdom necessary to recognize "faithful men." How thankful we are for the ministry of such! May it not be confined to our bookshelves, but treasured in our minds and hearts! Thus we may be found in this precious succession, albeit just "others also," seeking no prominence for self but in the Spirit's power cleaving to the Apostle's doctrine, desirous that Christ might be glorified and the blessed God honoured.
Finally, we refer to the One who bears the greatest Name of all — the Name of Jesus. In the Epistles and the Revelation there are many different titles given to Christ — but it is at the Name of Jesus the whole universe will bow — "At the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth." A divine decree which through infinite grace operates in our hearts now. To Him is all the praise.