Jesus, name above all names


The great significance of what the characters of Scripture were called

 

Jesus name above

Generally speaking, names have far greater significance in ancient society than in Britain today.

Exploring the meaning of the names of biblical characters and how that relates to unlocking theological truths is a fascinating exercise. Here then is a snapshot survey of some key Scripture names culminating with the Lord Jesus Christ, the name above all names.

The family of Adam

Some words in Hebrew and Greek are almost impossible to describe with a single English word. The name Adam means ‘red earth, dust, clay and man’. ‘Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living’ (Genesis 3.20). The Bible teaches that Adam was the first representative of the human race, formed from the dust and that the Lord Jesus is the Second Man and the Last Adam and that, as a result of Adam’s sin, sin entered the world and death spread to all men, yet through the Second Man, grace abounded to many (1 Corinthians 15.45-49; Romans 5.12-15).

Interestingly, the family of Adam, listed in Genesis 5, down to Noah, appears to outline the gospel message.

Adam Man; Seth appointed; Enosh mortal ; Cainan sorrow; Mahalel the blessed God; Jared shall descend; Enoch teaching; Methuselah his death shall bring; Lamech the despairing; Noah rest. Putting together the meanings we get, ‘man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the blessed God shall descend teaching, his death shall bring the despairing rest’. The inspired Scripture is very rich.

Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

Abram was one of several individuals whose name God changed. Abram translates aslofty father, while Abraham means father of a multitude. Meanwhile, Sarai became Sarah, formerly a princess but becoming a princess of many nations. God named their son Isaac laughter, an on-going reminder of their reaction to his sovereign intervention. Isaac was one of the ‘seven’ who received a name by divine prophecy prior to birth, the others being Ishmael his half-brother, Solomon, Josiah, Cyrus, John the Baptist and Jesus. Not only would the previously-barren Abram and Sarai beget innumerable descendants, more crucially, the world would be blessed through the birth of the Messiah from their family line (Genesis 12.3; Acts 3.25-26).

Jacob received his new name while engaged in a wrestling bout with, as I understand it, Jesus in pre-incarnate form. For many years, Jacob lived up to his name as a crooked deceitful supplanter or trickster. Jacob spent most of his life wrestling with others. When he was born, he immediately grabbed Esau’s heel and then tricked him and their father to obtain the birthright. He almost met his match when Laban made him labour 14 years to obtain Rachel and he had his wages altered on no less than ten occasions. Interestingly, when Jacob struggled at Peniel (Genesis 32.24-30) and insisted on knowing his opponent’s name, God blessed him and Jacob’s name became Israel, which can mean straightened by God.

A friend like Ruth

What her name was, so was she. Ruth, the Moabitess, was faithful to her mother-in law saying: ‘Entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be My people’ (Ruth 1.16).

Ruth’s great-grandson was David. His name means beloved and he is a type of Christ (God’s beloved Son), and a man whom God described as ‘a man after his own heart who would do all his will’ (Acts 13.22). In addition he was born in Bethlehem, and from his seed, according to the promise, God raised up for Israel the Saviour, Jesus.

Samuel and Eli

Do you ever struggle to hear from God? Ironically, Samuel the prophet (and the function of a prophet is a spokesperson or mouthpiece for God), whose name means heard orasked of God, thought his master Eli (which translates as my God) was calling him when it was actually God who was communicating with him!

This helps us to understand the confusion at Jesus’s crucifixion when he quoted Psalm 22.1 saying: ‘Eli, Eli, lama, sabachthani, that is, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?’ (Matthew 27.46). Some present thought he was calling on Elijah, which translates as Elohim my Yahweh or God my God.

If you think God may have spoken to you, it would be wise to take a leaf from Samuel’s book, so to speak, and say: ‘Speak, for your servant hears’.

The root of salvation

The names Joshua, Isaiah and Hosea all have their root meaning salvation, which speaks of the Lord Jesus. Moses elected to call ‘Hoshea the son of Nun, Joshua’ (Numbers 13.16). Hoshea denotes salvation though the name Joshua, has greater purpose and identity, Yahweh is salvation. Isaiah contains the highest number of Messianic prophesies and, in particular, Isaiah 53 speaks of the suffering servant who was silent before his accusers, wounded for our transgressions, died with the wicked and was buried with the rich at his death. Hosea depicts God’s faithfulness to Israel and his call for them to repent from their idolatrous practises. God commanded Hosea to marry a harlot, demonstrating Israel’s spiritual adultery.

Before Joshua commanded Israel to take Jericho, he encountered the Commander of the army of the Lord in a similar way to that in which the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, instructing him to remove his sandals since the ground was holy (Joshua 5.15; Exodus 3.5). Like Samuel, Joshua did not immediately recognise the true identity of his visitor.

Notice that, in addition to Joshua being a clear type of the Lord Jesus, taking the children of Israel into the Promised Land, God met Joshua the leader and commander as his Leader and Commander. God promised Joshua that he would never leave him nor forsake him (Deuteronomy 31.6-8; Joshua. 1.6). It can seem overwhelming when Jericho approaches. Though whether in heaven or on earth, the Lord is ever present and will never leave nor forsake us also (Hebrews 13.5). If Joshua had been capable of providing rest, he would not have spoken of another day (Hebrews 4.8), hence the promise to enter into God’s eternal rest in Christ.

Jesus name above all names

Isaiah foretold a day when ‘Immanuel’ God would be with us and that he would be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 7.14; 9.6) Noticeably, Joseph called Mary’s firstborn son Jesus, meaning Saviour.

Indeed, there is no greater name and Jesus’s claims caused great offence. When the Jews asked Jesus whether he was greater than their father Abraham, Jesus replied: ‘Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’ (John 8.58). Not surprisingly they took up stones to throw at him since he was identifying himself as Yahweh who sent Moses to Pharaoh explaining himself as ‘I AM WHO I AM’ (Exodus 3.14). When Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd’, the Jews tried to stone him again because Psalm 23.1 states: ‘The Lord is my shepherd’. They sought to kill him also in John 5.18 deducing that saying that God was his father made him equal with God.

Jesus truly is the name above all names and ‘there is no name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4.12). ‘Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Philippians 2.9-11).

Jon Taylor is a member of the FIEC Pastors Association and a researcher for the Reachout Trust.

  

This article was first published in the December 2012 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

The 12 myths of Christmas


Norman Wells guides us through the tinsel to the truth

Cribs, carols, cards, nativity plays and films — they all have something to say about the birth of Christ just over 2,000 years ago.

But sometimes the message they present is quite different from what really happened. Here we look at some of the most common myths and compare them with what the Bible tells us about Jesus’s birth.

Myth 1: Jesus was born on December 25.

The Truth: No one knows the date on which Jesus was born and there is no record of any date being set apart to mark his birth during the first 300 years of the history of the church. It was not until the 4th century that Christians started to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25 in an attempt to Christianise the pagan celebration of the birthday of the sun.

Myth 2: Jesus was born in a stable, surrounded by cattle.

The Truth: The fact that Jesus was laid in a manger — an animal’s feeding trough — has led many to assume that he must have been born in a stable in the midst of cattle. However, the Bible does not specifically mention a stable and it certainly doesn’t refer to the presence of animals. The precise setting in which Jesus was born and spent his earliest hours and days is not described. However, the fact that we are told ‘there was no room for them in the inn’ tells us that he was born in poverty and that his uniqueness was not recognised by those around him.

Myth 3: Three Eastern kings followed a star to Jesus’s birthplace.

The Truth: The visitors from the East are nowhere described as kings in the Bible and, although it is probably fair to assume that they were men of some standing, their precise social status is unknown. The tradition that there were three Magi or ‘wise men’ is based on the fact that they presented three gifts to Jesus — gold, frankincense and myrrh — but the Bible does not tell us how many men were in their party.

Myth 4: The shepherds and the wise men saw the infant Jesus at the same time.

The Truth: There is no basis in the Bible for the traditional nativity scene showing the shepherds and wise men visiting the newborn Christ at the same time. While the shepherds heard the news on the very night of Jesus’s birth and immediately made their way to the manger, it would appear that the wise men reached Bethlehem several months later.

Myth 5: Jesus never cried as a baby.

The Truth: As the sinless Son of God, the baby Jesus would never have been guilty of selfish or angry crying, but there is no reason to imagine that he would never have cried to communicate his need of food or comfort. The Bible tells us that Jesus was a real baby, who had a real childhood and grew up into a real man. He suffered hunger, thirst and exhaustion, and experienced joy and sorrow just like we all do, but in his case it was always without sin.

Myth 6: Christmas Day is the most holy day of the year for Christians.

The Truth: From the beginning, God has set apart one day each week as a ‘holy day’. However, apart from the requirement to treat Sunday as a special day for worship and rest from our usual activities, the Bible does not command Christians to regard any other day as a ‘holy day’.

Myth 7: It was by chance that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because Mary and Joseph just happened to be staying there at the time

The Truth: The location of Jesus’s birth was far from accidental. Some 700 years before his birth, the prophet Micah had declared that the promised Christ would be born in the insignificant town of Bethlehem.

Myth 8: Jesus was born at midnight.

The Truth: The Christmas carol, ‘It came upon a midnight clear’, and the custom of some churches to hold midnight services on Christmas Eve have prompted some people to imagine that Jesus was born on the stroke of midnight. However, the Bible does not tell us the precise hour at which Jesus was born.

Myth 9: Jesus was the only child Mary ever had.

The Truth: Although Jesus was the only child Mary had as a result of a direct work of the Holy Spirit without the involvement of a human father, there is no basis for suggesting that she and Joseph did not have further children by natural means. In fact, the Bible makes several references to Jesus’s brothers, indicating that he grew up surrounded by siblings in a family headed by a couple with a normal marriage.

Myth 10: Jesus’s birth marked the beginning of his impact on the world.

The Truth: Although Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem marked the beginning of the period in which God lived on earth in human flesh, it did not mark the beginning of his existence. The Bible tells us that the Son of God had no beginning — he has always existed. In fact, the entire universe was made through him, and nothing was made without him. He therefore had an immense impact on the world long before he was born as a human baby.

Myth 11: The main purpose of Jesus coming into the world was to set us a good example.

The Truth: Although Jesus certainly does present an example to us of obedience, love to God, love for others, mercy, compassion, suffering, sacrifice and much more, that was not the primary reason for which he came into the world. The main reason for which the Son of God became man was in order to die on the cross to save us from our sins. The Bible says: ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’.

Myth 12: The biblical account of the birth of Jesus is a lovely story for children at this time of year, but it doesn’t make any difference to me.

The Truth: The birth of Jesus makes a profound difference to all of us, whether young or old. Without Jesus, we are cut off from God and none of us is good enough to make it to heaven on our own. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is only person who can bring us to God, because he is both God and man. He knows what it is like to be human, and he also has the divine power that is needed to bring us back to God. If Jesus had never been born as a baby in Bethlehem, there would be no hope for any of us. But as a result of his birth, and through his subsequent death and resurrection, he has opened up for us a way back to God. Jesus himself said: ‘I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness’ (John 12.46).

This article was first published in the December 2011 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057

The 12 myths of Christmas


Norman Wells guides us through the tinsel to the truth

Cribs, carols, cards, nativity plays and films — they all have something to say about the birth of Christ just over 2,000 years ago.

But sometimes the message they present is quite different from what really happened. Here we look at some of the most common myths and compare them with what the Bible tells us about Jesus’s birth.

Myth 1: Jesus was born on December 25.

The Truth: No one knows the date on which Jesus was born and there is no record of any date being set apart to mark his birth during the first 300 years of the history of the church. It was not until the 4th century that Christians started to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25 in an attempt to Christianise the pagan celebration of the birthday of the sun.

Myth 2: Jesus was born in a stable, surrounded by cattle.

The Truth: The fact that Jesus was laid in a manger — an animal’s feeding trough — has led many to assume that he must have been born in a stable in the midst of cattle. However, the Bible does not specifically mention a stable and it certainly doesn’t refer to the presence of animals. The precise setting in which Jesus was born and spent his earliest hours and days is not described. However, the fact that we are told ‘there was no room for them in the inn’ tells us that he was born in poverty and that his uniqueness was not recognised by those around him.

Myth 3: Three Eastern kings followed a star to Jesus’s birthplace.

The Truth: The visitors from the East are nowhere described as kings in the Bible and, although it is probably fair to assume that they were men of some standing, their precise social status is unknown. The tradition that there were three Magi or ‘wise men’ is based on the fact that they presented three gifts to Jesus — gold, frankincense and myrrh — but the Bible does not tell us how many men were in their party.

Myth 4: The shepherds and the wise men saw the infant Jesus at the same time.

The Truth: There is no basis in the Bible for the traditional nativity scene showing the shepherds and wise men visiting the newborn Christ at the same time. While the shepherds heard the news on the very night of Jesus’s birth and immediately made their way to the manger, it would appear that the wise men reached Bethlehem several months later.

Myth 5: Jesus never cried as a baby.

The Truth: As the sinless Son of God, the baby Jesus would never have been guilty of selfish or angry crying, but there is no reason to imagine that he would never have cried to communicate his need of food or comfort. The Bible tells us that Jesus was a real baby, who had a real childhood and grew up into a real man. He suffered hunger, thirst and exhaustion, and experienced joy and sorrow just like we all do, but in his case it was always without sin.

Myth 6: Christmas Day is the most holy day of the year for Christians.

The Truth: From the beginning, God has set apart one day each week as a ‘holy day’. However, apart from the requirement to treat Sunday as a special day for worship and rest from our usual activities, the Bible does not command Christians to regard any other day as a ‘holy day’.

Myth 7: It was by chance that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because Mary and Joseph just happened to be staying there at the time

The Truth: The location of Jesus’s birth was far from accidental. Some 700 years before his birth, the prophet Micah had declared that the promised Christ would be born in the insignificant town of Bethlehem.

Myth 8: Jesus was born at midnight.

The Truth: The Christmas carol, ‘It came upon a midnight clear’, and the custom of some churches to hold midnight services on Christmas Eve have prompted some people to imagine that Jesus was born on the stroke of midnight. However, the Bible does not tell us the precise hour at which Jesus was born.

Myth 9: Jesus was the only child Mary ever had.

The Truth: Although Jesus was the only child Mary had as a result of a direct work of the Holy Spirit without the involvement of a human father, there is no basis for suggesting that she and Joseph did not have further children by natural means. In fact, the Bible makes several references to Jesus’s brothers, indicating that he grew up surrounded by siblings in a family headed by a couple with a normal marriage.

Myth 10: Jesus’s birth marked the beginning of his impact on the world.

The Truth: Although Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem marked the beginning of the period in which God lived on earth in human flesh, it did not mark the beginning of his existence. The Bible tells us that the Son of God had no beginning — he has always existed. In fact, the entire universe was made through him, and nothing was made without him. He therefore had an immense impact on the world long before he was born as a human baby.

Myth 11: The main purpose of Jesus coming into the world was to set us a good example.

The Truth: Although Jesus certainly does present an example to us of obedience, love to God, love for others, mercy, compassion, suffering, sacrifice and much more, that was not the primary reason for which he came into the world. The main reason for which the Son of God became man was in order to die on the cross to save us from our sins. The Bible says: ‘This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’.

Myth 12: The biblical account of the birth of Jesus is a lovely story for children at this time of year, but it doesn’t make any difference to me.

The Truth: The birth of Jesus makes a profound difference to all of us, whether young or old. Without Jesus, we are cut off from God and none of us is good enough to make it to heaven on our own. The Bible says that Jesus Christ is only person who can bring us to God, because he is both God and man. He knows what it is like to be human, and he also has the divine power that is needed to bring us back to God. If Jesus had never been born as a baby in Bethlehem, there would be no hope for any of us. But as a result of his birth, and through his subsequent death and resurrection, he has opened up for us a way back to God. Jesus himself said: ‘I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in me should not abide in darkness’ (John 12.46).