Formations Lesson for December 28: A Name's Effect : Friday, Dec. 12, 2003
December 12 2003 by Jimmy Allen

Formations Lesson for December 28: A Name's Effect : Friday, Dec. 12, 2003
Friday, Dec. 12, 2003

Formations Lesson for December 28: A Name's Effect

By Jimmy Allen
Focal passages: Luke 1:59-66; 2:21

My wife, Ginger, and I are four-for-four when it comes to naming children. By that I don't mean we necessarily gave our children perfect names. What we did do was agree on each daughter's name before we headed to the hospital for delivery.

We wanted a name that we simply liked, and we wanted a name that connected the child with her family.

About 20 years ago, I was coaching a Tee Ball team in Wake Forest and one of the players was from Nigeria, living in the United States a few years while his father studied at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. One day his father told me what the boy's name meant. Although I don't remember the specific language, the boy's name described God's power and grace.

As a teenager, I remember a missionary from Africa speaking at our church. Her name meant "with the rain," meaning she was born during a rare and much appreciated rainstorm. Most of us complain when it rains.

Have you ever thought about the significance of your name? Have you ever thought how you might be different if you had been given another name?

John the Baptist's name has theological significance. It means "God is gracious." Jesus' name is certainly appropriate. His name means "God is salvation." What if they had been given different names? That almost happened to John.

An Important Name

Luke 1:59-62

John the Baptist almost became Zechariah the Baptist. His father, Zechariah, had been mute during the pregnancy. So after John was born, the people who gathered with the family followed tradition when they decided the boy should be named for someone in the family. In particular, they chose the name Zechariah.

Elizabeth, though, was quick to counter. "No. He is to be called John."

But the people didn't understand. No one in the family was named John. Elizabeth was breaking social protocol. The people turned toward what they considered a higher authority. They began motioning to Zechariah to find out what name he wanted the baby to have. After all, the father would probably want the boy named for someone in the family. Zechariah took a writing tablet, a piece of wood covered with wax, and wrote, "His name is John." Note that he didn't write, "His name should be John," or "I want his name to be John." The father wrote, "His name is John." His message showed surety.

Zechariah's confidence came from God. It was God's messenger who had instructed Zechariah to name the child John. Both Elizabeth and Zechariah showed faith in following through with the instruction from the messenger of God.

Do we allow the sublime but powerful influence of tradition to prevent us from doing what God instructs us to do? Do we allow social taboos to prevent us from ministering to people who are in desperate need of seeing God's love through us?

Staying True to the Course

Luke 1:63-66; 2:21

Jesus and John were both given names God wanted for them. Would their ministries have been altered with different names? We don't know, of course.

What is important is that God's message had been conveyed and followed. The result was powerful.

When Zechariah wrote John's name on the tablet, the people around him were amazed. They knew something special was happening and that God was working in their midst. News of what happened spread through the hill country of Judea.

Mary and Joseph named their baby "Jesus" without any outside pressure to do otherwise. They, too, followed God's instruction to Mary. They, too, stayed the course.

People are amazed when we follow God's instruction. Gabriel may not approach us like he did to the human parents of Jesus and John, but we can certainly be aware of God's presence and leading in our lives. Responding to Him is our responsibility. When we do, amazing things happen.
12/12/2003 12:00:00 AM by Jimmy Allen | with 0 comments

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