WISDOM FOR LIVING DEVOTIONAL
JANUARY 23, 2021
TOPIC: WHAT IS IN A NAME?
BY T. O. BANSO
“Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel’” (Numbers 25:11-13 New King James Version).
Names are important. This is why people are given names before or after their birth. In the Bible, the names of some people were foretold before their birth. The names of some people were also changed. Today, some people change their names hoping that their fortunes would change positively.
However, there is nothing to prove that a positive change will happen automatically after a change of name. That is not to say that changing names is entirely wrong. Nevertheless, people must be led by the Holy Spirit as it was God who changed the names of some people in the Bible.
In Genesis 35, while Rachel, the wife of Jacob, was dying during child labour, she called the child’s name Ben-Oni; but his father called him Benjamin (verse 18). Ben-Oni means son of my sorrow while Benjamin means son of the right hand. Here, Jacob overruled Rachel.
While it is good to bear a good name; this alone will not result in a changed life. Someone can bear a good name and end up living such a life that tends to give the name a negative definition. For instance, the name Judas. I am yet to meet someone bearing that name after the man who popularized the name in the Bible. Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus Christ.
However, Judas was a good name until Judas Iscariot made the name synonymous with betrayal. He gave it a negative meaning. In fact, he isn’t the only Judas in the Bible. The Bible talks about another Judas in Matthew13:55; Mark 6:3, one of the four brothers of Jesus. There were also Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37), Judas whom the apostle Paul stayed in his house in Damascus after his conversion (Acts 9:11), and Judas who was also named Barsabas (Acts 15:22).
Judas was a common name in Bible times. It is actually the Greek form of or the Graecized form of the Hebrew name Judah, which means Praise. So Judas was a good name. But Judas Iscariot redefined it and made people view the name negatively. Who wants to name his child Judas today?
Cain killed his brother out of envy (Genesis 4:8). I am not sure anyone would give his name Cain today. Maybe it can happen somewhere else, but not in my country. However, the name was not a bad name initially. It means possession, possessed, or acquired. Genesis 4:1 says Eve conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the LORD” (New King James Version).
However, one man gave that name a negative meaning that people started avoiding it. Even in the Bible, he is the only one by that name. The only different mention of the name is with respect to a town in the mountains of Southern Judah which is also spelt Kain (Joshua 15:57).
Demas was one of the associates of the apostle Paul. His name is mentioned in 2 Timothy 4:10; Colossians 4:14; and Philemon 24. Smith’s Bible Dictionary says Demas means governor of the people while the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says it means popular. Nothing suggests that the name is bad.
Nevertheless, it is not a common name in Christian circles today, obviously because, from what we know in the Bible, Demas didn’t finish well. Because he loved the world, he deserted Paul during his first imprisonment in Rome. “For Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica” (2 Timothy 4:10 New King James Version). It thus seems that since then, the name has been demonized!
A man was named Jabez in the Bible for whatever reason the parents had. The name means “he will cause pain.” 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 says, “Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, ‘Because I bore him in pain.’ And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested” (New King James Version).
However, I notice that there is no record that God changed Jabez’s name despite the negative meaning. God changed Jacob’s name, which means a supplanter, to Israel (Genesis 32:28). Israel means prince with God. However, Jabez was not given a new name. Apparently, His new life changed the meaning of the name in his life. A new life in Christ Jesus and an encounter with God can give someone’s name new meaning. In fact, a city of Judah where the families of the scribes dwelt was called Jabez (1Chronicles 2:55).
Proverbs 22:1a says a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches. Similarly, Ecclesiastes 7:1 says a good name is better than precious ointment. Each person must bear a good name but that’s not enough. Each person must live an upright life that will not tarnish his or her name.
Phinehas and Phinehas! Yes, that’s not a mistake. The popular duo is Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli. There are other two people named Phinehas in the Bible: Eleazar’s son and Aaron’s grandson (Exodus 6:25) and Eleazar’s father (Ezra 8:33). I will focus only on Phinehas who Eleazar’s son and Aaron’s grandson who represented righteousness and Phinehas who was Eli’s son who represented evil. They were opposites though they had the same name. Phinehas means mouth of brass.
1 Chronicles 9:20 says, “Phinehas son of Eleazar had been in charge of the gatekeepers in earlier times, and the LORD had been with him” (New Living Translation). That’s a good description! This same Phinehas had, with a javelin, killed a fellow Israelite, Zimri, with his Midianite woman, Cozbi. Zimri brought this woman into the camp at a time the Israelites were weeping at the door of the tabernacle of meeting over the plague of judgment God had brought upon them for committing harlotry with the women of Moab.
Twenty-four thousand Israelites died in that plague (Numbers 25). Joshua 22:17 and Psalm 106:28-31 refer to that plague. But Phinehas’ zeal for the Lord in killing Zimri and his Midianite woman stopped the plague. God was pleased with him and gave to him a covenant of peace, a covenant of an everlasting priesthood to him and his descendants.
Numbers 25:11-13 says, “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal. Therefore say, ‘Behold, I give to him My covenant of peace; and it shall be to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood, because he was zealous for his God, and made atonement for the children of Israel’” (New King James Version).
As shown in that scripture, God cut a covenant of peace with Phinehas and his descendants because of his zeal for Him. God wants you to be zealous for good works. That’s what Jesus saved you to do. He didn’t save you to be idle. Titus 2:14 says Jesus, “gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (New King James Version). Phinehas’s zeal gladdened the heart of the Lord.
Are you zealous for good works? Where is your zeal? Jesus told the Laodicea church to be zealous and repent because she was lukewarm (Revelation 3:19b). As a child of God, you remain enthusiastic as you stay in God, doing what Romans 12:12 says: “Be glad for all God is planning for you. Be patient in trouble, and always be prayerful” (New Living Translation).
But we have another Phinehas, who together with his elder brother, represented evil. In other words, living an upright life goes beyond answering a good name. Eli and his sons served the LORD as priests. Unfortunately, his two sons, Hophni and Phinehas, abused their offices.
1 Samuel 2:12 says they were scoundrels who had no respect for the LORD or for their duties as priests. They treated with contempt the sacrifices of worshippers and satisfied their selfish desires. The LORD expressed His displeasure at the sins of Eli’s sons, their father, Eli for esteeming his children above him (1 Samuel 1:3, 2:12-17, 27-36). He judged Eli and his children. Tragically, they died the same day! (1 Samuel 4). The LORD also withdrew the priesthood from Eli’s house (1 Samuel 1:30-33).
Abiathar was the last priest from Eli’s clan and was removed from the priesthood by King Solomon because he had supported Adonijah in his failed bid to become king (1 Kings 1:7, 25). He would have been killed but was spared because he had carried the ark of God before David and suffered with David. But Solomon exiled him from Jerusalem and banished him and his family to Anathoth. He withdrew all his rights and privileges as a priest (1 Kings 2:26-27). The misfortune Abiathar suffered began with Eli and his children.
One Phinehas together with his brother did what brought the wrath of God on him and his clan, making Him revoke the covenant that Eli’s branch of the tribe of Levi would always be His priests. God stopped them from being His priests. On the other hand, another Phinehas did what made God give to him His covenant of peace which was to him and his descendants after him a covenant of an everlasting priesthood.
Jesus means Jehovah is salvation. But whereas Jesus Barabbas whom the Jews asked Pilate to set free for them was a notorious criminal (Matthew 27:16), Jesus Christ whom they crucified, the Messiah, was a righteous man (Matthew 27:19; 24). There are other people called Jesus in the Bible– a Jewish Christian who is called Justus (Colossians 4:11) Joshua, the son of Nun (Acts 7:45; Hebrews 4:8 King James Version) and an ancestor of Christ (Luke 3:29) whose name is rendered Jose or Joshua in some translations.
Bearing a good name doesn’t mean someone will live uprightly. You should bear a good name and live an upright life. Give your children good names but also teach them to live an upright life. Always pray for them to live uprightly and become all that God wants them to be.
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Father, I shall prefer a good name to great riches and precious ointment. Holy Spirit, help me to live uprightly, not only bearing a good name. Let me not do anything that will tarnish my good name and give me a bad reputation. Help me to be zealous for good works. Father, deliver those bearing bad names from any negative effect of the names on their lives.
(For over 400 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
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