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Knowing Your Name

• Greg Boyd

The names of people and places in the Bible are more meaningful than we might expect. The names are given and sometimes changed for important reasons, and the reasons stick with the person or place because of the clarity of the name to the people who use it.

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So far our focus has been on the centrality of love and the problem of judgment. The most recent sermons have been centered on the question of “What went wrong?” We saw that the enemy told us a lie about God and a lie about ourselves, and we believed the lies. We no longer go to God as the center of our existence and life, but turn instead to ourselves and others. But, of course, we cannot fill an infinite need (our need for God, we were created with this need) with a finite supply (our own efforts and the efforts of those around us).

The cycle of the flesh is where we all begin in this world. Thankfully, it can and has been broken by Jesus Christ who makes it possible for us to live in the cycle of the Spirit. Christ does this by revealing the lies about God and about us to be false. This is done not only in what Christ says, but in Christ’s very being. We are then invited into this “new being” that Christ brings into the world. In Christ we have a new identity (recall the many verses that speak the truth about who we are in Christ). This means we also have a new name! This “new name” is given by the only One who truly has the power to define us: our Creator.

The names of people and places in the Bible are more meaningful than we might expect. The names are given and sometimes changed for important reasons and the reasons stick with the person or place because of the clarity of the name to the people who make use of it. For example: In Daniel 1:6-7 we hear of four Hebrew men whose names reflected the covenant that their people have with God. “Daniel” means “God is my Judge,” “Hananiah” means “The Lord is gracious,” “Mishael” means “Who is like God?” and “Azariah” means “The Lord is my helper.” In an effort to convert these men to the service of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar understood that they would need new names that reflect their new destiny and the new loyalties that the King intended for them. The new names were as follows: Daniel was renamed “Belteshazzar” which means “Bel watches over,” Hananiah was renamed “Shadrach” which means “Under AKU’s command [a Babylonian moon god],” Mishael was renamed “Meshach” which means “Who is like Sheshach? [a god of lust and drink],” and finally Azariah was renamed “Abednego” which means “Slave of Nebo [a god of fire].” If we look closely at the renaming, it is clear that the meanings of the names are related to the original meanings but with a replacement of the God of Israel with Babylonian deities. This is a powerful perversion of the true identity of these men.

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Sermon Series: Love & the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil


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Focus Scripture:

  • Daniel 1:6-7

    6 Among those who were chosen were some from Judah: Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 The chief official gave them new names: to Daniel, the name Belteshazzar; to Hananiah, Shadrach; to Mishael, Meshach; and to Azariah, Abednego.

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