Friday, May 15, 2009

A name set in stone

A couple of weeks ago I was asked to "introduce" (a Primitive Baptist term for a short talk before the actual sermon) and spoke to the congregation on the subject of "names". The key scripture behind my talk was Revelation 2:17 which was brought to my attention by Hugh MacLeod's (@gapingvoid on Twitter) wonderful post The White Pebble. The scripture, from the King James translation, reads: "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."

Names are of the utmost importance. My wife and I considered each name for each of our children very carefully, turning them over and over in our minds, putting first and middle names together until the right combination was found. Sometimes names come from family. Number One Son was given the name of his paternal grandfather and my middle name, which turned out to be his paternal great-grandfather's full name (obviously, this was not something I was aware of). Sometimes names come from other sources of inspiration. Number Two Son was given the first name one of the few good kings from biblical history and the first name of a few of our dear friends as his middle name. Number Three Son was given the nickname of my grandfather and uncle as his first name, but we call him by a different nickname that suits his personality now. Number Four Son ... okay ... you get the point. Biblically, we see that God gives men different names at turning points in their lives: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Simon to Peter, Saul to Paul. Names, to God, are covenantal and prophetic.

As the Catholic monk illuminates in Hugh's post (see above) there's another name that God's children possess: a name written in, not on, a white stone. That name, being a gift of God (The Spirit), is good. It is very good.

Recently, my wife attended a Community Bible Study session where they held what has come to be known as "cardboard testimonies". I had not heard of the term before, so my wife showed me one on YouTube and I was moved to tears. The idea is this: on a piece of cardboard, you craft a sign. On the front of the sign, you write (in letters big enough for an audience to see) what you saw yourself as before conversion and, on the back of the sign you write what you see yourself as becoming after conversion. Once the sign is made, you walk up in front of the congregation and present first who you were and then turn the sign around. The effect is very powerful and further illustrates the importance of names. You see, the old thing written on the carboard is the old name you call yourself, and the new thing written on the cardboard is a new God-given name you call youself. So the name in the stone isn't the only name God gives you, but it is the final name God will give you.

The names we call ourselves are one thing, the names others call us (or assign to us, rather) are another thing, and then, as the monk said, there is that name God gives you. The monk was right in saying that the stone is what we should think of when the other voices in our life: our family, our friends, our self, are calling us names that don't align with who God calls us to be. The elect are called "children", "brethren", and "saved", among many other blessed names. We need to employ those names as filters when we hear other names being called.

The name in the stone is special, no doubt, because it is a secret only you and God may know, but the stone itself is truly the most amazing part of The Spirit's gift. Here, in a few words, you see an accurate picture of Christ, the rock of our salvation. He is the stone. He is pure white. He hides us within His grace and love. He protects our special name in His mercy. The stone is of the greatest value because it does not have the name written upon it, but rather in it, which is representative of a sure salvation for His loved ones.

Oh what joy to know the name The Lord would call me! Oh what a precious picture is the name in the white stone for us His chosen ones!

May God richly bless you.

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