I’ve heard many people state that when they are studying the Old Testament, they often skip over all the names of descendants – especially in Genesis – simply because it is too boring to sit and read through all those names. I must be honest and confess that I have often felt the same way and found my eyes just skimming over the names, not really reading them. Until one day recently I was reading in the book of Chronicles and the section started with the descendants. As the list began, I felt the Holy Spirit convicting me to “stop skimming” and to say their names. I read their names out loud as I said that passage. As I read their names, I found myself asking “Lord what do their names mean to me?” I never knew them.
Any parent will tell you that when you are expecting child, a lot of energy and time goes into choosing their name. The name chosen must have significance – something representative of the personality or history of the family.
One of the many heartaches a grieving person faces is the simple fact that many around them will no longer say the name of their deceased loved one. Some feel it is not appropriate to speak of the dead. Others may feel that if they say the name of that person it might cause greater pain. While everyone grieves differently, most grieving individuals prefer to hear the name of their loved one mentioned.
Many believers focus on the verse in Revelation that promises us a new name. And mistakenly think that means we will be different people with different names.
“To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17 (NIV)
But that new name is something special only known to the person who receives it and to God (sort of like a special nickname you may have for your child). But that special new name does not invalidate the old names.
God calls people by their earthly names, the names given by their parents. He calls people in Heaven by those same names—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for instance. In the book Revelation we are told that the names of the twelve sons of Israel and of the apostles, apparently the same names we know them by, are written on the city’s gates and the foundations of its walls. Our names reflect our individuality. To have the same name written in Heaven that was ours on Earth speaks of the continuity between this life and the next.
I have many loved ones that have died, and people very seldom say their names anymore. It hurts my heart deeply not to hear their name. While many might not have known them, nonetheless they did exist on this earth. They contributed to the overall history of our planet. And more importantly, they died a believer and I have confident assurance that I will see them again in Heaven. I think that is what the Lord was trying to teach me about skipping over the names in the Bible. Those people in the Bible lived and breathed on this earth. If they died a believer, they will be in Heaven where one day I will get to meet them. Those in biblical times had a contribution to history whether large or small. They mattered.
We will be known in Heaven as we are known on Earth. That is the promise of the Resurrection – that we will continue to be ourselves in eternity. And relationships (for believers) will be restored.
Do you know someone whose grieving? Trust me when I say they want to hear the name of their deceased loved one. They want their life acknowledged in some way. They want to hear their name and know they are remembered on this earth.
It’s important to remember them, to “say their name.”
I’ll start – the name that is heavy on my heart this week is Jamie. Officially born as James Lee Holmes.
His friends knew him as “Teddy Bear”, “Jamie” and some even called him “James”.
In the early years, my nickname for him was “Mama’s little munchkin” simply because he was born six weeks premature.
He was such a tiny little thing for several years. But he grew into a giant of a man.
He lived on this earth 16 years and 8 months, but he left the legacy of a 70- year old.
He would be 29 on Sunday, September 6th, 2020.
My Hope Endures,
Director, Ephraim Ministries