1/24/12

I'm Eager for My New Name

On October 22, more than 200 young girls in India lined up in their best clothes for a ceremony in that gave them new dignity ~ a new identity. The 285 girls received a certificate bearing a new name. Many of these girls had names like "Nakusa" or "Nakushi", which mean "unwanted" in Hindi, but now they have chosen names with much happier meanings.

The ceremony was also designed to help fight the widespread gender discrimination in India. The plight of little girls in this country came to light after the 2011 census showed the ratio of females to males (under the age of six) had dropped over the last decade as a result of abortions of female fetuses or neglect leading to a higher death rate among girls. According to an Associated Press article, "The problem is so serious in India that hospitals are legally banned from revealing the gender of an unborn fetus in order to prevent sex-selective abortions, though evidence suggests the information gets out."

Part of the reason for girls being "unwanted" is the enormous expense in India of marrying them off ~ elaborate dowries and debt incurred from weddings ~ versus the hope that sons will bring home a bride and dowry. "Hindu custom also dictates that only sons can light their parents' funeral pyres," the article said.

All of the financial explanations aside, imagine the emotions a young girl deals with in India at being unwanted. Although some of them chose names like a "Bollywood" star, "Aishwarya," or Hindu goddesses, some simply wanted names with happier meanings, like "Vaishali," which means "prosperous, beautiful, and good." One 15-year-old, perhaps reflecting the strength she'd found in fighting the stigma of being unwanted, chose the name "Ashmita," meaning "very tough" or "rock hard" in Hindi.

I cannot help but think about a scripture in Revelation. John said those who overcome will be given "... a white stone, and a new name inscribed by Jesus on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it" (Revelation 2:17).

Jesus gave his followers new names. Think of Saul who became Paul, and Simon who became Cephas (Peter). It seems that believers ~ overcomers of the value system of this world, in this passage ~ will receive new names that fit or describe their lifestyle while on earth. One commentary says this stone and name indicates God's acceptance of us at salvation, and the new intimacy we have with the Lord because sin is overcome.

There were many instances of stones used for various purposes in ancient times. Stones were often used as tickets to public functions in ancient times, allowing acceptance to an event.

According to John Gill's Exposition of the Bible, the stone in this passage may refer to the Latin phrase, "to add a white stone." Gill explained that a white stone was used to give one's approbation of anything. In judgment, the Romans used black stones cast into an urn, but white stones absolved those who were condemned. The Greeks used white stones to mark good days; and white stones were also given to the conquerors in Olympic games, with their names upon them plus the value of the prize given to them.

But I take this passage in context of a Jewish book. In the Old Testament, names conveyed the character of the one bearing the name. God declared His own character when he engraved the 10 Commandments in stone the second time (see Exodus 34:6-7). As for the whiteness of the stone, remember that Joshua whitewashed stones with lime when he built an altar (Deuteronomy 27:2-8; Joshua 8:32).

God's Spirit today writes the law of God on our tablets of flesh (2 Corinthians 2:2), and we are being conformed to the image of Christ. (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians. 3:21; Colossians 3:10).) Perhaps our new name will reflect this new Christ-like character within us, all the same name for each of us (just as God gave His people a new name in the Old Testament (see Isaiah 56:5; 65:15); and God said He would give new names to the foreigners who joined themselves to the Lord (Isaiah 56:5-8). Or perhaps it will be an individual name, reflecting the believer's faithful works of service or some highlighted aspect of his or her character. Perhaps the new name is an "adoption" name.

Believers are neither "unwanted" nor condemned, but rewarded for their loving service. It is a name reserved for intimacy ~ for the ones who meet face to face with God like Moses, or are greatly loved like David, Daniel, and John. When we are more than conquerors through Christ, our names in heaven will likely reflect that.

Revelation 2:17 says the name is unknown except to God ~ just as Jesus' new name will only be revealed in heaven (see Revelation 3:12; 19:12).

For now, I am glad to know that I am God's adopted child ... glad to know that I will live with Him for eternity ... glad to know that I have the opportunity to live, stand, and if necessary, die for Him in this life. For me, for now, it is enough to embrace the name "Christ-follower."

My new little puppy Roscoe brought a big white stone into our house. I don't know where he found such a large stone. I wrote on it, and I have it on my bookshelf to remind me to be faithful to the One who sees my works ~ the One who has reserved a special name for all His own who overcome.

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