When my son was born, it was a brand-new experience for us. My wife then and I had never experienced anything like that. So, we did not know what to do as we were, so to say, novices in this wonderful life experience. We were also many thousand miles away from home, so the usual mother-in-law coming to help was not available for us. We had Lamaze class, but that was just to take us through the birth itself. We were basically on our own after the birth. So, we resigned ourselves to faith and realized we were in the hands of the Lord. This feeling was very much alive in my mind when it was time to give the baby a name. So, I named him “Mofoluwaso”, meaning I have asked God to watch over him. I have asked God to watch over him because I know that I would need God, and his mother would need God, for us to successfully take care of him. This is very much in line with what we do when we name children in my culture. You look at the circumstances of the birth and you name the child. So, for us names are very important because when you hear people’s name you get an idea of the story they are trying to tell. But it is our story and not necessarily God’s story.
Often, when we meet people the first time, the piece of information we first share with them is our name. Many times, we follow up with a description of who we are and what we do. In situations where the name carries a meaning we go ahead and form judgments about those people like where they are from. Are they Christians Are they Moslems etc.? These first impressions can also set the stage for future interactions. So, names are powerful, names are important, and names are revealing. As important and useful as names are, our names are not us, they are only what we are called. What we are and what we are called are different from each other, except when it is a name that is directly given by God. We all have names and people know us by those names. Some of us are not seen in the light of our names, only God sees who we truly are. Therefore, God calls us by our names, not as people or as the world calls us.
Our names here are given to us usually after we are born, so that the world may know us and differentiate us, but the word of God in Jeremiah 1:5a says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart”. He has already differentiated us before we were born. We do not need our world given names to be set apart, God has already done that from our mother’s womb. In Isaiah 49:1b, the Prophet proclaimed, “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.” We already have a God given name even before we were born. So, while we all need the names we are called here, they are not the same as our God-given names. While we may be called different kinds of things here, they are not the same as our God-given names.
Sometimes we are not happy with our names or what we are called because we do not believe it is a good name. So, people change their names. There is nothing wrong with the changing of names, we are only changing what we are called from something we are uncomfortable with to another one we are more comfortable with. Only God knows our names. Sometimes He reveals them and many times He does not. Remember the case of Jabez. Not much is known about him in the Bible but the little we know teaches us a lot about him. He was named Jabez because his mother said she bore him in pains. Regardless of the circumstances of his birth or the name he was given, the Bible tells us that “Jabez was more honorable than his brothers” – 1Chronicles 4:9a. He prayed to the Lord to change his lot and God obliged him. All these were despite the name he was called. Sometimes God will change what we are called, as He did with Abram to Abraham and Jacob to Israel, but it is usually His prerogative. When this is done, the new names reveal the new divine mission and an assurance that the new mission will be fulfilled. Only God however decides whose name is changed and when they are changed.
Know this, whatever you are called, always know that God knows your name. He knew it even before you were in your mother’s womb. God calls us by name to be part of his family forever. And always remember this, that the Lord who created us and who formed us, says “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” – Isaiah 43:1b. Whatever we are called, what matters is that we belong to the Lord, and we belong to Him forever.
October 3, 2021– Pastor Simbo Odunaiya