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What’s in a Name?

by Ducia Hamm, Associate Director of Affiliate Servicesbaby name surprised

Names have always fascinated me, maybe because my first name is Ducia (pronounced Doos-ya). It was given to me by my dad who emigrated from the Ukraine. Now here in the good ‘ol USA, Ducia is considered an unusual name but go to the Ukraine and it’s a common girls name.

Names give us identity – Mom, Dad, Aunt, Uncle . . . you get the idea. Before I had children, hearing “MOM!” wouldn’t make my head turn. Now, when I hear “MOM!” – you bet my head turns – after all they’re calling my name.

Names have meaning. Parents often choose a name for their children based on what they mean. That’s what my friend Sue and her husband did. They waited over three weeks to name their oldest son because they wanted his name to fit his personality. Sue & Pat chose Isaac, which means “laughter” and it fit baby Isaac perfectly.

Ducia means “sweet soul." I’ll let those who know me best judge whether it fits me or not.

When we think of the story of Daniel and his friends’ captivity in Babylon – the fiery furnace or the lion’s den tend to be what we think of. But in reading the first chapter of Daniel, something interesting about the power of a name emerges.

Daniel 1:3-7
The king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his court officials, to bring some of the Israelites from the royal family and from the nobility - young men without any physical defect, good-looking, suitable for instruction in all wisdom, knowledgeable, perceptive, and capable of serving in the king’s palace - and to teach them the Chaldean language and literature. The king assigned them daily provisions from the royal food and from the wine that he drank. They were to be trained for three years, and at the end of that time they were to serve in the king’s court. Among them, from the descendants of Judah, were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. The chief official gave them other names: he gave the name Belteshazzar to Daniel, Shadrach to Hananiah, Meshach to Mishael, and Abednego to Azariah.

Why the name changes? What made the boys’ Hebrew names unacceptable to the Babylonians? The meaning of their Hebrew names centered on the one true God: Daniel – God is my judge; Hananiah – Yah has been gracious; Mishael – who is what God is; Azariah – Yah has helped.

Contrast that to their “new” names whose meanings centered on several false Babylonian gods: Beltashazzar – Bel will protect; Shadrach – inspired of Aku; Meshach – belonging to Aku; Abednego – servant of Nego.

Assigning new names was a common court practice in the ancient world. Its blatant intention was to change the entire identity of the bearer until the life matched the title.

Actually, God is the one who originated the concept of a name change back in Genesis. God changed Abram's name to Abraham, meaning Father of many. Jesus followed in His Dad’s footsteps and gave the apostle Simon the name Peter which means Rock.

Matthew 16:18
And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it.

When we became believers – we either were given the name or took on the name "Christian" – one who follows Jesus Christ. The intent of the name changes for the Hebrew captives was to change their identity until their life matched their name.

It begs the question then: How intent are we as Christians to change our identities until our life matches the meaning of our name Christ follower?

Eph. 5:1-2
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

So . . . What’s in a name???

Acts 4:12
Jesus Christ . . . Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.