We talk quite often about how we ought to live our lives as Christians — the things we should and should not do, which laws we must keep, the characteristics of Jesus Christ that should show up in our lives. We also talk about what motivates this way of living. If our hearts aren’t right, the outward stuff doesn’t matter. God cares about why we do what we do as much (or more) as He cares about our actions.
The “why” is connected with how we view God. Are we obeying His rules because we see Him as an intimidating authority figure, or because we respect Him as Creator? Do we follow Jesus because of what we hope to get out of being Christian, or because we love Him and trust that He wants what’s best for us?
Those questions are concerned with how God relates to us. Beyond that is the question of how we view God as Himself. God is the self-existent One who inhabits eternity. We often think of Him in terms of how He relates to humanity, but there’s far more to Him than that. How should we view God simply because He is God?
In Hebrew, the word translated glory and honor in the verses we’ll cover literally means “to be heavy.” It’s not an abstract or subjective concept. There’s substance behind the honor and glory discussed in the Bible. Kabod (H3519) and the related word kabad (H3513) are used figuratively of an honorable social position backed-up with a “weightiness of character.” This makes the recipient of glory worthy of that honor (TWOT entry 943). Read more →
I’ve finished making my way through a study of Proverbs, in preparation for my church’s women’s group discussion about favorite proverbs that is taking place this afternoon. My first post covered five proverbs from chapters 1-10, the second covered five from chapters 11-20, and this last post is for chapters 21-31. I still haven’t decided which of these 15 is my favorite, but at least I’ve narrowed it down to 15.
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold. (Prov. 22:1)
I just heard a sermonette last week about God giving people names with meanings that fit the roles He designated them for — Jesus = savior; Paul = small; Peter = a little stone; Abraham = father of a multitude. From what I understand, names in Hebrew thought are inseparable from the essence, character, and reputation of a person. Therefore, it is better to have a good reputation, a name worthy of respect, than to have great riches. The word for “favor,” which is described as better than silver and gold, is from the word chen (H2580), and it means “favor, kindness, grace, loveliness, charm, preciousness.”
For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity. (Prov. 24:16)
It doesn’t promise that if you are a just person you will never fall — it says you will be able to get back up rather than fall deeper into mischief. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous,” David said, “but the Lord delivers him out of them all” (Ps. 34:19). If — when — we fall, we can be assured that God is holding our hand and will help pick us back up (Ps. 37:24).
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (Prov. 27:6)
King Lear would have been a very different play had the titular character been heeding this advice. When a friend wounds you, it is generally 1) an accident, or 2) with a view to your good. David wrote, “Let the righteous strike me; it shall be a kindness. And let him rebuke me; it shall be as excellent oil; let my head not refuse it” (Ps. 141.5). It might make us angry at first, but if we are honest with ourselves, we can often see that we were reproved out of love, and that we become better people with a stronger friendship as a result. In contrast, listening to the flattering words of those who secretly seek our hurt can only lead to grief.
Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. (Prov. 30:5)
Here we leave Solomon’s proverbs and read “the words of Agur the son of Jakeh” (Prov. 30:1). This is a two-fold promise. Firstly, that God’s words are free of imperfections. As such, it is all profitable and no part should be ignored or neglected (2 Tim. 3:16). Secondly, that the Lord shields those who trust in Him. This was a frequent subject in Psalms, such as “For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord will give grace and glory; no good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Ps. 84:11). Connecting these two points is the fact that God’s commands are designed to protect us, as illustrated by this comic I saw on Facebook the other day.
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. (Prov. 31:30)
This is from the end of the virtuous woman passage contained in “words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him” (Prov. 31:1). When I was younger, I latched on to this verse as a substitute for my perceived lack of beauty — if I couldn’t be pretty, I could at least fear God and earn praise that way. As I’ve become more comfortable with myself and more mature as a Christian, my views on this verse have changed. I concentrate more on the last half of the verse, asking “How can I be a woman who fears the Lord?”
Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel — rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. (! Pet. 3:3-4)
I recently set up an account with my favorite name website, NameBerry. For me, it’s almost as potentially addictive as Pinterest — I could spend hours browsing names, interacting with other writers, and discussing the best names for other people’s children. One of the forum topics I stumbled across last week was about favorite names from each letter of the alphabet.
When I tried to fill out the alphabet chart, there were some letters (A, C, and S) that were hard to narrow down to just one name each for boys and girls. Other letters (O and U), I had hard time finding anything I liked or would actually use even on a fictional person. It was fun, though, and I decided to share it here as well as on that site.
I’ve mentioned my name obsession before, along with a few of my favorite names. This list is longer, and includes a few that I like the sound of more than the meaning. The two that aren’t linked to NameBerry or another website are from fantasy stories. Brigan is my favorite character from Kristian Cashore’s bookFire, and while it is used as a last name there doesn’t appear to be a distinct meaning. Faramir is from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings and means “sufficient jewel” or “jeweled hunter” in Elvish.
A friend of mine wrote a post about names last week that provided the inspiration for this post (he doesn’t post very often, but everything he writes is worth reading. Check out his blog here). He didn’t cover any of my main points — he took the discussion in a Biblical direction that I’m largely going to ignore for this post, but which I certainly find intriguing.
It has been several years now since I started researching names and wondering about the importance of name meanings. The meaning of my own name is hard to pin down, and searching for its origins lead me to looking up names of people I know, which lead me to collecting other names that I like.
Meaning of Names
In many cultures, names are something to be taken very seriously. Sometimes it is the meaning of the name which is important in determining a child’s destiny and character. Sometimes names are changed after a major event in a person’s life, as when God changed Abram’s name to Abraham and Sarai’s name to Sara (Gen. 17:4-6, 15-16). Some belief systems say that knowing someone’s name gives one power over them, and certain cultures make a practice of keeping true names a secret.
My own name has a confusing array of meanings. My mother tells me she saw the meaning “wished-for child” and that was what she thought my name meant when she and my dad named me. Since then, I have seen several different possible meanings for “Marissa” depending on which name/word it is derived from. If it is from the Hebrew mara, my name means “bitterness.” If it is from the Latin maris, then my name means “of the sea.” The “wished-for child” meaning is apparently associated with the Hebrew in some way, but I can find little information on it. Usually, I go with “of the sea” as my name meaning.
I think part of the reason I like reading about, collecting, and researching names so much is that I’m a writer and all my characters need names. Some writers pay very close attention to the names they give their characters, and fit either the meaning or a historic significance to the character. For example, the character Cecil in A Room With A View by E.M. Forster is figuratively blind in many ways. His name is of Latin origin, and means “blind.”
In my own writings, one of my favorite characters is a man named Bryant. His name is from the Irish, and means “strong, virtuous, and honorable.” From another story set in the same world, Jamen has a name derived from Benjamin and meaning “son of the right hand.” He and his twin brother are vying for their father to name one his heir, and Jamen would like nothing more than to be his father’s right hand.
My Favorite Names
Some of the names I collect have nothing to do with my fiction. There are a few names I like that I would be hesitant to use in my writings because I might like to give the name to a child some day. I don’t think I would want want my children to think I named them after one of my fictional characters. Typically for these names, I try to put them together so the first and middle names have meanings that fit together. Most of them are just names I like, but Eileen was also my Grandmother’s name and Renee is my sister’s middle name.