What's in a name?

What's in a name?

Thursday, 4 February 2016  | Narelle - MECS Principal
Every name has a story!

I’ve always thought that my name is uniquely Australian. It certainly belongs to a particular time period – all the Narelles I know were born somewhere between 1965-1975. My son Darcy was born around the time Colin Firth played the role of Mr Darcy in Pride and Prejudice and many people asked whether he was named about this fictional character.
Sadly not, we just liked the name and I thought it was something a bit different! My daughter’s middle name is Daisy-Anne – named after her great grandmother Daisy on her dad’s side, and my mother, whose middle name is Ann.

I wonder if you know what your name means?

This year our staff are going to be exploring the various names given to God in our staff devotions. These different names tell us about God’s character, purpose and majesty. It’s amazing to think that God can’t be contained by one name, but that many names are used throughout scripture for us to more fully understand why He is the one true God. Names such as Yahweh - the great I AM, Jehovah Rapha – the Lord who heals and El Eleyon – the God above all other Gods.

However, I would like to introduce you to the name El Roi – the God who sees. What’s startling about this name for God is firstly, who gave it to God, and secondly, how the name casts a new light on who God is and how He relates to us.  With this name, God becomes extremely personal.

So who gave this name to God? It was a young, frightened, servant girl named Hagar. Her story is found in Genesis 16. Let me tell you a little bit about what happened. You may recall God’s promise to Abram that he would be the father of many nations – that his descendants would outnumber the stars in the heavens. However, Abram is 85 and still childless. Sarai, his wife, makes what seems to us a shocking suggestion. She urges her husband to sleep with her maid, Hagar, in the hope that she could be something like a surrogate to bear their children.

Shocking to us, but in ancient culture this was quite common.  There was even a legal system that spelled out how such procedures would work. If the servant girl did give birth to a child, the child legally, and for all intents and purposes, belonged to the father and his wife. The servant girl had no rights whatsoever as a mother.

Hagar becomes pregnant but as a result, the relationship between Sarai and her servant girl disintegrates and eventually Hagar flees the household. When Hagar fled from Sarai, she must have felt totally abandoned and mistreated, rejected and alone.

She comes to a spring of water. I wonder what she was thinking.  Has God forgotten me? Where is he now? Does he have any idea of the situation I’m in? How can I raise this baby by myself?  I’ve been completely forsaken!

The Bible tells us that, ‘the angel of the Lord found her.’ God knew exactly where Hagar was, and He calls her by name. He knows her troubles. He knows about the child in her womb, and even what his name will be. And he knows Hagar’s future. 

Can you grasp how revolutionary this dialogue with God must have been for Hagar? She knew God as other people in her culture knew Him – far away, distant, and preoccupied.  Mighty and powerful to be sure, but certainly not personally attentive.

By referring to God as El Roi – the God who sees, Hagar is practically screaming out to pagans in her own day and us today, “You’ve got it all wrong. God is not far away.  He’s not asleep, and he’s not angry and severe. The true God is present. He met me where I was. He knows exactly what I’ve been through. The true God sees me and he sees you.”
Hagar’s personal view of God can be disconcerting to people who prefer to believe in a God who is transcendent but removed from our lives. Yet this characteristic of God, the one who sees us intimately, is woven through the Bible. He’s the sovereign God who pays attention. He doesn’t miss the smallest detail.  His eyes are everywhere, including a focus on you and me. Including a focus on this school, each classroom, each office, each conversation.

I don’t know about you but this gives me a tremendous sense of security as we begin this new school year. Security and peace to know I have faith in a God who sees me, who knows everything that’s happened in my past. He sees my present. He knows what’s on my mind. He knows my hopes and dreams for this year. He also sees my fears and the challenges ahead. He sees my heart and my faithfulness, and He’s delighted. Even if no-one else sees, God sees and He’s up in the balcony cheering me on.

I believe that’s the deep longing in all of us. We were created to know that we have a God who’s looking at our lives in the smallest detail. Jesus said that even the hairs on our head are numbered. That’s how much we’re known.

As we commence this new school year with all our students, what a blessing to know that each one of them is known by God, known by name. Each one is precious to Him. He sees their excitement, he sees their anxiousness. He knows what they need to learn and grow in Him. He knows who will be their friends. He even sees the challenges ahead! Because of this truth, the year will be OK!

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