“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” -Psalm 23:3
Names. The signifier that you turn your head to when you hear it. It is how you are known. For parents, it is a huge decision to make, to name their child. It is something permanent, for the most part, it is something that your child will be stuck with until they are at least eighteen, and it is something that you must decide. Names are important. They mean things. They tell us about our families, many names have meanings underlying them, they tell a story. They connect us to others, our group of people, the ones that love and care for us, our clan, our community. Names give us belonging. They bind us to others. Names matter. Maybe not as much as they used to, but names can communicate status and often respect. We all have names. We all are given names from our parents, and they chose that name specifically for us. Our names are important. Names show a sense of belonging.
God cares about names. Throughout the scriptures we have multiple examples of names that are given by God. These names are full of meaning. These names are not coincidental but are markers of significance. Many times, we see God give his people a new name. He gives Jacob the name of Israel. Abram is changed to Abraham. Jesus changes Simon to Peter, and Saul to Paul. But there is one name, that God cares about above all else. His own. God cares about His name. We don’t need to look further than the second commandment to know this. He commands us to honor His name, not to misuse it, use it flippantly, we ought not use it to mislead or deceive. We ought not dishonor it or teach falsely regarding it. God is holy, and therefore His name is holy.
Just like Abraham, Israel, Peter, and Paul, you too have been given a new name. This name was given to you specifically. When you were baptized you were given this name, you were marked with the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. You were chosen, specifically, by God. The one who laid the foundations of the earth looked at you and said, “Wow, look at that, this one is mine.” Because you bear His name you receive everything He has promised you. Because you bear His name you are His child and so what He has, you have. He promises forgiveness so you have forgiveness. He promises life so now you who were once dead now have life. He promises salvation, so you who were once damned now are saved. It all belongs to you. You have been transferred from the kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of God and He will not allow you to be plucked from His hand. Because you have His name. The incredible thing about this is that where God’s name is, He is.
God cares about His name, and He cares about those who bear His name. His name is holy. He will not allow his name to be associated with sin. This is something that He is serious about, deadly serious. To defame his name… His image… is punishable by death. So, if God is deadly serious about His name, and will not associate his name with sin, and if to bear God’s name and sin is a dangerous and deadly game, then what ought we do? Why? For HIS name’s sake. God binds himself to His name and makes Himself inseparable from it. And by His name He binds you to Him. So, we follow in paths of righteousness.
We bear the name of the Creator of all things. We have been given His gifts, this inheritance belongs to you. So, we act like it. We act like it because it is who we are. We flee from sin and every evil. We trust in God to provide all good things and we give thanks for what we have. We don’t cling to our money and possessions in greed, but instead we give freely without condition. We keep the Sabbath day holy; this day belongs to the Lord. It is for those who bear His name. It is for you to come and receive what he has given. We honor our parents and those in authority over us, and we obey the law. We don’t lie cheat or steal, but instead we protect the reputations of others, we stay faithful to our loved ones, and we protect other interests. We don’t spew words of hatred, but instead we love those who hate us, and we pray for those who persecute us. We remain content with what God has blessed us with, instead of falling in line with those around us who are on this incessant march striving for more. This is all done, for His name’s sake. We look to the needs of our neighbors, dying to our self to care for others, for His name’s sake. We protect the widows, the orphans, and those who have received a bad hand in life, for His name’s sake. We support single mothers, we advocate for victims of abuse, we stand for justice and equality, we speak up for those who do not have a voice, and we care for life from womb to tomb, for His name’s sake.
It isn’t always easy. It is a struggle. You know that there will be days, or maybe even seasons in your life where this path seems winding, bumpy, rocky, or even that the path may be hard to see altogether. You may trip over roots, stub our toes on rocks, take a wrong turn, or stumble and fall down, or simply just get weary and can’t go on. If you wonder if this life that you live has purpose. If you wonder if this path is leading anywhere. If you wonder when the suffering will end, or if there is ever a moment to rest. Remember your name. Remember that you bear the name of God. Forgiveness belongs to you. Life belongs to you. Salvation belongs to you. So, walk in paths of righteousness. For God’s name’s sake, and for yours.