Home > Lent > Bearing the Name in Babylon, Part 1

Bearing the Name in Babylon, Part 1

Deserted (used by permission via Flickr)

When Jerusalem falls, the faithful fall alongside her. Their homes are burned, their treasures are lost, their families are taken into captivity. Those who heeded the words of the prophets stumble alongside those who ignored the words of the prophets. They bear the judgment together.

They bear the Name of the Lord on the banks in Babylon. They carry the weight of His Glory even as while stumbling into the wilderness. The Name of the Lord is not a magic talisman to ward off suffering and pain. It is the gift of Covenant with the Most High even in the midst of the desert waste places. Over 1,000 years earlier, as the Children of Israel crossed the wilderness into the Land of Future Promise, the sons of Aaron were instructed to put the Name of the Lord upon the people.

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.
“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
(Numbers 6:22-27 ESV)

A dark day comes when the faithful few must leave the Land of Future Promise behind. They walk by way of the wilderness into captivity. Jesus also walks by way of the wilderness into captivity. The Spirit leads Him into the wasteland to be tempted. The Spirit leads Him into the captivity of the tomb.

When Jesus invites His disciples to “follow Me,” He invites them and us to follow Him to the cross. He calls us to follow even when the sky darkens, the land trembles and the future promise fades.

He calls us to follow where we do not want to go. I think back the faithful few walking into the jaws of Babylon. They carry the weight of God’s three-fold blessing:

The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Bearing the Holy Name
The Hebrew word for bless carries the idea of the kneeling. The blessing is much like the giving of a name. The people kneel and receive a blessing, a naming. The good parent names their child with the hopes of seeing the child grow into that name. The name is a word of praise, a word of goodness, a call.

In one sense, our names call us forward into the future. My parents called me, Douglas. When I hear the name called, I respond. The name calls me. And in the end of my life, the name will be filled with the content of my life.

At the same time, my father also recognized me as his son, and gave me his family name Floyd. Thus I am part of a family that reaches across time. Douglas Floyd bears both the particularity of my own life and the connection to a greater whole, a people who preceded me and will live after me.

In much the same way, the Children of Israel bear a particular name as well as the Name of the Lord.

In Egypt, the ancient Hebrews are slaves. Nameless ones. Fatherless children. The Lord names them, “Children of Israel.” His naming is a blessing. His blessing is a calling. His calling is so effectual that no power can resist, not even the god Pharaoh can stand in the way. In fact, those who try to stop the call or prevent the call (including Pharaoh) are destroyed in the process.

This is the power of the Name. The Lord “calls out” His people, Israel. Over the centuries, they will fill out this Name and give it content.

At the same, the Lord gives this people His Covenant Name. They are part of a greater whole, the “called out” family of faith across time and space called to bear His Name. They have no image of the Lord. Only the Name. They bear the Name as His children.

When Jesus comes, He bears the Name completely. He fulfills the name of Israel and the Name of the LORD in His life, death and resurrection. This royal name of Israel can finally be understood in light of Jesus.

Jesus also calls out a nameless people. These people are not slaves in Egypt, but they are slaves to evil and corruption. He calls them out from every tribe and nation. They are the “ekklesia,” the called out ones. He names them as his own, as his friends, as his chosen ones:

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.
(John 15:16 ESV)

His disciples then and now are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. They are named as His own and He will keep them–even through the baptism of fire. Those who bear the Name of the Lord bear it into the midst of a world that is out of order, bear into the heart of struggle and suffering, bear in the face of the enemies of God. But the ever faithful Lord promises to keep them. He will guard them, seal them, protect them and lead them into glory.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.
(Jude 1:24-25 ESV)

Categories: Lent
  1. March 9, 2011 at 9:09 am

    A helpful word for us that are gathering all the blessings available!

  2. March 9, 2011 at 9:24 am

    Wonderful Doug!
    Several loosely connected thoughts which your post brought to my mind:

    1. Matthew 28:19-20 kjv
    19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
    20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

    2. The ‘I am with you. . .” recaps the name Immanuel, a name-as-promise, or promise and name inextricably bound up together (perichoretically? homoousially?) It is also a deepening of the name YHWH, not only revealed, but also given to Moses as promise as “I will be with you [before Pharaoh]. . .” This is the name-promise given to the children of Israel at Sinai as “I shall be your God and you shall be my people.” We tend not to think of this in terms of naming, but your post on this brings that out in sharp relief by juxtaposing so nicely naming and promise.

    3. A pertinent footnote in a T.F. Torrance essay I read this morning: “Calvin, Institutes [sic], 1.13.9-11. Calvin points out that the designation Kyrios applied both to Christ and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is the equivalent of the Hebrew Yahweh.”

    Thanks,
    Ben

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