What's in a Name?


"What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.

For those who, unlike myself, stayed awake during their English course in high school, you might be familiar with this line from Shakespeare’s most famous play, Romeo and Juliet.

It’s true that if a rose was called by another name, the fragrance would smell the same. However, it’s not so with the name of the Lord. The mesmerizing fragrance of the Lord is bound eternally to His name. Calling the Lord by any other name would smell as betrayal and blasphemy.

Hear the Lord’s passion for upholding His name by His prophets throughout history.

“And in that day, declares the Lord, you will call me ‘My Husband’ and no longer will you call me ‘My Baal.’ For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be remembered no more.”[2]

God doesn't take lightly being called by another name.

“For I knew that you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel. For My name's sake I defer My anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I do it, for how should My name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.”[3]

The phrase “the name of the Lord” is often repeated throughout the Old and New Testaments. The very nature and character of God is wrapped up in His name. By it men are saved, and when men profane the name, they are cursed. His name is the primary impetus for men crossing oceans and cultures to declare it among the nations. The name of the Lord is of primary importance.

In Exodus, the Lord gave definition and meaning to His name. After the whole idolatrous golden calf incident, Moses spoke with God—the way a man speaks with His friend—and asked the Lord, “Please show me Your glory.” The Lord responded with, “I will make all My goodness pass before you and will proclaim… my name.”[4] God then placed Moses in a cleft of the rock, covered him with His hand, and declared His name to Moses.

“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love and faithfulness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”[5]

When God declared His name to Moses, He declared what He was like. In that name, He proclaimed His nature and His character, the very mercy and justice existing within God without contradiction. By His name, we know He forgives sins. And by His name, we know He punishes the unrepentant. His name is important.

That’s why it’s such an offense for someone to blaspheme His name, they are blaspheming His very nature. Taking the Lord’s name in vain is not limited to using the words, “God” or “Jesus” to curse. Far more serious than that, it is a warning to those who are not His, not to invoke His name in pretense (that is, in vain). Falsely bearing the name of the Lord is a deeply wicked thing that the Lord hates.[6] It’s no wonder why this warning made it onto the Lord’s top ten list:

“You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”[7]

The Day is coming when the patience of the Lord will be complete and He will vindicate His name among the nations.

“And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them.” [8]

God means it when He says He will by no means clear the guilty. He means it when He says He will not hold a man guiltless who takes His name falsely. When the unrepentant profane the name of God, they do not get away with it.

Jesus is concerned with the greatness of His name. The Lord’s concern for His name reaches so far that He is willing to bind the unbreakable covenant with Israel to His own name and to the fixed order of the sun, moon, and stars!

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel… Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night… the LORD of hosts is His name. ‘If this fixed order departs from before Me,’ declares the LORD, ‘then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.’” [9]

God bound the fixed order of the sun to the faithfulness of His name; His name is the reason we labor among the nations. The fame of Jesus’ name is why we proclaim His good news. His name is the good news. Those who participate in the Great Commission are partnering with God in the process of making His name great.

“From the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a pure offering. For My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.”[10]

When we are concerned with the name of the Lord, we’re less concerned about building a name for ourselves. Missions becomes less about the apparent success of our organization and more about people, enamored by the fragrance of Christ, who become willing to travel to any length, at any cost, to build something beautiful for Jesus. They go that His name may be worshipped forever.

When we arrive among our target people, we tell our Muslim neighbors, “A rose may be called by another name, but the LORD may not.”

“Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”[11]


Jordan Scott lives in a Muslim-majority country with his wife and two children, where he serves as Director of Community Development and the Emmaus Intensive. He can be reached by email at jordan@faimission.org.


[1] Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 2, lines 45-46
[2] Hosea 2:16-17
[3] Isaiah 48:8-11
[4] Exodus 33:18-19
[5] Exodus 34:6-7
[6] Amos 5:18-24
[7] Exodus 20:7
[8] Ezekiel 36:23
[9] Jeremiah 31:31, 35-36
[10] Malachi 1:11
[11] Philippians 2:9-11