We have three boys, each with a unique given name. Our oldest son is named Justus. We had his name picked out before my wife, Heidi, and I were even married. But when the moment of truth came 6 years later, we flinched and Justus was almost “Caleb.” But we swallowed hard and stuck to our guns, not knowing what others would think. Not that it matters, but the response was overwhelmingly positive. We’ve received many compliments on his name over the years. Little did we know that we were trendsetters. Justus is ever-growing in popularity as both a boy’s and girl’s name.
We wanted to continue giving our kid’s virtuous names, but we had trouble coming up with virtuous names for boys. We had a whole list of them for girls, but we had to have three boys. When our second son was born, we gave him the name “Tranquil.” I called my mother-in-law to give her the good news and tell her the name.
“What?” She responded.
“Tranquil,” I said again.
Then breaking the silence, “What are you going to call him?”
“Tranquil,” I said a third time.
“Yeah, I know,” she said, “but what are you going to call him?”
Again I responded, “Tranquil.”
Twelve years later we still get often get that response from people.
In the Bible, a person’s name is a description of their character. Children were given names like “The Lord saves” (Joshua/Jesus), “Father of Nations” (Abraham), and “Hairy” (Esau). Instead of giving our kids biblical names that had meaning in another language (Hebrew), we wanted to give our children names that meaning in English. You know, not leave any room for translation; cut out the middle man. Our third son is named, Noble, and we pray every day that our boys will grow into their names.
God is referred to by many names in the Bible. So we can learn a lot about who God is just from the names He is called.
- Yahweh/Jehovah (translated as LORD in the Bible; strictly speaking this is the only name of God)
- El Elyon (the Most High God)
- Elohim (the Supreme God)
- I Am (the everlasting one)
- Jehovah Jireh (the LORD provides)
- Jehovah Shalom (the LORD is peace)
- The LORD of Hosts (Lord of all heaven’s powers)
- God of the Fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)
- El Shaddai (The Almighty God)
In addition to these names, God is also described as Sun, Shield, Shepherd, Light, Fire, Rock, Fountain, Lion, Lamb, etc. All of these names tell us something about who God is. It’s why He has been given many names, because no one name can fully describe Him. That’s why God commands us not to use His name in vain (Exodus 20:7). If we do, we are not just misusing his name (like when someone misspells my name as “Gu-ass”). We are dishonoring his character and qualities – everything that God is.
Even though the One True God is called by many different names in the Old Testament, there is only one name that Jesus instructs his followers to call him: FATHER.
“Father” is at once the most hurtful AND healing name of God. The name “father” may be hurtful if you never knew your father, if your father was abusive, too busy, or too distant. When you hear the word, “father,” it’s not comfort you feel, but pain. If God is a “father” then maybe you don’t want anything to do with this God.
However, the name “father” may be healing if you never knew your father, if your father was abusive, too busy, or too distant. If you have wounds from your father (and believe me, most everybody does), God wants to heal them. God is not the type of father you have, but the type of father you always wished you could have.
I have been blessed to have a good and godly earthly father, but my father, with all of his tremendous strengths, is not the standard of fatherhood. I love and respect my father dearly and I am so blessed to call him, “Dad,” but he is not the standard. I strive to be a father after God’s own heart, but I still have far too many glaring weaknesses to be anyone’s standard.
God, our heavenly father, is the standard of fatherhood.
So, what does it mean to be a father after God’s own heart?