In reading the Bible, especially in a lot of the Old Testament books, you often come across lists of names. Lists of genealogies and families; lists of people who were assigned different tasks. In some places, the lists seem to be endless. And for many of the people listed, that's the only time they're mentioned in the Bible. "These are the family members of so-and-so." And that's the last you hear of them.
Back in the day when "Burnt Offering" wasn't just for dinner, people chose the names of their children very carefully. For example, one name that became well-known a few years ago, but certainly didn't make the top 10 baby name list, was Jabez. The Bible says that his mother gave birth to him in pain, and gave the child the name Jabez, which sounds like the Hebrew word for "pain". Even today many people carefully choose the names for their children, partially for what the name means. I have a cousin whose parents named him Jeffrey (God's peace) Newell (Christmas). Since he was born in mid-April, I doubt that the name had anything with the time of year of his birth.
I once heard a preacher on the radio go through King David's ancestry. The meanings of the names of these people were preserved throughout history, and the names in the sequence of genealogy told a beautiful story of how God wants nothing more than for his people to be reconciled with him. But for many others, the "once-and-done, one hit wonders" mentioned in the Old Testament, the meanings of their names have been lost.
Why was God so intent on including so many individuals in the Bible by name?I believe that it's to emphasize that He loves and values each and every one of us, whether our name is well-known or obscure.
Some of us know the meanings of our names, including our family names, and have an idea of what our parents had in their hearts and minds when our names were given. Others, as in my case, only have part of the story. Through no one's fault, I do not know the meaning of my given family name - Thuente. So, in a way, I can relate to some of the men and women of Biblical times -- a name that's hard to pronounce, not much easier to spell, and really kind of clueless as to what it means. When I had the privilege of choosing my surname when I got married ("Uht"), the name thing didn't get much better. Sure, it's shorter, and even fits nicely in a monogram. But it didn't move me closer to the front of the alphabetical lineup, and still had that Old Testament, hard to say, hard to spell, undefinable syndrome about it.
But there is good news! God knows my name -- MY name! -- and he knows yours too. Not only that, he knows how to spell it right, and knows how to say it without having to be corrected. And when I finally meet him face to face, He will be able to tell me what my name means. Until then, by believing in Jesus, I have the right to bear the name "child of God".