The Significance of Names – & a Beacon on the Hill

Very recently some members of my family in Northern Ireland decided to commemorate the 400th anniversary of their arrival in Ireland. It must be said that the Plantation of Ulster can be a divisive and sensitive subject on which to dwell and so I will not do so. However, the Lord has led me to look at it from a spiritual point of view, using the occasion to reach many with the truth of His Word. Here is a tiny bit about the history…

My surname before I was married was “Hutchinson;” John Hutchinson and his son William were the first to arrive from Staffordshire in England, in 1610, to the area of Mullaghbane, just outside the city of Armagh. William had a son called Andrew, known in later life as “old Andrew.” The latter had a son called Samuel who in turn had a son called Andrew… and so on…! Of course I realize that only those with an interest in (or a connection with) the Hutchinsons from this area of County Armagh would be interested in the entire family tree! By the way, should someone who is reading this require the information, please feel free to contact me.

The event was to be celebrated with a large bonfire on a high hill, somehow reminding me of the “warning beacons” which were lit in Elizabethan times to warn of the coming Spanish Armada. As I thought about the forthcoming glow of the great fire, all sorts of thoughts were going though my head… the preservation of family names through the ages; the handing down of land from one generation to another; old wars and disputed territory; the origin and meaning of our names; and the fascinating gene pool that makes us the individuals we are today, with all our personality traits and physical appearance. Clearly we are very much victims of circumstance, having no control over our origins.

“You’re not related to Burke (Hare’s body snatching accomplice), are you?” I have been jokingly asked, to which I vehemently deny that I have any connection. “Oh no,” I say, “I’m married to a Burke.” Then I think, ‘well, really you know, we are all related from Adam and Eve, so in the great view of the origins of mankind – then, yes, I am related to everyone, including those infamous characters in history.’ So – what is in a name? In this part of the world surnames were often derived from the trade that a person was engaged in, e.g. ‘Thatcher,’ ‘Butler,’ or ‘Farmer,’ or from the area that the family came from, e.g. Moore, Marsh or Woods, or the names of cities or towns; while ‘good’ and ‘bad’ names alike have a certain history associated with them. In the Celtic realm, ‘Mac’ and ‘O’ preceding a name means ‘son of.’ The Bible tells us that “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.” (Prov.22v1) A good name and reputation can take a lifetime to establish – but a good name can also be tarnished within a very short time indeed.

Names are very significant in many societies throughout the world, revealing everything from the origin of the person to his political standing and perhaps even his class or caste. In this life there are great, and often unjust, divisions between the classes in some societies but how is this all viewed in the light of eternity?

Some day we will stand before the Judge of all mankind, devoid of all the trappings of this life because God is no respecter of persons. We cannot present Him with our respectable family name and although we may have worked hard all our lives, we cannot come to Him with our diligence. We may be viewed as a “pillar of society” but this means nothing to Him, while our affluence and education (or lack of these) is also irrelevant to Him. No, when I stand before God, I will be judged on what I have done with the Name that is above every Name, (Phil. 2v9): the Name of the precious Lord Jesus Christ. “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2v10&11)

For those who did not acknowledge Him as Saviour in this life, nor recognized that “here we have no continuing city” (Heb.13v14) it will be too late. The Bible speaks of those whose “inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.” (Psalm 49v11) But the day will surely come when this entire earth (and all our lands and possessions) will be no more. “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” (Isaiah 65v17)

Therefore, in the light of these great truths, we must be sure that we are right with God. Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life? We cannot be responsible for the decisions and lives of our forebearers – but God has given to each one of us the opportunity to get right with Him in this life. Praise God, if you do so, you will be given a new name in Heaven. (Rev. 3v12)

If you have trusted in that Name that is above every name, remember His words in Revelation 3v11: “Behold I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.” When I thought about the great bonfire on the hill, I was reminded of these words: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.” (Matthew 5v14) Like the great beacons on the hills in bygone days which burned brightly to warn of the advancing danger of the Spanish Armada, the Christian’s life must burn brightly for the Lord Jesus Christ who is returning again to judge the world. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5v16)

Have you never trusted Him as Saviour? Remember that eternity lies before you. Which will it be – an eternity of intense pain and great darkness, with no comforting Presence of the Saviour – or a joyful eternity in Heaven with the Lord and all who love Him? The latter is God’s will for you, whoever you are! Repent of your sin; ask Him to forgive you for all that previous life lived outside His Presence and ask Him to come into your life and make you a new person, for he has said: “Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6v37) Only trust Him now in the quietness of your heart.

Yes, “a good name is rather to be had than silver or gold,” but only God can give us a good (and a new) name that counts for eternity, when we trust in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, for salvation.

I love Charles Austin Miles’ hymn: “A New Name in Glory.” May yours be one of those names today!

Link to this hymn: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/n/e/newnamei.htm

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