July 24, 2015

Jesus Christ and Jiminy Cricket

I believe it is important to note the point in time where God renames Jacob to Israel in Genesis 32. God asked him his name. The last time Jacob had been asked who he was, he deceived and lied in Genesis 27 to Isaac. This time he tells truth. There is now "no guile in him". The irony is in Jacob’s name meaning…Jacob means deceiver. It is no accident that at the time Jacob is named Jacob, he is a deceiver...because that is exactly the nature of his character. By the time he is called Israel the nature of his character has matured and changed due to life's circumstances and his understanding of God. 

Israel means "triumphant with God" or "he who prevails with God". This name is a combination of the Hebrew words for "wrestle" and"God". Jacob had wrestled physically and throughout his life he had done so spiritually in his contention with his own sin or natural proclivity for deception (not unlike all sinners). It is not irony that the Messiah would come through his lineage. His lineage would produce the very One that would overcome the sin that Jacob/Israel would contend with his entire life.

Genesis 32:25 ~ When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed."

Genesis 27:18 ~ “So he went in to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?”

Why does this matter? It matters because names are often descriptors of character in the Old Testament. In other words names are significant in describing the very nature of people and their character. Many names describe nations, people, and ancient history. Some describe expressions of hopes, revelations of divine purposes, and prophecies of the future.

Characteristics and traits of people were an important aspect of names in ancient Israel. For example the name Nabal means "senseless and fool", and Abigail indicated that this is what her husband amounted to, a senseless fool.

1 Samuel 25:25 Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent.

We really get more to the heart of the matter when we visit the issue of God’s name and why we are not to take His name in vain in Exodus.

Exodus 20:7 ~ “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

Here it says the penalty for taking God's name in vain is death. That is a pretty stiff penalty for using God’s name improperly. Why? Well, first off, this commandment has nothing to do with the proper pronunciation of God's name (which no one knows for certain how to say anyway) (YHWH). It also has nothing to do with superstition or magic. This commandment's application is spiritually much broader, deeper, and more dignified than that.

This commandment is certainly against common swearing, including the use of euphemisms so common in this society. Some examples of which are “Jiminy Cricket”, "Jeepers Creepers", “Jesus, Mary and Joseph”, "cripes", "bejeezer", "Lawdy/Lordy", “cheese and crackers”, “gosh darn-it” and “doggone”. More importantly, it includes the irreverent and disrespectful use of any of God's attributes or character traits…which the very name implies. What we learn in the use of names in the Old Testament and the third commandment is how much God is to be a part of our every word, deed, and attitude. This naming philosophy appears to bleed over to mankind also. Why? Because man is created in God’s image. To defame a person’s name is to defame their character. To defame their character is to essentially commit an assassination or murder of that person’s reputation….God’s or men’s.

As in the case of Jacob/Israel it ends up paying bonuses of insight and understanding to take notice to his biblical name. In biblical/Hebraic thought names are not merely labels to identify people or things but actual expressions of the possessor's very nature. A nature that includes their reputation, character, and distinctiveness from others. In Hebraic thought, a name is inseparably tied to the named thing's ontology or existence. So, to know the name of God is to know the nature and character of what God has chosen to reveal about Himself. Likewise, the names of men appear (in many cases) to be a revelation of what God wants known about the character of men in Scripture throughout the Scripture.

In other words, nothing exists unless it has a name, its essence is concentrated in its name. To cut off a person's name is to end the bearer's existence. To change a person's name is to indicate a shift in his character and standing before God. To defame a person’s name is to murder the character of the bearer of that name. Likewise, to speak and act on behalf of another person’s name by proxy is to act as that person’s agent and with their authority. In the New Testament they are most often called…disciples. To fall under the authority of their name is to make one a slave/servant that serves under their authority. We do things in Jesus' name as Christians, what does this truly mean? When we say we do things in Jesus’ name we are saying we are willingly submitting to His ownership or rule over us. In this way we are willfully acknowledging ourselves as slaves to Christ.

1 John 3:23 ~ “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.

In the verse above, when a name is used in this way, it does not mean the word by which a person is called but rather the “whole nature” or “character of the person" as far as we know it or understand it. This is why the Proverb says, "A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches" (Proverbs 22:1). The name therefore contains nothing magical. It means that our help is in His love, His mercy, His power and in His promises (or his very character and nature). The use of the word name here is essentially a metonymy. God’s name doesn’t act as an incantation of spell. It is in the things that have been revealed to us as parts of His nature, of His attributes, and of His promises…His Gospel…and whether or not we have faith in them.

So to "believe in the name of Jesus Christ" means to believe in the nature and the character of Jesus Christ and what He has promised and done for us, such as die on a cross and rise again the third day. It means that we believe Jesus is Messiah, Savior, High Priest, and King. It means we believe He died in accord with Scripture, was buried and rose again the third day. It means that we believe that through Him we have entrance into God's presence in eternal life—not just entrance to Him, but actual fellowship with Him.

So the next time you “innocently” use the euphemism Jiminy Cricket in place of Jesus Christ, realize it is not innocent at all. You are degrading Jesus Christ to the level of an object in the Creation. What’s worse is you demean him to the level of a cartoon and/or an insect. This says more about us being morons than it will ever say about God. If anything our belittling still allows God’s glorious character and attributes to shine through? How? It shows God’s patience and forbearance with our disrespect and insolence that clearly deserves punishment.

In the end I believe as Christians we are best served by obeying the following from Paul.

Ephesians 4:29 ~ “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification”

You need to use the brain that the good Lord gave you. If it seems wrong to say, that is probably your conscience telling you that it is wrong. It would then warrant thinking about what you are about to say...and possibly reserving comment and remaining silent.

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