The Naming God who Promises to Bless
by Robert J. Young


  • 1. Interesting text in Prov. 22:1, perhaps indicate we are attempting to move through the Bible, through the OT. Consider connections between naming and blessing in our text.
  • 2. UNDERSTANDING WISDOM LITERATURE Book man's side God's side Job suffering sovereignty Ps songs of praise worthy of praise Prov wisdom for living bestower of wisdom Eccles vanity of life meaning for life Song love in marriage author of love
  • Wisdom praised, wisdom applied, wisdom personified
    Here is vertical wisdom for horizontal living. Here is God's wisdom.

  • 3. OUR TEXT--A good name has the preference above great riches; For more than silver and gold is grace. (Heb. Translation)
    Note the Parallelism: A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. (Prov. 22:1)

    I. The God Who Names
    Name: to mark or brand (Arabic), shem as name (837 x in OT), a distinguishing of one thing or person from another. Concept of personal names in OT often included existence, character, and reputation (1 Sam. 25:25). To cut off the name is to eliminate the person (Dt. 7:24; 9:14; 1 Sam. 24:21). The name chosen for a child was expression of wishes or expectations. Especially evident in renamings--Abraham, Sarah, Israel, Daniel....
    Eventually, the name of the Lord comes to be representation and pledge of God's presence. But ultimately, God's presence is fully disclosed in the Incarnation of His son, the one whose name shall be....Isa. 4:1; 7:14; 8:3; 9:6; 12:4; 14:22; 18:7; 24:15; 25:1....
    Name--Matt. 1:18,23; 2:6. Matt. 28:18-20.
    Onoma over 200 x in NT; Rev. 2:3; 2:13; 2:17; 3:1,4,5,8,12; 6:8; 8:11; 9:11; 11:18; 13:1;,6,8,17; 14:1,11; 15:2,4; 16:9; 17:3,5,8; 19:12,13,16; 21:13,14; 22:4

    Naming implies ownership. Naming implies dominion. Name is also descriptive, character, nature. Thus, name is reputation, fame, blessing by God.
    To be well known (renowned) is equivalent to a name, in contrast to being nameless (Job 30:8). To make oneself a name is equivalent to build a monument in honor of oneself; possibly derived from shamah, to be high, prominent, known, thus connecting prominence and a name. Luther thus translates "name" as fame, reputation.
    Mankind seeks his own name, to make a name for self. This is self-centeredness.
    The parallelism in our text signifies grace and favor (being loved), grace which brings favor (11:16), favor being the consequence of a graceful appearance and demeanor (Esther 2:15).

    II. The God Who Blesses
    At the core of understanding the OT is the concept of blessing. God seeks to bless all created beings, Gen. 1:22,28; (2:3); 5:2, 9:1, 12:1-3. This is essential not only to the theme, unity, and understanding of Gen., but also for the entire OT (barak = at least 286 x in OT). Not have time today to explore related concept of blessed (ashere = 45+). God is desirous of blessing that which he has created/made. Last week we learned that God creates, calls, and recreates.
    Notice the continuing dilemma of mankind as God exercises his dominion and guidance in loving, non-coercive ways.

    God's design is indicated in that he named what He created, and if he named these things, he owned them, for one names what he owns or has jurisdiction over.

    Continuing our survey of the early chapters of Genesis, of special interest is the flood story, and especially the early verses of Gen. 6. In the midst of blessing by God, Gen. 6:1, evil was heaped up. The rulers of the day adopted for themselves the Near Eastern title of "sons of God," as parallel to kingship with divine authority or prerogative, and these autocrats began to multiply wives for themselves as they pleased. Their lust for a name, a reputation, led them to excesses and abuse of the purpose of their position.
    Thus in exasperation, God gave up on mankind. These mighty men of renown (men with a name), aristocrats must be halted. But, Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord, Gen. 6:8. Favor with God is made equivalent to a name. The God who names thereby favors or graces. This is the bridge to grace. Thus the great need of the hour would be relieved, as in Gen. 3:15, with an enactment of God's salvation. This righteous remnant gets a name, Shem is often considered derived from the Heb. Word for name.
    The divine blessing is repeated, 8:17; 9:1, 7. Thus we see that blessing and indwelling seem to be linked. The God who blesses will remain present.

    III. The God Who Promises
    What shall we say when the blessings of God are not always clear? God who by his nature is non-contradictory has promised, and sworn by himself since he can swear by none greater.
    This is the OT/NT concept of covenant, but with the unilateral initiation of the covenant by God, the continuation of the covenant promise is secure. The only barrier is the conditional acceptance by humankind of the eternal blessings and promises of God.
    The promises of God always come to answer the human crises. The first notice of this rhythm is in Gen. 3:15, and throughout history a representative child continues to be God's visible guarantee for the present and pledge for the future. This is true of Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants, ultimately to Jesus Christ (Matt. 1), even to the present where you and I are identified as those descendants. Now the fortunes of the entire earth are tied to our identity as the children of God recipients of the promise (Rom. 8:23ff).
    We could continue to trace this renewing promise of God through the Cain/Abel crisis (see 5:1ff), the flood crisis (see 9:25-27), the Babel crisis (thus Gen. 12:1-3), etc. After continuing crises in the Exodus, conquest, judges, and kings, with continual renewal of God's promises and the continuation of God's presence and blessings. Such may be questioned in the Exile, but God's hand and purpose remain clear (just read the prophets), and the ultimate fulfillment of this promise is in Jesus Christ.
    Through Jesus God recreates and unites (last week), but in more detail, he names, blesses, and seals the promise once and for all. These are the bridges to the final two lessons in this series. In Jesus Christ, we learn of the God who is with us, and in the Holy Spirit, we learn of the God who is within us.

    What have we learned?
    Name is reputation, fame, blessing by God.
    A good name has the preference above great riches; For more than silver and gold is grace. (Heb.)
    Or to make the parallelism more obvious: A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. (Prov. 22:1)
    1. In the parallelism, a good name and favor (esteem, reputation, renown) are parallel. This refers to our favor in the sight of others and in the sight of God. What is to be desired more than great riches? Good character, reputation, favor by others. But outside of Jesus Christ revealing God most clearly in the NT, and revealing God way of ultimately blessing us even when we do not live up to our divinely given name, there is no character, there is no grace, there is no favor.
    Calvin Miller wrote, the problem of this world is that its treasures are in the sky and its treasure maps are of the earth.
    2. Our identity, reputation is more valuable than riches. Our name will take us farther than our money. This is the ultimate will and plan of the naming God who seeks to bless us. The identity of the child of God is fashioned by God, the God who actually gives us his name despite the dichotomy, and continually blesses, even those who are not his.
    3. Our identity is not self-derived, as Christians our identity depends upon the grace of God exhibited in Christ Jesus.

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    Last updated November 11, 2002.