Yes yes yes. I know, I know. It’s been way too long since my last post. Rather than dwelling on the past, however, I would like to jump right into this one.
Whether you believe the Bible is true or not, you’ve got to admit, it has some profound stories with some peculiar people. Take Genesis for example. The first book of the bible has some crazy stories in it. Like, I dare someone to use the people of the Old Testament as exemplary moral characters. Go ahead. I dare you to. You just can’t. The Old Testament is replete with stories of imperfect people being used by a perfect God to accomplish his will and desire.
But that’s not the point I’m trying to make in this post. Instead, I want to zoom in on one particular passage in Genesis 35. The story picks up with the death of Rachel as she gives birth to another son. Rachel was married to the guy (Jacob) who started the nation of Israel, so she’s a pretty significant character in the story of the Bible.
During her childbirth, as a result of the pain she was experiencing and knowing that she herself might die, Rachel looks down on her son and calls him Ben-Oni or “Son of my trouble!” That is, “This kid is going to kill me!” Imagine having that as your name the rest of your life. Everyone who said your name would constantly remind you of what your birth resulted in, that is, your mother’s death. Mother-killer. Wow. Not a very cool name.
But here’s where the beauty happens. The next verse says this: “But his father named him ‘Benjamin.’” Guess what Benjamin means? “Son of my right hand.” His father looked down on him and called him to a place of honor. That’s what it meant to be at the right hand, to be the most honored of the sons, to be the strongest, to be the one who ruled. By calling him Benjamin, his father drastically changed the course of his life. Instead of being known as the son who caused the death of the mother, he would forever be known as the son the father loved the most.
Am I making the connection too obvious? I hope so.
There have been so many times in my own life where the sin that I was born into has begun to define me. All I can hear is, “Ben-Oni… You’re just trouble. You’re a mess. You’re not making any progress, You’re not becoming any holier. Why bother? You just cause trouble with God and with others…” Those thoughts begin to take hold and seep into my life, making me believe I am worthless in the eyes of God. With such negative thoughts and attitudes, I often spiral into shame and guilt and more shame and more guilt and ultimately, ineffectiveness as a Christian.
But this is the truth: My father no longer calls me Ben-Oni. He calls me Benjamin. Even though at one time in my life I was Ben-Oni, my father looks down on me and now calls me something completely different. He says, “My son, my honored son, my holy son, come sit at my right hand.”
And the only way this can be accomplished, the only way my name could change from “Ben-Oni” to “Benjamin” was for someone else to take my name, and to consequently take the wrath of God that I deserved, upon himself. That man is Jesus, and the Bible is full of vignettes like this that point us to that truth.
So dear friend, if you are not a Christian and you recognize that all you ever do only causes trouble and hardship, then may I offer a solution? You are trouble. So was I. But there is someone who can not only call you a different name, he can name you something entirely different! That person, that being is God, and he wants to name you differently. And maybe you don’t follow this whole Christianity thing, and you still feel like you’re doing alright, then check out some of the stories in the Old Testament (But please don’t look to them as moral examples)…
If you are a Christian… Recognize one thing: God calls you a different name now. You are not that sin. That sin does not identify you. You may have been that, but you are no longer. You have been washed, and you are clean, and you are justified by the name of Jesus. By what, as 1 Corinthians 6:11 says? By the name of the Lord Jesus…
You see, it’s not about us or our own names; it’s about the name of Jesus.
Genesis 35: 16-18 NIV