When I was in college, one of my roommates was a huge music fan. He had hundreds of vinyl records (the only proper way to listen to music, in his opinion), and his brain was a treasure trove of rock and roll information. One day, he discovered a song by a band he had never heard of. It was a melancholy song about the girl who got away. He bought the song and played it often. When someone would come to our room, he would say, “Have you heard this? You need to hear it.” Then he would play it again. He said, “I feel like a born-again Christian. I just can’t stop telling people about this song.” I was the only one in that dorm room who would have called himself a born-again Christian, so at first I thought he was making fun of me. But then I realized; his dad had been an irreligious man who had, just a few years before, met Jesus and been totally transformed. Now he was a preacher. So my roommate knew what being born again looked like, even if it hadn’t happened to him. The happy ending of that story is that my friend did indeed eventually come to know Jesus in a personal way, and is today an outstanding follower of the Lord. But here is the point of that story: Years later, when Carrie and I were expecting our first child, we had already decided on the name if it was a boy. William Carey was the name of a great hero of mine, an English preacher who was the father of the modern missionary movement. Besides, William is my brother’s name, and Carey is a name I just like (for some random reason). But we couldn’t agree on a girl’s name. I brought up that song that my college roommate had liked so much. The name of the girl in the song was Kayleigh. Carrie liked that; Kay and Lee are both family names in her family. So we had names for both genders, and God gave us the opportunity to use both.
If you have kids, perhaps you have stories of where their names come from. In our culture, we name kids after relatives, after celebrities, and after fictional characters. Some names are chosen because we like the way they sound. And some names seem to be formed from a losing hand of Scrabble. But in biblical times, names always meant something. They revealed character. A parent would name a child based on his hopes for that child, or what he was feeling when they were born. If the child’s character turned out to be different from his name, they would change the name to fit his character. For instance, there was a man in 1 Samuel named Nabal, which means “fool.” I doubt his parents gave him that name...he had to earn it. Given all that, when God calls Himself by a particular name in Scripture, we know it’s meaningful. He is trying to tell us something specific and important about Himself. Isaiah 9:6 is a verse we know well from Christmas cards and Handel’s Messiah. But what does it tell us about Jesus? This Sunday, I'll continue our look at Isaiah 9 by walking through the four names of the Messiah.