Perhaps He names every child. I know He knits every child together in his mother’s womb and has all his days planned out. I know it is a wise parent who seeks God on the naming of a child.
And I absolutely know from Scripture and from life that there are times when He names a child. The stories fill you with awe and hope.
(I am sensitive to the fact that some, and one who has just joined us, so wish they had a baby to name. My purpose in these stories is to show you how personal God is, and I pray this will encourage you too.)
Many of you already know, my grand-daughter Lily Grace was born this Easter Sunday. We certainly didn’t anticipate an Easter birth — but God already knew, had her days planned out before she was born. He knows what she will be like, and the name He gave her fills us with hope for her future. It is also a story she will be told all of her life, a story that will whisper “You are loved, my child, by a God who has your name written on His hand, by a God who knows your name, by a God who has a plan for you to bring glory to Me.”
Annie and David had talked about names all through the pregnancy. I had put “Lily” on a Christmas gift partly in jest. (I am always putting names on presents for future grandchildren, and my children are always laughing at me, for I have a reputation of being controlling.) They were thinking of another name, a lovely name, but didn’t have a peace about it. Annie said in February — I just don’t think that is her name. On March 9th, when Annie was up in the night with false labor, God impressed on her heart: “Her name is Lily Grace.” When she told me, of course, I was delighted — not just because I love the name so much, but because it is such a gift when you know God is naming a child.
Annie was overdue, so weary of being pregnant. We both hoped she would go into labor the Monday before Easter for that fit best with “our” plans. But that was not God’s plan. On Good Friday Annie called me and said, “I’m not in Labor but I need my mom.” That’s all it took, and I knew I could at least have the Easter weekend with them. Saturday night at supper Annie said, “Mom and David — would you pray this baby would come tomorrow?” The three of us prayed, asking God for that mercy. Early Easter morning, while it was still dark, Annie knew she was in labor. (I believe God put that request in Annie’s heart — but it would have happened anyhow!)
It didn’t occur to me until three hours after Lily’s birth how perfect, how providential, how personal was this name for Resurrection Day. “You really did name her, God.” My son J. R. looked at the row upon row upon row of lilies in his church that morning, and he knew. This child was named by God.
David’s mother wrote: “We are overflowing with love and thankfulness for God’s gracious gift of Lily Grace born on the most glorious day of the year–the celebration of our Savior’s resurrection! I was amazed yesterday to learn from David that you had actually chosen her name way before you knew she would be born on Resurrection Sunday!”
Now we are contemplating why God named her Lily. Annie says, “I’m excited for her — that perhaps her life will be a confirmation of what Jesus said about the lilies of the field — they neither toil nor spin, for they know their heavenly Father cares for them.”
I said, “I hope her life will be a confirmation of what I see in Song of Songs. When the Shulamite maiden felt unworthy, ‘dark,’ he assured her, ‘You are a lily.’ Cleansed. Loved. We have so much trouble believing the gospel in our everyday lives — but may this child believe each day of her life that in God’s eyes she is as pure as a lily because of the power of the cross.”
We don’t know why — but we rest in the fact that God knew her before the foundation of the world, loves her, and has a plan for this child of His.
This week I’ve been in the hospital room with Annie. Her pastor and his wife, Chad and Deborah, came. They feel like family for they lived with us for a year when Annie and David were dating. They have been God’s gift of godly friendship to Annie and David. They also have a child who was named by God.
When Deborah was pregnant, they prayed diligently about the name for their son. One day Chad was in prayer and “Barnabas” came to him, but he thought, Deborah will never go for Barnabas. But, Lord, if that is his name, could you have Deborah think of it?
A few minutes later Deborah appeared at his den door and said, “I’ve been reading Acts. What would you think of Barnabas?”
I have never met a child who so fit his name. Despite his tender years, he is such an encourager! (Barnabas means “son of encouragement.”) Miabelle is so bonded to him because Barnabas is so “other-centered” and always encouraging her. He has become truly a brother to her. Oh — how she adores him! This picture made me laugh out loud for Miabelle is so smitten with her encourager.
All of his life Barnabas will know the story of his naming and God’s gifting and calling for his life.
Yesterday I was speaking at “Bloom” a wonderful women’s retreat that represented 105 churches and was so anointed with prayer that I sensed His presence, and did the women, from beginning to end. (And thanks to all of you who prayed!) They sang this song — and I knew I wanted it here.
Perhaps the most fun story I heard this week was the naming of Annie’s nursing school friend, “Hallelujah.” Here she is visiting Annie in the hospital, holding Lily Grace. Hallelujah’s parents thought her mother was pregnant with one baby, and had chosen the name “Hallie” if she were a girl. But after their baby girl was born, the doctor said, “Oh — we have another baby here!” And her mother’s immediate joyful response was “Hallelujah!”
All of her life Hallie will know how welcomed she was into this world! If she ever feared that she was too much for parents who already had an eighteen month old and a newborn, her mother’s immediate “Hallelujah” wipes that away. And they felt confident that God wanted her named that immediate shout of praise. So her sister was named Whitney, and she was named Hallelujah, but goes by Hallie.
1. What stood out to you from the above and why?
2. Do you have a “name” story that showed God’s mindfulness?
Monday-Friday: The Naming of John the Baptist
3. Read Luke 1:5-20
A. What name did Gabriel say Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son was to have?
B. What was Zechariah’s response in verse 18 and why?
C. What does Gabriel tell him and why?
John Piper preached his last sermon at Bethlehem Baptist on Easter Sunday. Here is a written sermon entitled: “How Not To Talk To An Angel.“
4. What comments do you have on Piper’s sermon?
5. If you were Zechariah, what thoughts might you have had during these nine months when you were deaf and dumb?
6. Read Luke 1:57-66
A. Describe the discussion about the name in verses 57-63.
B. What happened immediately after Zechariah confirmed the name was John? Why, do you think?
C. What reaction did the neighbors have (65-66)
A. If a verse quickened you, stay there — and share what you see.
B. What do you learn about God from this passage?
C. Is there anything that is speaking personally to you?
8. Challenge question: Can you see any facet of the gospel in this story?
9. Sometimes God named a child, sometimes He changed a name. Name can portray hope and blessing — or a curse. Knowing what you know now, what would you suggest to couples concerning naming their child?
10. Sometime I may take us through Ruth, for I love the book — and every single name is fascinating. Today — just consider the names of the three women and read the first chapter. Naomi means “sweet or pleasant,” but she asked to be called “Mara.” (bitter) Ruth means “a woman companion or friend.” “Orpah” means “stiff-necked or double-minded.” Read. Pray. Reflect. Share your observations and thoughts here.
On Thursday I’ll be on Midday Connection talking about Leah — and “the expulsive power of a new affection.” http://www.moodyradio.org/middayconnection.aspx
11. We studied Leah a while back — how did the naming of her children show how God replaced her idols with Himself?
12. Share one way God has been mindful of you in the last few weeks.
13. What’s your take-a-way and why?