Many of us remember watching the film adaptation of Roots at some point. In a famous scene, the character Kunta Kinte is repeatedly whipped as a slave driver seeks to force him to accept the name his enslaver has given him. Interestingly, both the enslaver and the enslaved understand the importance of one’s name. A similar attempt to use names to separate individuals from their heritage occurs in the Old Testament. Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah are exiled from their homeland in Babylon and their names are changed (Dan. 1:1-7). While their Jewish names honor God, the Babylonian names of Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are meant to honor Babylonian culture and religion.
As important as human names are, the name of God is even more so. God’s name provides us with insight into His concern for us and connection to us. The name God uses in speaking to Moses at the burning bush expresses just how awesome He is. Regardless of the power and position of those who are oppressing God’s people, the oppressors do not have the final word.
God’s name is important because it reminds us that God is ultimately in charge.