The Strong Name

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Proverbs 18:10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.

Proverbs 18:10, RSV

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

“What’s in a name? A rose by any other name is still as sweet.” Romeo and Juliet, in Shakespeare’s tragedy, would like to believe that names are really insignificant. The two are lovers, but their respective families have been involved for generations in a savage blood-feud. Romeo and Juliet would like to forget that one is a Montague and one is a Capulet, but they find to their sorrow that there is inescapable power in a name.

The Bible, on the other hand, never views names lightly. For the chosen people, names are far more than titles by which particular individuals are to be addressed. The name says something significant about the person. Perhaps it describes the circumstances of a birth (Benoni – son of my sorrow, says the dying Rachel) or the hopes that parents have for a child’s future. Most often, the name speaks of character. It describes in depth the person. Jacob, for example, means “supplanter.” The name describes well the character of the man who deceives his father and usurps his brother’s place. But when Jacob has a life-changing encounter with God, his name is changed too. He becomes the one who strives with God and prevails: Israel, prince with God. Again, the Simon whom Jesus calls to be one of His followers means “a man of sand,” and Simon betrayed the kind of weakness and instability that we might expect from such a name. But Jesus says to him, “You shall be called Peter,” which means rock. Jesus makes the weak man strong, the drifter stable. He turns the denier into a bold confessor.

THE NAME OF THE LORD

This idea of the power in a name finds its fullest expression in the name of God. Names for God in the ancient world were seen to have a mystical, almost magical, power. And, if you could know the name of a deity, you would have access to divine resources. In the Bible, the name of the Lord is purified from magical connotations, but it is still seen as imbued with power. God’s name is such a revelation of His character that it stands for God Himself. To honor God’s name is to honor Him. To despise God’s name is to do despite to Him. To invoke His name is to bring His very presence and power near.

In this word from the book of Proverbs, we learn that “the name of the Lord is a strong tower.” We’re accustomed to reading that God is our refuge and strength; now we learn that His name is that also. Where God is, His name is, and what God does, His name does.

The New Testament brings us the fullest revelation of God’s name. We learn from our Lord to call God “Father.” He is the One who cares for His human children more than the best parent ever cared for His child. He gives them good gifts. He works in all their circumstances for the best. He encourages them in their sorrows and trials and welcomes them back from their wanderings. When we know that His name is “Father,” we approach Him with confidence, freedom, and joy. The name Jesus means “God saves.” And as the Father does, so the Son accomplishes what His name signifies. In Him the salvation of God comes to us. We learn that one of the names of the Holy Spirit is “Paraclete” (Jn. 14:16), the One called alongside to help. Believers experience the Holy Spirit’s working in just that way. He is called by Jesus our “guide into all the truth” (Jn. 16:13) and He does what His name describes. This God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the triune God, is a strong tower. His name to us is refuge, shelter, security.

SAFETY IN THE NAME

In what sense, we wonder, does the name of the Lord make people safe? Trusting in God, taking refuge in Him, brings no immunity from trouble, does it? Think of Job who trusted God unswervingly. That did not protect him from economic disaster, from family heartbreak, or from loathsome disease. Prophets like Jeremiah, seeking to be faithful to God, relying steadfastly upon Him, still had to endure reproach, imprisonment, torture, and even a martyr’s death. It wasn’t very safe, was it, for those described in the book of Hebrews, in the roll call of the faithful?

They suffered mocking and scourging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats destitute, afflicted, ill-treated — of whom the world was not worthy — wandering over deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Heb. 11:36-38.

And think of what befell the Lord’s apostles. Most of them were put to death by enemies. Above all, think of our Lord Himself, who trusted in His Father without wavering, who never failed to call on God’s name and seek His face. He was rejected, shamed and tormented. He died in unspeakable anguish. How was the name of the Lord a strong tower for Him, or for them?

The Scriptures must be speaking here of a different kind of safety, a deeper dimension of security. I was reading the other day these words from Luke’s Gospel. They seem strangely paradoxical. Jesus says to His followers:

You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and kinsmen and friends, and some of you they will put to death; you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your endurance you will gain your lives (Lk. 21:16-19).

How can we put those things together? Hated, delivered up, put to death and yet not a hair of theirs will perish. Their lives will be preserved.

The word is that nothing can finally harm us. Human foes and the powers of evil may subject us to all kinds of sufferings, may even take our lives away, but after that they have nothing more that they can do. And by killing believers they will simply usher them into the unveiled presence of God. For the faithful, to depart and be with Christ is far better. Nothing can harm them in His presence. There will be no more sorrow or pain, and all the tears will be wiped away.

But even before the last day, the name of the Lord proves to be a strong tower. Though believers are vulnerable to many ills, in Christ they are safe from guilt and judgment. Their sins are all forgiven. There is no condemnation hanging over their heads. By the power of the name of Jesus, they may face their fierce accuser and “overcome him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony” (Rev. 12:11).

They are saved also from the bondage and tyranny of sin. Christ has become their true master. Joined with Him in His death, they rise in His resurrection to a new life. Sin shall not have dominion over them. Because the Son makes them free, they shall be free indeed.

They are safe now also from the fear of death. Though it’s the last great enemy, it has no terrors for them any more. Christ crucified and risen for them has drawn all its poison. They shout triumphantly, “Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55). They may shrink from the accompaniments of death, but dying for them is a certain gateway to life eternal.

Listen as the apostle Paul celebrates the safety which believers enjoy:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:35-39).

That’s it. The name of the Lord is a strong tower. His name is deathless love. No power in heaven, earth, or hell can tear us away from Him.

RUNNING INTO THE TOWER

How does a person come to find himself, or herself, inside the strong tower? “The righteous one,” says the proverb, “runs into it.” When I read that, I think of a monk’s tower that we saw a summer ago in the Irish countryside. It was built somewhere between the sixth and the ninth centuries. It stands about 100 feet high. Within it there once were five or six stories of dwellings. Erected mainly for defense against marauding enemies, it has a small opening or entrance about 12 feet above the ground. Apparently, some kind of movable ladder was hung from that opening. When the alarm was sounded, the members of the community would clamber up the ladder to safety and then pull it up behind them. The monks ran into the tower and were safe.

This running into a refuge implies movement, decisive action. When the alarm sounds, when danger is near, you don’t just continue business as usual. You don’t just “sit there.” You have to get up and move. You need to act on what you’ve heard. Here’s the action our Lord called for:

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has drawn near; repent, and believe in the gospel (Mk. 1:15).

In other words, turn from your sins and from your own way. Put your trust in God’s saving mercy in Christ. Find your refuge and your safety in Him. Move in His direction.

And running, of course, involves haste. The word is: “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near” (Isa. 55:6). The hearing of the gospel for everyone is a kind of kairos, a moment of opportunity. We can’t debate endlessly about it. We can’t put off our response for an unlimited succession of tomorrows. There is an urgent note to the gospel just as there was for the Irish monastic community when peril was approaching. If they didn’t get to the tower in time, all might be lost. And whenever the gospel is proclaimed to us, God is saying in our ears: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). In other words, come without delay.

In the Lord’s name, I want to extend that invitation to you today. God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. He provides for His people the ultimate security. But for you to take refuge in Him requires a decision. Will you this day acknowledge your need and turn toward Him in faith? Will you arise and go to your Father’s house? Will you call on the Lord in this day of grace, not putting it off but hastening to settle the most important issue in your whole life? Oh, may you be one of those righteous ones who run into the tower and find salvation in Jesus Christ!

As you decide to do that, here is a great prayer in which your decision can be expressed. It’s the prayer of St. Patrick of Ireland, commonly called “The Breastplate”:

I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity,

By invocation of the same, the Three in One and One in three.

I bind this day to me for ever, by pow’r of faith, Christ’s incarnation;

His baptism in Jordan river; His death on Cross for my salvation;

His bursting from the spiced tomb; His riding up the heav’nly way;

His coming at the day of doom; I bind unto myself today. . .

Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me,

Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

I bind unto myself the Name,
the strong Name of the Trinity;

By invocation of the same, the Three in One,
and One in Three.

Of whom all nature hath creation;
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word;

Praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord. Amen.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower, friends. The righteous, all who are made right with God through faith in Christ, go running into the tower, and are forever safe.

PRAYER: Father, we thank You for the power, the saving power, of the name of Jesus. May every person who shares this broadcast so repent and trust in Him, so run to Him in faith that they may find Him a true refuge. In Jesus’ name. Amen.