Bread – Good Name

February 1, 2010

Readings for Monday, February 1 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Gen. 14:1-24; Heb. 8:1-13; John 4:43-54
    Psalms 41, 44, 52

"…in your name I will hope, for your name is good."  Ps. 52:9b

The "your name" referred to by David in his Psalm is "God’s name," so the passage could easily be rendered – "In God’s name I will hope, for God’s name is good."

In our common use of the word "name," we not only know it as a "label" for a person, but also as a shorthand summary of everything of who that person is (characteristics) and what that person has accomplished, and what that person’s reputation is.

We actually even recognize the concept in law.  Companies which have expended a lot of advertising money on branding their name are protected with trademark or trade name protection.  A company name, such as "Apple," immediately creates an image in our mind about who that company is, what the quality of its products are, and its general reputation.  When asked for adjectives about the name "Apple," people might respond "clean" or "stable" or "simple" because those are characteristics of the name which have been carefully nurtured over time.

Even beyond our current thinking, historically names have been considered to substitute and stand for the "essence" of a person, to represent their core nature.

There is a tendency to equate "good" with an absolute moral standard, and for its opposite to be evil.  Therefore, a person with a good name is one who is not evil or who does not evidence devilish qualities.  We probably all aspire to have a "good" name in that sense, and certainly God’s name is "good" in that sense as well.

But there is another sense of "good" which appeared to me in my research over the Hebrew "good" (Strong #2896) used in this passage.  Listen to the definition – "good, pleasant, beautiful, excellent, lovely, delightful, joyful, fruitful, precious, , sound, cheerful, well being, good things, the best things, virtue, happiness, pleasantness."  In these senses, the correctness of "good" is moderated by the wonderfulness of "good."

"Good" as moral correctness is something to be accomplished; "good" as pleasantness is something to be felt, to be "leaned into," to be experienced.  The translation of David’s Psalm then goes from "God’s name is good," to "God’s name is absolute moral righteousness" to "God’s name is pleasant, beautiful, excellent, lovely …"

Built into this single phrase "God’s name is good" contains implications for both truth (moral correctness) and love (pleasant, excellent, lovely).  And both inform and reinforce the other.  The moral standards of goodness are required to create the conditions in which beauty and excellence thrive and survive.  The beauty and joyfulness of goodness are required to temper the sharp edge of the moral standards.  Both combine together into the single word "good."  And the word "good" is properly applied to the name of God, because He is the only person in whom the characteristics of goodness reach full measure.

David had hope in God’s name because God’s name is good.  We can too.


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