The Power Of His Name

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What is a proverb? According to the dictionary, it is “a short popular saying, usually of unknown and ancient origin, that expresses effectively some commonplace truth or useful thought.” Though this is a dictionary definition, it points us toward the purpose of the Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Testament. The Book of Proverbs is a collection, an anthology, so to speak, of sayings and instructions passed down over several centuries. Scholars believe that they were compiled into this collection during the period after the Jews returned from their Babylonian exile. The Book of Proverbs is a source of true wisdom, which invites us to see life with new eyes, wisely. These sayings and instructions are full of wit, wisdom, originality and clear-eyed observation. The Book of Proverbs teaches us other important lessons too. For example, we can see in them that the pursuit of wisdom is a choice and a way of life that is often full of obstacles. They teach us that we must be able to discern what is wise and what is foolish. They teach us that the pursuit of wisdom is both the work of a growing human being who is open to it and that, ultimately, wisdom is a divine gift. They also teach us that while wisdom is all around us, it is not entirely obvious to us, especially when we are caught up in, or worse, enthralled by, the fads and fashions of the times we live in.

The Proverbs clearly point us toward ‘commonplace’ truths and useful thoughts. But they point us to more than ‘commonplace’ truths and wisdoms as well. That is the case with today’s Proverb. This proverbial statement points us toward the ultimate truth, the source of all truth, because it points us toward God himself. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.”

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What is in a name? A name identifies something or someone. In this case the name is that of the Lord. For the Jews this name is so powerful, so full of transcendent mystery and wonder, that it is never written fully and is pronounced only in the Holy of Holies. Some Christians translate this name as Yahweh, some as Jehovah. This does not matter to God. It is the faith that we have in that name, in the One who bears that name, that matters. His is the name from which all names take their meaning and their being. The Lord’s name is compared to a tower here, a mighty edifice built for defensive purposes. This is the truth. It is in God’s name we find our ultimate defense. Nothing can harm us when we run to this tower. The analogy works in another way too, for a tower can be seen from a great distance. One can look to it often and know that it will always be there in times of trouble.

But there is another truth here too. It is only the righteous who see and know this truth. When times of terror and trouble come to the people, only those who are righteous recognize the towering security and strength that is in this name. Who are the righteous then? They are those who know and obey the commandments of the Lord. Only the righteous have gained the wisdom to know that it is the commandments of the Lord that liberate us from the slavery of sin and death. The righteous are those who obey the Law of God because they have been able, through God’s grace, to discern the liberating wisdom in it and choose to live in accord with it out of love. The righteous are those who love freely, even in the face of troubles, because they know that the tower of the Lord is faithful and will always be their protection and their strength. The righteous are they who know that they are nothing without God. The righteous know that God is the source and goal of their lives.

Lord, we bow humbly to the towering glory of your name. In your name we are nourished. It is to your name that we run in our times of trouble, because we know that you are always true and faithful in your infinite love toward us. You are our protection against the foe and we give thanks to you and pray always in your most holy name. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.