You Are My Beloved, Part III -- A New Name
Let’s look at two women in the Bible who received a new name. The first is Naomi whose story we find in the book of Ruth. Naomi’s name means Pleasant. So when her friends called her, the name they heard was Pleasant, just as if we called a girl Joy.
Pleasant and her husband and two sons live in Israel. There is a huge famine, so they leave for the land of Moab. There the two sons grow up and marry. But Pleasant’s sons and husband all die. Pleasant no longer finds life very pleasant and she decides to return to her own country. Her two daughters-in-law say they will go with her, as it is their duty to care for her. But she says, “No, I’ve got nothing to offer you. I won’t have any more sons for you to marry. Even if I did, you’d be so much older than them that you wouldn’t be able to give me grandchildren anyway. Just go back to your people.” One of the daughters-in-law does go back, but Ruth pledges to stay with her and to care for her. Together they return to Israel.
Let’s read Ruth 1:20, 21:Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi? The Lord has afflicted me; the Almighty has brought misfortune upon me.
Upon arrival in their home-town people gather around. “It’s Pleasant!” they shout. “Pleasant has come home! Everybody come see Pleasant!” But Pleasant says, “Yes, I’ve returned. But life hasn’t been good to me. I’ve lost my husband and both sons. I have a daughter-in-law who can’t give me grandchildren. I’ve got nothing. No income. No joy. The land isn’t even mine because it belongs to my husband and since he has no inheritors, it goes to the next of kin. And they’ll probably just kick us off the land and add it to their estate. Don’t call me Pleasant. Just call me Marah. Call me Bitter. That’s who I am. Bitter.”
I’m sure you know the story so I won't recount it in detail. But in short, Ruth went to pick up left-overs from the harvest field. Devout Jews would have left the edges of their fields unharvested, as God had commanded, so that the poor could come in and glean some of the harvest. When Bitter heard that Ruth was gleaning in Boaz’s field, she knew that he was a near relative who would have been in line to buy her husband’s land. She also knew, from the reputation that went with his name, that he was a good man. So she advised Ruth to ask him to buy their field and to marry her. Ruth did as Bitter asked and Boaz promised to take this to the elders and see what he could do. The arrangements were made, Boaz bought back or redeemed the land, married Ruth, and together they had children. Ruth became the grandmother of King David and Pleasant was his great-grandmother. Ruth 4:9-17 says:
Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the Lord make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. Through the offspring the Lord gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”
So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the Lord enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son. The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel! He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”
Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him. The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.
Pleasant had become Bitter, but then God worked in her life and renamed her and she again became Pleasant, as well as Grandma.
Jo Saxton in The Dream of You explains that as Boaz was a near relative of Naomi’s husband, he could “enter into a covenant relationship with her in which he, as the stronger party, took the initiative to cancel the other party’s debt, freeing the weaker party from the burdens and consequences they faced. The stronger party gave the new covenant partner a new identity. Their past was over. They were given a new name that reflected who and whose they now were.” She goes on to say, “As a result of the covenant, the weaker party assumes the attributes of the stronger partner. The weaker party never would be alone and vulnerable again, because the covenant bestowed a new life and a new place of belonging.”
This beautiful story of Ruth illustrates this redeemer covenant relationship, the same relationship that God promised to Abraham and to all his descendants, the church included. Jo Saxton also writes, “As the stronger covenant partner, God took the initiative by entering into a relationship with a broken humanity.”
One of your new names, when you became a child of God, is Redeemed. You now have a new identity, a new way of looking at life, a new Defender, a new Protector. Look again at Isaiah 62:4. He takes away all your old names. You are no longer Bitter, Defeated, Ugly, Regret, or Weird. You are Redeemed. You are His! You aren’t who others or you yourself have called you. Your name is Redeemed.
Let’s also read Isaiah 62:11-12:
The Lord has made proclamation to the ends of the earth:
“Say to Daughter Zion,
‘See, your Savior comes!
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.’”
They will be called the Holy People,
the Redeemed of the Lord;
and you will be called Sought After,
the City No Longer Deserted.
Other names our Redeemer has given us are Hephzibah. Now, I know probably nobody really wants to be called Hephzibah, but it means My Delight Is in Her. Your new name is Delight! He has also called you Beulah or Married. You aren’t alone, you belong to Him! He calls you Holy People, Redeemed of YHWH, and Sought After. You are a new creation in Jesus. He has redeemed your name and given you a new one.
The second woman I want us to look at is in Song of Solomon. This is a love poem, describing the love between two people. But, if the church is the bride of Jesus, his Redeemed One, there is nothing wrong with looking at this poem as an allegory describing the love of Jesus for us, the members of his church, his bride.
The bride in this poem says she is Dark, so we are going to call her Dark for the moment. She is so dark, people stop and stare at her. She stands out and is different in her looks than everybody else. Her brothers make her work outside in their vineyards, which may be why she is so dark. I think the idea is that her darkness is not beautiful to those around her. But Solomon sees Dark and a read-through of the book lets us know that he finds her beautiful. He is her lover and he likes that she’s Dark. It’s endearing to him. He wants to shower her with expensive gifts. He calls her “My Darling”. He changes her name from Dark to My Darling.
Like Dark in this poem, perhaps you’ve been called names that have hurt you. You’ve believed those names. Life’s circumstances have been tough and you have allowed them to redefine who you are. In your head you call yourself Unlovable. Bitter. Ugly. Regret. Sinful. Unforgiveable. Used.
Please believe me when I tell you that Jesus looks at you and he loves every bit about you. He knows your hurt. He knows your despair. He knows your insecurities. He knows your sins. He knows your regrets. He knows everything about you. And he loves you any way. He wants to give you a new name. Song of Solomon 2:1, 2 says:
I am a rose of Sharon,
a lily of the valleys.
Like a lily among thorns
is my darling among the young women.
He wants to call you My Darling. He says to you, “My Darling. My beloved. You are beautiful. Let me shower you with expensive gifts. Let me give you a new name. I’ll call you Rose of Sharon. Lily of the Valley.”
Let him take your ugly names. Stop calling yourself by those names. Stop believing them. Those are no longer your names if you are his child. What if you lived life believing your identity is found in your new name instead of in your old name? How would life change for you? Would you have more joy? More confidence? More love for Jesus?
Try this exercise. Fill in the blanks with ugly names you believe about yourself. Then cross them out and believe that you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow. You will be a crown of splendor in the LORD’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God.
No longer will they call you ____________________or _____________________. But you will be called My Delight is in Her, Darling, Beloved, Redeemed.
Let him call you Redeemed. Let him call you My Delight. Let him call you Sought After. Let him call you My Darling. Let him call you My Beloved. Believe it! God wants to give you a new name!