“The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there.” Ruth 1:2
The names people had in Bible times had meaning. People would get their names for one of three reasons: the name described a notable characteristic about them, the name was given for prophetic reasons, or the name was given to memorialize or to be a reminder of someone or something.
Today, in North America we tend to give names because we like the sound of the name; it’s meaning has very little do with our selection. Sometimes a person is named after a beloved friend or relative in which case the reason would fall into the third category cited above.
Elimelech’s name, which means God is king, was most likely given for the third reason as well, serving as a memorial or reminder, in a pagan land, and among a people with no visible monarch, who the ruler really was.
The other family members had interesting names as well. Naomi had a nice name which meant pleasant. Mahlon’s name wasn’t one most would envy as it meant sickly and Chilion’s wasn’t any better since it meant pining or depressed. Makes you wonder about why their parents, who both had such positive names, would choose names with such unpleasant meanings.
But I suppose the name you’re given when you’re an infant isn’t nearly as important as the name you earn for yourself as you grow into adulthood.
The patriarch Jacob’s birth name meant supplanter or usurper and could also be understood as deceiver but after wrestling with God for a night God gave him a different name, Israel, which means prince.
If you’re reading this post, chances are you identify yourself by another name, in addition to your given one. You probably call yourself a Christian. This means that you’re a follower of Jesus Christ. The name Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. So if you’re a Christian you’re saying that you believe in and follow Jesus the Messiah.
It’s easy to live up to some names. Not much is asked of you if you’re name means sick or depressed. But if you’ve chosen to be known by the name of Jesus that’s something very different. His name means anointed one, savior, and redeemer. On your own you’ll never do justice to the name. The only way to ever live up to the named Christ is to do what Jesus advised in John 15 and abide in him and let him abide in you. Without him you can’t do anything but with him you can do anything.