WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
What’s in a Name?
March 2, 2014
True love communicates more than we can ever fully comprehend. It lets us know who we are and reminds us of our value. And often, that message is shared in unique and powerful ways.
In this message, Pastor Ed Young looks at the story of Ruth from a different perspective. And as he reflects on the names of those involved, we discover that what’s in a name can actually point us to the truth of God’s love for us.
INTRO: Are you guys familiar with those name tags, those iconic “Hello! My name is…” name tags. They were introduced in 1959 and they’re still very, very popular. You go to a social event, you go to a party many time when you want to do name tags you have the “Hello, my name is..” and then of course you write your name. Someone told me a while back the best place to put your name tag is right in line with your right shoulder. You probably knew that because when you shake people’s hand your eye automatically goes up to the name and you see, “Hello, my name is…” and then you’ve got it.
A name is a very interesting thing. We’re tagged with names. Some of us are tagged with names. Some of us are tagged with nicknames. A lot of people change their names. It’s real popular especially if you’re a musician or an athlete. Names. What does your name mean? What does your name carry with it? People say, “I want to have a good name.” My name should carry integrity. People want to have a good name. And then we look at people’s names and we tag them with names and when we hear a certain name we think about a certain thing.
ILLUS: Just the other day, Lisa and I were shopping in a big, big store that I will not mention from this stage. But it’s a national chain and a guy walked up to us in the quintessential uniform with a big nametag. His nametag said, “Bill” on it. I’m trying to be a friendly guy so I said,
“How, Bill. How are you?” and he goes,
“Oh, that’s not my name.” I said,
“Yeah, but it’s on the name tag. Bill.”
“Yeah, but that’s not my name. And don’t tell the manager but I lost my nametag! And I’m just using my friend’s name, so I’m not really Bill but you can call me Bill.” Pretty funny.
I think all of us have been that way before. I think all of us have walked around with nametags that aren’t really our name. Maybe, just maybe you’ve walked around with a nametag that says broken. Failure. Adulterer. Liar. Cheat. Depressed. Divorced. And maybe, just maybe you’re walking around with that nametag, and if you call yourself that, if I call myself a certain name, then I will begin to act out my identity. I’m here to tell you that’s a false identity. So many of us are walking around with nametags that aren’t really our name.
I saw just the other day that identity theft costs us $1.52 billion. People stealing your identity and mine. Identity. It’s like we have a whole generation that doesn’t know their identity any more. We’re going to talk a little bit more about that today. I’m going to tackle the subject of what’s in a name. Who is your identity? What’s your identity? Hello, my name is…. Well, you go ahead and fill in the blank.
If you have your Bible, turn to the book of Ruth. Ruth, chapter 1, I will read verses 19-20. We’ve been in this series on the book of Ruth, one of the most epic love stories imaginable. And this love story, guys, is not just for women. It’s for us as well. And I think today we’re gonna get a real sense of the power of a name. Because I’m telling you, if you want to look at an all-name team just read the book of Ruth. You’ve got some crazy names. Let me begin reading with Ruth 1:19-20. “So the two women…” Now the two women that make the all-name team, Naomi – I love that name. Naomi means pleasant. And Ruth. Ruth means devoted, a true friend. “… so the two women (Naomi and Ruth) went on until they came to Bethlehem.”
We know Bethlehem. Jesus was born in where? Bethlehem. Bethlehem is called the House of Bread. The House of Bread, that’s what it means. “So the two women went on until they came to Bethlehem. When they arrived in Bethlehem the whole town was stirred because of them.”
Social media was blowing up. Guess who’s back in town? Naomi is back in town. The pleasant one is back in town. Who is this Moabitess she has with her? And this Moabitess was named Ruth, and the book Ruth is where we’re reading. I’m sure Ruth didn’t have any idea, she was clueless, that one day she would have a book in the Bible named after her. But anyway, strange things happen. “So the women exclaimed, ‘Can this be Naomi?’”
I don’t know if they were talking about cosmetic surgery, I don’t know what they were talking about, but they were like, can this be Naomi? She looked different. But really it was nothing about looking happy, she looked horrible. She looked bad. She looked torn up inside.
“’Don’t call me Naomi,’ she said, ‘call me Mara.’” So now she’s gonna change her name. Like a celebrity or an athlete. I’m gonna change my name! “Call me bitter,’ she said.” Mara means bitter. So Naomi means pleasant, and now she says, “call me just the opposite, call me bitter.” She’s going back from Moab to Bethlehem, call me bitter. Well the ladies were having none of it. They were like, “We’re not calling you bitter. We’re not calling you Mara. We’re not gonna be a part of this name change, we’re gonna call you Naomi,” Which means pleasant.
“Don’t call me Naomi….” and here she is, blaming God, “… because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.” Oh really? So you’re gonna point the finger at Yahweh. “I went away full… (that means with a family, a husband and a couple of sons. And of course the husband and the sons died tragically in a land called Moab)… “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.”
Kinda depressing, isn’t it? Kinda bitter, isn’t it? Here’s a woman, Naomi. She was called pleasant, now she wants to be called bitter. Because she’s encountered death. Her husband has died, her kids have died, and now she’s just hanging out with the two widows from her sons’ marriages. And one widow stays in Moab, the other, Ruth, goes with Naomi back to Bethlehem. I know this might be a little confusing so I thought I’d draw it out for you. <Ed draws out on the clear board…>
Here, is the Jordan River. Here is the Dead Sea. I’ve swum in the Dead Sea, if you can call it that. You don’t swim, you float. Here would be Bethlehem, and Bethlehem means House of… There you go! You guys are great! And here is J-town, Jerusalem. This would be God’s country. This would be an area known as Moab. I just read about it. Stay with me. Don’t get lost in the names. Moab. This is interesting. In the Hebrew. Mo. Ab. Mo means “who”? Ab, or Abba, means “Daddy”. I didn’t make that up. When we make the move to Moab… because remember Naomi was right here in Bethlehem. The House of Bread. Let me draw a loaf of bread. This is a nice loaf. It’s hot. She was in the House of Bread with her husband, Elimelech, with her two sons, Mahlon and Chilion. They decided, because of a famine in the land, because the food wasn’t really flowing, they decided to go from Bethlehem to Moab.
Understand that trek was a trek of disobedience. Because God said “Don’t go. Don’t even think of hanging out in Moab.”
I would rather live in God’s country and have a full heart and an empty stomach, than to live in Moab and have an empty heart and a full stomach. That’s what God says. God has, remember this, an incredible agenda for every life here. And his agenda should be lived out in God’s country. Well, they decided, all right, we’ve got a shortage of food. So this little family of four, they cruised over to Moab. And one, two, three, four. They make the journey to Moab.
It started out with, “Hey, I need a passport! I want to go to Moab! Just for a couple of weeks!” Yet, when we move to Moab we want to bring a passport, but we end up being a permanent resident. See, when we go the opposite way of where God wants us to go we bring our passport. I’m just gonna be there for a little while. Just mess around with Moab a little while. But what ends up happening is we reside there.
They wanted to stay for a couple of weeks. They stayed for a decade. Whenever we go to Moab, it takes us farther than we want to go, we stay there longer than we want to stay, and it always costs us more than we want to pay. Always. When we go the opposite direction. So they knew intuitively, scripturally, biblically, they knew that they were moving outside the will of God to move from the House of Bread to the house of blues but they did it anyway.
And I think it’s a powerful metaphor because the Bible says “the wages of sin is…” that’s right. “Death.” The compensation for our conduct is condemnation. So they experienced… I will do some tombstones here… three … some grass… three deaths.
Every time someone dies, and I traveled to a funeral several days ago, every time someone dies they preach their last sermon. Naomi’s husband preached his last sermon and tragically her two sons preached their last sermon. Did God cause this death? No. I do, however, believe it is the consequences of living away from God, what happened in this situation, and God allowed it to bring Naomi back to her senses.
Moab. Who’s your daddy? When I go Moab on you and when you go Moab, we think we’re chasing stuff and we think we’re free. “Oh, I’m in Moab! I’m free! I can do whatever I want!” And we chase this, we chase that, we chase that, we chase this. And in our search for freedom, those things we’re chasing for our freedom end up enslaving us. They end up dominating us. We end up on our backs and Moab has his foot on our throat and he’s asking, “Who’s your daddy? Who’s your daddy?”
Because we’re born in separation from God. We’re not born in a relationship with God. Obviously we’re made in God’s image but we’ve all gone Moab. And the wages of sin, the Bible says, I’ll say it again, is death. So when we go Moab, we know we’re separated from God, yet God did something. He sent Jesus Christ to bring us back from Moab to Bethlehem, giving us an opportunity to come back to him.
So I’ve gotta ask you. Are you living in Moab? I’ve gotta ak you. Who’s on your nametag? I’ve gotta ask you. How are you living your life? How do you identify yourself? Broken? A liar? Immoral? Anger? An adulterer? Depressed? Are you living that way? Is that your identity? Because when we’re in Moab we don’t really know who we are, nor do we know whose we are.
Why is Moab called, “Who’s your daddy?” Here’s some Biblical history. You remember Abraham and Lot? Abraham, a multi-billionaire. Lot was a big-time player as well. They came to a point where the companies couldn’t coexist any more so Abraham gave Lot first pick. That’s the big mantra of the day. Who has first pick? Who’s gonna be first in the draft? Who’re we gonna trade for first pick? You remember as a kid, oh you got first pick! Oh man, I can pick first! Oh I can pick first! Abraham gave Lot this opportunity to pick first. He shouldn’t have but because he was a true follower of the Lord he said, “Go ahead, Lot. Choose.”
And Lot looked one way and it was horrible-looking. The other way it was lush, beautiful, kinda looked like the Caribbean. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were in the distance and he said, “We’ll go that way. I’m not gonna live in Sodom and Gomorrah, no, no, no. I’ll just kinda move toward these cities.” And what ended up as just kinda a passport thing turned into a citizenship thing. We find Lot being the mayor of Sodom, of this wheels-off, ungodly, relativistic, evil city.
And God says, “Hey, Lot. The fire’s gonna fall. I will give you and your family warning, you better get the heck out of town. But here’s the deal. Don’t look back when the cities are destroyed.” So Lot turned and he runs. Everybody’s running, Lot’s family. His wife stops, turns and looks…. Whoom! She turns into a pillar of salt. When you swim in the Dead Sea there are pillars of salt still all around this area. Sort of eerie.
Well they escape and Lot’s daughters get him drunk. They have sex with him and one of the incestuous sons was named Moab. Who do you think started Moab? This incestuous son of Lot. Who’s your daddy? Who’s your daddy? Who’s your daddy?
So here we don’t know where our daddy is. Here we don’t know who the Lord is. We only know him. We only know our identity when we cross from Moab to Bethlehem, when we cross the line.
So Naomi is in a horrible situation, so she decides, I’m going back to Bethlehem. I’m going back. Don’t call me Naomi, call me Mara. Her daughters-in-law cling to her. And Naomi, because her decision making is so jacked up, you know what Naomi does? And you can read about Moab. It was a hellacious place. Naomi is going back to Bethlehem, yet she encourages multiple times, multiple times, her daughters-in-law to remain in Moab and she encourages them to stay back and she wants to go by herself to Bethlehem.
I’m telling you, man. When we live in Moab, we can’t think right. Our discernment is messed up. We don’t really understand our true identity. So one of her daughters-in-law stays in Moab, back to her relatives, back to her religion, back to her relationships. She kisses Naomi bye and she bolts. Have you ever seen people who kiss God on Sunday and live like Hell in Moab the rest of the week? Have you ever? I have. I have. I have.
So we find Naomi making the trek from Moab back to Bethlehem with Ruth. And again, the name Ruth means devoted. It means a true friend, a true companion. Obviously Ruth saw something in Naomi’s life that snapped her head. She was like, whoa. Something’s different. So she wanted to go with her. Yet Naomi, time and time again, said, “Ruth go back to Moab.” I’m like, Naomi, what are you smoking?!? Have you lost your mind? You’ve lived in Moab so long you can’t even tell right and wrong any more! But at least, I’m gonna cut her some slack, at least she said I’m going back. I’m going back. So she begins to go back.
And once she crosses this point, that’s when she says, “Oh yeah. Go ahead now and call me bitter.” Yet the Bethlehem babes were having nothing to do with it.
“We’re not gonna call you bitter. We’re gonna call you Naomi,” which means pleasant.
Again I ask you, what names are on your nametag? What name or what names are on your nametag? What are you advertising? Who is your identity? If you’re here you don’t really know your identity. You only know your identity when you get here into God’s country. Who are you? A lot of us don’t know who we are. I said, who are you? Who is on your nametag? Who are you?
Well once you cross from here to there, #1, you’ve gotta understand, you know what’s on your nametag? Righteous. Say, I am righteous with me. 1-2-3-righteous. I am righteous. I’m righteous. I’m righteous.
“Well, Ed, man, I’m not righteous. I mess up. I sin. I drop the ball. I make turnovers.” I’m righteous. Say it with me again. I’m righteous. Here’s what the Bible tells me, 2 Corinthians 5:21, “He made him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” Jesus lived a righteous life.
What did the devil say to Jesus during his time of temptation? It was all about identity. “If you’re the Son of God. If you’re Jesus… If you’re the Son of God…” and you know what Jesus did? He thwarted the temptation because Jesus knew who he was. Too many of us don’t know who we are. Your righteous, I’m righteous. This is a refrigerator verse. Put it on your refrigerator. Put it on your bathroom mirror. I am righteous. And you’re calling yourself broken? You’re calling yourself divorced? You’re calling yourself fearful? You’re calling yourself this or that? No, no, no. I’m righteous.
Not only am I righteous, I’m holy. Say that. I am holy. 1 Peter 2:9, “You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood…” I don’t have to go to a priest to pray. Jesus is my high priest. That’s why I pray ‘in Jesus’ name. Amen.’ I’m a holy one. A part of “a holy nation. God’s special possession that you may declare the praise of him, who called you out of darkness (out of Moab) into (Bethlehem) into his wonderful light.”
So I am righteous. I am holy. Also, I’m blessed. Say that. I’m blessed. What does it mean to be blessed? To be blessed is to be on the receiving end of the tangible and intangible favor of God. The Bible says in 2 Peter 1:3, “According to his divine power has given unto us all things that pertain unto life and Godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory and virtue.” I am blessed. I am a part of God’s family. The Bible says that I am a son, that I am a daughter. That I’ve been adopted into his family. I was born estranged from him. Jesus paid the price on Calvary for all of our iniquities, thereby doing the work for our adoption. The moment, by faith, we ask Christ to ambush us, to infiltrate our lives, we’re adopted into the family of God. No longer is it, “who’s your daddy?” No, no, no. God, Abba Father, is my father through Jesus Christ. And once you’re adopted you can’t get out.
Back in Biblical times when a child was adopted you could not disown a Biblical adopted child. No wonder God chose that as he wanted to hammer home in your life and mine what it means to be a follower of Christ.
When the twins were small, I remember walking across a busy intersection holding their hands. They tried to let go. They didn’t realize the danger, but I wasn’t letting go. I’m the father. I’m stronger than they. We’re adopted into God’s family. We want to let go… “Oh, I have some doubt! I’ve got some questions! I’m not sure!” … God has got us. God has got us. So I’m righteous, holy, and blessed. I’m righteous (come on), holy, and blessed. I’m righteous, holy, and blessed. I’m righteous, holy, and blessed. I’m righteous, holy, and blessed. I’m righteous, holy, and blessed. I’m righteous, holy, and blessed…. <applause>
You need to say that over and over and over. Because so many of us have been under a false identity for so long, we’ve been believing the enemy’s lies about us, we need to call him what he is. A liar. And we’ve gotta say I’m righteous, holy, and blessed. I’m righteous, holy, and blessed. I’m righteous, holy, and blessed. Because once we move from here to there, it’s amazing how things just start happening. It’s amazing how the dominos start falling.
Well, what happened? Naomi and Ruth, they show up to Bethlehem. They didn’t have a thing. And it just happened that Ruth went into the field of billionaire Boaz. It just happened that she was collecting some grain, some wheat, and it just happened that billionaire Boaz just happened to show up during the barley harvest. And it just happened that this Biblical Babe Ruth caught his eye. And it just happened that they had this conversation. And it just happened that Ruth went back to Naomi and said,
“Naomi, I met somebody who is Godly and rich.” And it just happened that Naomi said,
“Whoa! He’s our relative! He’s our kinsman redeemer.” And it just happened that Ruth proposed to Boaz. It just happened that Boaz said,
“Man, I’m not the closest redeemer.” It just happened that Boaz went to the city gates and it just happened that the kinsman redeemer was walking by. It just happened that Boaz wheeled and dealed and became the kinsman redeemer. And it just happened that Ruth and Boaz got married. And it just happened that their baby was Obed, the grandfather of David, in the family tree of Jesus. If somebody would help me here. The family tree of Jesus. And it just happened that Naomi had a major part of rearing this child. It just happened. I guess it’s just serendipitous. I guess the stars lined up. It just happened.
No. It. Didn’t! It didn’t just happen! Do you think it just happens that people have great marriages? You think it just happens that people’s finances are in order as they begin to tithe? You think it just happens as people involve their lives in the church that things just play out? You think it just happens? You think it just happens? You think it just happens? It doesn’t just happen. There’s a choice. There’s an intentionality. We realize our identity. We realize that we’re righteous and holy and blessed. It’s powerful stuff. I mean, Ruth had no idea she would be involved in this. Family tree of David and Jesus.
The Bible says in Ruth, chapter 4, verses 13 and following, “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. And after reading The Sexperiment by Ed and Lisa Young… <laughter> he made love to her…” <more laughter> That’s funny. “The Lord enabled her to conceive and she gave birth to a son. The woman 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 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,” in the family tree of Jesus. I don’t know about you but when Naomi moved from Moab to Bethlehem, bitter was changed to better! Bitter was changed to better! I said, bitter was changed to better! And that’s what can happen in every life here.
Hello, my name is…. Let God fill in the blank.
[Ed closes in prayer.]