In the opening chapters of Genesis, there is an interesting assignment that the Lord God gives to Adam. The assignment is to give names to the entire created order of animals and birds. The text tells us:
“Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the filed and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them name them; and whatever the man called each living creature that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field.” (Genesis 2:19-20)
Theologians across the millennia have argued that we can see multiple interpretations of this assignment that God has given to Adam. We see the authority that God has given to humanity over creation, the reflection of the fact that we have been made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore possess intelligence within that image and likeness, and that God entrusts us with the created order.
The authority given to us in naming is not only in the Old Testament, but also in the New Testament. As the Lord Jesus Christ comes to earth to bring salvation to humanity, naming becomes a pivotal part of the story again. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus Christ. His father Zechariah had a vision in the temple where he is told what to name his son who has not yet been conceived. The family imagined other names, but God authorized Zechariah to give the name John to the infant who was born to him and Elizabeth.
Before the Lord Jesus Christ is born, Joseph has a dream in which he is told what to name the child. Matthew writes, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21)
During this season of Advent, I was reflecting on the authority and trust that God has given us. In the same way that he has entrusted His Son to Joseph and Mary and honored them by giving them the privilege to name His Son, God has honored so many us with children who were his children first. God has entrusted us with this world and we have named rivers and valleys, mountains and hills, and countries and continents. God has entrusted us with people and resources to love and protect and to do His will and purpose in this universe.