When God asked Adam to name the animals it was not because God did not already know what He had made. Nor was He inviting Adam to exercise some creative license over the world. This was an exercise in discernment.
In Genesis 2:19-20 God invited Adam to name the animals. The passage is prefaced with the statement by God that it was not good for man to be alone. So, we are told that God already knew some things. He knew the animals, He knew that Adam would need a mate and He knew that these animals were unsuitable
After naming the animals and finding that none were suitable as a mate for Adam, God made for him a woman.
What’s in a name?
To name something is to identify it and discern its character, purpose and status. Adam had correctly identified the character and nature of each animal and found that none was a good match for him.
What God already knew, Adam now discerned for himself. Whatever Adam “named” them, that was its name. In other words, Adam discerned correctly.
We use this meaning in common language. We say that “so-and-so has a good name.” When we do this we are referring to their reputation, their nature, their status or character.
Likewise, when a woman marries a man in a Christian culture she will typically take on his name. In that act, she is agreeing to live according to all that that name represents. His reputation (good name) is to become part of her identity.
This is in large part the meaning of the 3rd Commandment.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)
To move into a house, say through adoption or marriage, is to agree to live according to the standards of that home. To fail to live up to those standards is to give that house a bad name.
In this commandment, God is cautioning His people not to take His name (just as we might in a marriage), and then totally disregard all that that name stands for and calls for.
In the Lord’s Prayer, we find a similar idea in the words, “Hallowed be Thy Name.” God’s reputation is perfect. It is holy. It is without blemish and honourable.
A good name matters in all kinds of ways. It matters when you go job hunting, husband-hunting, or when you want to get a mortgage and the bank starts rummaging through your credit history.
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favour is better than silver or gold. (Proverbs 22:1)
The meaning here is simple. Reputation matters.
When you call your God, “Father”; when you say that this God is your God, and then fail to live by God’s house rules, you bring His name and reputation into disrepute. Here, the circumstances and behaviour of God’s people place a question mark over His name (Romans 2:23-24).
Moreover, you are taking His name in vain. You are taking His name to no effect. You are blaspheming, making a mockery and despising the name under which you claim to live.
God does not take kindly to this kind of hypocrisy and, outside of Christ, He vows to punish it.
Jesus hallowed God’s name. Where Israel, as the son whom God brought out of Egypt failed, Jesus honoured His Father.
A son honours his father, and a servant his master. But if I am a father, where is My honour?… says the Lord of Hosts to you priests who despise My name. (Malachi 1:6)
Jesus, as God’s Son, bore the name of God in a way that honoured and magnified His Father’s reputation and glory.
He magnified it in mercy and He magnified it in judgement. Jesus magnified and honoured the name of His Father by His obedience.
I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work You gave me to do… I have manifested Your name to the people… (John 17:4, 6)
Having been baptised into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we have been given a new name. We are Christian. We are under the covering of the name above all names, Jesus Christ.
We have moved into a new home where God is our Father and we are called to manifest His truth, His standards and His Gospel.
We will not get this down perfectly, which is why we must run for cover under the name of Jesus who is perfect, and there lean on and magnify His Grace.