The Power of a Name

The ancient Hebrews deeply revered the name of God.  By Jesus’ day, they wouldn’t even utter it aloud.  It was too holy to be spoken by unclean lips.  We still know there’s power in the name of Jesus.  We know the verses, and we sing the songs…and then we go about our lives, never stopping to ponder such a strange turn of phrase.

What does it mean to take refuge in the name of God?  Why is His name a strong tower?  Why would he save us for His name’s sake? We know those are attributes of God…so why is His name specified?

Achilles: A Great Name

Achilles was aristos – the best.  No one could match him on the battlefield, and so he had the highest timé (honor) and kleos (glory, reputation).   Thus, the Greeks pitted him against Troy in their pursuit of Helen.  No one could vanquish him.  No one stood a chance when he was on the warpath.

His reputation was so great that the mere mention of his name struck fear into his enemies’ hearts.  Achilles would kill you if he had a mind to do so.  And there’s nothing you could do about it.

This means Achilles’ friends and loved ones were held in high esteem, or at least caution, by his enemies.  In the midst of battle, with carnage all around them, they could be assured of their safety.  After all, if someone had the audacity to kill a friend or loved one of Achilles, he would avenge his fallen comrade (which is what we see him do in the Iliad).

All the friend or loved one has to do is call on the name of Achilles, and they would either be saved or avenged (or both).

The Achilles Principle

Just as Achilles’ friends and loved ones could call on him and be saved, we also have that same privilege with a Holy and Blameless God.    Below is some scripture referencing the power of the Name of God, and how we can apply this “Achilles Principle” to us and God.

“You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord.” ~ Leviticus 19:12

If one of Achilles’ friends made an inappropriate comment or did something wrong, then Achilles’ kleos – his glory, his reputation, his great name – would be tarnished by association.  Likewise, when we sin, God’s reputation is “tarnished” in the eyes of the world.

“Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; and deliver us and forgive our sins for Your name’s sake.” ~ Psalm 79:9

If anyone called on Achilles, he had to help.  Otherwise, his kleos would be tarnished.  Thus, God saves us, delivers us, and forgives us so His “kleos” will not be tarnished.

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.” ~ Proverbs 18:10

Like hiding behind Achilles in battle, God provides us with a safe shelter against our enemies.

“And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be delivered” ~ Joel 2:32a

Those who called on Achilles on the battlefield were saved.  When we call on God, He will save us.

“Though all the peoples walk each in the name of his god, as for us, we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.” ~ Micah 4:5

If Achilles’ friends were going to “walk in his name,” they would strive to be like him and honor him.  Likewise, we should strive to please God by loving His Son, and honor Him by following His statutes.

How This Applies to Us

Obviously, this “Achilles Principle” of calling on a name is an allegory, and falls short in several areas.  However, I think it helps our modern minds wrap around the idea of the power of a name. Achilles’ friends and loved ones had certain rights and responsibilities when calling upon his name.  They needed to uphold his honor and reputation, but they could be assured he would help.  Also, not everyone could call on Achilles and get his aid; certainly Agamemnon couldn’t (the two hated each other).  You had to be a friend or loved one.

Likewise, as friends and loved ones of God, we must uphold His honor and reputation by living godly lives.  However, even if we stumble, God will still come to our aid.  Achilles was rather fickle; God is not.  Once you’ve chosen to believe in Jesus as your savior, you are His friend and beloved. God is greater and better than Achilles, with so much more power to save; but that power isn’t for everyone.  It’s for those who trust in and believe in His Name.

The Impact on Spiritual Warfare

These concepts are incredibly powerful in light of spiritual warfare.  The truth is that there is an Enemy who wants to destroy us.  He will use any means he can – whether it’s circumstances or feelings – to “make us” doubt the love of God.

But when we “mention” God’s name, it’s a powerful force that stops our Enemy.  The Enemy knows that God will save and avenge his beloved.  There is no doubt about it.  Therefore, when we call on God’s name, we are showing the Enemy where we stand, and Who is on our side.

Now, this doesn’t mean spiritual warfare will just go away, nor does it mean the Enemy will stop his attacks.  Sometimes, like the Greeks at Troy, we must fight the long war in order to receive the victory.  However, as Christians, we hope in the name of God.  By believing in His name, we WILL be saved and avenged

We both need to fight, and have the victory in Christ, all at once.

Next time you hear a song or read a verse about God’s name, think about Achilles – and how our God is so much stronger and better than him.  When we use His Name, we’re not just saying a word; we’re calling on the most powerful Being in the Universe.  A Being who loves us and died for us…for His Name’s sake.

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