What's in a Name
ISAIAH! How little that word conveys to our minds! It is but a name given to an individual who lived nearly three thousand years ago, and as far as most of us getting anything of real value out of it, it might just as well have been anything else! But we are not wise in treating these Hebrew names in the divine Word as being more or less without value. It is an unworthy way of dealing with a book that itself insists on the profound significance of many of the names within it––Jesus, Melchizedec, Peter etc. Are we justified then in passing over Isaiah, and getting nothing from it? To a Hebrew ear it would be just as intelligible as Bunyan’s “Worldy–wiseman” and Valiant–for–truth” are to us (just as the latter, if not translated, would be impenetrably obscure to a Chinese).
If the names in Scripture give evidence of divinely intended significance, it is shameful to neglect them. I recognise how limited is our ability, and the danger that there is of seeking to make up for that limitation by letting loose our imagination, but that is no excuse for indifference. Deepest NT truths are discernible in a multitude of OT names, and amongst these Isaiah, the son of Amoz, will serve as a fitting illustration.
The name Isaiah is a compound, and means as clearly and simply as possible: “The Salvation of Jehovah.” Who oversaw the parent’s choice when they gave that name to their infant, born so many hundreds of years ago? Little did either father or mother know of its future value to distant generations not even born! Yet Isaiah himself, in his eighth chapter, really insists upon its significance: “Behold, I and the children that Jehovah hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel, from Jehovah of hosts who dwelleth in mount Zion” (v 18).
But in what do the signs consist? What, for instance, do we know of the children that makes them “signs?” We are not told one thing of what they did or said––we know nothing at all about them but their names (see Is. 7: 3; 8: 3). The conclusion is inevitable that the “signs” in their entirety must lie in the names. But this being the case with the children, then the name of the father must also be a sign.
Indeed, can “The Salvation of Jehovah” fail to be a sign? Impossible, for in that one name of Isaiah is compressed the whole contents of his book! All through it, the words salvation and save ring like joy–bells, made all the more melodious because of the thunderings of judgment that go before (just as in Revelation, the constantly recurring lightnings and voices and thunderings throw into clear relief the new song, the harps, and the God–made tearless scene of endless peace).
But let us not stop there! If the names of prophet and children are of such value, is there none in that of his father? Are we told in vain that Isaiah was the “son of Amoz?” (Is. 1: 1) The meaning of the name is perfectly clear since its parent word is also found in the Scriptures. This is given in Ps. 27: 14 as “let thy heart take courage,” whilst in Deut. 31: 6, 7, 23, as in Josh. 1: 6, 7, 9, it is rendered, “courageous.” Thus the courage (Amoz) that is the evidence or expression of faith, (for that is the only connection in which the word is used) results in “The Salvation of Jehovah” (Isaiah). Those who put aside such significance in the names of Scripture give little honour to the microscopic beauty of the Word of God!