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Words: George Washington Bethune (b. Mar. 18, 1805; d. Apr. 27, 1862)
Music: William Batchelder Bradbury (b. Oct. 6, 1816; d. Jan. 7, 1868)
Note: There is little doubt that American Pastor George Washington Bethune (1805-1862) was named after the nation’s first president, George Washington, who died in 1799. Bethune was offered the posts of chancellor of New York University, and provost of the University of Pennsylvania, but he refused both, preferring to continue in pastoral ministry. He was also the author of several books, and a number of hymns.
Babies are given names for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes the child is named after a parent, or other relative. Sometimes, parents select a name simply because it’s different, or interesting. Other times the name is chosen for its inspiring meaning. One of the first questions coming up when we meet a parent with a new baby is, “What’s his (or her) name?”
Years ago I spoke with a senior whose parents had decided to call her Eugenia. From a Greek word meaning nobility, it perhaps would inspire her to lofty goals and moral excellence. Lovely. But a problem arose when her father went to register the birth and the baby’s name. Nobody had told him how to spell Eugenia. A very proud man, rather than ask for help, he simply put down what he thought was right. That is why my friend’s official name is Engine!
Many names in history have become almost synonymous with the person’s deeds. Whether it’s Christopher Columbus, or Thomas Edison, most will associate specific things with the name. The same can be said for many Bible names. Noah, Samson, or Jonah, each calls to mind certain things.
For Christians, the name of Jesus has a significance above all others. It’s found over 940 times in the New Testament, often in combination with other titles such as Jesus Christ, or the Lord Jesus. Jesus is the Greek form of the Old Testament Hebrew name Joshua, which means “Jehovah [the Lord] is Salvation.”
As the New Testament begins, we are given, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1). From this we learn that the human ancestry of Jesus can be traced back to King David, and even further back to Abraham, the founding father of the nation of Israel.
The work of salvation is specifically attached to His prophesied future accomplishments. As the account unfolds, we learn that Jesus would be born of a virgin named Mary (Matt. 1:18), and her betrothed husband Joseph was told, “You shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins” (vs. 21).
This close association of the name Jesus with salvation continues through the New Testament. In Titus 3:6 He is called “Jesus Christ our Saviour,” and in Second Peter 1:11 “our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” John says, “The Father has sent the Son as Saviour of the world” (I Jn. 4:14).
The Bible is also clear that this One is deity, God the Son come to earth and taking on our humanity. He is called “our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ” in Titus 2:13. And in Second Peter 1:1, “our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Only as Man could He die for the sins of human beings, and only in the perfection of His deity could He be undeserving of death for His own sins, and be Conqueror over death on our behalf.
“He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9-11).
Our hymnody often reminds us of the meaning and preciousness of the name of Jesus. The present one is an example, a simple gospel song written in 1858 by George Bethune. (Note: As of writing this blog, stanza five below was not included in the Cyber Hymnal. It alludes to the Philippians passage quoted above.)
CH-1) There is no name so sweet on earth,
No name so sweet in heaven,
The name, before His wondrous birth
To Christ the Saviour given.
We love to sing of Christ our King,
And hail Him, blessèd Jesus;
For there’s no word ear ever heard
So dear, so sweet as “Jesus.”
CH-4) So now, upon His Father’s throne,
Almighty to release us
From sin and pain, He gladly reigns,
The Prince and Saviour, Jesus.
5) To Jesus every knee shall bow,
And every tongue confess Him,
And we unite with saints in light
Our only Lord to bless Him.
CH-5) O Jesus, by that matchless name,
Thy grace shall fail us never;
Today as yesterday the same,
Thou art the same forever.
1) How does it make you feel when you hear the name of Jesus profaned and used as a swear word?
2) What have you done about this?