Posted by: rcottrill | May 16, 2018

How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds

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Words: John Newton (b. July 24, 1725; d. Dec. 21, 1807)
Music: St. Peter ( or Reinagle) by Alexander Robert Reinagle (b. Aug. 21, 1799; d. Apr. 6, 1877)

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: John Newton, the converted slave trader, became a pastor, and wrote perhaps our best known hymn, Amazing Grace, but he authored dozens more as well. This one he originally called simply “The Name of Jesus.”

It’s a subject we’ve looked at before in these articles, but there is more that can be said about it. When Shakespeare’s Juliet asks the question, “What’s in a name?” she is actually implying what we name a person or thing is inconsequential. That it’s the nature of the thing or person that really matters, whatever name we use.

Perhaps there’s an element of truth in that. In some cases, a generic or knock-off brand of toothpaste or jeans may be just as good as the name brand, and cheaper. Names can be arbitrary labels, almost randomly chosen, and therefore meaningless when it comes to describing the nature or quality of the thing they represent.

But that’s certainly not always the case. Names can be chosen for a specific reason. Sometimes a baby is named after a parent or other relative. And sometimes a name is chosen for its meaning, to be an inspiration to the individual later in life. In Bible times, parents in Israel often chose the names for their children that had spiritual significance.

¤ Adam named his wife Eve (meaning Lifegiver) “because she was the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20).

¤ Abigail, whose name means My Father’s Delight, is described as “a woman of good understanding and beautiful appearance” (I Sam. 25:3).

¤ Ruth, whose name means Companion or Friend, was an ancestor of King David, and of Christ (Matt. 1:1, 5-6).

¤ The name of the prophet Isaiah (II Kgs. 19:2) means Jehovah (or Yahweh) Has Saved.

There are also times when God stepped in and changed someone’s name to carry a new meaning or reflect altered circumstances. Abram is introduced to us in Genesis 11:26. His name means Exalted Father. However, the Lord chose him to be the beginning of the great nation of Israel, and changed his name to Abraham, meaning Father of a Multitude.

Now, what about the name Jesus? It is divinely conveyed to both Joseph and Mary, before His birth, as the name to be given to the virgin’s Child (Matt. 1:21; Lk. 1:31). The name means Jehovah (or Yahweh) Is Salvation, and it’s used of Christ more than nine hundred times.

Jesus is the New Testament form of the name Joshua. There are actually several men with some form of the name Joshua or Jesus in the Scriptures. It seems to have been a common name of that time. It still is, especially among Spanish speaking people. For example, Jesus (pronounced Hay-soos) Colome, of the Dominican Republic is a former relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay baseball team.

But we cannot argue from that that the name Jesus is inconsequential, not when God Himself has chosen it as the earthly name of His incarnate Son. There may be many given that name, but the Lord Jesus Christ stands uniquely and infinitely above them. He is very God made flesh (Jn. 1:1, 14). Further the Bible makes it clear that the name was given to Him because it said something of what was to be His mission on earth–that He would “save His people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).

It was to celebrate the wonderful name of Jesus that John Newton wrote a hymn called How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds. The idea for the hymn came from the comment of a Shulamite maiden who says of King Solomon, her betrothed, “Your name is like perfume poured out” (S.S. 1:3, NIV). Pastor Newton applied that to the name of Jesus, and wrote of what that wonderful name meant to him.

CH-1) How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear.

CH-3) Dear name! the rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding place,
My never failing treasury filled
With boundless stores of grace!

CH-5) Jesus! my Shepherd, Brother*, Friend,
My Prophet Priest and King,
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.

CH-6) Weak is the effort of my heart,
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art,
I’ll praise Thee as I ought.

Note: That is four of seven lovely stanzas found in the Cyber Hymnal link. The name “Brother” (stanza five, cf. Rom. 8:29) is often used in modern hymnals in place of Newton’s original word “Husband.” What he likely meant by that is not that Christ is the Husband (or heavenly Bridegroom) of the church. Newton was a sailor, and the “husband” on board ship was the one in charge of supplies and provisions.

1) Of the many descriptions of the Lord Jesus in the fifth stanza, which one means the most to you just now? (And why?)

2) Can you identify with Newton’s description in the first two lines of the sixth stanza? What do you do to deal with this problem?

Wordwise Hymns (for another article see here)
The Cyber Hymnal


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