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Naming Names

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning ā€” the first day. Genesis 1.3-5.

In these verses and throughout this early part of the first chapter of Genesis, God not only creates but he names the five basic elements of all that he has created — day, night, sky, land, seas. That may not seem of any significance to us with our modern mind-set, but it was of great significance to people who lived in the ancient world for they well understood that to name something was to assert sovereignty over it. There are clear examples of this in 2 Kings, first where Egypt comes to Assyria’s aid and defeats Israel — “Pharaoh Neco made Eliakim son of Josiah king in place of his father Josiah and changed Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim” (2 Kings 23.34); and then, later, when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians — “The king of Babylon … made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah” (2 Kings 24.16-17). What you name, you rule over.

This is what is significant about God giving Adam the privilege of naming the other created life-forms on the planet: “Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name” (Genesis 2.19). God had already told Adam: “Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground” (Genesis 1.28) and now, by naming the birds and beasts, Adam asserts his God-given sovereignty over them.

What strikes me as I read this morning’s verses, however, is that although God does not call the darkness “good” — the light is good but not the darkness — nevertheless God names the darkness. He asserts his sovereignty over it.

There is a spiritual truth here, I am sure. When Jesus came into the world he came as the Light and John records that “the darkness couldn’t put it out” (John 1.4, The Message). Of course not, because God is sovreign over the darkness. And so it is with the darkness that would overwhelm me and all God’s people. There are times when “the enemy pursues me … crushes me to the ground … makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead” (Psalm 143.3); but God has asserted his sovreignty over that darkness and will dispell it with his light — the light of Christ.

The truth is that, however the enemy might try to use it, darkness is only dark to humankind. David says to God, and says truly: “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me, even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you'” (Psalm 139.11-12).

God has named the darkness and in consequence it can have no power over me.

Darkness like a shroud covers the earth,
evil like a cloud covers the people;
but the Lord will rise upon you,
and His glory will appear on you,
nations will come to your light.
Arise, shine, your light has come,
the glory of the Lord has risen on you;
arise, shine, your light has come —
Jesus the light of the world has come.

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