We live in a fame-drenched society. People love to bask in the aura of celebrities and acquire what Andy Warhol called fifteen minutes of fame. In 1968, Warhol proclaimed: “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes.” Warhol was trying to convey that celebrity status is a fleeting phenomenon and dependent on a fickle media. Warhol’s “superstar” cast, which followed him everywhere, was a group of no name people with whom Warhol associated to make them famous. He did so simply to prove his point.
You often find friends and associates name-dropping in casual conversations. I love the cartoon of two women sitting and talking. One says to the other: “I was talking to that George Clooney yesterday. He is SUCH a name-dropper.” While the cartoon is funny, name-dropping is sad. Why? It doesn’t stick. It drops off as soon as the conversation stops, or the fame evaporates. So, why do we do it? Name dropping makes us feel better about ourselves. We feel we are special because we know so and so. But since fame doesn’t last, especially for those who are not the celebrities but merely the “superstar cast” whom the Warhols of this world simply keep around to make a point, we will eventually experience a major emotional letdown or drop off. When this happens, we will be tempted to go out again in search of someone’s name to drop.
Now that’s very different from identifying with the divine name, which we find highlighted and developed in Scripture. What we find with God is that there is no superstar cast experience. God does not identify with his people simply to make a point. What we find to be true about God’s name with which Israel is to identify is that it sticks. There is no drop off, since God remains true to the covenant he made with their fathers—the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
We find this point on vivid display in Exodus 3. God saw the affliction of his people Israel and heard their cry while in bondage as slaves in Egypt and came to deliver them through Moses (Exodus 3:7-10). After Moses resists and God promises to be with him and deliver him and the people, Moses asks God to tell him his name. Here’s the text I have in mind taken from Moses’ encounter with God recorded in Exodus 3:
Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. Go and gather the elders of Israel together and say to them, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, has appeared to me, saying, “I have observed you and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, a land flowing with milk and honey”’ (Exodus 3:13-17; ESV).
In the next post on this subject, we will delve further into what is so significant about God’s name and why Moses asks God to disclose it to him. For now, I simply wish to highlight that one of the unique qualities of God’s name is that God shares it with an enslaved nation and calls them his people. We find in Scripture that God promises to deliver them and be with them always. Fast-forward to Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus declares to his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (ESV). Just as with the slave people Israel and the lowly apostolic community made up of fishermen and tax collectors, God continues to share his name with those the world system as well as Christian celebrity circles often discount as insignificant.
Rather than settle for name-dropping celebrities for fleeting fame, doesn’t it make far more sense to identify with God’s glorious name as his chosen people forever?
Jeff Guinn and Douglas Perry, The Sixteenth Minute: Life In the Aftermath of Fame (New York: Jeremy F. Tarcher/Penguin, 2005), page 4.