Juliet Capulet (yes, that Juliet), during the balcony scene, laments: “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other word would smell as sweet.” She longs for her beloved Romeo Montague, but the Capulets and Montagues are bitter rivals. Though Shakespeare’s audiences through the years may easily relate to Juliet’s rhetoric, an ancient Hebrew may have struggled. Names meant a great deal to God and his people, and no other name meant so much as the name of Yahweh.

Psalm 54 is prayer of David, rooted in his own biblical history. The psalm’s superscription tells us the context is 1 Samuel 23 and the betrayal of David by the Ziphites, not to mention the ongoing betrayal of Saul. In verse 1, David cries, “O God, save me by your name”. To save means to help, deliver, or rescue; and David appeals to God to save him “by your name.” So, what is in this name? To invoke God’s name was to invoke his presence. In Deuteronomy 12 the Israelites were instructed to, “seek the place that the Lord your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there (v5).” The place of his name was the place of his presence, and by extension the place of his essential nature and power. We also see this theology of God’s name in Solomon’s dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8). God’s name extols both his transcendence and immanence: he is the God of heaven, and the God who dwells in power in the place of his name. Isaiah 48:11 essentially equates God’s name with his glory, which helps explain why throughout the Scriptures God does things “for my name’s sake”[1].

Something to See:

In David’s time of despair, he calls for rescue by the Lord’s name. I hope today’s thoughts help you to see David is not merely calling for the Lord’s attention through the appeal to his name, but invoking the awesome power of his presence!

[1] See for example: Psalms 23:3; 25:11; 31:3; 79:9; 106:8; 109:21; 143:11; Ezekiel 20:14; 20:22; 20:44; 36:22 (and yes, this applies frequently to Jesus’ name in the New Testament as well)