What is in a name? So, Shakespeare asks through Juliet, He was referring to the idea that names themselves are a convention to distinguish things or people, but themselves do not have any worth or meaning.
"It is only your name that is my enemy. You are yourself, not just a Montague. What does ‘Montague’ even mean? It’s not about a hand, a foot, an arm, a face, or any other part of your body. You could just take another name! What’s so special about a name? The thing we call a rose would be just as sweet-smelling if it were called something else."
The idea: names have no defining worth or meaning, they have no intrinsic values you are still the person even without the name.
I am still Chris no matter if you change my name. If you were to change my name to Mint Chip Ice Cream (that sound’s really good) but that wouldn’t have any worth! Right? Change my name to whatever I’m still Chris.
But it’s not like the name Mint Chip Ice Cream didn’t do anything? What did it do? I began to desire Mint Chip Ice Cream…the name did that! And now I want some! Names can influence us to action by pointing to something greater than the thing itself, to remind us of a reality that we might otherwise not see and either never know or worse leave dormant in our memories.
For example the meaning of Lebanon (the name of our church). If we were asked “what does Lebanon mean? I noticed it in the name of your church.” How might you respond?
A: “Well it’s in the Bible”
Q: “Yeah but It’s a name for a country in the middle east just north of Israel, Beirut is its capitol. What does that name have to do with a Presbyterian church in rural Mississippi?”
A friend and fellow pastor text when I first got to LPC and said, “How’s it going at Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Learned, MS? We here at Iraq Presbyterian Church in Woodinville, WA are doing great!”
The point was not to make fun of a name but to point out the fact that without a Biblical Theological understanding of a name, without context, the name is an odd one for a Presbyterian church in rural Mississippi! But as we will see, Lebanon is name rich with Biblical Theological meaning.
So if we forget a name’s meaning it is then likely we have also forgotten a very important reality…so let us remember
Lebanon Through Geography, Anthropology & Story
In Hebrew לְבָנוֹן leb-aw-nohn´; means The White Mountain (from its snow); Lebanon, a mountain range in Palestine:—Lebanon. The White Mountain is so beautiful, mountain range smack dab in the middle of relatively flat land and the white snow covers the tops like a blanket and like sprinkled powdered sugar around the mid section. Up close the white snow would be a blinding white from the sun.
Just like the description of the Ancient of Days in Daniel:
““As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow,”
And Jesus because he is the Ancient of Days:
“(Jesus’) appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow”
And the same clothing you wear by being in Jesus:
“I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen,”
NO MONEY? BUY!
““Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.”
““Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;”
These white garments are the righteousness of Jesus through which our sins have gone from blood red to radiant white. When we look at God’s book of creation, when you are in the outdoors beholding God’s creation have an eye to these things.
When I look at God’s general revelation, the creation, I don’t just want to glory in God’s creative beauty…that I surely do…but I also want to press upon God’s creation His special revelation, the Scriptures, and take a moment and let the Scriptures instruct me how to have another view of the world around me.
I think if you read through the Old Testament this is exactly how they are teaching us to think about the world around us, from rainbows to trees etc…they are inviting us to think this way…think of all the Scriptures that use creation to illustrate redemptive and theological truths it’s rather overwhelming. The world is God’s Flannel Graph and the Scriptures are it’s true interpreter, that’s part of the idea in Romans 1.
If you’re an ancient Israelite and you are of faith you take the promise though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow and as you look to The White Mountain, Lebanon, through arms covering your face so as to deflect the blinding white light showering you say that’s what it looks like!
The White Mountain serves a continual reminder:
“Does the snow of Lebanon leave the crags of Sirion? Do the mountain waters run dry, the cold flowing streams?”
Now mountains are a peculiar thing in the Scriptures…so peculiar we are dedicating an entire sermon on Jesus, Mountains & the Presence of God. But in a nutshell mountains are where the presence of God spatial is and or used literarily as the locale of God’s heavenly presence on earth.
So Lebanon reminds us of our forgiveness of sins in Christ, our righteousness is like a blinding white garment, reminds us that our sins are covered like snow covers Lebanon. And it should also remind us of God’s presence is near.
We need to move on so I will place into your hands the further study of other things connected to Lebanon like its forests and cedar trees…fascinating stuff. But before we move on there is a group of people who are dwelling on Mount Lebanon, they are called the Hivites. “the Hivites who lived on Mount Lebanon”
We don’t know a ton about them. The small sampling we have of the Hivite living isn’t pretty. And here in Joshua 9 they are seeking to trick their way into covenant and blessing with Israel. But that’s an old drum beat…Jacob and Esau.
And that takes us into Joshua 9…the Hivites have totally unwittingly have taken a play from Israel’s own playbook. We’ve seen this before…just like Jacob tricking his father Isaac so he could inherit the double blessing as the first son instead of Esau…he tried in his mother’s womb…missed his shot and said “We will finish this later.”
And the Hivites have come to Israel dressed in deception but instead of fury arm wraps and smelling like they’ve been hunting, they have come with premade worn out garments, dry bread and old cracked and dry wineskins that can’t hold water.
And they are doing this in desperation to not be slaughtered by the holiness of Israel’s God. They’d rather come into covenant with their God through trickery and be servants in the house of that God than be consumed by the wrath of God.
It says they have heard of the God of the Exodus, how he absolutely annihilates injustice kings and peoples…and they want in…by any means necessary…desperately wanting into covenant of peace with Israel’s God and all that will mean for them. Without seeking the Lord’s counsel Israel accepts them into covenant and so does God but he makes them servants, wood cutters in Lebanon. And they are brought near.
It’s interesting did you notice the three items that are mentioned at this covenant: garments, bread and wine. Doesn’t that sound so familiar Lebanon? We come into the kingdom of God, as strangers to the covenants and promises, through faith in Jesus and he takes our old garments and gives us new garments, and bread and wine.
Listen up gentiles: the Hivites are strangers to the promises and covenants with God. Yet they are coming in! They are coming in garments that are old and worn and they are in desperate need of covenant with the God of Israel so that he can give them bright new white clothes of righteousness, new bread of life and new wineskins of life fit for God’s Spirit. Christ is here in the volume of the book!
And so, Joshua makes the covenant with the Hivites but they hear that they were indeed tricked so the sons of Israel travel to Hivite territory to strike them down but the elders of Israel remind Israel that they can not slay them for they are in covenant and the stipulation of the covenant was that they would live. And so even though they deserve to die…they will not die …but live…why because God does not break covenant.
So instead of getting what they deserve which is death they get resurrection, they live! And Joshua 9 says this happened on the 3rd day! (You can't make this up! So glorious!)
You see that connection to your own life through Jesus?
Conclusion: Forget Not Your Name Lebanon
When you think upon our church name remember Jesus:
The White Mountain – atonement – sins white as snow on the mountains of Lebanon – where the presence of the Lord is. Remember its inhabitants the Hivites though a rotten bunch, foreigners and strangers, they were brought into covenant with God, and should remind us of God’s gracious covenant with us, in His blood. That God takes our old worn out garments of our righteousness and clothes us in his own, bright and shinning white, and gives us new bread and new wine and for us the wineskins. Remember God’s covenant that though we deserve to die, by faith through Jesus’ new covenant we live and he will not destroy us but surely give us life & life more abundantly.
So names themselves do not have any worth or meaning? Maybe…maybe …at least that is…until God gives them their meaning.
So may God help us to know our name and to never forget our name, for the name Lebanon is shorthand for so many wonderful blessings that are ours…and we only got to go over a few.
To God be the glory through Jesus our Lord.