Nicknames

When I was in elementary school kids called me “curly”.  I did not like it and so they continued to tease me with that nickname.  It bothered me so much that whenever I went to the  barber shop there on the east side of the town square in Brownsville, Tennessee, I would tell the barber that Mom said that I could have it all cut off.  To my disappointment, the  barber would call my Mom and she would set things straight.  Things do change over time.  By the time I got in high school and everybody was growing their hair long, I grew an afro.  I wanted people to call me “curly”.  I still have a picture of me with that afro that is hanging in the hallway of my house.  I would not have cut that hair even if Mom had demanded it!  

The prophet Jeremiah’s nickname was Magor-missabib.  They would whisper behind Jeremiah’s back, “There goes old Magor-missabib!” (New International Commentary of the Old Testament: Jeremiah).  The phrase “terror on every side,” translates the nickname.  Jeremiah complained, “I have heard the whispering of many, ‘Terror on every side!’” (Jeremiah 20:10 NASB95).   The phrase Jeremiah was so known for saying was turned into a nickname.  In the eyes of his enemies — if they had lived in a different time — Jeremiah would be  “the boy who cried, ‘wolf’” too many times.  

Another famous nickname in the Bible is “Rocky”.  No, that fighter movie character was not in the Bible.  “Rocky” is the translation for the word “Peter”, the disciple who followed Jesus around for three years.  The nickname was not given by an enemy.  It was given to Simon — his given name — by Jesus.  The nickname captured the likelihood that Peter would often act impulsively.  Peter could be kind of rocky sometimes.  But the name visualized something else about Peter.  He would try anything.  He would act on what he believed.  His faith was like a rock.  Even if it wavered, afterwards he was still standing on that rock-like faith.  It was this solid-like-a-rock kind of faith that resulted in Peter being so influential in the years that followed the resurrection of Jesus from death.  

Jeremiah was also awfully shaky sometimes.  His laments were blunt as a hatchet after the blade has been dulled by beating on an anvil with it.  His first answer to the objections of his enemies was to go silent for years.  The enemies got the better of him with their belittling name-calling.  But be did not remain silent.  Although he was imprisoned in a cistron and left for dead, kidnapped, and badgered, he turned out to be the immoveable object.  He was also a rock.  

What made these men?  How were they transformed from rocky to rock?  They turned out the way they did because they believed what they believed and they acted on their beliefs and their beliefs were right.  God comes through when that happens and the eternal benefits out weigh the temporal risks.  Neither Jeremiah nor Peter were shielded from suffering or dying by the hands of their enemies; but they both remind people of Jesus (Matthew 16:13-19).   Both of them are living with Jesus for eternity. 

Stephen Williams

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