Shakespeare diminished its importance when he asked, “What’s in a name?” Human characteristics seen or hoped for by parents when naming their children are usually more significant than mimicking the latest celebrities or creating preferred initials. Handing down family names out of respect or fondness is common and we see in the Bible, names that reflect the appreciation and aspirations of parents for their children. Matthew translates to ‘a gift from God’ and Ruth means ‘friend’. The name Jesus means ‘savior’ and ‘deliverer’. So, names can vary in their significance.
Matthew Henry’s commentary on Exodus 33 explains that when God knew Moses “by name” this indicated he was a particular friend and confidant. (See Relevant Scripture below.) This brings us to the following account of a God moment experienced by Rick Jacobson, a friend of our Lord.
I want to share my personal experience during a visit to the World Trade Center Memorial in March 2014. I was privileged to participate with United Methodist Clergy and Laity from Virginia who traveled to Brooklyn, New York to perform home repairs on houses damaged by Superstorm Sandy the previous fall. We worked hard on a cold Monday through Friday, but we took a break on Wednesday afternoon for a tour of the highlights of New York City.
The plaza memorial for the victims of the World Trade Center disaster was one of those highlights. As we approached the plaza, we began reading the names of the deceased that were engraved on the tablets surrounding the South Tower footprint area.
As I read, God spoke to me and said, “Rick, stop reading these names and go over to the engraved names surrounding the footprint area of the North Tower”. I traversed the plaza to the tablets where the North Tower had stood.
The very first name that I read was the name of Aaron Jeremy Jacobs; it was a powerful God moment that I will never forget because the names of my two sons are Aaron and Jeremy; and my last name is Jacobson. WOW, how powerful and emotional was that moment for me as God connected me with a man whom I had never met, did not know existed and whose name contained the names of my two sons and whose last name was almost the same as ours.
I gained a new true appreciation for God blessing me with two boys and I believe it was God’s way of telling me that they are special and that the life of Aaron (meaning ‘exalted’) Jeremy (meaning ‘exaltation of the Lord’) Jacobs was special.
Interested in finding out why God drew my attention to this man, I did a little research.
A web profile indicates that Aaron Jacobs wanted to retire at an early age and travel. He had already backpacked through Europe, taught English in Cozumel, Mexico, spent a semester in Madrid, climbed a volcano in Greece and vacationed with his family in Central America and the Caribbean.
Mr. Jacobs, 27, was making plans for the ultimate trip — his honeymoon with his bride-to-be, Jeannine McAteer. “He was leaning toward Africa,” Ms. McAteer said. “He loved animals,” and wanted to go on a safari.
Still, for Mr. Jacobs, who lived on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, there was no place like home. A vice president and partner on the international trading desk at Cantor Fitzgerald, he was a fan of the city as an institution. He sought out ethnic restaurants, skated and jogged through Central Park and loved visiting museums. He also taught job skills to welfare recipients.
“He knew that he had achieved something with his life, but he was never someone to rub it in anyone’s face or to feel like the fact that he was in this lucrative business made him any different,” said his older brother, Josh Jacobs. “He just remained a really loving and loyal person.” (Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on December 8, 2001.)
Aaron, died at the World Trade Center, Sept. 11. Surviving family members are his parents, Alice and Laurence Jacobs of Waban, MA and brother Joshua Jacobs of Somerville, MA and grandparents Al and Harriet Katz of AZ. A memorial service will be held at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward Street, Newton, Sunday Sept. 23rd at 2 PM. Memorial observance at the home of Alice and Laurence Jacobs, Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 24th and 25th, 4-8 PM. Remembrances may be made to the Anti-Defamation League and The Salvation Army. (Paid Notice published in THE BOSTON GLOBE on September 20, 2001.)
Why did God bring my attention to this man? I don’t know. Perhaps to reinforce my appreciation for my sons. Perhaps to show me that He knows me and my sons by name and we are His. Or perhaps the letter I wrote to Aaron Jacob’s family played a part in God’s mysterious but all-knowing plan.
There are many times that God’s presence in my life has been revealed to me and I call them ‘God Moments’. My older sister, Beverly, and I have shared stories with each other through the last several decades about how good God is, and we have knick-named them ‘Beverly stories’.
God bless us all and let us be open to God speaking to us in His still small voice or something louder.
If you are interested in finding the meanings behind other Biblical and non-Biblical names, check out the following links.
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Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” (2 Tim 2:19)
And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:17)