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"From Father to Son," Zao Malachi – Explaining the meaning of your name

Danny wrote a special letter to our new son… It explains the meaning of his name and reminds us of the glorious life we have in Christ!

Dear son,
I write this to you with great joy in my heart at your birth on 4/12/12. You have come into a fallen world as a covenant child of the most high God, brought to us by God’s grace, a gift for this world and our family.  Words can’t describe the way I feel right now as your father…  So proud, so amazed at you and you haven’t even done anything but breathe, cry and sleep (and pee on your mother).  As I sit here in the quietness of the room as your beautiful and courageous momma slumbers across from me I reflect on the meaning of your name we have given you: Zao Malachi Iverson.

Zao (“z-ay-oh” as we are pronouncing it) is greek.  It means “I live.”  This past weekend we celebrated Easter and rejoiced in the life Christ has given us (and you) through his resurrection. As you come into a cruel and sinful world, where death still stings, you have a deep hope, my son, in the promises the resurrection brings.  That those who are in union with Christ live! Not just now, but forever, in eternity.  Let me explain… This body encasing your soul is not your final form, and I hate to tell you this but the parasite of your parents’ sin is attached to you at your conception, and no matter how hard you try you won’t be able to get rid of it… I could’t either, can’t and won’t.  I ache as I write this, knowing the reality of sin and the pain it causes… the way it  has infected me your father, the way it affects your mother… Your earthly parents love you, but we too find within ourselves the struggle every human faces against the enemy within, the sinful nature that you too have inherited… I wish I could tell you as you lie there, so cute and pink, so fresh with innocence, that you will not have to face the reality of the sinful nature all humans born into this world bear within them… but you will. You must realize the reality of it in yourself, that as long as you live in this body the parasite of sin will be there, demanding to be fed by its host, demanding that you indulge its desires… You will see it immediately in your siblings as you meet them. They are a wonderful bunch, fun, full of joy, anointed with the Spirit… but they too have that parasite, so don’t be too surprised when your big brother Benjamin jealously hurts you because you are getting mommy’s attention instead of him.  Don’t be surprised when Katy-Grace does’t share with you, or Trinity makes fun of you, or DJ steals your food… Don’t be surprised when your parents fail you… when we lose our tempers, or fail to love you the way you need us to. So that is the bad news my son-the reality of this world under the curse of sin… But your name, my son, doesn’t moan of death and sorrow, but sings of life and hope. It sings of resurrection, for that is what our loving God has promised for his covenant people and sings over us through his precious Son Jesus who came to bear the curse of death, wrath and sorrow for us and put death to death forever on the cross. You see, he didn’t and doesn’t have the parasite of sin, since he is the Holy One, the Word made flesh, “God with skin on” as your great grandfather Bill says… He is the second and better Adam who didn’t fail and give into temptation like we do… He was tempted just like you will be, but the parasite couldn’t attach to him,  and he never sinned. But the news gets better son, Jesus lived the life we could never live and showed us what it means to be truly human, to love and be in communion with our Creator with everything we are and love our fellow humans as we love ourselves. He showed us that great love by going to the cross and becoming the curse that our sin deserves, taking the justice that should have been placed on us, “becoming our sin” as the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Next week I get to preach on Isaiah 53 that tells us that the punishment that brought us life was placed on him… That by his wounds we are healed. That means we are free, no longer under condemnation for our failures, or guilty before our Creator, no longer under the eternal death sentence, no longer in slavery to evil… but free… to live. When Jesus died, all those united to him and belonging to him died too. Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” This is the verse that inspired your name… That you would live the life you have been given by faith in Jesus who loves you and gave himself for you.  That  you would know that through Christ who loves you, the parasite of sin dies forever when this temporary body formed in your mother’s womb becomes old and stops working. In Christ, death loses its sting, and there is no fear but joy. Pure joy  as you travel from the womb of this fallen world and are born again into the world to come, the Kingdom of God.  In Christ we are promised resurrection life in a perfect new body without sin, purified for eternity by your pure Savior Jesus and His Spirit who fills His people… This is the hope your first name sings, the hope of resurrection life and the hope of a new world… a place where you will never have to cry again the way you are crying now… This is the name I give you, my son.

Malachi is Hebrew. It is the name given to the prophet of God, the one who announces His Word. It means “my messenger” or “God’s messenger” in the context of the Bible. That is our prayer for your life my son. That you will announce the great hope of resurrection found in Jesus…. That as you live, and struggle in this world like your parents and grandparents before you, you will believe, hold fast, and proclaim the promises of your Savior God to this dying world in desperate need of good news.  We pray that the words of your mouth would sing life to others…. that the work of your hands would sow love and peace amidst this world that is harvesting war and hate.  We pray that His message will be in you and your life well-lived will be His message, the good message that God saves sinners  and recreates the old and broken into something new and beautiful. Your mother and I pray that everything you are would resound with the love of Jesus and that you would boldly proclaim the new creation promised in Him. Your Savior saves for a purpose son, that His people might live for something so much greater than themselves and the selfish temporary things of this world. In union with Him you become empowered with His Spirit to live out the righteousness given to you in Christ by an obedient and holy life that brings Glory to your Father in heaven and joy to all peoples… We pray that you will believe this message and live this message…

You are an Iverson my son, descended from the vikings of Norway. Viking runs in your blood as it did in your forefathers. Many of them pillaged and conquered for evil kings of old, but somewhere in our ancestry a new King came to rule our clan, the King of the universe named Jesus. Now we fight for him, not with battle axes dripping the blood of our enemies but with courageous words of truth for all peoples. Now we voyage around the world for our King, not to oppress foreign lands with cruel hate and war, but as courageous and peaceful messengers of hope that long to set all nations free with the love of Christ that we bear within us.

May you bear these names well my son. We love you and consider it a joy to call you our child.