November 2, 2020

​Focus on Jesus

Every five years the Ellen G. White Estate issues a new daily devotional featuring Ellen White’s writings.

Dwain Esmond

64 2 5The newest daily devotional book to feature the comments of Ellen G. White was released earlier this year. The book, Jesus, Name Above All Names, is one of a series compiled by the Ellen G. White Estate. Dwain Esmond, an associate director of the White Estate, was directly involved in preparing the manuscript for this book, and agreed to be interviewed.—Editors.

How long have you been working on Jesus: Name Above All Names?

I’ve been working on it for about two and a half years. The whole idea was to do a devotional on the names and titles for Jesus Christ. There are more than 840 of them used by Ellen White in her writings.

No one had ever really tackled it. And I thought it would be excellent to do in time for our 2020 General Conference Session. I came to the White Estate in 2015, and it immediately came up on my radar. So I started working on it.

Describe the process. How did you begin? What steps did you take?

Of course, the first thing is to begin with prayer. I felt that this concentrated focus on Jesus would be not only life-changing for people who read the book, but good for me to read about Jesus consistently from Ellen White’s perspective.

So I began to take each one of those names and titles and go into her writings, search for those uses in her writings, look at what she wrote, and see if there was enough to sustain a full devotional entry. Then I marked it, put it aside, and selected the strongest ones I could. Out of 840, I could choose only 365. So I pulled them together and wrote the foreword.

Then it was reviewed by our director, our vice director, and my colleagues at the White Estate. I received some great feedback. It was a team effort. The main compilation, the overseeing of it from start to finish, may be one of the best Ellen White devotionals we’ve released.

The last one, Homeward Bound, was released in 2015 and was coordinated by William Fagal. When I came to the White Estate in 2015, the devotionals became my responsibility. So every five years they are released, usually at a General Conference Session. Then they are available for ordering in the fall.

What surprised you as you were putting this together? What jumped out at you and took you by surprise?

So many things. I was amazed by the sheer dexterity of Ellen White’s uses, and how creative she was in coming up with names to define something that Jesus was doing or could do for us. I got an appreciation of her Christology from reading those entries; she goes to great pains to let people know that Jesus is for whatever we’re going through, whatever our need or challenge in life. Jesus is available and has the capacity to meet every situation. He is everything.

64 1 2 1It’s not just that Jesus is for others. This is the Jesus Ellen White knew, these are terms she used when speaking about her relationship with Jesus. He is a rock, a sword, a shield. She writes not just for those to whom she is writing; she’s writing about her personal relationship. I don’t know of another Christian writer who used that many descriptions of Jesus.

You seem to be saying that this book will have universal appeal.

Maybe I’m biased, but I think this devotional has the potential to be the best devotional that the White Estate has ever put out. We have had great ones reflecting Christ, and they’re all great. But I don’t think any of the others have such a concentrated focus on Jesus. That’s going to separate this devotional from others: its appeal is universal.

We have something else that’s different in this devotional: it includes a reflection question at the end of each page. That’s something we’ve never done before. That reflection question is meant to deepen the learning, to give readers something to apply this aspect of Jesus’ character or this aspect of what Ellen White wrote to real life. Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). This book reinforces the truth of that statement.

People will learn new things about Jesus that they may not have known. One of the titles Ellen White used came from Jesus claiming His victory. She calls Him a “Conqueror claiming His victory”—that’s one of the titles she uses for Him. Then there’s the wide range of names: one is “Mighty to save,” and of course things such as “Bridegroom,” “Divine Voice.” The wide array of names will be new to people.

Did you try to organize these after various themes, or are readers just to go straight through the 365 articles? Is there any kind of order in which the names of Jesus are listed?

I didn’t try to put them into any kind of order, because that would’ve been almost impossible. Jesus is the all-sufficient remedy for sin, and that theme will come through in several different readings. It’s actually “the Great Remedy for Sin”—that’s one of the titles Ellen White uses in addition to things such as “Bright and Morning Star,” “the Center of All Goodness,” “the Vendor of Heaven,” and “Perfect Gift.” These are names you just don’t come across often in Ellen White’s writings, and people don’t often think about using them for Jesus.

If nothing else, this book is an appeal from Ellen White to read and simply fall in love with Jesus. It had that effect on me. I have to speak, and I do things from my oral perspective. I found the material so rich that I just felt inundated. It’s so rich.