Today’s Reading: Genesis 15 – 17
In today’s reading we continue the story of Abram. Today’s passage contains some key promises of God towards Abram. We find out that Abram, while quite old, is going to have a very large family.
Genesis 15:5 (NLT)
5 Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”
In Genesis 16 we then begin to see God fulfill his promise to Abram with the birth of his first born son Ishmael through Sarai’s servant Hagar.
Abram becomes Abraham:
In Genesis 17 we see God take a significant step to have a deeper more meaningful relationship with his faithful servant Abram. God renews his promise of a vast nation or people and lines of kings in the generations to follow Abram.
Genesis 17:4 – 6 (NLT)
4 “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! 5 What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. 6 I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!
At this point God decides that Abram’s name is not sufficient to represent who Abram is and how God will bless him. In Hebrew Abram means “high father". But according to God’s promise Abram was not just going to be a father, or even a high father. Abram needed a name change to represent that he was going to be the father of a multitude. Thus God changed Abram’s name to Abraham “father of a multitude”.
Sarai become Sarah:
It is also time for a name change for Sarai. In Hebrew Sarai means “my princess”. God wanted her name changed to Sarah “a princess”.
Genesis 17:15 – 16 (NLT)
15 Then God said to Abraham, “Regarding Sarai, your wife—her name will no longer be Sarai. From now on her name will be Sarah. 16 And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. Kings of nations will be among her descendants.”
I can think of other name changes in the Bible that are based on an encounter with God.
Jacob becomes Israel:
Genesis 32:28 (NIV)
Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."
In Hebrew, Jacob mean “heel” or “leg puller” not too flattering name for a boy who was quite the mischievous child and young man. But Jacob encounters God and it is time for a name change. Jacob did not know it but he had just wrestled with God and survived. God had great plans for Jacob and the name change was an indication of that. Israel means “A prince with God” or “one who struggles with God.” The name means so much to us years later knowing the history of the people of Israel.
Simon becomes Peter:
John 1:42 (NIV)
And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).
Peter was a fisherman who became the rock on which Christ built his church. That is a significant encounter with God. it changed his life.
Our new name:
In each case of God changing a name he did it as a response to the person’s relationship to God changing: changing to a deeper more profound one.
You and I can experience a deeper more profound relationship with God. We can go from being someone who does not acknowledge God in our lives to someone who is dedicated to God. We can go from ignoring the God of all creation to dwelling in his love. We can go from a solo walk in this world to a walk led by Christ, God’s son.
In in so doing our name will be recognized by God. Today, we are not given name changes like in the days of old. But we are given a new Spirit, a new hope and a new destiny.
Revelation 2:17 (NIV)
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.