What’s in a Name?
What’s in a name? In this Sunday’s lesson from the book of Genesis, we read of God’s covenant with Abram, and in the process, he is renamed Abraham. Abram simply means “father,” but Abraham, the text tells us, marks him as “father of a multitude” or “father of many nations.”
There are other instances of the Lord naming people. Abraham’s wife Sarai (lady or princess) is renamed Sarah (mother of nations), Simon is renamed Peter (Petros, or ‘rock’ in Aramaic), Saul (asked for) is renamed Paul (humble one).
In America, in general, we see a name as little more than a label — a convenient way to distinguish one from another. We have names we like, and names we don’t like, but that often has more to do with aesthetics of the sound of a name, family tradition, or associations with others we may have known with a particular name (either good or bad). If you follow celebrity baby names, it sometimes seems that the priority is to choose names that have never been used as names before, and probably shouldn’t be.
The assumption of the people of Jesus’ day was that names conveyed meaning, that they indicated something essential about the person, either prophetically, in the naming, or as a self-fulfilling prophecy as a person lived into the reality of the name.
So, when God changes a person’s name, it indicates that something essential had changed about that person. This is no longer the same person.
While this life-changing encounter does not always lead to a name change, it is life-changing. Always. One does not encounter the living God and remain unchanged. The name is just one representation of that reality.
How has the Lord changed you? If the Lord were to give a new name to the person He is forming you to be, what might that name be, and why?
This column was published in the February 25, 2018 issue of St. John’s eNews. Click here to view the complete issue.
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