What’s in a Name?

For the past few years I have gone on a mission trip with my church choir every summer. This past year I distinctly remember doing a Vacation Bible School in a less-reached part of Poughkeepsie, New York. We were simply told to witness and show love to these kids as they came and went throughout the day. One thing I distinctly remember is something our sweet leader Hannah said. As a young man approached our tent for Bible story time she simply asked him his name. He replied with Christian. Hannah then proceeds to ask him if he knows what his blessed name means. After his reply of a head shake “No,” Hannah told him it means a follower of Christ. The boy then seemed fairly impressed with Hannah for knowing what his name meant and for what it did mean.

Upon reflection of this moment, I realize now how our names in modern times generally are not chosen for meaning. But rather, because they sound nice. But as I have studied the old testament in depth I have noticed the importance of a name in the eyes of God.

One more well known occurrences of this is in Genesis 17, when God changed the names of Abram and Sarai. When God made a covenant with Abram he also changed his name in order to symbolize his promise. Abram was promised by God that he would father many nations. So, in turn, God changed his name to Abraham which translates to “father of many.” This is generally known as it is a large part of the Old Testament. However, what I found very intriguing in my study of Genesis was the change of Sarai to Sarah. The Hebrew name Sarah actually translates to “princess or noblewoman.” This may come across strange to someone who had not read Genesis. But when studying Genesis I learned that, along with the covenant God had given Abram, he promised Sarai that she would be the noble mother of the “nations” that Abraham would father. What makes this so interesting was how perfect this was for Sarah, see Abram had not listened to God’s promise to wait, so he went and has Ishmael with Hagar. But Sarai found jealousy in this. She was jealous of the child conceived after having been put down by Hagar. In Genesis 17, God reminded Sarai that he was faithful, through naming her Sarah he bestowed upon her the honor of being the mother of many nations.

God uses name changes all throughout the Bible to symbolically remind people of His covenant unto them. This apply to us in remembrance of his covenant to the people of God. Of the everlasting covenant, or promise, that is a relationship with Jesus Christ, the son of God. (John 3:16)

Although our names may  not change when we allow the holy spirit to enter us, we are given a new identity in Christ. The old life is forgiven and we may begin anew. When you feel as if you have drifted from God, hold tight to your identity with the Holy Spirit. Keep this identity fresh in your mind to symbolize His promise, for you are now called a child of God.

2 Corinthians 5: 17 -Allie

(Other examples of changed names in the Bible)


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