Lately, I've been intrigued with how, in the Bible, God and Jesus were continually giving people new names. I've wondered - what's with all this new name giving? Why do they do this?
Just a few characters in the "change of name parade" are: Paul, Abraham, Sarah, Peter, Jacob, and Joshua. Most of the changes are positive...but not always.
Going all the way back in the Old Testament, God gave Abram (which meant many or multitude) the new name Abraham.
"Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called friend of God. (James 2:23)
God called him Abraham because he was a friend to him. God and Abraham shared a closeness and trust that only true friends share. Abraham was loyal and dependable - certainly traits you want to have in a friend.
God often changed names to describe some NEW characteristic of a person.
The first thing Andrew did after deciding to follow Jesus was to find his brother Simon and tell him. "We have found the Messiah" (that is the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus.
Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which translated, is Peter). (John 1: 41-42)
"Cephas is Aramaic for "rock". Jesus was calling Peter a rock - a rock on which He would build his church.
Ironically, Peter was anything but a rock; he was impulsive and unstable. Yet, in Acts, he was a pillar of the early church.
Jesus named him not for what he was, but for what, by God's grace, he would become.
The last example I'll share is Jacob. Deep-seated family hostilities characterized Jacob's life. Jacob was considered by some to be ruthless. He was a con artist, a liar, and a manipulator. In fact, the name Jacob not only means "deceiver," but more literally it means "grabber."
Jacob tried to flee his troubles in Laban, but only more trouble lay up ahead. Jacob was a man full of fears and anxieties. Jacob was struggling with fear, darkness, loneliness, vulnerability, empty feelings of powerlessness, exhaustion, depression, and relentless pain....anything sound familiar???
At one point Jacob falls fast asleep in the wilderness and that night an angelic stranger visited Jacob. They wrestled throughout the night until daybreak. It was then that Jacob knew what had happened: "I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared." (Genesis 32:30)
In the process Jacob was given a new name - Israel - which means "He struggles or wrestles with God."
So what do all these stories have in common?
When we encounter God...and I mean a "Saul-get-knocked-off-his- horse-on-the-road-to-Damascus" type of encounter...God gives us a new name. (Like he gave Paul).
When we encounter God/Jesus we are FOREVER changed...we are a new creation.
By God's grace we become something more than we already are. God sees our potential.
Abraham believed God. He trusted in the impossible.
Peter, through encountering God's grace, became the Rock on which the church was built.
Jacob struggled and wrestled with God. His blessing inevitably followed the struggle. Real growth experience often involves struggle and pain.
I am so very thankful that God is patient with me to go from disbelief to trust (Abraham)...He sees my potential and not my ineptitude (Peter)...and He's big enough to handle my fears, doubts, anxieties, and emptiness, and after I've wrestled with Him, he will give me a new name like Israel.
Oh, Lord, I want a new name. I want to encounter you so closely, so personally, so utterly real that I cannot help but be changed.
Lord, see the potential in me and call me out of my self doubt into a new awareness of my identity in you.
Lord may I wrestle with you as I confront my doubts, fears, and anxieties and after awhile, may you give me a gloriously new name like Israel.
For kicks, I looked up what my name, Beverly meant. I was not too thrilled when the etymology revealed that "Beverly" is Old English for "beaver stream".
Not too impressed, I read on...the beaver is the 2nd largest rodent in the world. (Really not impressed).
He is an industrious builder of dams....okay, I'm industrious and I like to build things larger than myself...getting better.
As a child before braces, I kind of had buck teeth like a beaver and I'm sort of squishy around the middle like beavers are lol.
I don't know what new name God will give me??? But I DO know that by encountering God and His Son on a deeply personal level - perhaps encounters that involve struggle and pain - there is a conversion and a transformation. Behold I am a new creation - the old is gone!!
Through the gift of surrender, true freedom is found. By cashing in the old, I allow God to lead me in the potential way that He has always seen in me.
By coming face to face with God, it builds my endurance, my faith, my trust, my courage, and my character.
He sets me free of my fears and anxieties...in His power.
What new name is God calling you to? What potential lies below your imperfect surface? What are you wrestling with that God wants to bring a blessing from?
Let us pray together: Oh Lord, give me a new name!! And all His people said, "Amen."
ps. Redeemer Christian School Celebrates 2nd Birthday!!
We've maxed out of our current facility with 50 children...