You know that phrase, “That’s a game changer”? It signifies a new element in a situation that changes it completely.
I wonder if we could coin a new phrase, one that would have a lot of resonance in the Bible: “That’s a name changer.”
We see some important instances of God changing people’s names throughout the Bible, and a name change always signifies deep personal transformation for the person affected.
Think of Jacob being renamed Israel, or Saul becoming Paul.
(Note: God did not change Paul’s name specifically, it was a gradual shifting throughout the Biblical texts over time. “Saul to Paul” is a shorthand for Paul’s changed life rather than a divine event like the other name changes.)
Those name changes require the person to leave behind an old identity and everything that went along with it—the good and the bad.
In fact, the change being demanded of Jacob and Saul was so significant that neither they nor others would recognize them after the fact.
That’s part of why they needed a new name.
Their names were changed also because they were being sent out on a new mission. They had important new work to do, and taking on a new name was part of what helped them set out to do that work.
The old self that they had, with all of its baggage and history, was unequal to the task. They needed a fresh start to take on challenging new work.
This was definitely the case for Abram in our story from Genesis today.
He was 99 years old—that’s no time to pull up stakes, set off on a long journey, and found a new nation!
He couldn’t do it as Abram, he had to become Abraham.
And God’s renaming of him was part of how God equipped him to take on the task.
Few of us have been literally renamed, but doubtless the work God has called us into in different seasons of our lives has required us to take on a new identity, one that may look unfamiliar to our friends and family.
How consciously and intentionally have you received the new name God gives you when God leads you to new ministry? Continue reading