What's Your Name?

February 13, 2016

What's Your Name?



How would you like to know what you're here to do, life's purpose? I think a big part of that is wrapped up in learning your identity. It's a big topic, bigger than just this blog post, but to start read Genesis 17 (it's short), the account where God changes Abram's name to Abraham.
In summary, God tells Abram he will make him the father of many, despite being 99 years old, and changes his name to commemorate it (Abram means "exalted father," and Abraham means "father of many").  But "Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, 'Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?'" (Genesis 17:17). That's interesting...not sure I'd laugh if God told me something like that. Anyway, God also gives Abraham a stipulation for the promise: every male in his household must be circumcised. Oh...um...okay.
The bible then says: "On that very day Abraham took his son Ishmael and all those born in his household or bought with his money, every male in his household, and circumcised them, as God told him...Abraham and his son Ishmael were both circumcised on that very day. And every male in Abraham’s household, including those born in his household or bought from a foreigner, was circumcised with him." (Genesis 17:23, 26-27) Can you imagine the wailing in Abraham's camp that night? But note his immediate obedience, even concerning such an extreme task.
So what does all that mean for us? First, be bold in your discourse with God. God did not strike Abraham down for laughing about the promise, but rather includes it into the promise. He takes Abraham's personality, which apparently is to laugh frankly at ridiculous notions, and wraps that up in his promise with him by telling him to name his unborn child (the child of promise) Isaac, which means, "he laughs." It seems God is a familiar God, knows us well, and will bring that knowing into our relationship with him, even into his future plans for us. And so we can approach God trusting that he knows us intimately, which creates a safe environment for boldness. (Keep in mind though, that when Abraham laughed, he was still facedown. He still knew he was talking to God, and did it respectfully.)
Second, your past is important. After God told Abraham his plans, Abraham asked him to bless Ishmael instead, since he was already there. Ishmael was a son born of another woman, his wife Sarah's servant, whom she gave to Abraham to take as a second wife when she could not conceive. Here is God's response: "And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year." (Genesis 17:21-21) It doesn't hurt to ask! But that wasn't part of God's plan. However, in our discourse with God, it's perfectly valid to bring up the past, even past mistakes, and see what he says about it.
Third, when God tells you to do something, do it! God gave Abraham a specific dream, commemorated by the change of his name; but also a specific command, which was to circumcise his household. And Abraham did not procrastinate, but this seemingly impossible command that very day! So should we get a word from God, don't take it lightly! Do it, right away. Just be sure that the word is in fact from God (here is some great teaching with very practical tips on how to do that).
Finally, know your name. Sounds silly, right? But sometimes we aren't born with the name that best describes our identity. God changed people's names in the bible all the time! That is evidence that God does in fact know us very well; and so, if God knows us as intimately as scripture says, he likely has a name for us, and it corresponds to our truest nature and purpose.
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (John 10:3)
Look at your given name to start (Abraham is a derivative of Abram). Names aren't always changed in scripture, so maybe whatever yours means carries just the right meaning for who you are. Then, go to God. Ask him what your name is, what he calls you. I did this years ago and heard, "Peacemaker," which totally corresponds to who I am and what I bring to relationships. I still don't know the full realization of what that means, but it's somewhere to start!
Really, the biggest lesson here is, in searching for your identity, go to God. Include him in every aspect of finding out who you are, because he already knows who you are, and likely wants to tell you.
Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord... (Jeremiah 29:12-14a)

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