In a number of occasions in the bible we see God changing the names of people. The first one was the change in the name of Abram to Abraham (Genesis 17:1-8).
Abram to Abraham
God changed the name of Abraham to signify the change he is going to bring to his life. Abram meant exalted father, while Abraham means father of many. That new name is linked with the determination of God to do the impossible in the life of Abraham, which was to cause him to have a child with his very old wife Sarah, and through that child be the father of many nations.
First he was going to be the father of twelve nations in one, from the sons of Jacob his grandson. Then through Jesus he was going to be the father of spiritual nations (from various ethnic groups), which consists of all the nations of the world. He is truly the father of many nations (Galatians 3:6-9).
Sarai to Sarah
As a woman whose case was all but hopeless, she had resigned herself to her state of barrenness. At the age of about 90, what else was she supposed to do? But the birth of the child was to be directly traceable to God and not to her. In that change of name (to mother of nations), God was declaring it before it happened so that when it happens there can only be one cause of it- the mighty hand of God. She became the embodiment of the miracle which she carried for nine months and thereafter nursed.
Jacob to Israel
This was one of the most remarkable changes of name in the bible, as it is linked with character change. Jacob was a name derived from how he emerged from his mother’s womb. He came out second as a twin with his hand holding the ankle of the firstborn, Esau (Genesis 25:20-26).
That name is connected with being a trickster, conniving. That came to a head both in the way he traded for the birthright of Esau and when together with the mum he beat the brother to the blessing from their aging father. He left the same impression in the house of Laban where he served for 20 years (Genesis 31).
Israel means prince (Genesis 32:28), which is reflective of royalty, and has to do with a change from a life of struggle to a life of settled blessings.
Simon to Peter
This is another change of name standing as the testament of the transformation work of God. Peter means rock, pointing towards a distinct change in character (John 1:42).
What God wants is to transform lives, bringing change. The name changes are either prophetic in mature, specifically regarding what God will do, or they have to do with character redefinition.
Many people have personality issues like Jacob and Peter, which describes who they are. It may not be based on a biological name (on the birth certificate) but a character one.
God is committed to changing the character of people. There is no hopeless situation character-wise; all can go through the process of conversion. Change can happen in the core of our being.
Paul had what can be called a quintessential conversion. He once described himself as a violent man, a murderer but he later became a source of the message of life to others (1Timothy 1:12-17).
There are instances when God, instead of waiting for a name to be given and he changes it along the line; (according to biblical tradition, it is the father who names the child), God reveals such prophetic names to the fathers because of the importance of prophetically channeling the destiny of the child right from the word go; for example Samson, Jesus, John the Baptist etc.
God is interested in your prophetic destiny and though you may not have a name delivered by an angel, realise that you still have a potently significant prophetic destiny. There is a will of God for you to fulfill on the earth (Ephesians 2:10), it’s beyond your nomenclature, it is your spiritual definition based on your alignment with your destiny under God.
There are various names that we bear in the New Testament; one of it is being a child of God (John 1:12). That is a spiritual definition, that is the guaranteed of a functional relationship with God, and we are called by his name, Christ-ians (Acts 11:26).
That we are new creatures (2Corinthians 5:17) is another form of spiritual definition, and the meaning is that old things are passed away and the newness obtained from the resurrection of Jesus is now made available to us (Romans 6:4).
Following this legacy of prophetic re-definition, Jesus promised those who overcome a new name that only they themselves would know on the day of resurrection, when Jesus Christ comes back (Revelation 2:17).
We should be careful to only call ourselves what God has called us. At a time when I was in depression, I used to call myself a dead dog. I don’t know if you call yourself by a similar name now, but stop. You don’t have the right (read my lips) to call yourself by anything other than God has called you, purpose, character, destiny and self definition-wise. It is disrespectful to your maker.
The head and not the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13, 44) is your name and that should form the fulcrum of your perception of yourself and your approach to life.
There was a man who thought he was a nobody, but God through an angel came to him telling him about a re-definition of himself; that man was Gideon (Judges 6:11-21). God called him a mighty man of valour, not based on where he was but based on his prophetic destiny, which God was well aware of. What God calls him became a prophetic precursor for him to experience change into a mighty man of valour indeed.
The call of God to the fivefold ministry is also a naming. Paul, many times said that God calls him to be apostle. That is a functional position and not a just a label. He manifests that same calling to such an extent that he eventually had the reputation of turning the world upside down for the gospel.
His “name” was changed from persecutor to apostle. God also wants to bring a change into your life in that manner, since he is the name changer.
He changed the name of the children of Israel from slaves (in Egypt) to a formidable nation by the strength of his hand. It doesn’t matter how bad things are now, there is a grace of God, his divine ability that would deliver the change you want to you. It is not in the nature of God to watch as things deteriorate, he is willing and ready to bring his hand of change to bear on people and situations eventually.
Hannah experienced the name-changing God (1Samuel 1:1-2:11, 18-21). Once she was a barren woman but later had her name changed by God into mother of six. Afterwards she sang a song in praise of the God who changes names, bringing such radical change that can only be attributed to him.
- I Will Sing the Praises of the Name of the Lord Most High (smritidisaac.wordpress.com)
- “Who is in you?” Part 2, by Rev Samuel Mametsa, Sunday Service, the 27th January 2013. (kutamaphc.wordpress.com)
- Lord Establish The Unexpected, Evans Olang (magnifyhisword.wordpress.com)
- Let.It.Go. Session Two (carlagpollard.com)
- Breaking New Ground: Let’s Talk About ‘Fight Club’ (themicahblog.wordpress.com)
- The First Shall Be Last (vanguardngr.com)
- Like father, like son? (dredwilliams.wordpress.com)
- Genesis 32:1-32 (newgracebaptistchurch.wordpress.com)
- Bible Study Genesis 17 – The Covenant of Circumcision (alexdekkers.wordpress.com)
- By Faith (comeawake.org)