I have more than one name. I’m not talking about my last name, my maiden name, or even my first and middle name, although the meanings are very significant to me and who I am.
God has a special name for me that I’ve only told one other person. It’s not a name I would have picked, but it came to me one night out of the blue.
This is your name.
I went still. There have only been a handful of times that I’ve heard God’s voice in precise words, as opposed to impressions and pictures. A little dumbfounded, I looked up the meaning of the name I heard. Tears came to my eyes at the significance.
This is who you are to me.
Ever since then, I’ve tucked my special name deep in my heart, pulling it out every once in a while to remember who I am to God.
In the Bible, names were often very literal to circumstances.
- The Lord changed Abram’s name to Abraham (meaning father of many nations) as a sign of His promise to give Abraham generations. God also changed Abraham’s wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah (meaning mother of many nations).
- God told Hosea to marry a prostitute as a sign of Israel’s sin. God then named each of the children born to the couple as a testament against the tribes of Israel.
- After wrestling with God for a blessing, Jacob’s name was changed to Israel because he prevailed with God. Meanings of the name Israel: triumphant with God/may God prevail/God perseveres.
- A common NT example of name change is the renaming of religious persecutor Saul (meaning demanded or death). Sometime after his encounter with God, Saul’s name became Paul, which means small or humble. There couldn’t have been a more significant name for a man with such a big and beautiful role in the early church.
All throughout the examples in scripture + my own observations and experiences, I see two themes.
1. God generally renames people according to the destiny He calls them to and/or a literal part they play in the big picture.
- Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. -God (Jeremiah 1:5)
2. Under the New Covenant especially, He calls each child by name as an expression of intimacy.
- Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. -God (Isaiah 43:1)
If names are so deeply entwined with who we are, let’s look the nature and actions of God and Satan in relation to their names.
Satan calls us by our sins (liar, cheater, murderer) because he is the accuser. (Revelation 12:10)
God calls us by our name because He is our Defender and our Righteousness. (Psalm 18:1)
So remember it’s not what people people call you that matters; it’s what you answer to.
Next time you feel condemned or fearful, instead of just brushing it under the rug, identify the action being played out, so you can effectively identify the source. There are only two kingdoms to choose from. Knowing the source is the key to resisting the wrong actions (lies) and more importantly, embracing the right ones (truth).
© Brenda Kanagy