If you’ve never heard of The Bible Study by Zach Windahl, I highly suggest you look into it. It’s an easy to follow Bible study over the Old and New Testament and it just so happens to be one of my favorite Bible studies. In the study of Genesis, Windahl talks about names and what they meant in the Jewish tradition.
“God could tell that Adam was getting bored being all by himself. so He allowed Adam to name all of the animals (Gen 2:20). In Jewish tradition, a name is much more than a name as we see today. They believed that a name transforms a person’s identity, which is why so many names in the Old Testament describe the character of the person. So when Adam was asked to name the animals, the focus wasn’t just on what they would be called, but on what they would become.” (Windahl, 2017).
When I first read Genesis I never really considered why God asked Adam to name all the animals and after reading The Bible Study I was intrigued by what Zach Windahl wrote. After explaining why God asked Adam to name the animals and the Jewish tradition behind the importance of names, Windahl asks you to look up the meaning of your name and asks you if it is an accurate description of you.
As soon as I read this I hoped on Google and searched up the meaning of my name and what I found astonished me. My name means, strong, noble, virtuous, and exalted. Now I don’t know if all those meanings are an accurate description of myself but, I do consider myself to be strong. It was really interesting to see what my name meant and how or if that correlated with my life.
But this exercise got me thinking about Abraham and Sarah, God renamed both of them after He made His covenant with Abraham. “No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 17:5). Abram means “high father” and Abraham means “father of many nations”. And then God said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.” (Genesis 17:15-16). Sarai means “contentious” and Sarah means “princess”.
What their names meant before didn’t matter because God changed their names to match what they would become. And God does the same thing for us. God’s perfect will is all encompassing and He can change every aspect of who we are. Because when we accept Jesus and come to know God through Christ, God calls us His. There is no better name to be called than His daughter, or His son. We belong to Him and He makes that known by calling us His children.
Just think how astonished Abraham who was in his 100’s, and Sarah who was in her 90’s, were when God told them Sarah would bear a son. Even though the two had a lapse in faith and laughed when God said this, Sarah bore a son who be named Isaac which means “laughter”. God doesn’t break promises and whatever promise He has placed on your life will come to pass. God doesn’t forget either, He is a perfect Father and a perfect Father never forgets His child.
Jesus was given the Name above all names, “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11). Jesus is greater than any name we have been given on earth. Although the meaning of our names may correlate with our lives, the name of Jesus alone gives us our identity and gives our life true meaning. Without Jesus, our true names, being called a child of God, wouldn’t be possible.
I challenge you to look up the meaning of your name too, I hope that it is a fun exercise for you and reminds you that no matter what your name means your identity is in Christ and Christ alone. Because no matter what your name is or means, He calls you His own and loves you tremendously.
Windahl, Z. (2017). The Bible Study (Old Testament ed., Vol. 1). https://www.thebrandsunday.com/collections/all-products/products/the-bible-study-physical
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