Today’s question comes from a child, who – in my opinion – asks a really, really good one. I was asked inadvertently through his grandmother.
Here goes. . .
“Since it is already so hard to remember people’s names, why in the world does God change people’s names in the Bible? That makes us have to remember two names for one person!”
Now THAT’s a good question! That kid is talking my language! I have a very hard time remembering people’s names – much less trying to remember TWO names for the same person! Gee whiz. . . why in the world?
So, why did God change people’s names in the Bible?
Sarai to Sarah
Jacob to Israel
Simon to Peter
Saul and Paul
Pharisees to ‘brood of vipers’!
On and on we could go.
Though the answer could get extremely technical, and each individual name change could have an in-depth answer of his or her own, the easy way to put it is this:
God made them new.
God took the person that was and transformed them into the people He purposed them to be.
God took Abram (“exalted father”) and made him Abraham (“father of a multitude”).
God took Jacob (“cheater”) and made him Israel (“he strives with God”).
God took Simon (“listen”) and made him Peter (“rock”).
God took Saul (Hebrew name) and made him Paul (Roman name) because he started working among the Gentiles.
In Bible times, a person’s character was often associated with his or her name. So, when God changed someone’s name, it was His way of demonstrating that a person’s being was changed.
The fascinating thing about this is that, for us, though in our culture don’t change our name – it is a picture of what happens when we follow Jesus. Our name may not change, but our ‘being’ does. Our character shifts. Our use for God’s purposes takes new direction. We become. . . new people, or new creations.
So, although trying to remember all these names can be confusing – let them serve as reminders that when we surrender ourselves to the Lord, we become new creatures – set apart for His specific purposes.