What’s In a Name

There is a new disease sweeping the country among young parents. Psychologists say it comes from having too many choices. It’s Baby Name Regret. Parents are beginning to regret the names they are choosing for their little ones. Evidence suggests names can influence a child later in life and so parents are under more pressure than ever to choose the perfect name. We have seen many actors give their children unusual names such as Apple, Pilot Inspektor , and Audio Science. Parents who give their child unusual names often get frustrated because their unique baby name keeps getting mispronounced. But most parents who suffer from Baby Name Regret simply feel that another choice on their list would have fit their baby better.

My mother once told me that she had picked out the name Glenda for me. However, when I was born she discovered to her surprise that I was a twin. She and my dad then named their newborn twin son and daughter, Randy and Sandy. What can I say? It was the 50s. I have always liked my name and, no offense to all the Glendas out there, but I prefer Sandra.

Names and their meanings have always been significant throughout history, and you see that clearly in the Old Testament. Names often foretold what the person’s character or life was going to be like.

Isaac’s name means laughter, for it was Sarah who laughed at God. And it is significant because it means that Sarah can now laugh or delight in the future. One of the twin boys born to Abraham’s son Isaac was named Jacob which means “heal grabber”. He came out of the womb grabbing the heal of his brother. But Jacob also means schemer, twister, and liar. Jacob’s life was marred by the schemes and lies he told in order to obtain blessing and favor.

Jacob’s wife, Leah was not loved by Jacob. As she began to give birth to Jacob’s sons, she gave each one a name that stated her emotion at the time. First there was Reuben which means “see” and she states, “The Lord has seen my affliction.” Simeon came next which means “hearing”: “the Lord has heard that I am unloved.” The next son born was Levi which means “attached” and she says, “Now my husband will become attached to me.” Leah finally stops focusing on her husband and turns her eyes to the Lord. Her next son is named Judah which means “Yahweh be praised” and she states, “Now I will praise Yahweh.” (Genesis 29:32-35)

I don’t think any of these parents suffered from Baby Name Regret, although perhaps their children did. We do find some examples in the scriptures, however, where God changed the name of some of his followers.

In Genesis 17 God changes the name of Abram (exalted father) to Abraham, the father of multitudes. God then promises Abraham that he will indeed be a father of multitudes even though at this time he was childless. In the same chapter, God says that Abraham’s wife, Sarai (princess), will now be called Sarah which in Arabic word means “to became great in number”. God then blesses Sarah and declares that she will become the “mother of nations.”

Jacob, the “heal grabber”, “twister”, “schemer” becomes Israel in Genesis 32. Israel means “to prevail” and also “to become great in number”. Jacob doesn’t live to see his family become great in number but God does keep that promise through Jacob’s sons.

There is one other name change that many are familiar with in the New Testament, Simon Peter. Peter was passionate, profound, yet impetuous. He was a fisherman, the equivalent of a blue-collar working man. Yet Jesus saw in Peter the making of a great disciple and evangelist. Upon their first meeting, Jesus bestows on Simon a new name, Peter or Cephas, which means “rock”. It does not describe what Simon is but what he will become.
All of these name changes were not Baby Name Regret for God. God bestowed on these individuals a name of promise; the name of the person they were going to become as a result of the transforming power of the Gospel. Peter was not a rock when Jesus changed his name. In fact his other name, Simon, meant “obedient.” He wasn’t exactly that either. But God knew the future of all these individuals (he had planned it after all) and I can’t help but think that He wanted to encourage them all to live up to the calling to which He had called them.

“ To the one who conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.’ (Revelation 2:17 ESV)

If you belong to Jesus as Peter did, then the Lord has a new name for you as well. There will come a day when that name will be revealed to you written on a white stone; a symbol of a debt forgiven. It is the name God has given you at your new birth, a name of promise, a name that describes who you are becoming. Perhaps my new name will be “Glenda” which means “holy and good”, or it may stay Sandra, which means “defender of men”. Whatever it is I know that it will wonderfully describe the woman I have become as a result of transforming power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. How thrilling it will be to hear that name for the first time spoken by my Lord and Savior, the name above all names, Jesus.

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