“No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations.”
Juliet asked Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” That question takes on a whole new meaning when seen in light of the events recorded in Genesis 17. This chapter chronicles God changing the names of Abram and Sarai, as well as providing the name of their long awaited son.
At his birth, Abram’s parents must have had great hopes and expectations for their son. His name means “exalted father.” How sad it must have been for him to go through life never having the pleasure of a child of his own. Now, at an age where having children might seem to some of us, more like a curse than a blessing, God changes His name from “exalted father,” to Abraham, “the father of many nations.” With this change came a promise that could only be fulfilled by he power of God. Sarai would also have her name changed to one that speaks of her position as the mother of nations.
I love that God sees what no one else could possibly see. If we looked at Abram, we might also want to change his name. We might call him “exalted fatherless”, or perhaps, because of the care he showered upon Lot, we might call him “exalted uncle.” It is God and God alone who could see the work He would do in this couple. It was by the miraculous work of the Spirit of God, transforming Sarai’s womb, that would make her a mother, and him the father, of nations.
While we may not have had an appearance from God requiring a legal name change, the Bible is filled with promises declaring who God desires for us to become. Some of these might seem as far-fetched as an old couple having kids. It is important to keep in mind, God not only makes the promise, but has the power to perform it. We can be greatly comforted knowing the same God who provided the impossible for Abraham, is working to transform us into the image of His Son.