Your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. Genesis 17:5
Seeking to affirm some children who live on the streets in Mumbai, India, Ranjit created a song of their names. Coming up with a unique melody for each name, he taught them the tune, hoping to give them a positive memory related to what they’re called. For children who don’t regularly hear their name spoken in love, he bestowed on them a gift of respect.
Names are important in the Bible, often reflecting a person’s character traits or new role. For instance, God changed the names of Abram and Sarai when He made a covenant of love with them, promising that He would be their God and they would be His people. Abram, which means “exalted father,” became Abraham, which means “father of many.” And Sarai, which means “princess,” became Sarah, which means “princess of many” (see Genesis 17:5, 15).
God’s new names included the gracious promise that they would no longer be childless. When Sarah gave birth to their son, they were overjoyed and named him Isaac, which means “he laughs”: “Sarah said, ‘God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me’ ” (Genesis 21:6).
We show honor and respect to people when we call them by name and affirm who God has created them to be. A loving nickname that affirms someone’s unique qualities as one created in the image of God can do the same.
How do you feel about your name? When have you been able to name something in a friend or family member that reflects who they are?
God of all names, You made me in Your image and love me. Shape me and mold me to be more like You.
At age seventy-five, God promised Abram he would be the father of “a great nation” and his descendants would possess Canaan (Genesis 12:2, 7). In Genesis 13:15–16, God elaborated on these two promises. Responding to his doubts, God assured Abram that his heir would come from his own body (15:3–5). God then incorporated these two promises into the Abrahamic covenant: “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram” (v. 18). This is the first time the word covenant was used of God’s promises to Abram. Thirteen years later, He enlarged the posterity blessing, making Abram “the father of many nations” and changing his name from Abram to Abraham (17:4–5).
Learn more about the covenants of the Old Testament.