What’s in a name? Ask Abraham.
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When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, 2 that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, 4 “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 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. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you. 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.” – Genesis 17:1-8
When they unveiled the name of the new ballpark in Arlington, Texas some 20 years ago, the name they chose was anything but creative. The Ballpark in Arlington was its name. Part of that reason, I believe, was because they didn’t have an immediate naming sponsor for the stadium. Another reason – stated publicly – is because they wanted people to know that the Texas Rangers ball club was located in Arlington, Texas. Not Dallas. Not Fort Worth. Not Austin. Not San Antonio. And surely not Houston!
Sadly, the then-new field has been retired and a new ballpark has taken its place: Globe Life Field. Arlington is no longer in the name. I loved the look of the Ballpark in Arlington. Classic. Baseball. Stadium. But not the feel. Hot. Blazing, blistering, brutally hot. Temperature on the field in the summer reached to over 120 degrees. That’s hot! Perhaps they should have called it The Hot Ballpark in Arlington.
Does a name mean anything to you? Do you want to buy a bottle of Soylent protein drink? Just the name is a bit off-putting. Or how about buying a quart of Ripple Milk? Why not just call it “Milk?”
On this occasion God reveals a new name for himself. He is God Almighty (Hebrew: El-Shaddai). This is the first time God reveals this name. There is something new here. The term is quite properly translated God Almighty. This will be a revelation of God’s power. Sarah will bear a son. Remember this. So far we have seen God’s justice. We’ve seen his judgment (the fall, and the flood). We’ve seen his grace (call of Abram), and his compassion in bringing Noah and his family safely through the flood.
Now we will see God’s power. Sarai will have a child. And to mark this promise’s reiteration, two things happen. First God exhorts Abram to walk faithfully and be blameless. Then he will make his covenant with Abram. But now Abram will also have a new name. Abram means exalted father. But Abram is now no longer just an exalted father, but Abraham, likely meaning father of many. Sarai will also receive a new name. She will become Sarah. Both names mean princess. But her name change echoes Abraham’s.
If you ask me to pray, I will end my prayer invoking Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has revealed himself in this manner. I don’t even understand praying “in your name.” Although perhaps it is a way to say that we are praying based on God’s nature and character. But since God has revealed his name, I believe we ought to use it…not in vain, but in prayer, praise, and thanksgiving.
He is not only the Powerful God, God Almighty,he is also the God of creation, redemption, and sanctification: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe we ought to call him by his name.