1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
2 And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
3 And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
4 As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
5 Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
6 And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
It has really stood out to me in this study just how many times God reiterates His promises to Abram, and each time He does so it seems to be more earnest and intimate, drawing Abram closer and closer. The last time He led him through a solemn ritual covenant, and this time He is giving Abram a new name.
Receiving a new name is a very significant and privately sacred event. Each of us is assigned a name when we are born. Sometimes this is a reference to someone that our parents respect, but who may not be anything like us. We might receive a nickname from friends later in life, based off of a single character trait or a memorable event, but this also falls short of defining who we really are. But what if we could be given a name by someone who understood us perfectly, someone who had made us, and knew the very purpose for which He had done so?
Receiving a new name from God is a sign of His fatherhood over us, a way that He claims us as His own. A few years ago I was introduced to the idea of asking God what names or titles He has for me, and if you’ve never done this yourself, I recommend trying it and seeing what happens. Just be sure you avoid the temptation of speaking for Him, though. It will only be a significant experience if it truly comes from God and not your own imagination.
In Abram’s case, there were many qualities that God could have singled out while giving him his new name. Abram had fought the armies of Elam, but God did not call him Abram the Warrior. Abram would become known for digging wells later in his life, but God did not call him Abram the Well-Digger. No, God knew that the primary defining trait of his son would be that of a patriarch, a father of many nations, a revered and respected head of a tremendous family. And so his name became Abraham.