Many celebrities go by different names than their parents gave them. Check out this short list of folks:
Marion Morrison (John Wayne)
Peter Gene Hernandez (Bruno Mars)
Mark Sinclair (Vin Diesel)
Samuel Timothy Smith (Tim McGraw)
Paul Reubenfeld (Pee Wee Herman)
Paul Hewson (Bono)
Gordon Sumner (Sting)
Julia Elizabeth Wells (Julie Andrews)
Eilleen Regina Edwards (Shania Twain)
Terry Jean Bollea (Hulk Hogan)
Declan Patrick McManus (Elvis Costello)
James Todd Smith (LL Cool J)
Margaret Mary Emily Anne Hyra (Meg Ryan)
Stevland Judkins (Stevie Wonder)
In today’s verses we will see how God changed Abram and Sarai’s names. Even though they'll have to change all their stationary, they'll do so with joy because it shows how God can remake a believer in God’s glory.
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
*** Two weeks ago we introduced Abraham, a man of great faith who became the father of Judaism and Christianity.
*** 13 years after God told Abram to move to what is now Israel, God again appeared to Abram and clarified that Ishmael wouldn't be the rightful heir, but Sarah would have a son of their own.
GOD’S PROMISE RENEWED (Gen. 17:1-8)
1 When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, “I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. 2 I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly.” 3 Then Abram fell facedown and God spoke with him: 4 “As for Me, My covenant is with you: you will become the father of many nations. 5 Your name will no longer be Abram, but your name will be Abraham, for I will make you the father of many nations. 6 I will make you extremely fruitful and will make nations and kings come from you. 7 I will keep My covenant between Me and you, and your future offspring throughout their generations, as an everlasting covenant to be your God and the God of your offspring after you. 8 And to you and your future offspring I will give the land where you are residing—all the land of Canaan—as an eternal possession, and I will be their God.”
*** God works on His timing, not ours.
--- Abraham is now 99 years old. It's been 24 years since God gold him to move to Canaan and over a decade since God established His covenant with Abraham.
--- Many would give up after they didn't see God appear every six hours, let alone decades. But the reality is that sometimes the Christian life is mundane and God is silent. We are called on to trust and obey.
--- Question - What happens to our faith when we think God isn't listening or watching?
*** “I will.”
--- Twelve times in Genesis chapter 17 God says “I will.” God does what He promises.
--- God establishes a new covenant with Abraham. He doesn’t negotiate the terms. He presents it and Abraham must follow just as God will do as He says.
Through Isaac Abraham becomes the father of Israel and in turn Christian nations and people:
Galatians 3:7-9 - "Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 9 So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith."
*** God also says that if Abraham lives with an awareness of God being with him, then Abraham will be “blameless.” It’s as if God is telling Abraham that he gets a fresh start, even at 99 years of age!
*** Question – What would it mean to you to get a fresh start today? (In your career, in your relationships, and with God?)
ABRAHAM OFFERS AN ALTERNATIVE (Gen. 17:15-18)
15 God said to Abraham, “As for your wife Sarai, do not call her Sarai, for Sarah will be her name. 16 I will bless her; indeed, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she will produce nations; kings of peoples will come from her.” 17 Abraham fell facedown. Then he laughed and said to himself, “Can a child be born to a hundred-year-old man? Can Sarah, a ninety-year-old woman, give birth?” 18 So Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael were acceptable to You!”
*** Seriously, Sarah's going to have a kid.
--- God again tells Abraham that he and Sarah would have a son for themselves.
--- Abraham is 99, Sarah is 89 at this time. You can see why Abraham chuckled at this. He hadn’t seen how God worked with human biology to do the miraculous, such as virgin birth.
In fact, Isaac means "he laughs," because both Abraham and later Sarah laughed (chapter 18) when told they would have soon a son.
*** Abraham then offered an alternative with Ishmael as his heir.
--- Think about it – Abraham tried to impose his opinion on God. Was Abraham just amazed that God would make such a promise, or didn’t believe it was possible?
*** Question - Why do we try to offer alternatives to God’s plans?
GOD’S POWER DECLARED (Gen. 17:19-22)
19 But God said, “No. Your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will name him Isaac. I will confirm My covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his future offspring. 20 As for Ishmael, I have heard you. I will certainly bless him; I will make him fruitful and will multiply him greatly. He will father 12 tribal leaders, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But I will confirm My covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this time next year.” 22 When He finished talking with him, God withdrew from Abraham.
*** God gives Abraham a big “N-O spells no.”
--- The good Lord didn’t go with Abraham’s plan, but went ahead with the covenant in place.
*** Question – Have you ever tried to explain something to a child using what you think is airtight logic, only to be disappointed at their answer?
--- God’s ways are not our own, and sometimes “Because I said so” is sufficient.
--- He doesn’t dismiss us outright, though. Note how God says “I have heard you” and responds with compassion for Abraham by blessing Ishmael with many important descendants, including 12 tribal leaders just as Jacob's would.
This, even though God already declared that Ishmael's descendants would cause headaches for Abraham and Isaac's descendants.
Despite the ill-conceived way that Ishmael came into the world, God loved him and had a good plan for his life.
*** Question - Why is it in our best interest that God sometimes says “no” to our plans?
Who had a nickname as a kid, in college, or even today?
Why do we get nicknamed? It is a way for our friends, parents or even employers to define who we are.
In today’s verses we read how God changed Abram’s name (“Exalted father”) to Abraham, which means “father of multitudes” or "father of nations." Sarai became Sarah, both meaning "princess."
--- By changing his name, God is showing that he has the ultimate authority over Abraham's identity, even his very existence, to fulfill His promises.
*** Question - What is the significance of God changing the names of people in the Bible?
(Other Biblical examples: Jacob/Israel, Simon/Peter, Saul/Paul.)
*** You’re never too old for a fresh start with God.
*** Our impatience can make us try and impose our own plans for God's plans. Don't set limits on what God can do!
*** Trust in God. Don't give up. He will show you truly that with Him all things are possible for His glory!