Lent 2




What’s in a name?

I wonder what you name means and why you have it? Perhaps it was a parent’s or grandparent’s name and the continuity of family is reflected in your name.

We see three names in the Old Testament reading and all carry meaning.

Firstly when the Lord God appears to Abram, God declares, ”I am God almighty”, in Hebrew,  it is translated, ‘El Shaddai’. It is a name that speaks of God’s sufficiency. The Lord God wants Abram to know that ‘El Shaddai’ is all that Abram and his family need as they move forward.

The next is the renaming of Abram, his name meant Father and yet up to now he only had one son, Ishmael, borne by Hagar his servant. Now God was preparing the way for another son, Isaac, to be borne by his elderly wife sarai. He would have another son and because of that God was going to change his name to Abraham, which means ‘Father of many nations’, a significant change. God changing his name because through Abraham God would work out his purpose of Salvation. It was a way of confirming God’s promises, God’s covenant with Abraham.

But what of sarai, what of her part in all this? If you are called Sarah you will know your name means Princess. The name change for sarai, was subtle, sarai with an ‘i’ at the end of her name, to sarah with an ‘h’ at the end, it would not change the meaning of her name but it brought sarah into the promise of God in her own right. Both would be blessed by the birth of their Son Isaac and that would be the start of a lineage leading to Gods purpose of salvation in Jesus. They were blessed as they walked the path of faith  and so shall we find blessing as we too walk with that path of obedience to Gods will, today. The fact we are still talking of them today is evidence that blessing was true and is still at work today.

Abraham and Sarah were called to walk before the Lord, in other words their lives were laid open to the Lord, a word used of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, of Enoch who walked before the Lord blamelessly and of Noah. It is a reminder that life is an ongoing pilgrimage for us all, who walk before the Lord. It is not that that ‘walking’ gives instant holiness but rather we walk before God openly, he sees, ‘warts and all’. Abraham we are told in the letter to the Romans was not perfect, he did not receive Gods promises because he adhered to every letter of the law, because he didn’t and couldn’t, rather he was made right before God through his faith, he walked by faith and so we are called to walk by faith, for each of us that walk is different yet the same, in that, ‘El Shaddai’ the all sufficient one walks with us.

And so we leap forward to the one named Jesus, whose name meant ‘God saves’, in Hebrew this was the name Joshua. For from the patriarchs through to the prophets and beyond God was preparing a way to bring his promise of salvation to all and now the saviour had come and was calling followers around him as God had called Abraham centuries before.

That walk would be a walk in the way of the cross one of denial of self, and as that was done so they would find life. Abraham and Sarah, though they walked before Christ, were a couple who denied themselves in order to live out the will of God in their lives. Now Jesus was calling his disciples to do the same. The walk is arduous, costly and difficult, but that walk brings life and even Joy.

For as the writer of Hebrews says of Christ,

looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.

So let us cling fast to ‘El Shaddai’, the all sufficient one who will lead us on the path he has chosen for us and take up our cross and deny ourselves as we walk the way of our saviour.

Remember like Abraham and Sarah you are called by name.

The Prophet Isaiah says;

But now thus says the Lord,
    he who created you, O Jacob,
    he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
    I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
    and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flame shall not consume you.

So, what’s in a name? Your calling from God and how precious you are.


  1. Do you know what your name means? Why did you get that name?
  2. What promises of God can you recall and why are they important to you?
  3. What do you think Jesus meant when he told us to take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow him?

Page last updated: 21st February 2021 7:21 PM
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