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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Salter Goodwin

When God Names You

I was 7 or 8 when I tried to change my name. I thought I had that authority. After all, it was my name, wasn’t it?

My given name, Deborah, sounded harsh and formal, but my middle name, Marlene, sounded mysterious, like a name I could fill with whoever I wanted to be. So I announced to my family that I wanted to be called Marlene. I wrote it on my school papers.

It didn’t work. I guess naming myself wasn’t something I could initiate.

And yet, we name ourselves so easily. Not with names pulled from a book or because we like one name more than other. We name ourselves not smart, insecure, too loud, not strong enough, not good enough, too short, too large or any other negative that captures some problem we wish we didn’t have.

What do you think Sarai called herself in the dark moments of her life when everything she wanted seemed to go south? Her plan to give Abram an heir exploded as her worst nightmare. Her mistreatment of Hagar sent Hagar away only for God to bring her back.

Sarai was on a steep learning curve. All her well-plotted plans imploded. Only the plans that God put in place saved Sarai.

Then, when Sarai feels she can do nothing else to make her dream come true, God steps in again. This time He doesn’t change circumstances or people; he changes her name.

She had lived into her senior years as Sarai, a princess in her father’s eyes. Somewhere she misplaced her tiara because there was nothing royal or privileged about her life anymore, at least from her viewpoint.

But God had a different plan and He wanted Sarai to know it.

Though this transforming message came to Abram in another covenantal conversation, this time God specifically named Sarai as a partner.

Or rather re-named her. I like the way the New Living Translation shares the beginning of this conversation. “God said . . . Regarding Sarai. . .” (Genesis 17:15)

It sounds like the beginning of a reprimand, but it wasn’t. God had been working on Sarai through every failed, controlling plan she made and in every vulnerable circumstance she experienced. He was ready to show Sarai who He believed she was. He renamed her. So He addresses Abraham by his new name to say:

From now on her name will be Sarah. And I will bless her and give you a son from her! Yes, I will bless her richly, and she will become the mother of many nations. (Genesis 17:15)

When I was in Israel, our guide told us something about Jewish names. He told us that the ah at the end of a name was like the breath of Jevho-VAH. Think about Eli-JAH, Eli-SHA, Ezr-A, Nehemi-AH, Jeremia-AH. Joshu-AH

God changed the end of Sarah’s name with His breath. Now she was not just Terah’s princess or even Abraham’s. God wanted Sarah to know that she was His princess. God’s promise to Abraham had always included Sarah. While God never rescued Sarah from the consequences of her failed plans, He saved her when she couldn’t save herself.

We need to know our God-breathed name. We need to know what promises God makes to us in how He names us because God will always use His resources to accomplish His promises. We need to stand in the confidence of who God believes we are despite the ways anyone else, including ourselves, have brought us down.

Want a daily reminder of who you are to God? Read the piece below as if God is delivering these words personally. Click here if you want a printable copy so you can read it anytime you forget.

Insert your name)

Before your birth,

from within the womb,

I called you by name.

Do you understand this?

I have called you by name; you are mine.

I ask you to wear this You-Are-Mine name as your new identity

to remind you that you were created to be like me

in true righteousness and holiness.

You are being renewed in the image of Your Creator.

Don’t let the names you call yourself

or the names you think others call you

mar this renewal.

You are my handiwork before you were anyone else’s.

You are the apple of my eye.

I have called you out of all the people on the face of the earth

to be my treasured possession.

I have written your name on the palms of my hand.

You are my beloved and I want to be yours in the same way.

Can a mother forget her child,

feel no love for the child she birthed?

In the same way I cannot forget you whom I created and named.

I will be a Father to you and you will be my son or daughter.

If anyone tries to make you believe anything else,

stand still and quiet the intrusive voices

until all you hear is mine reminding you,

Before you were born and named by your parents,

I named you mine.

Do not let anyone else un-name you!

Based on scripture from Isaiah 49:1, 43:1; Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10, Psalm 17:8, Deuteronomy 7:6, Psalm 49:16, Song of Songs 2:16, Isaiah 49:15, 2 Corinthians 6:18, Psalm 46:10.

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