When God Changes Your Name

Throughout all of Scripture God has changed people’s names. Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. Abram means “noble father.” Abraham is the “father of many. Sarai is a princess; Sarah is the mother of nations.

Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. 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. (Genesis 17:3-5 ESV)

Jacob became Israel. His name change was dramatic. Jacob means “supplanter.” Israel is “one who strives with God” because Jacob refused to let go of God until God had blessed him. God specializes in changing you for the good. Speaking to his people through the prophet Ezekiel, God says:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. (Ezekiel 36:26-27 ESV)

God delights in making you (and all things) new. Naomi didn’t get that. She blamed God for doing exactly the opposite.

So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the LORD has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?” (Ruth 1:19-21 ESV)

God didn’t change Naomi’s name–she did. God longed for her to be the “pleasant one.” She chose to become bitter. The question in the mind of the readers of Ruth has to be this: will God change her name back. Will the God of Abraham and Israel prevail as the God of Naomi? Time will tell.