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Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. 2 I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 3 Abram fell facedown, and God said to him, 4 “As for me, this is my covenant with you: You will be the father of many nations. 5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. 6 I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. 7 I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. …. 15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
What is in a name? What does your name mean and what does it mean to you? Recently I googled my name on the internet and found out it means “North German man.” That seems to be accurate for in the northern city of Hannover, there are 400 listings in the telephone book for Dettmer. But more than that is what my father said to his eldest son that the name was to be held in honor and never disgraced.
In our text there is some name changing going on. Abram was not an Enoch who was a pretty great example of faithfulness. The Bible simply says, “Enoch walked with God and was no more.” Without getting into it, Abraham made his share of mistakes but possibly this is a bad comparison because we know a lot of Abraham but almost nothing of Enoch. Nevertheless, his name is changed from “exalted father” to “father of many”. From what little I could gather about Saria to Sarah, there is no difference, both mean princess. In fact, in Luther’s commentary, he doesn’t even mention her name only Abraham‘s.
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless. … I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.” “I will bless (Sarah) and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”
Here we have an impossibility which is also called a miracle. The Bible assures us, “With God nothing is impossible.”And how do we handle miracles of the Bible? The answer is simple. “We walk by faith and not by sight.”
Life is lived only by faith. We go to sleep at night in the faith that we will wake up in the morning. We eat our breakfast by faith alone, believing the food is not contaminated and will not kill us or put us in the hospital. We get in our cars and drive somewhere only by faith. We believe the car will get us there and back and without an accident.
When atheists or agnostics say that Christians are foolish and have nothing but faith, they are stupid! They have as much faith as we do- but for them, in the wrong things! By faith we believe that God created the heavens and the earth and all the creatures including us. By faith, the atheists believe that pond scum created them. I believe we worship a higher form of Divine Intelligence than they do!
Now we know the rest of the Story. Abraham and Sarah produced a son, who produced two sons who produced many sons, who produced millions of sons and daughters. Some of those sons were kings and one of those sons was Jesus. And because of Him, as Simeon said, He was a light to lighten the gentiles and millions of gentiles became sons of Abraham including many kings and even nations. With God all things are possible. And with God this prophecy came true.
So now it comes down to you and to me. Are you ready for a name change? In 2 Chronicles we read: “If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” My name isn’t important and neither is yours. What is important is the name that God gives to us!
Our family name is taken from Jesus and that is Christian. Now for our first name, we need to turn to that wonderful parable which Jesus gave us. I call the Parable of the Name. It is found in Luke 15. There we read the last half of it:
“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate. “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when your son who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ ”‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because your brother was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
In the Parable the repentant son said he was no longer worthy of the name, “my Son.” The Father corrects him and calls him “my son.” thereby owing him. The elder brother will not call him “my brother” but rather, “your son.” thereby disowning him. The Father reminds him, this is “your brother.”
So what is Jesus teaching us here? You and I have a name and it is #1. My son or my daughter. And #2. My brother or my sister. Those are is the only names that matter, the name God calls you as His own dear child! And the name we call each other, Brother or Sister! And what else did Jesus teach us concerning names?
He said, “When you pray say, Our Father, who art in heaven…” How did Luther understand this introduction? What does this mean? With these words, God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”
“Abram, you are now Abraham because you have been given a new relationship to Me. Saria, you are now Sarah, because I have called you out of barrenness to fertility and you have very important role in My plan.”
And so it is with you and with me. St Peter puts it this way: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
You and I have been called out of the darkness of our sins into the new life in Christ Jesus our Lord. We have been called to go out into the Highways and byways and proclaim the Good News of Jesus. In simple words, Jesus said, “You shall be my witnesses!” And so that is what we are. Good, bad, fair, indifferent- is up to us how brightly or dimly we let our light shine. But knowing Jesus our Savior who suffered and died for our sins, how can we not but say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord!” Amen!
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