15Hagar bore Abram a son; and Abram named his son, whom Hagar bore, Ishmael. 16Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.
1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. 2And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous." 3Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him, 4"As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 5No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8And I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God."
9God said to Abraham, "As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12Throughout your generations every male among you shall be circumcised when he is eight days old, including the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring. 13Both the slave born in your house and the one bought with your money must be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant."
Naming a baby, across almost all human cultures, carries a certain significance: the name conveys the hope of the child's destiny. It is true in some cases that a name simply describes what the child looks like. For example, when my brother was born, he was born big and round. Round also was his face, so my grandfather named him (in translation) "round face." All the children of our generation have the same first name -- "Yong" -- which means "face" or "countenance" and it's the middle name that distinguished one child from another. In my brother's case his middle name is "Ju," meaning round. I'm sure there must be some deeper meaning to "round" but then again it may just mean "round."
When Abram was born, he was named 'Abram'. The most likely meaning behind this name is "Exalted Father." More precisely, the name probably had a reference to God, so 'Abram' would have meant "[God is] Exalted Father." As names go, this is a perfectly good name -- as good as "round face."
If Abram's name was perfectly good, what reason was there to change the name? A change in destiny.
Out of an encounter with God, not always but sometimes, a person's name gets changed by God, to indicate that there's a greater destiny than the person would have thought otherwise. It's not just Abram. Some others in the Bible whose name got changed: Sarai --> Sarah; Jacob --> Israel; Simon --> Peter; Naomi --> Mara; Saul --> Paul.
So, from "[God is] Exalted Father," Abram, to Abraham, "Father of Many." The very name is stamped with the change to a greater destiny.
"Yong Ju" to "Edward," too: [Edward is an English and Polish given name. It is derived from the Anglo-Saxon form Ēadweard, composed of the elements ead "wealth, fortune; prosperous" and weard "guardian, protector".] My brother's name, Edward (his Catholic name when he was born), actually describes him well. He amasses wealth and he is a guardian, a protector.
Now we should not feel the need to change our names, legally speaking. The greater truth in all this is that our encounter and growing relationship with God opens up for us a greater destiny in Christ that in our natural thinking we would not have perceived.
What, then, is your greater destiny?
May the Lord encounter you in the depths of your soul and in the deep recesses of your dreams. May you be stirred up to live fully for Him. And, out of a true heart-to-heart encounter with the Lord who loves you, may you perceive your greater destiny. In Jesus' name, amen.