“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Well, sure, but the name “rose” captures that smell perfectly, doesn’t it? You see names matter. They aren’t merely random labels we attach to things, places, and persons. That kind of thinking has gotten us in deep trouble as a society!
No, it is no mistake that one of the first jobs God gave Adam was to “name” things! Names reveal (or at least they are supposed to reveal) the thing named.
Look at our Lesson today in Genesis 17:1-9:
When 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. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly.” 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 Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you. And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”
This is a pivotal point in the story of God’s relationship with Abraham and God’s work in undoing the confusion and consequences of Adam and Eve’s fateful choice in the Garden of Eden.
God comes to Abram and offers Abram a choice for his life. God first introduces Himself again to Abram. By the way, notice throughout the Scriptures that it is always God Who initiates a relationship with humanity. God is the One constantly seeking us, even when we ignore Him! God’s introduction is instructive: “I am God Almighty.” This isn’t some paltry deity that only has authority over water or sky or plants or animals like the gods of the pagans. No, this is the Almighty God. God introduces Himself to Abram as the final search of humanity for the Creator. He is what we’ve always been looking for!
Next God issues a command to Abram: Walk before Me and BE blameless. Now, this is interesting because God commands Abram to “walk before” Him, not follow Him. The imagery is one escorting a King, walking before Him as a way of showing obedience to and respect for the procession of the King. The following part comes in the command to BE blameless. In other words, if you are wise enough to realize just Who God is (Almighty) and to properly lead the procession of His dignity and be His loving servant, your life will be free from the blame of either hypocrisy or treachery. You will be one who knows Who God really is and how one should live in the light of that revelation. If you remain ignorant of God’s identity, your life will reflect that poverty as well.
But look at the results of that revelation for Abram. His name is changed to Abraham BECAUSE he reacts to God’s invitation with his free “yes.” And that “yes” is seen in Abraham’s reaction to God’s invitation. He makes a metania! He falls on his face. Not a word from Abraham, only action. God sees Abraham’s reaction, sees his heart and knows this man has made a profound change. And the change in Abraham is so profound that this moment will mark the beginning of a new life for Abraham. So, God changes his name to reflect the new destiny for this changed man!
Today, how has your life changed in your confrontation with God’s true identity? Has this moment of profound confrontation dawned on you? The truth is the chosen blindness we all suffer from at times really does steal from us the unimaginable joy of knowing God and His eternal love for us all. It’s why being Orthodox on Purpose is meant for every person who has, or will ever live!
P.S. Dear Lord, You have changed me so much that You give me a new name! This was Your first command to our father, Adam. You gave him his first task of naming the animals, to teach us that naming things has great power and great significance. But we often fail to remain attentive to this responsibility and this task. Please help me remain attentive and grateful for the “new man” You are creating me to be in the Eucharistic life of Your Church. And help me so embrace my eternal identity to be free from the slavery of lesser identities I’m tempted with in today’s chaotic world. By Your grace, let my new life in You a blessing to all around me. Amen