As we look throughout the Bible we see many occasions where God determines the name for a person. On some occasions these names are selected before birth and speak about God’s purposes for this child. At other times the Lord changes the name of a person when they are adults. This adult name change marks a turning point in their life as they carry out God’s purposes.
The outstanding example of a child’s name given by God to parents before birth is Jesus. In Matthew 1:21 we read about the Lord speaking to Joseph in a dream concerning Mary’s pregnancy, “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (NIV 1984) Other examples of names given before birth are John the Baptist (Luke 1:13), Ishmael (Genesis 16:11), Isaac (Genesis 17:19) and Hosea’s three children (Hosea 1:4, 6, 9).
At other times the Lord changed the names of people to signify a new season and purpose of their life. This can be shortly after birth or as adults. The classic example is Abram being renamed Abraham and Sarai renamed Sarah. “No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you.” (Genesis 17:5-6 NIV 1984) “God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 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.” (Genesis 17:15-16 NIV 1984)
Other examples of name changes are: Jacob becomes Israel (Genesis 32:27-28), Solomon becomes Jedidiah (2 Samuel 12:24-25), Simon becomes Peter (Matthew 16:17-18) and James and John are named Sons of Thunder due to their apparent volatile temperaments (Mark 3:17; Luke 9:53-55).
And in Revelation 2:17 we read that to those who overcome the world, the Lord will give a white stone with a new name written on it.
Our names go before us and create an identity. They can create a sense of destiny for our children as we explain why they were given the name we chose for them. Even nicknames can be important, creating an image or impression, whether positive or negative.
As leaders, we can ‘name’ someone with a nickname that sets them up for positive influence or we can ‘name’ them with a moniker that hinders or creates difficulty for them. It’s our choice and how we steward our influence on others is very important.
What ‘name’ is on your public name tag? What names are you using to describe those you lead? Are you setting them up for success?