“17 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. 2 And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.’ 3 Then 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. 5 No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. 7 I 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. 8 And 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.’ (Genesis 17:1-8)”
Christianity and Islam both trace their ancestry back to “father Abraham.” But Abraham was not always called Abraham. He was originally named Abram and his wife Sarah’s name was Sarai when we first learn about her. Our passage shares of Abram’s meeting with God after he sires a child with Hagar, Sarai’s Egyptian maid, and at age 99 when all hope of any child bearing by his wife Sarai seemed impossible for she was seventy-five. The actual ages and dates are not as important as God coming to Abram and God initiating a covenant when perhaps Abram felt his future was bleak. God spoke reality into the impossible in the renaming of Abram. Abram would become the father of nations because God was promising to bless him and so his name was changed to Abraham. God made a covenant, an agreement, that God would honor.
In our age of gender equality, I must admit God beat us to it. God’s naming was not just Abram to Abraham but also Sarai to Sarah for she too was important to God’s plan.
“15 God said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. 16 I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.’ (Genesis 17:15-16)”
Perhaps you feel old, forgotten, or too scarred by life to be of much use to anyone. Perhaps the Evil One loves to remind you of your failures. Then again you may be looking back on this year appreciative for all your blessings. In either case God can step into our lives and renew our identities as we step into 2023 trusting him. As you approach New Year’s Eve this weekend, perhaps spend a few minutes pondering what name or title you would like God to give you in the coming year. We can also think of the names we call others and decide to address them not as “hey, you” but affirming the potential within them. We have the power to bless others in names we give others even as God blesses us and calls us his children. Amen!