Summary: The Changing of the names
Abraham a man of Challenge, Faith and Promise
The Changing of the names
Reading: Genesis 17:1ff
Abram, his family and entourage had first entered the land of Canaan some 24 or 25 years earlier. Abram was 75 and Sarai was some 62 years old. Both well advanced in years, yet willing to follow the direction of the Almighty God into a strange land. God had spoken to Abram at that time and promised that He would make of Abram’s descendant, a great nation, not just in quality but also in numbers. From time to time this same promise kept coming to Abram. Then some 10 or 11 years later when Abram was 86, this promise had worn a bit thin with his wife Sarai. She was feeling the reproach of social convention, in that she was childless, and now being in her late seventies, she sees no way in which she is going to have children. Even with their limited knowledge of human biology, (compared with today’s knowledge,) she knew that no heir was coming from her body. She knew of no contemporary woman who had had children at that age, they were simply did not have children, they were beyond child bearing age. So, as we looked at last time, the world’s way was resorted to.
Some thirteen years on Abram is now 99 years old, Sarai is 86. We have no record of God appearing to Abram for at least 13 years. If He did, it did not hold the kind of importance for us that what took place might be recorded for all time. What we do know though is when Abram was 99, God comes and calls Abram to a life of up-rightness and integrity. He also re-affirms the covenant that He will make of Abram a great nation. For thirteen years or more, it would seem that there had been no face-to-face encounter with the Almighty, but now God speaks. "No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be called Abraham." No longer shall you be known as the "High Father," or the "Principle Father," the Founding Father of a nation, but! you shall be known as "Father of a Multitude," a Father whose decedents shall be populace. Your wife Sarai shall no-longer be known as "Dominative, head person," but she is to be known as Sarah, a noble lady, a princess, a queen. Such titles for a married woman could only be held in perpetuity and security if she could produce children, if not, she were dumped and another who could produce children took her place.
Abraham’s reaction to all this, is to laugh. "Come on God, you have been telling me this for 25 years now, where is the child." It’s not a laugh of humor, but more of the "Oh yea, I’ve heard this all before, still no child though." I don’t know if it so much cynicism, as a wounded man who had not given up, but just did not want to get hurt again. His pride had been dashed, and that is just what God wanted. God was dealing with pride in both Sarah and Abraham. I am able to say because of their former names.
Sarai; whilst it has stewardship as a small element in its meaning, it does hold the overall sense of one who is Dominative. Particularly one who has become that by their own effort, the sense of a self-made princess, and they know it. Abram has in its meaning, haughty, heavy proud. God was saying, "I am going to prove beyond any doubt, that what I have purposed and brought into being, is of Me and Me alone and nothing of your riches, your plans and purposes. I am the source and you are the recipient. It is of Me and not you."