Summary: Every name carries significance for good or for evil. But the name of Jesus is above every name. It is the only name that can bring salvation.
Is there something important about your name? In a day and time when it seems that people have begun to name their children just about anything, we have lost sight of what God says is important about naming our children. In Bible times, when children were born, they always given names that carried some significant meaning that would shadow them for their entire lives.
Genesis 17:5, "Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee."
The name Abram meant “high father”, while the name Abraham meant “father of a great multitude”. God changed his name because God wanted Abraham to know that there was only one “High Father”, our Father in Heaven. Abraham would be the one who God would bless to bring forth God’s own chosen people of Israel. The name that God gave to Abraham was like a seal upon the promise of God to multiply Abraham’s family until they were as many as the sands upon the seashore.
If a name was not important and did not carry some significance, why would God bother to change Abram’s name in the first place?
In Genesis 32:28 we see where God changed the name of a man once again, "And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed."
The name Jacob means “one that supplants, undermines; the heel”. Jacob certainly lived up to his name. From the moment of his birth when he caught his twin brother by the heal during their delivery, until the time that God changed his heart forever, Jacob was always attempting to get what he wanted by being devious. He stole his brother’s birthright through scheming to catch Esau when he was at his weakest moment. He stole his father’s blessing when Isaac lay dying by wearing an animal skin to fool Isaac into thinking that he was Esau.
In Jacob we can see all the efforts of man to by-pass or to ignore God’s plan for salvation and to attempt to get to Heaven through his own plans and methods. Just as it took Jacob wrestling with God all night long before he could be forever changed, men and women everywhere will wrestle with their own heart, fighting against the Call of God, arguing with the Truth of the Gospel, until one day, hopefully, they will finally come to the conclusion that there is only one way to Heaven, and that’s God way, through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, meaning “one who prevails with God”. That doesn’t mean that Jacob defeated God to get his own way. It means that he would not give up until he received God’s blessing. Before the “angel of the Lord”, who every Bible scholar agrees was a pre-incarnate Christ, left the fight with Jacob, he touched Jacob and gave him a limp to let him know two things. First, that Jacob didn’t have the physical ability or power to overcome or alter God’s plan, and secondly, that God was giving Jacob a new name and a new purpose, as though he were being “born again” after a fashion into a new life that would give him the ability to be a part of God’s plan for the salvation of all men through his generations of children that would, one day, bring forth the Messiah.
God chose to change the name of Jacob to Israel for a purpose because there is a great significance in a name.
Proverbs 22:1, "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold."
Ecclesiastes 7:1, "A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth."
People have lost the significance of a name in our present society. Either the names they give many of their children are whimsical or they are named with no thought of God in mind.
There is an old joke, and please do not be offended by this, that many Oriental children are named by simply picking up the first thing available at the moment of their birth and throwing it. Whatever sound the object makes becomes the child’s name for life such as “Ping”, “Wang”, “Chung”, or such. We all know it is the “sing-song” language that determines how these names sound but each name still carries some significance.
When the 1960s ended, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district reverted to high rent, and many hippies moved down the coast to Santa Cruz. They had children and got married, too, though in no particular sequence. But they didn’t name their children Melissa or Brett. People in the mountains around Santa Cruz grew accustomed to their children playing Frisbee with little Time Warp or Spring Fever. And eventually Moonbeam, Earth, Love and Precious Promise all ended up in public school.