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For today’s Shabbat Shalom post we’ll talk about God as name changer.
One of the reasons why I love God is that He is a doer of astoundingly-great things. One of those exceptional things He does is to change names.
Throughout the Bible there are examples of God’s name-changing power at work. And God didn’t just change names, He also spoke into those people who or what they were to be as embodied in their new names, even when they were still operating in old name ways.
For instance, He renamed Abram Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude”; and his wife Sarai He renamed Sarah, meaning “mother of nations”. And He did this while as a couple they were still childless and well on into their 90s!
For God has the power to call those things which are not as though they are. Romans 4:17
Another example is Simon. I like this name change best for two reasons. One, because it speaks to the dichotomy of human nature. And two, because it demonstrates the calling-in approach God uses in bringing us into our new names.
Simon was a character. A fisherman by trade. He was a fast-talker and he was belligerent. He could cuss you out at the drop of a hat. Interestingly enough, Jesus called him to be one of His twelve disciples. But, to the extent to which Simon was flawed, he was also faithful and courageous. And Jesus saw that within Simon, as well as solid-unshakable-leadership like qualities that would benefit the growth of the early church.
This is how the Bible records their first meeting:
And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone.
… thou art Peter….John 1:42 & Matthew 16:18
Although Jesus changed his name, within him were both Simon-traits and Peter-traits contending against each other. And we have many examples, because of the twelve disciples Peter is the most written about. His name appears 120 times in the four books that comprise the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John). For the most part, when he’s referenced by his old and new name together—Simon Peter—it’s when his behavior demonstrated the dichotomy of desiring to do good but end up doing evil instead. And in those instances it’s as if he was being called out.
Here’s one example: the Bible says,
Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear….John 18:10
This was Simon acting in defense of Jesus, but it was definitely not Peter-like behavior. [By the way, Jesus intervened by reprimanding Simon Peter and restoring the soldier’s ear.]
The point here is that Jesus knows the dichotomy, the two sides of our beings, and so He knew Simon Peter’s struggle. While others were quick to call him out as Simon, Jesus instead used the call-in approach and spoke to the Peter he was becoming.
Listen to the way Jesus spoke to both the Simon side and the Peter side:
Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift you like grain; but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail….
And Peter said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You both to prison and to death!”
Jesus said, “I say to you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will utterly deny three times that you know Me.”Luke 22:31-34
Notice Jesus called him by his old name twice. I think He did that on purpose to reassure Peter while he struggled with his own Simon-ness. I imagine Jesus placing His two hands on Peter’s shoulders, looking him square in the eyes and with compassion in His voice gave Simon the best assurance—that He, Jesus, would pray him through to his Peter-ness.
Wow! To have Jesus pray for you!
But, no sooner than Jesus gave Peter this assurance than he manifested Simon-ness—he exclaimed his commitment to stand by Jesus to the point of imprisonment or death. And no doubt Simon meant it. But, Jesus told him that what he’d actually do was to deny knowing Him. But notice this time Jesus didn’t call him Simon. He called him by his new name—Peter—using a call-in approach to remind him of what he’s becoming; that is, “stone-like” in his faith and this was at the point where Simon probably felt his worst.
History goes on to tell us that in the end Peter did lay down his life for the gospel and chose to be crucified upside down. Britannica: St Peter the Apostle
Yes I focused on Simon Peter, but the reality is we are all a bit of Simon Peter. Aren’t we?! We all struggle with names or labels others place on us. Calling us out for our flaws, our faults and our shortcomings. But God is calling us in. He wants to change our names and speak into and over us all the traits that come with that new name.
Because Jesus died to redeem us back to Himself, in accepting Him we inherit new names. And we get to choose depending on what our needs are. Feeling abandoned? God calls you WANTED. Feeling like an orphan? God calls you DAUGHTER or SON OF GOD. Or maybe you feel unattractive. God calls you WONDERFULLY MADE.
Shabbat Shalom. May you find peace in embracing your new name and in knowing who you are based on who God says you are.
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