Today’s Scripture: Genesis 17:1-9
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. 2 I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.”
3 At this, Abram fell face down on the ground. Then God said to him, 4 “This is my covenant with you: I will make you the father of a multitude of nations! 5 What’s more, I am changing your name. It will no longer be Abram. Instead, you will be called Abraham, for you will be the father of many nations. 6 I will make you extremely fruitful. Your descendants will become many nations, and kings will be among them!
7 “I will confirm my covenant with you and your descendants after you, from generation to generation. This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you. 8 And I will give the entire land of Canaan, where you now live as a foreigner, to you and your descendants. It will be their possession forever, and I will be their God.”
9 Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility.
So is it Abram or Abraham? Which is the true Patriarch? The answer of course is both. But something happened in this encounter with God that changed who Abram was so much, God gave him a new name. Abram had lived with this name for 99 years. I wonder if it was hard to change?
Throughout the Bible we are confronted with this fact: we have a true self – created by God, loved by God, and held in God. But we also have a false self – ego-driven, self-focused, sin-bound. Paul called this false self “the flesh” but we see it many different times and called by many different names in the Bible. It is the part of us that ignores who we truly are and lives only for ourselves. It’s the part of Abram that made him take things into his own hands and conceive Ishmael instead of waiting on God’s promise.
But here God is once again reminding Abram of who Abram is – his true self – the father of a great nation who serves God faithfully. Only this time God takes it a step further and changes Abram to Abraham as a reminder to Abraham of who he genuinely is.
God may not change our names – but God does want us to live into our true selves instead of our false selves – to live in the Spirit instead of the flesh – to live connected to the vine instead of cut off from it. God wants us to move from “Abram” to “Abraham”.
It’s a lifelong journey to get there. It took Abraham 99 years. But everyday – even today – we need to start identifying the false self when we see it and start living into our true self as a person in loving union with God. It changes everything.
God forgive us for identifying with our old selves, our false selves instead of our true selves caught up in you. Give us eyes to see the ways our false selves operation today. And pull us toward our true selves as we interact with the world around us. Amen