Genesis 28: 16-17 +19: Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven! He named that place Bethel (which means “house of God”), although it was previously called Luz.

In the book of Genesis we read how a man named Jacob changed the name of a place in the Middle East from “Luz” to “Bethel”.  This was based on a personal experience he had with God at this particular place. Before he returned to Bethel God would change his name from “Jacob” to “Israel”. Names have a meaning – names of people, as well as names of places where history is written. When something extraordinary happens on any given day it will have a profound impact on our thinking, on our career, on our relationships, on every area of our lives; and it’s good to remember these crucial moments, because it reminds us where we are going, and it also reminds us who we are.

Life challenges will bring out either the best or the worst of us.  Let’s latch onto the best of us: the seed of faith God has planted in our hearts – and we will experience a name change of our own!  There will always be a noticeable difference between how the world views us and how God views us. We rather want to embrace God’s viewpoint, because He has great plans for us, as opposed to the world’s viewpoint which at best is holding us back or at worst is holding us down. Take Jacob’s parents for instance who named one of their sons Jacob, which translates to: “Heel-grabber”. – Now compare this to the name God gave him: Israel, which translates to “Strong Man of God” and you will get the picture! It’s so much better to base our self-image on how God views us than allowing people to define us.

There’s a circle of trust we want to be part of: We believe in God, and God believes in us. “In God We Trust” is written on our dollar bills, so we’re familiar with us believing in God; but does God really believe in us? – Well, let’s think about it: Why else would God invest the life of His only Son? If there was nothing else to bank on in this crazy and ever-changing world, there’s still this one thing that will never go away: We can bank on God’s love – today, tomorrow, and forever.

John 3:16: “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.”

Psalm 8:1: “O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.”

We have the most adorable cats ever. Yes, I’m convinced of that!  And because they are so adorable they have multiple names. Maya’s second name is Curly Cue – her tail resembles a question mark when she saunters up to us.  Misty is very nosy, and so her second name is Pink Nose. Occasionally we call her Tiger Lady because she’s also a great hunter.

You guessed it – today’s topic is about names. The first man, Adam, was the first to give names, and not just a few, a lot of them!  In Genesis, chapter 2 we read how he had to come up with names for all animals of the animal kingdom, from big Elephant to small Fruit Fly, just about anything God put in his way. Then one day, the first woman ever came along.  And Adam named her “Mother of Life”, aka: Eve.

Name-giving in those days was very intentional.  Names were supposed to reflect the identity of the name-bearer and were therefore descriptive, precise, and meaningful.  There is power to a name! We realize that in name-calling, which is certainly a bad experience but it proves a point. Call for instance someone a loser often enough and that person might end up acting like one.

Typecasting can be another byproduct of naming a person.  When Isaac’s twin sons were born, their names were given based on their first impression. In Genesis, chapter 25:25-26 we read:

“The first one was very red at birth and covered with thick hair like a fur coat.  So they named him Esau. Then the other twin was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel.  So they named him Jacob.”

Esau sounds like a Hebrew term that means “hair”. So their parents named their firstborn “Hairy Guy” while they named their second son “Heel” – which is what “Jacob” sounds like in Hebrew. And when they named their heel-grabbing little son “Jacob” they really associated him with being a Trickster. So they basically called him “Deceiver”. I don’t know about you, but I would not like to be called “Deceiver” for the rest of my life. Thankfully, Jacob did not get stuck in that mold.  As we find out later in the story, God changed his name to Israel, which translated means “Strong Man of God”.

Going from “Deceiver” to “Strong Man of God” is a great story; and we can make this our story. Like it or not, our life experience has a way of molding us, and in God’s hands we will change for the better. We read in Prophet Isaiah’s book chapter 64:8:

“O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.”

Not only are we safe in God’s hands, we also become the best version of ourselves.  I find this truth very encouraging. Ever sighed that sigh: “Oh, will I ever change?” No reason to despair if we put ourselves in God’s hands.  There is always reason to hope!

Last but not least: God’s name. Does God have a name?  If so, who gave Him that name? This is problematic – since God is eternal, nobody preceded Him to actually give Him a name.  So in this case name-giving does not apply. Moses ran into this issue when he asked God for His name.  Here is a snippet of the conversation between God and Moses as described in the book of Exodus, chapter 3:13-14:

“But Moses protested, ‘If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ then what should I tell them?’ God replied to Moses, ‘I am who I am [Or I will be what I will be]. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.’”

When God revealed His name “I Am”, this was the best possible answer Moses could have received. And to this day, God’s answer has given us something to work with! Personally, I view His name as an invitation to get to know Him. Who is this “I Am”?  What does He mean with “I Am”?  What does “I Am” stand for?  These questions are ours to explore;  and God’s door is wide open. What happens if we keep knocking on Heaven’s door? This, my friend, is for you and me to find out!

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8)