dimanche 4 décembre 2011

Changing names ... For what!? (Updated)

Two months ago i was ambushed by my lovely little sister. She kept trying to convince me - sort of - that people should have names that have meanings. Something she probably observed in her circle of religious friends. As we went on in our rather funny and animated discussion she seemed to allow only Hebrew names as the sole kind of names people should dare to attach to themselves as the sole mean to obtain divine blessings and favors. Bad luck for her because i don't favor Hebrew names for children .. it is too much antic for me. I like modern names- something like Eric Gatera or Jack Bauer. So no need to suggest me ancient Bible based Hebrew names for my offspring. I'll just look at you with pity and shrug with a smile if you dare do that.

However my little sister wasn't done with me. She wanted me to at least concede that changing names has some level of blessings attached to it. And she had an arsenal of biblical examples. Obviously that was too much to ask of me since i had a different understanding of those biblical stories. Me Think, it seems to me that some people really believe that God speaks in Hebrew, i mean they might really be thinking that God native language is the old Israelite language otherwise i don't get why the insistence of changing names into the old Hebrew names compared to that of other native languages. Why not in Spanish! If someone tells me that God called him a name in Kinyarwanda, he might have more chance convincing me that God talked to him than someone who used a Hebrew Bible name.

I usually don't care about people personal theologies about 'names' or 'numbers' and so on. It just makes me smile and since i see no serious doctrinal deviation with people amusing theologies, i just ignore them. So why this post? well, yesterday as i was walking with friends, someone brought again the story of friends that they know who have changed names because God told them. And surprise - surprise, it was again the Hebrew speaking God! Definitely, his  mother tongue must be archaic Hebrew!

After an evening of reflection and letting bibles verses roll through my mind i said what the heck with this name changing thingy epidemic that is hitting again at some African churches?

So here i am! I am going to say a word or two about that and please don't come and tell me that you changed your name and that i should stop calling you by the name i know you with because i ain't gonna do that, especially if it is in Hebrew! :)

1. Changing names

Though you find this changing name movement among African Pentecostals, i have to admit that my beloved Catholic church is the one that has started all that as always. For strange reasons we are always there somewhere in church history ... anyway, Catholic give new names to people at their baptismal day or
during consecration of nuns or for the popes. Last time when i was with the Islamic community, they gave also new names to their converts. It was funny! I then understood why most Muslims have Arabic names. At least for them it is understandable, those people really believe that Arabic is a divine language (Allah's mother tongues) or something like that. That is why a translation of the Koran in any other language is regarded as being an approximate of the  revelation of Allah and not the true revelation of it, hence the need for all of the Muslims to be encouraged to learn Arabic. But to their credit, at least catholic don't always revert into antic Hebrew names during their name procurement nor to the claim that the new name is from God. This last one is so important because it is really about honesty.

As you now know, i do understand that this phenomenon of changing names to refer to old saints is not new in this world and that i am used to that. That is why i never bother talk about that, i grew up in that. But where i get ticked off, is when people start making claims that i should change my name because it is meaningless and that i should change it into a Hebrew name, then we've got a problem! I know people who have changed names without anything having changed in their lives! Hence, i am not impressed! But i suspect that it is their choice. I respect people personal choice of having any names of their liking .. that's cute if they like it for themselves and i hope they enjoy their new little bible based Hebrew names but please don't think that it is a christian doctrine to be preached and encouraged, because it is not!

2. Some names and Changed names in the Bible

I'll start first with this admission, the Bible do speaks of people having names that have meaning. I'll choose some of those people we have come to like in our Bible stories.

  • Abel, the beloved saints and son of Adam, means in Hebrew (Hebel) emptiness or vanity.

  • Enoch, means in Hebrew (Chenok) to narrow or to initiate
  • Noah, mean in Hebrew (Noach) quiet.
  • Sarai, means in Hebrew (saray) dominiative, ruler, chief  - the other name of Sarai = Sara, means in Hebrew (sarah) a mistress meaning a female noble such as a lady, a queen, a princess
  • Abram, means in Hebrew (Abram) High Father - the other name of Abram = Abraham, 
  • Abraham, means in Hebrew (Abraam) Father of a multitude
  • Ismael, means in Hebrew (yishmael) God will hear
  • Issac, means in Hebrew (Isaak) mockery
  • Jacob, means in Hebrew (Iakob) supplanter (which means one who wrongfully or illegally seizes and holds the place of another) - the other name of Jacob = Israel,
  • Israel, means in Hebrew (yisrael) He will rule as God
  • Rachel, means in Hebrew (rachel) to journey, ewe, sheep
  • Lea, means in Hebrew to tire
  • Laban, means in Hebrew (laban) white
  • Esau, means in Hebrew (esav) handling, rough
  • Jezebel, means in Hebrew (iyzebel) chaste (how beautiful, hein? lol)

I guess you starting to get my point. You see that it is not the name of these people that affected their lives but rather their relationship with God's command and presence. Issac (Mr. Mockery) was blessed and loved by God and became the heir that God chose instead of Mr. Ismael (Mr. God will hear). And Jacob (the supplenter) was blessed and protected by God. Actually, the children of Israel (Those who will Rule like God) didn't always reign or rule as God despite their beautifully meaningful name, the children of those who ruled as God. What we know of them among many other things is that they were crushed by Pharaohs, beaten by Philistines, humiliated by the Babylonians and the Persians and Bullied by Rome throughout their History. Israel is a great name but it is not a formula for success!

3. The source of our blessings

Rahab was blessed and her name was found in Jesus' genealogy not because of her name nor her hooker expertise at Jericho City but because she believed, she had faith. Rahab means Proud! Abraham wasn't blessed with a multitude of Children because of his name. Nope. The name just described what he will become, it didn't confer to him the divine blessing. The blessing came when he became friend of God, when he believed God and that was counted for as righteousness. Sara changed essentially because of her relationship to the man of God, Abraham. Her fertility was not attached to her name but to the promise of God. Promise which became reality when the three guests visited their couple before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. These two saints - Abraham and Sara, by the way are possibly the sole biblical example of people God commanded the change of the names. And even then, their names played more the role of a reminder of their blessing instead of being their blessing. It reminded them that one day they will have a multitude of nations out of them. And for Jacob, the name Israel was not the blessing of the Angel, it described the blessing of the Angel. Ruling as God was his blessing not the syllables 'Israel' used to identified him.

The Character that I like the most is Jabez (Yabets) because his life shows that you don't have to change your name to be blessed. I am not saying that God cannot change someone names, we saw it with Abram and Sarai. However, that's not a rule of God! In 1 Chronicles 4:9-10 
"And Jabez was more honourable than his brethren: and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow. And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.
This guys was called Mr. Sorrowful, Mr. Pain all his childhood and adult-life. But Mr. difficult life knew a secret about prosperity and a good life, he knew and understood that if he ever had the chance to pull it out in life, he needed to pray God, not to change his name. So Mr. Sorrowful called upon the Lord and he had everything he asked of God and Mr. Pain became most honorable than all his brethren who might have had those fanciful old Hebrew names from the patriarchs.

I love Jesus, because he always messes up our theology! He is just the best! He can drive you crazy! You can imagine Jesus sense of humor as he said this seriously with a straight face, " [have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,] I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living." (Matthew 22:32) Why didn't Jesus just use the blessed name of Jacob (the crook) and just say that God is the God of Abraham, Issac and Israel like Elijah did 1 King 18:36, "And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel ..."? Nope! Jesus didn't used Israel but Jacob. He knew better about the secret of a truly victorious life. And some people haven't figured that out yet unfortunately!

Calling him the God of Jacob or the God of Israel is the same thing! God is the God of Jacob! Like it or not, that's your problem, deal with it! Even if we don't like one and prefer the other it wouldn't change a squat about God's theology on blessings. Number 23:23 shows this, "Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!". There are just names that identifies an entity, either a persons or a group of people, but people do not become their name in God's eye.

So please, if you bought into the new fake formula of blessings, do yourself a favor, revise your theology! Whatever your name is or has become, remember that your blessing is attached to the person of God and your relationship to him. If you have changed your name in order to remember God's blessing upon your life,
then OK! That's your choice! But don't seduce yourself in thinking that the name will change your destiny! It won't! And please, If you choose to change names, find at least a classy name, not always those unpronounceable and sometime esthetic-less antic Hebrew names! Come on people! If you lack imagination give me a call, i'll point you to someone who can rename you with taste.

4. What kind of names?

Mary means in Hebrew (Miryam) 'rebelliously'. So God chose a rebel for a mother, if i have to buy into this new philosophy that you are always your name. If that's the case, then the Christian God must have such taste! smile. Here are the thing folks, sometime in the Bible, names are given with the intention to  convey information or with predictive intention, but at other times they are just words used to identified people and nothing else! You really need to absorb this concept at least!

Moses means pull out. He was called pull out because he was pull out of the river by Pharaoh's daughter. Is any one greater than this guy you know of in the old testament? Anyone with a beautiful and meaningful name that did half the amazing things that Mr. Pull out (aka Moses) did? I sure don't see any! People with amazing meaningful name fills the old testament. But one that can be compared with the prophet Pull out, i can't find! The closest in mind is Elijah but even him didn't surpass Moses - Mr. Pull out! Trust me when i tell you that God uses us regardless of our names. Actually, you guys are just tiring yourself for nothing because at the end, we are all gonna get new name. Jesus said, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it."(Revelation 2:17) .. I guess that's why Mr. Pull out didn't mind changing his name. He probably knew that there is another name already prepared for him, so why change now and then change again that name in few years
when i die or when the Messiah comes!

David  was the youngest in his family. His life story is proof that whatever your name is or social place is, God can make your life story completely different. David the youngest, the smallest in the family has  been known as the great king in the history of Israel. Actually it is Jesus who
said ' But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.' Matthew 5:34-35. It is possible that Jesus meant by that Jerusalem as the City of David, where is the throne of David and where the Son of David will reign! Nothing in David names could have point out how great he would be in Israel and in the history of the world salvation. David, the young.

The big winner of the name lottery is none else but our old Buddie - Mr. Judas Iscariot! Judas means celebrated or as some scholars have put it - Praise! Let me immortalize it in your mind. At church you always do Praise & Worship - well in Hebrew it could be said that you do Judas & Shachah. So yeah .. Judas is an amazing name! But what became of the destiny of the disciple of Jesus who was called Judas (praise) of Iscariot? Total annihilation! Thomas my favorite disciple ever, means twin. And Mr. Twin later on was used to bring Christ's salvation to Indian where he died a martyr death for the sake of the Kingdom.
And Jesus said to his 12 apostles among which Mr. Twin (a.k.a Thomas) was member that he will judge the 12 tribes of Israel! Cute hein!? Mr. Twin the divine Judge, who would have thought that his incomparable future was not written in his Hebrew name but in his relation with Jesus? only those who don't have the strange name theology could have given Thomas a fighting chance in this life. All the other would have probably said, too bad Mr. Twin, don't even bother go at the Jesus' interview or audition. He can't probably choose you as a disciple. Maybe you should change your meaningless name and put up a antic patriarchal
name like Ruben, Jesse, Joshua or Judas! Thank God they didn't have that theology at that time!

So the next time someone ask me to change my name, because it doesn't mean anything glorious to him ... I'll send him to a Bible school! If my book becomes a bestseller i might even pay for him that theological classe. lol My name is Eric Gatera and it is going to stay that way! Feel free to call yourself Jochanan bar Methuselah!

P.S: To my lovely Sister credit - after the conversation she somehow rejected her prior view!


The only name that is worth looking at, is the sole name that was given to man  by which we could be saved, the only name lifted up by which all knees bow down on earth, heaven and underground! The sole name by which we can praise and invoke God! It is the name of Jesus! No other name but that name is above all other names! And even that name is related to the person Jesus, without a spiritual relationship with the person of Jesus, demons can kick you up, down and out as you cry and scream the name of Jesus at an exorcism session! So beware! (Acts 19:13-16)

2 commentaires:

  1. Hahaha..Very interesting article there! You forgot to talk about Saul who became Paul in the new testament :).
    What is the meaning of Paul by the way?..lol.


  2. Hahahaha .. you are right .. Mr. Paul the apostle is missing indeed! lol ..
    As for the meaning, here is what i found:

    Paulos: pow'-los - Of Latin origin; (little; but remotely from a derivative of G3973*, meaning the same); Paulus, the name of a Roman and of an apostle: - Paul, Paulus.

    * G3973- παύω : pauō - pow'-o
    A primn. verb (“pause”); to stop (transitive or intransitive), that is, restrain, quit, desist, come to an end: - cease, leave, refrain.

    Making it a bit difficult to know exactly what it means .. but i'll go with the word - to quit or little. :)