John Bradshaw - Your New Name
This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. Family Feud, Wheel of Fortune, Let's Make a Deal, The Price Is Right, game shows, they got their start on radio and TV in the late 1930s. And today, the commercial television landscape features numerous game shows. In 1940 a game show called Truth or Consequences debuted on radio. It aired on television from 1950 to 1988. On April the 1st, 1950, host Ralph Edwards announced that the town of Hot Springs, New Mexico, had agreed to change its name from Hot Springs to Truth or Consequences for the right to host a 10th anniversary episode of the game show in their town.
It was a publicity stunt, and it worked. We're still talking about it more than 70 years later, decades after the program went out of production. And Hot Springs, I mean, Truth or Consequences, saw tourism numbers go through the roof. Truth or Consequences isn't the only town to have changed its name. In August of 2018, Mayo, Florida, temporarily changed its name to Miracle Whip in an advertising stunt. Get that? From mayo to Miracle Whip. But other name changes have been permanent. New Amsterdam became New York City. Saigon became Ho Chi Minh City, and Constantinople, Turkey, became Istanbul.
People change their names. Marilyn Monroe was born Norma Jeane Mortenson. Musician Elton John was born Reginald Dwight. And actor John Wayne's given name was Marion Morrison. Boxer Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali, and basketballer "Lew" Alcindor became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, both men changing their names following their conversion to Islam. And there's an interesting point. Some towns change their name on a whim. Hot Springs, New Mexico, won a competition for the purpose of publicity. Some people change their name because, well, because Judy Garland sounds a lot more Hollywood than Frances Gumm, Garland's real name. But notice with Kareem and Ali, they changed their names because of a fundamental shift in their thinking to reflect their new belief systems. Which leads us to some of the most famous name changers in history.
In the book of Genesis, several people have their names changed...by God. One of them was Abraham, who started life as Abram. And this is important because, according to the Bible, one day you are going to be given a new name by God Himself. Why is God going to give people a new name? Let's look at a few case studies and find out. In Genesis 17, Abram is 99 years old. The background: Abram and Sarai were unable to have children. Abram tried to help God out of what was undoubtedly a tough place, humanly speaking.
Sarai suggested Abram take Hagar, her maid, and father a child, which happened. But that child would never be the child of promise, and the situation became incredibly complex. You would hope that Abram would learn his lesson, and evidently he did. God renewed His covenant with Abram, saying, "I will make my covenant between me and you, and will multiply you exceedingly". God then went on to say, "No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you a father of many nations". His name was changed from Abram to Abraham. Abram likely means something very much like "Exalted Father," and while it's not easy to know the precise meaning of Abraham, it's most likely something close to "Father of a Great Number".
So you see what happened there. Abraham's experience changed, and God signified that by changing his name. There was a change in direction, which followed a change of heart, and then God changed his name. So let's look at another case where this happened. There are several in the Bible. Abraham's son was Isaac. Isaac's wife Rebekah was infertile, but in answer to prayer Rebekah became pregnant with twins, Jacob and Esau. Esau was born first, Jacob second, with Jacob holding Esau's heel when he was born. The story is well known. Esau, as the oldest, was entitled to the birthright, certain responsibilities and privileges, including a financial advantage, along with the spiritual leadership in the family. Jacob took advantage of Esau's extreme hunger one day when Esau sold him the birthright for a plate of food. Esau basically said, "I'm about to die of hunger, so the birthright would be no use to me".
That was an expensive meal, and it was a dirty trick on the part of Jacob. And on top of that it demonstrated an utter lack of faith in God. Jacob already knew the birthright and all that came with it would be his. God had told his mother Rebekah, "The elder shall serve the younger". There was no need for Jacob to wrong his brother, but he did it anyway. And on top of that, Jacob and his mother Rebekah concocted an elaborate plot to deceive the boy's father Isaac. He was an elderly man in failing health with poor eyesight, and they tricked him into blessing Jacob when Isaac thought he was blessing Esau. Isaac was disappointed he'd been deceived. Esau was angry.
So angry the Bible says he hated his brother Jacob. Rebekah advised Jacob to flee for his life, so he did, traveling hundreds of miles to his uncle Laban's home. Abraham occupied a very special place in the world. He was called to be not only the father of many nations, but the progenitor of the Messiah. The Messiah would be his descendant. Jesus would be his descendant. Abram needed a change of heart, and he experienced it, and God signaled that heart change by giving him a new name. Now, here's his grandson, a complete scoundrel, cheating his twin brother, cheating his own ailing father. And yet God didn't give up on him. He gave Jacob the beautiful vision of a ladder connecting earth with heaven. God prospered Jacob when Laban tried to rip him off. Then when Jacob later learned that his brother Esau was heading in his direction, he cried out to God. He believed he was in a tough place.
And then something interesting happened. The Bible says, "There wrestled a Man with him until the breaking of the day". This was the pre-incarnate Christ wrestling with Jacob. Hosea wrote that "he wept, and made supplication unto Him". Jacob wrestled with the Angel all though the night. The Angel said, "'Let me go, for the day breaks.' But he said, 'I will not let You go unless You bless me!'" And then this: "So He said to him, 'What is your name?' He said, 'Jacob.' And He said, 'Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.' Then Jacob asked, saying, 'Tell me Your name, I pray.' And He said, 'Why is it that you ask about my name?' And He blessed him there. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: 'For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.'" That's Genesis 32, verses 27 through 30. God changed Jacob's name that night. Now, why would He do that? And how is that relevant to you? I'll tell you in just a moment.
Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. Michael King's name was changed to Martin Luther King Jr. Samuel Langhorne Clemens? That's Mark Twain. Former president Gerald Ford was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. And Jacob, the son of Isaac in the Old Testament, had his name changed, except in his case, his name was changed by God. And here's why. The name Jacob means "supplanter, deceiver". A supplanter is one who takes or usurps the place of another. Israel means "He Fights" or "God Fights" or "One Who Struggles With God". Martin Luther King Jr.'s name was changed from Michael King after his father traveled to Germany and learned about Martin Luther. Former president Ford was adopted as a child, and his name changed then.
Samuel Clemens wrote under the non de plume Mark Twain because... well, I don't know. Sam Clemens sounds to me like a pretty good author's name, surely. Maybe he thought it wasn't as catchy as Mark Twain. But Jacob's name was changed to Israel for very different reasons. After all of the missteps and misjudgments and misdemeanors Jacob had been responsible for, he came to a point in his life where he was truly repentant. And as evidence that he'd been forgiven, his name was changed from one that was a reminder of his sin to one that commemorated his victory. Jacob was a new man. He was God's man. He'd been through his time of trial and, to a certain degree, purification, and God acknowledged that by changing his name to Israel. The children of Israel were very literally the children of Jacob, the descendants of Jacob.
Jacob had a heart change so remarkable, so impactful that God changed his name to recognize that the man with the new name was also a man with a new heart. We're going to see in the book of Revelation that God wants to give you a new name. That's significant: a new name. Abraham's wife Sarah was also given a new name. Well, more accurately, Sarai was given a new name, and that name was Sarah. This name change was a sign of the covenant God had established, a sign that the promise would come through Sarah. "God said to Abraham, 'As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her.'" - Genesis 17:15 and 16.
God's way has been that there are times when a person enters a new phase of their experience, and that person's conversion or refinement or remaking has been acknowledged by the bestowal of a new name. Evidently, the devil works on that same plan. About 600 years before the birth of Jesus, the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar invaded Israel and took the city of Jerusalem. He took the king, Jehoiakim. He took valuables. And he took "some of the children of Israel and some of the king's descendants and some of the nobles, young men in whom there was no blemish, but good-looking, gifted in all wisdom, possessing knowledge and quick to understand, who had ability to serve in the king's palace, and whom they might teach the language and literature of the Chaldeans". You see that in Daniel, chapter 1, verses 3 and 4.
So they would be educated, or re-educated, for the purpose of advancing Babylon, and they were renamed. Daniel was named Belteshazzar. His friend Hananiah became Shadrach. Mishael was christened Meshach, and Azariah was given the name Abed-Nego. The name Daniel means "God Is My Judge". Hananiah means "Jehovah Is Gracious". Mishael means something like "Who Belongs to God"? While Azariah means "Jehovah Helps". Those are names given to remind an individual of his or her purpose, of their blessings, of their relationship to God, their dependence on God. But their names were changed...and for a purpose. While it's not 100 percent clear what each of the four new names mean, Nebuchadnezzar said later that Daniel's new name of Belteshazzar had been given "according to the name of my god".
Abed-Nego is clearly a name that honors pagan deities. They were wanting to make these young men Babylonian, so they gave them new names signifying that they were in the service of a new master and should therefore honor new gods. When Joseph was taken to Egypt, Pharaoh gave him a new name: Zaphnath-Paaneah. The kings were saying, "You're on a new team now. You're serving a new god now". And they changed their names to signify that. The new name was to lead a change in the heart. Only in the cases of Joseph and Daniel and his friends, that change of heart never happened because they were faithful to God.
Now, we see in Revelation something really significant. In the letters to the seven churches, Jesus addresses Pergamos and says this: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it". Revelation 2:17. Isn't that interesting? God intends to give you a new name. So how does a person receive a new name from God? And why? And what might it be? We'll look at that in just a moment.
Thomas Mapother IV, that's the given name of the actor Tom Cruise. Nobel Prize-winning musician Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman. And Peter, the brother of Andrew in the New Testament, the man who walked on water, denied Jesus, and once caught a fish with a gold coin in its mouth, was Simon until Jesus named him Peter. Peter means "a stone". You might say "a rock," except that Jesus made the distinction between Peter and Himself by saying, "You are Peter", a stone, "and upon this rock", meaning Jesus, the Rock of the Bible, "I will build my church". Jesus the immovable rock. Peter the rolling stone.
Jesus gave Simon his new name of Peter to say something about what Peter's character would be. He'd be firm, but not the finished article, not the mountain out of which his stone was taken, that's Jesus. It's as though Jesus was saying, "Simon, you're going to be important, foundational to the church. You'll have qualities, but remember that you're small, a stone. Remember you are not the boulder. You're not the rock of Gibraltar". And it's when Peter forgot that he was small and not big, that he fell. "I'll never deny You," he told Jesus. And then he denied Jesus three times on the night before Jesus was crucified.
Now, more often than not, in the Western world we don't name children based on the meaning of their name. For example, I'm John, not because my name means "God Is Gracious," but because my father's name was John, and his grandfather's middle name was John. I'm thinking that few of the little Liams running around at the moment were named Liam because of the meaning of the name, "With Gilded Helmet". Something to keep in mind is this: What a name means often depends entirely on which baby name book you read the definition in. But in the last book of the Bible we see Jesus say this: "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from my God. And I will write on him my new name". Revelation 3, verse 12.
This is a repeat of the thought expressed in Isaiah, where God says, "The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name". Isaiah 62:2. God was promising His people a new experience. "For Zion's sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns". That's still to be fulfilled in God's people. And God says that's the salvation experience when His people will be "a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God".
A new experience and a new name signifying that experience. In this context, a name represents or indicates character, and what Jesus says to us here is that when you surrender to Him, He'll develop in you a character like His own. You can manifest the character of Christ. It's worth thinking this through. This is a high calling. And God's not talking about something half hearted. He isn't talking about cultural Christianity, make-believe Christianity, but real, deep, abiding faith in Him. This isn't acting a part, but fully surrendering your life to God so that your experience is new and Jesus is living His life in you. And that's the promise of Scripture.
Second Corinthians 5, verse 17: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new". In fact, that's the privilege of Scripture. I wonder if a lot of people aren't selling themselves short by not coming up to the experience God wants them to have... not in church when they could be, not reading the Bible, not sharing their faith, not experiencing a meaningful prayer life, just not taking all God wants to give. And it's an experience anyone can have. Look how God puts it: "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you will keep my judgments and do them". That's found in Ezekiel, chapter 36.
This is what God does in a person's life: "I will give you a new heart. I will put a new spirit in you. I will take away your heart of stone. I will give you a heart of flesh. I will put my Spirit within you". God wants to work in your life so fundamentally that you have a new character. Christianity isn't just learning to live by a new set of rules. It's a heart change, a mind change. It's a character change. God doesn't want you living in this world bound to the old person you used to be. He wants you to be free from that old life, free from the old bad habits, free from the people who dragged you down, the thought processes that dragged you down, the old ways that dragged you down. God wants you free from all of that.
In Paul's day there were believers who insisted everyone had to follow the Jewish beliefs that were made obsolete when Jesus died on the cross, the ceremonial feast days and so forth. But Paul wrote, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation". Jesus spoke to a man named Nicodemus and said to him, "You must be born again". And that's the work God can do in your life, the work He will do in your life when you open up your heart to Him. So what would that new name be that God promises to give you? Well, we can't possibly know, but no doubt it'll be a name that you're happy with, most likely tailored to suit your experience and your character.
It's one of those things we'll have to wait until heaven to find out. But this side of heaven, you can have the experience in faith that God wants you to have. You can live with integrity. You can live with your head held high. The old life doesn't have to define you. And the person you were can be just that, the person you were. Like when Paul wrote to the Corinthians and said, "And such were some of you". Notice that? "Such were some of you". You were a certain way. But you're not now, because Jesus has entered your heart and brought His righteousness and His peace and His grace. Is it time to let God do that new work in you? To take away the old and bring in the new? You can make a decision right now to receive a new heart, a new character, and, eventually, a new name. We're gonna pray about that in just a moment.
Let me pray with you now. Let's pray.
Father in heaven, I thank You today for Jesus and that He died so that we could be changed so thoroughly that our character is made new, that one day You'll give us a new name, recognizing our new experience. Friend, do you want that? Do you feel like there's something missing? Something lacking? You've seen the cracks in your experience, your lack of faith perhaps. You're wanting to be all in with Jesus. Father, I'm praying for that person right now who wants a new life, a new heart, a new experience. Connect us with Your heart so inextricably, fill us with Your Spirit so completely that the character of Jesus and Jesus only is seen. This is our prayer in Jesus' name, amen.