What’s in a Name?

“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” ESV Genesis 32:28

Jacob means deceiver or trickster. Israel means God strives. For the first half of his life, Jacob was known as “the deceiver.” Granted, he lived up to his name. He stole his brother’s blessing. He tricked his father-in-law. Others tricked and deceived him. His name truly defined his life. However, when he met God, things changed. While not smooth, his relationship with God came to redefine his life. When God first appeared to Jacob, he was fleeing for his life because of his deception. He made a deal with God, that if God would bless him, he would follow God as his father and grandfather had done. God did bless him, and in the end, renamed Jacob from deceiver, to the one who strives with God and prevails. In short, Jacob’s life was redefined through His name, and he came to father the people known as the Israelites, a nation that has striven with God and men throughout its existence.

This long introduction makes this point: names are important. They define us. When it comes to our children, their names will define them. I hope you chose their name not because it sounded cool, but because you wanted the meaning of that name to define your child’s life. Even if the meaning of your child’s name isn’t your dream for your child, remember the phrases and words you repeat to them will come to define their lives. My dad closes every conversation with me by saying “Proud of you, son.” In essence, he affirms his pride in me in every conversation. In many ways, it has named me and built my confidence. God designed our names to powerfully guide and shape our future. Throughout the Bible, names served a prophetic purpose, seen in Jacob and many others if we had the time to consider them.

How are you naming your children? If you have children yet to be born, choose their names carefully. You have an opportunity to shape their destiny. If your children are already born, what do their names mean? What do their names prophesy about them? What other phrases and mantras do you repeat over them? You have the power to shape their destiny through their names. Use it.


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