And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. Genesis 4:2 ESV
When Eve gave birth to her second child, he was named Abel. The meaning of his name fit his destiny. ‘Abel’ means ‘breath or vapor’. As the story of his life unfolds, his life is short, just a vapor. He is to be the first martyr for the Christian faith and will be remembered in the great hall of faith chapter in Hebrews.
Names are interesting things. Oftentimes, the meaning of someone’s name holds great spiritual meaning. It’s something we can grow into. I believe God often handpicks names though parents think they made the decision. Names so often seem to fit the child.
In a loving and stable home, a girl named ‘Joy’ will be a bubbly child, full of sunshine. A boy, whose name means ‘man of courage’, will grow up to have spiritual grit. He will go on to surmount daunting challenges. But, let the home be a wasteland and Satan will make sure the child grows up to believe the exact opposite of their name. ‘Joy’ will be visited by depression. ‘Courage’ will experience affliction that causes him to live fearfully.
Can God change our story, our nature, and our name? Consider Naomi. Her name meant ‘pleasant and agreeable’ and for a while, she was those things. Then her husband took her, and their two sons, to Moab. She watched all three of the men in her life die. Her story took on bitter elements so she renamed herself. Instead of Naomi, she was ‘Mara’, which means ‘bitter’. Eventually, through many redemptive twists and turns, God restored her name. He used a Moabite woman named Ruth, from a godless race, to nurture and provide companionship to her mother-in-law. Ruth made one righteous decision after another and married a holy man, saving Naomi, and filling her senior years with joyful laughter.
God is a God of new names. He wisely, and perhaps playfully, bestows a new identity on one who is willing to follow Him to the land of blessing. It’s not an easy journey, as it will involve the complete shift of a former mindset. It will require courage to leave behind who you were to become who you were not. But deep joy and profound significance will follow any who are willing to believe God for their new identity.
He did it for me. I thought I was stupid. For 40 years I was afflicted with deep insecurity about my intellectual capacity. God healed me. And interestingly enough, He used the meaning of my middle name to do it. ‘Eloise’, the name I disliked and hid for four decades, is a French name that means ‘smart’. I think I heard God chuckle.
I am praying for a girl right now whose name means ‘place of stones’. I am inserting her name into Ezekiel 26:36. God can give her a heart of flesh, replacing her heart of stone with one that feels deeply. Instead of stoicism, she will be responsive. Instead of resigned, she will be proactive. Instead of cold, her heart will beat warmly. Currently, her story is a sad one but there is a Father who is wooing her through the prayers of others. He calls her to Himself and to abundant life. Her ‘place of stones’ will become an altar of worship.
You are a life-changer. When pain is associated with a name, You long to heal the disfigurement. Amen