Thoroughly Equipped: Name Change

Today’s reading is Numbers 14:1-15:16, Mark 14:53-72, Psalm 53:1-6, and Proverbs 11:4.

But today, my thoughts are still in Numbers 13.  Verse one begins a critical period in the life of these former slaves.  The Lord wants Moses to send men out to explore the land of Canaan, the Promise Land.  God made it clear that He was going to give this land to the Israelites.  And so, Moses obeyed and selected 12 men, one leader from each tribe.  The next verses describe which men are sent and which tribe they represent.  And then we get to verse 16.

16 These are the names of the men Moses sent out to explore the land. (Moses called Hoshea son of Nun by the name Joshua.)

In that verse, we see a tiny bit of information that is very important to the future.  This was a prophetic name change.  Hosea means “salvation”, which is a positive word in itself.  But Joshua means “YAHWEH is salvation”.  Much better!

In one commentary, it was further explained that Joshua’s old name meant “he saves” but the new name meant “the Lord is salvation” and “he will save.” So, this holy new nickname took the meaning of his birth name, “he saves” which indicated a present reality, and moves it to a prophetic reality of “he will save”.  And most importantly, the “he” of the salvation was not a random hero, but the everlasting God, who not only saves now, but will save in the future.   Joshua would live out this truth as he led the people through conquering the Promise land.

Moses must have prophetically known that Joshua was special—selected by God for an important work to come.  When Moses held up the staff of God with Aaron and Hur helping him hold up his arms, Joshua was leading the fighting on the battlefield.  Moses had the vantage point to see that Yahweh was the salvation.  Afterwards, he said to write the details on a scroll and then said, “And make sure Joshua sees it.”  He knew that Hosea regarded salvation, but he needed to become Joshua, who regarded salvation as from the Lord alone.  In the future, Joshua would not need to rely on the concept of salvation alone, for only the salvation of the Lord could help him lead the people in conquering their rightful land.

There are many examples of prophetic name changes. Throughout biblical history we find that over and over there is emphasis made on someone’s name.  In the Prayer of Jabez by Bruce H. Wilkinson there is great emphasis on the fact that Jabez meant “sorrow maker”.  And Jabez, knowing the implications of his name, prayed the following prayer:  Jabez cried out to the God of Israel,

“Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.” And God granted his request. 

                                                                          1Chronicles 4:10 

The prayer that Jabez prayed was a prayer to overcome the meaning of the name and all the implications that followed the name.  Proverbs 22:1 tells us that “A good name is more desirable than great riches”.  For many reasons that I don’t fully understand, a person’s name is valuable and can help or hinder someone.  Before we take this too literally, I need to explain that most of the value or hindrance attached to a name is in the spiritual realm and in the actions associated with the name.  There are many examples in the Bible in which God changes a particular person’s name so that they can rise above life’s circumstances and fulfill all that God’s plan intends for them to fulfill.  A few common examples are the following:

Abram to Abraham

Abram meant “exalted father”.  This is ironic because his greatest struggle was the infertility that he and Sarah experienced.  Abraham meant “Father of Many”.  God was preparing him for the extraordinary.  Not only would he become a father, but would become the father that had as many descendents as the sands of the ocean.

Sarah to Sarai

Sarah was first Sarai.  Both names meant “princess”, but Sarah meant “God’s princess”….preparing the ordinary for the extraordinary.

Jacob to Israel

Jacob meant “deceiver”. After persistent wrestling with spiritual issues, God changed his name to Israel, which meant “Prince of God”.  The deceiver became a nobleman, royalty in God’s Kingdom.

 Saul to Paul 

Saul the persecutor became Paul the apostle.

Simon to Peter

Simon’s name was changed to Peter, the rock on which God built his church, and this was after he betrayed the very One who was going to do the extraordinary work.  God still wanted to use him in an extraordinary way.

Hosea to Joshua

And here we find in Numbers 13 that Joshua, too, had a name change.  Moses, through prompting and a prophetic word from God, gave Joshua this new name right before he went into the Promise land the first time as one of the 12 spies.  The meaning of his new name bore fruit at this time when he returned and he and Caleb were the only ones to believe that God could save.  They stood up and said, “…do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up.  Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us!”  He trusted in the Lord’s salvation, not his own.  And that trust continued throughout his lifetime.

In each of those examples we see a 2-part process.  First, there was relationship with God, and then there was significant change in their ordinary lives, which prepared them for the extraordinary.  We don’t need to change our names to be used of God.  The point is not really about the names themselves.  The point is about us and our view of us.  How do you view yourself?  There are 2 opposite extremes that are equally dangerous and wrong.  One extreme is the puffed up, prideful person who thinks very highly of himself…Let’s look at what the Word has to say about that type of person:

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.

                                                                             Romans 12:3


Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

                                                                            Proverbs 16:16

But what I find more often among women is the opposite extreme.  So many women are bound by the negative view that they have of themselves.  Self-image and self-esteem are hot topics these days, because so many people are crippled by a misplaced view of themselves.  I say misplaced because our tendency is to view ourselves through the eyes of the world, through what others think about us, or through our past.  Many times our past cripples our ability to be fruitful and fulfilled in our present and our future.  And that is just what the enemy of our soul wants to happen.  But God has a different plan for us.  He wants us to view ourselves in the way that He sees us.  Yes, He knows our sin.  Yes, He knows our past.  Yes, He knows everything about us.  But this is an example of how He views us:

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

                                                                             Zephaniah 3:17


The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.

                                                                              Jeremiah 31:3


Revelations 2:17 says:

“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. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.”

In heaven, we, the children of God will be given a precious white stone, with a new name inscribed on it.  This holy ‘nickname’ will be just between us and God; a holy, loving symbolism of all He sees in us, through His never-failing eyes of love.

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