Abraham, Sarah, & Isaac • Devotion #3: Sarah’s Name Changed
Holly Boston | Women’s Ministry Director
Have you ever wished you could change your name? Several years ago my daughter Mackenzie was complaining about her name. I told her that originally our favorite girls name was Andrea but by the time she was born Mackenzie was the up and coming name, unique. Her response, “You should have stuck with Andrea.”
According to Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” In biblical times, there was more to choosing a name than googling the top ten baby names. A person’s name was a reflection of their character, their reputation. Throughout the Bible we see God change names: Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Cephas to Peter, and Saul to Paul to name a few. Sarai, wife to Abram, was the only woman in the Bible whose name was changed by God. Sarai, meaning “my princess” was changed to Sarah, meaning “princess to all” which reflected God’s plan for her life. Genesis 17:15-16 records, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover, I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall become nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.”
In addition to reflecting God’s plan, I found this citing in a commentary by James Garlows, “The Hebrew letter H is the sound of breath and generally signifies the breath or presence of God.” But this was the wife of Abraham, “father of Israel,” she had to have known God before this.
A review of Sarai’s life helped me to understand. In Genesis 12:1-2, Abram her husband was called to leave his home, “To the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” Sarai followed her husband to this new land and by Genesis 13:14-16, God’s promise becomes more specific, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted.”
The Bible does not tell us what their conversations were, but I am confident that Abram shared these promises with Sarai. By Genesis chapter 16, we see a wife committed to her husband and fully in support of God’s calling on her husband’s life. There was just one problem: she was aging, barren, and unable to see her part in God’s plan. As a young Christian, I was so encouraged by the testimony of other believers, how God was speaking to them, working in their lives, and directing them. I was not experiencing these things, and I began to question if I knew Christ.
I would imagine this might have been how Sarai was feeling. After all, God was speaking to Abram, not her. With no child in sight and time passing, Sarai takes matters into her own hands and has her husband sleep with her maidservant. She opened the door to a season of personal pain as well as centuries of embattlement as we see in the history of the Arab people.
In Genesis chapter 17, God speaks profoundly and changes the landscape of Sarai’s life. We see her name changed to Sarah and so much more. God specifically names Sarah as the woman He would use to build the nations (See 17:15 above). For the first time, Sarah experiences God’s Word for herself, “The Lord said, ‘I will surely return to you about this time next year and Sarah your wife shall have a son.’ And Sarah was listening at the tent door behind him” (Genesis 18:10).
It is after Sarah hears her name and has a personal experience with God that we see God’s incredible plan come to fruition. Shortly after, Sarah conceived and bore Abraham’s son, Isaac. Generations later Jesus Christ the Messiah would be born.
Like Sarah, when our experience with God is second hand, limited to a great sermon or the testimony of others, our view will be limited by our perspective and our resources which always results in us going our way to our destination. But a personal walk with Christ, grounded in daily prayer and studying the Word of God, will open our eyes and ears to His perspective, give us access to His resources, and ultimately take us to His destination.
If you know Jesus as your Savior, your name has been changed, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1-2 NIV).
You are His, and His plan for you is perfect. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” It is time for each of us to go beyond hearing about the amazing Savior we serve and see Him for ourselves.
Job 42:5 adds, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you.”