Seamless: Name Changes

“So last week we talked about becoming the Bride of Christ and this amazing symbolism that happens when we become part of the Body of Christ. And usually what happens, as you well know, when you become someone’s wife, your name changes.”

Unless, as you well know, in some cultures wives names don’t change just because they get married. Let’s not think about that right now, their customs don’t matter as much as the point the author is trying to make. Old us, old name. New us, new name. The odd thing about the last video session is that we were too busy discussing Eve, asking “Where are you?“, and talking about what we think about God to talk about becoming the Bride of Christ and the symbolism thereof in the first eleven chapters of Genesis (skipping five and ten, of course.) Maybe it’s in the book (which I don’t have and can’t use) – but it’s not in the video.

He changes our names … There are only a few people in the entire Bible that God actually changes their names. It happens to Abram/Abraham. The reason he does this is to signify that you are becoming the person that I’ve made you, you’re identity is in this, I will keep the promise I have made to you. It happens to Abram’s wife. Sarai/Sarah. Again the idea is the same, I’m going to keep my promise to you and this is who you’re going to be. And then Jacob. I think it’s important that we don’t lose sight of God’s patterns that continue on throughout the entire thing. (Right, because we have a pattern of God changing a few people’s names it just goes to show that the pattern of everybody else not having a name change is unimportant.) What we have is Sarah who didn’t necessarily believe in the promise of God, so she stepped in and took matters into her own hands. Manipulated a little bit. And after that hiccup eventually had the child that God had promised. That child grew up and then had Jacob/Israel.

There are a few instances of surrogacy in Scripture, Sarah and Hagar, as well as Leah, Rachel, Zilhah, and Bilhah. Surrogacy was mentioned in the Code of Hammurabi as well as other Mesopotamian texts. Looking at the story of Leah and Rachel, they saw childlessness as a sign of God’s displeasure while they took having many children as a sign of God’s favor. With Sarah having been infertile for decades, she was at risk of losing everything. God obviously didn’t care about her because He didn’t send her a child. Without a son, there would be no one to inherit Abraham’s property and no one to care for her into her old age when she was widowed. She was at risk of being divorced – after all God said through Abraham the promise would come, so it doesn’t really matter which woman bears him the child. It was Abraham’s right to divorce Sarah and marry a new wife to try to get a child through her and there would be nothing that Sarah could do about it other than to have a son through Hagar. God could have very easily prevented the surrogacy from having happened by letting Sarah have Isaac right away. Sarah kept on waiting and waiting – but God didn’t pull through for her until after Ishmael had been born. It seems as if God’s point was to wait for Ishmael and then step into picture and show off His power. As to the manipulation, that’s a common side-effect of women having a second-class status in any given society. Where a woman’s opinion, a woman’s witness, a woman’s education, a woman’s rights, a woman’s hopes and dreams count for nothing – there’s only one avenue left to them – to play the game and manipulate the players in order to achieve their goals. We see it throughout the Old Testament because women aren’t equals. We don’t see it so much in the New Testament.

Jacob is a manipulator himself, he’s born that way. His name is heel-grabber and he’s always vying to be first, to be known… Maybe there have been times in your life where you’ve manipulated others or you’ve even twisted them or even lied to get accolades to get something that you’ve wanted, to change your situation or make people see you differently… He escapes from this place where he has manipulated his father and taken advantage of him and he flees… and he wrestles him, the stranger, the angel of God. (Genesis 32:25-29 ESV) … And he’s asking him his name to answer the question: “Who do you think you are?” “What is your identity up until this point?” Jacob says I”m that guy, the manipulating heel-grabber. And God says, not anymore. Your new name is Israel, you’ve prevailed… Do you believe that God is able to change you that way – that you can be a different person?

Are all questions going to be like this: The person asked X but it really means Y? At any rate, much of the rest is skippable because in this Bible Study about the entire Bible, the author decides to tells us about the Christmas that she was expecting to get coal in her stocking. Then we’re back with a verse from Revelation 2:17. and then a follow-up from Matthew Henry’s commentary: “The white stone means absolution of sin … it is God declaring our innocence over us.” Matthew Henry was a Presbyterian preacher, a non-conformist who was famous for his commentary over the whole Bible. (His most famous quotation? “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.” Since many Church Fathers were far less kind on that subject, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.) To make the rest of it short: We have a new name written on a white stone to prove we’re innocent. We’re changed people. And that’s pretty much it.

I noticed that so far, she tells an anecdote and relates the whole talk to that. In the first video, it was the story she heard when she went on a tour of a stately southern house about a woman who used a diamond ring to write her name on the glass window. This time, it was when she returned to her high school and looked through the window at the dark hallways and stepping back to see her reflection in the glass. The style just isn’t particularly helpful to me. I remember the Bible Study I did where the teacher started a new series by starting at Acts 1:1-11. Then we talked about the passage, asking questions, going off on tangents. Next week we picked up where we left off. Going through each chapter a section at a time, and sometimes half a section if the section was a long one. We considered whether or not Matthias was the twelfth disciple or if the position was meant for Paul. We wondered if speaking in tongues was limited to the twelve or if the rest of the disciples, women included, were also speaking in tongues. We brought up what we knew about their culture, mentioned what was going on in history, and as a result, I learned more in one class than I did in an entire six-week LifeWay Bible Study. We didn’t ask questions like: “What do you think about God?” “Where are you / is your heart?” “Who do you think you are?” With questions like that – we’re not really learning about the Bible, but ourselves. That’s why the questions are focused not on God, but what we think, what we feel, what we believe, where we think we are at, that sort of thing. I already know me well enough to know that the answers to those questions are immaterial to what we’re supposed to be studying – the Bible, at least, to me.

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...Anyway, that's just how I feel about it ... What do you think?

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