Normally we think about new names when babies arrive—but new names for the parents?
Hagar returned to Abram’s encampment, and when her time came, Ishmael was born. In the last verse of Genesis 16, we’re told that Abram was now eighty-six years old. More time passes. When chapter 17 opens, he is now ninety-nine! It’s been almost 25 years since God promised him a son, and Ishmael, God makes it clear, was not the son of God’s promise. The Lord then announces that both Abram and Sarai are going to have their names slightly adjusted. From now on, Abram would be Abraham; Sarai would be Sarah. In the Hebrew language, not obvious in English, the change in each name is made by inserting a single letter, and that letter the same in both names—the letter he. The Jewish rabbis have had great debates about the significance of this, wondering if God was honoring them by adding the letters from His own name YaHWeH. This much we know. In preparation for this son to be born, when normally we would be thinking about names for the child, God is thinking about new names for the parents! The man formerly known as Abram (meaning “high father”) will now be called Abraham, or “father of a multitude,” for, says the Lord, “I have made you a father of many nations” (v 5). Similarly, we read of his wife, “As for Sarai your wife, you shall not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. And I will bless her and also give you a son by her; then I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall be from her” (vv 15-16). The stage was now almost set for the arrival of the son of promise. But not quite! If you’re going to work with God, here’s the key, found in Hebrews 10:36 (KJV) – “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.”