THE CHANGING OF NAME
Now we come to the changing of name. In 17:5 God said to Abraham, “Neither shall thy name anymore be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.” Abram means an exalted father, and Abraham means the father of a great multitude. Although Abraham was a high father, he was not the father of a multitude, the father of many nations. But in 17:5 his name was changed from exalted father to the father of a multitude. In Hebrew the name Abram is composed of just four letters represented by the English letters A-b-r-m. The name Abraham is composed with one additional letter—h. This indicates four plus one. Four is the number of the creature, and one is the number of the Creator. Hence, as four fingers plus one thumb makes a complete hand, so man plus God equals perfection. Four plus one equals five, the number of responsibility. Regardless of how good we may be as the number four, we are still short of the number one. In order to be the number five, bearing the responsibility to fulfill God’s eternal purpose, God must be added to us. What was the significance of the changing of Abraham’s name? It was that God was added into him. Before Genesis 17, Abraham was just Abram, a man who did not have God added to him. But in Genesis 17 the man, and not only his name, was changed by having God added into him. One unique letter was added to the four letters, and God was added into man. God is the perfecting factor. Without Him we are imperfect. We all need God to be added into us. This is perfection.
As the person is the reality of one’s name, so the changing of Abraham’s name signifies the changing of his person. His original name indicated that he was an exalted father. Now God changed his name to indicate that he would be the father of a great multitude. What is needed to fulfill God’s eternal purpose is not an exalted father but a father of a great multitude, not an exalted individual but a multiplied person, a person with a great multitude as his multiplication. God needed a great multitude of people to fulfill His purpose, and for this He needed a producing father. Most Christians desire to be a person with exalted spirituality. The more they seek this kind of spirituality, the more they become barren and individualistic, producing no seed. But God needs us to be multiplied in producing seed, not exalted in seeking spirituality. For this we need the changing of name, the changing of our person. The exalted father has to be changed to the father of a great multitude. The exalted-spirituality-seeking person has to be changed to the multitude-producing person. This requires the termination of the spirituality-seeking self. Even this kind of self has to be terminated so that we may be a multiplied person, not an exalted one, for the fulfilling of God’s purpose.
In 17:15 we see that Sarah’s name was also changed. “And God said unto Abraham, As for Sarai thy wife, thou shalt not call her name Sarai, but Sarah shall her name be.” Sarai means my princess and Sarah means princess. The word “my” before princess indicates narrowness, but princess by itself indicates broadness. Sarai’s name was changed to Sarah because in a broad way, not in a narrow way, she was to be a mother of many nations. In 17:16 God said, “And I will bless her, and give thee a son also of her: yea, I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of people shall be of her.” When God is added into us, we become wider and broader. Without God’s being added into us, we are not only imperfect but also narrow. Although you may be a brother or sister, if you do not have God added into you, you are a narrow brother or sister. If you are a husband who does not have God added into you, you are a narrow husband. If you are a wife who does not have God added into you, you are a narrow wife. What can widen us? Only God Himself. If you are going to be a broadened person with a broadened view and with a broadened mind, heart, and spirit, you need God to enlarge you. Regardless of who we are, as long as we do not have God added into us, we always say things such as, “my interest,” “my profit,” “my future,” “my growth in life,” “my seeking of the Lord,” “my function in the church meetings.” Unless God enlarges us, we shall not care for others. Our name, which is “my princess,” must be changed to “princess.” We say, “This is my day, my house, my time, my this, and my that,” because we are short of God, but once we have God added to us, we immediately become broadened. When we have God added into us, we shall not only become a father of a great multitude but also a princess of many nations for the fulfilling of God’s eternal purpose. We all need such a change, a change which comes from God being added into us to broaden our narrow person.
We all need to be changed from “my princess” to “princess,” transformed from our narrow concept of spirituality to a broadened and general spirituality that we may be no longer “my” princess but a “mother of nations,” caring for others and having the seed for the fulfillment of God’s purpose. This also requires the termination of our old and natural man so that we may be transformed into a new person, producing the seed, caring for many others, and enabling God’s purpose to be fulfilled with a great multitude. For God’s eternal purpose we need to be the “father of a great multitude” and the “mother of nations.” We need to be transformed into a multiplied and multiplying person and into a broadened and general person.
(Abraham—Called by God, Chapter 11, by Witness Lee)