But now, thus says the LORD, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!” Isaiah 43:1 (NASB)
I was listening to the beautiful song You Know My Name by Tasha Cobbs Leonard recently and it got me remembering. It also got me wondering. What does it mean for God to know my name? What is the significance of calling by name? Names seem to be so very important.
The word for name in the Hebrew is shem. The definition of shem includes more than just a name though. It also includes the character of the named. The Ha-shem Adonai, the name of the Lord, encompasses his reputation, character, honor, authority, glory, and fame. Perhaps for our names it may also include infamy. God called many people by name in the Old Testament, including Abraham (Genesis 22:1), Moses (Exodus 3:4), and Samuel (1 Samuel 3:4-10).
The idea of calling by name also appears in the New Testament.
The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He [Jesus] calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3 (NIV)
The word translated name in the Greek is onoma. It also includes the idea of the character or reputation of the person named. It comes from the word that means “to know.” To say that he knows my name means he knows all about me, good and bad, the infamy and the character flaws, but calls me by name anyway. No wonder he has to say, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you!”
A long time ago (47 years this spring!) I heard Him calling my name. It was a beautiful, clear, full-moonlit night in a small town in the Allegheny Mountains. Our street theater group had been performing at the Reformed Church synod meeting and one of the sweet pastors had invited us to a potluck dinner at his little church. I was the last one in and so was alone when I heard someone calling my name. There was a breeze in the tall pines and, at first, I thought that must be what I heard. But no, a voice was calling out my name. It stopped me in my tracks, and I stood perfectly still. And it came again, and I knew deep down in my spirit it was God calling me. I stood there, hardly breathing, for a long time until my friend came out to ask if I was coming in.
Maybe you noticed that in both Isaiah 43 and John 10 the ideas of being called by name and belonging to Him are combined. In Isaiah God says, “I have called you by name; you are mine,” and in John, it says that Jesus “calls his own sheep by name.” The knowing of a person by name, the calling, is an intimate thing. It is a reaching out in complete love. It requires a response. The answers of Abraham, Moses, and Samuel were all the same: “Here I am!”
I hadn’t known how to respond to His call on that moonlit night. It was a few months later that a good friend led me to the Savior’s waiting arms. And I said, “Here I am!”
I guess what continues to amaze me is that despite knowing everything about me, he wanted me to be his, and that he still seeks me out. He still calls me by name to be his own little lamb and to let him lead me on. And because I have come to know him – his name and his character – I will follow.
Refuge and Shelter
Unfailing Love, unfailing, unfailing
Lamb of God, who takes away my sins
The Amen, trustworthy, trustworthy
Faithful and True
Emmanuel, always with me
You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made. Job 14:15 (NIV)
I pray you will hear him calling your name.
He knows my name
He knows my name
He knows my name
Yes He knows my name
And oh how He walks with me
Yes oh how He talks with me
And oh how He tells me
That I am His own
(from You Know My Name by Tasha Cobbs Leonard)
Listen to You Know My Name here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMnkJ-X8l5s
Photo by bwminseattle on flickr.com https://flic.kr/p/3KRVoJ