‘Do not be afraid for I have redeemed you, I have called you by name – you are mine.’
‘He knows my name’ was the theme of the last Jobels taken by our very own interns. (Isaiah 43: 1)
They very competently covered the theme but as I’ve been a part of pulling the programme together it’s led me to think the subject through for myself. If you were at Jobels, you would have been a part of discussing the importance of names and the damage that names can have when they are given without thought. Some of us will have been bullied and will remember, not fondly, the names we were called. Some of us perhaps have called others names, if we’ve ever stopped to think about it, we will remember the hurt we have caused. None of us really can be without blame as we’ve all taken our turn at saying hurtful things.
I’m sure when you think back over your life you remember not only the names you were called but also the way those names were said. You might remember a parent shouting your name when you’d been naughty or you might be able to think back to a time when your name was called fondly, or when you got lost as a child and a parent was frantically trying to find you! In my experience this usually ends in a sore behind!
It reminds me of a few occasions when Jesus spoke to people very directly using their name. For example, in Luke 10, we know that Mary and Martha had an unplanned visit from Jesus. One of them sat at His feet, loving Him and listening to His every word and the stories He had to share. The other, Martha, was in a right flap! She couldn’t get her head round it all and was getting more and more worked up by the second. Eventually she explodes in a rage and basically has a go at Jesus about the situation. He doesn’t respond fiercely or even rebuke her, I’m sure He saw it coming with His infinite wisdom. He responded using her name… ‘Martha, Martha’. Perhaps to help her calm down. He met her rage with gentleness (there’s a little lesson for us) and a gentle word turned away wrath. I perhaps would have told her to shut up and go and get me a cheese and chip butty from the kitchen!
He needed to get her attention and He used her name to do it.
Who else can we look at, what about Peter? Jesus changes his name altogether and no matter what his behaviour was like Peter was on a path to becoming a totally different man. He was the rock on which the church would be built and this was particularly helpful after such an epic failure of being so ashamed of Jesus or afraid of death that He denied Him 3 times.
Perhaps God has done that with you? You came to faith thinking that you were forever going to be the way you are but the thing is that God has good works planned for you to do. He has people for you to meet and tell about Him and what He’s done. When you came to Jesus you actually laid down all that you are, and all that you will be. God’s plan is actually to make you like Jesus (Romans 8 tells us that) so it was never His intention to leave you the same as what you were or are now.
In 10 years’ time the situation that leaves you at the end of your rope now, could cause you next to no stress at all – this would only be possible because of the work He does in you, surely that is a good thing!
Lastly let’s think about Lazarus – I’m sure we can remember the story where Lazarus has died and Jesus goes to the tomb where he is and calls in a loud voice “Lazarus! Come out!”
Jesus used his name to restore Lazarus to his rightful place. Maybe this story relates to you today? Maybe you’ve felt bound in sin or stress, or perhaps you’re just in a place that you shouldn’t be. If that applies to you, I believe God would remind you that He is calling your name today and that there are better things ahead if you just listen to His voice and trust His way rather than your own.
The Isaiah verse talks about a fond ownership. Just like a father looking out over a football field at the child on the pitch or a mother looking at the little one in the school play beams with excitement and pride. Quite often the question might get asked ‘Which one’s yours?’ to which they point proudly at the kid in the bright orange lobster outfit or wearing number 9.
I get the feeling that God says so fondly over me and you ‘You’re mine’. We sometimes make a real mistake and we under value ourselves and we have to question the logic of that. What Heavenly Father in His right mind would send His only son to die for us if He didn’t really care about us – why would He do that if we were scum? Or we had no value or future?
No. We are His prized possession and even though we were far off, He chose to call us and beckon us to Himself. We, my friends, are loved beyond measure by a Heavenly Father who pulled out all the stops for me and you – even when we didn’t give a stuff.
Instead of feeling bad today – try and get your head around that head pickler!
Today, do your best to remember – He called you by name and you are His.