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  • Writer's pictureGWL

"Called by Name"

“Called by Name”

Acts 4:12

1 Samuel 3:1-10

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

How many of you remember “Newhart?” It was a sitcom staring Bob Newhart. One of the recurring characters was named Larry… and every time you saw Larry, he was accompanied by two other men. Larry would introduce himself, and these men, by saying, “Hey, I’m Larry, and this is my brother Darryl and this is my other brother Darryl.”

Names are important - we use names to identify individuals… to distinguish between one another. It would be kinda pointless if we were all named “Tom” - and even worse if we were all named “Jerry!”

Names are generally bestowed as signs of affection. Sometimes we’re named after people… maybe after a relative or a revered historic figure. I happen to be named after my father (I mean, why else would you name someone “Gerald?”). I have a good friend who’s named after Benjamin Franklin.

Of course, regardless to whom we’re named after, or the reasoning behind our name…names become personal, and intimately related to the identity of the person to whom they’re given. Simply thinking of the names of people I’ve known and loved can trigger a flood of emotions, and a wave of memories… just by hearing, or thinking of, their name.

Sometimes names are used to signify something special has taken place. For example, I knew a couple who had tried for years to have a baby… to no avail. They longed for a child, and when they were finally blessed with a baby girl, they named her “Desiree” - a reference to how much they’d desired to have a child.

Of course, the Apostle Paul’s given name was Saul. But after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Saul’s name was changed to Paul… signifying the dramatic change that his conversion to faith in Christ brought.

Names can be used to mark, to denote, that something good, and positive, and life changing has taken place.

Of course, not all names carry a positive, or uplifting connotation. How many Americans name their child “Adolph” or “Sadam”? Not very many I would guess.

Simply knowing someone’s name is not the same as knowing that person by name. Have you ever asked a salesperson an innocent question about their product and before you know it they are on a first name basis with you. Or have you ever answered a telemarketer’s call and they called you by your legal name? You know immediately that they have no clue who you really are, right?

So why am I rambling on about names? Because God knows each of us, by name.

When God called Samuel, he didn’t call out, “Hey you!” God called Samuel by name! It was an expression, an indication, that God really knew Samuel… that the creator of the heavens and earth was familiar with who Samuel was!

The author of Psalm 139 praises God by saying, "O Lord, you have searched me and known me." He the goes on to describe how well God knows us. God knows when we sit and when we rise… he even knows our thoughts! He knows our words before they form on our lips…he even knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb!

By calling Samuel by name, God was letting it be known that he knew Samuel completely. He knew that Samuel would listen, and convey his message to the people. The Sons of Eli were evil, and Eli himself could no longer hear God’s voice. So God called Samuel… a simple temple servant… whom God knew by name!

This same God, knows us by name, too.

Think about that! God knows you by name. Your Heavenly Father has searched you and knows you. God knows your ups and downs. All your successes and your failures. God is intimately acquainted with your ways of thinking. God even knows what you are going to say before you say it. And he loves you, and has called you, anyway... to serve him... to live your life according to his will and ways.

Of course, that can be a frightening, or comforting reality… depending on your relationship with Christ. The Almighty is aware of things about me that are so dark and so unspeakable. I'm afraid that if others knew me like God knows me they wouldn’t care for me very much. But God still loves even me. In fact God calls me to serve just as God called Samuel. Each day God calls - not in a audible voice... but in my heart and soul. Not as just a friend… but as a close relative, as a loving, compassionate Father.

God knows you and God calls you by name too! God has searched you and known you. And he intends to use you! Your giftings and graces. Your time, talent and treasure.

And thanks be to God, he is calling you to acknowledge, to receive, and to submit to the only name that ultimately matters. The name of Jesus! Acts 4:12 reminds us, “There’s no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.”

If we have the name of Jesus, if we’ve received and believed in “the name above all names” - we have the fullness of God’s promises... his love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness... forever. For all eternity.

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