Your Name, Texts: Isaiah 43:1, John 10:3 - NEW


People like to be called by name. Did you ever have that embarrassing experience of meeting an old friend you saw last week, and at that precise moment your mind goes blank and you cannot remember their name. I used to counsel engaged couples for six weeks before the wedding and I still made sure I had their names written on my notes for the wedding for fear I would draw a blank and have to say whoever you are, Do you take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife? Sometimes our given names are significant and sometimes they are not. I’m sure my parents didn’t know but when they named me John it meant God is gracious, and my middle name is Preston from the same root come priest and also presbyter. And Clark means clergyman or clerk of the church. So God was gracious to me and made me a clerk or Presbyter of the church. A point not missed when my fellow Presbyters in Philadelphia were electing their stated clerk, a job, by the way, that nobody loves. And during the election the shout went up, Clark for Clerk. On the other hand my wife’s first name is Dolores but she goes by Dorsey which is in itself a commentary on her disposition. Her parents did not know that Dolores meant sorrowful one as in the Via Dolorosa that Jesus walked to the cross. The point is that as much as my name describes me, hers is a total wipeout. She will probably not like me revealing this, but one of her nicknames in school was giggle-britches. And she has a fabulous sense of humor and is fun to be with. BUT it is true that Christians and many other parents try to choose names for their babies that express their desires and aspirations for the child. When the 1960s ended, the hippies moved down the coast to Santa Cruz. They had children but they didn't name their children Melissa or Brett. People in Santa Cruz grew accustomed to their children playing Frisbee with little Time Warp or Spring Fever. And eventually Moonbeam, Earth, Love and Precious Promise all ended up in public school. Every fall parents bravely applied name tags to their children, kissed them good-bye and sent them off to school on the bus. So it was for Fruit Stand. The teachers thought the boy's name was odd, but they tried to make the best of it. "Would you like to play with the blocks, Fruit Stand?" they offered. And later, "Fruit Stand, how about a snack?" He accepted hesitantly. By the end of the day, his name didn't seem much odder than Heather's or Sun Ray's. At dismissal time, the teachers led the children out to the buses. "Fruit Stand, do you know which one is your bus?" He didn't answer. That wasn't strange. He hadn't answered them all day. Lots of children are shy on the first day of school. It didn't matter. The teachers had instructed the parents to write the names of their children's bus stops on the reverse side of their name tags. The teacher simply turned over the tag. There, neatly printed, was the word "Anthony.” My grandfather’s middle name was Garfield. He was born September 21, 1881. two days after President James Garfield died as the result of an assassin’s bullet. Named I presume not because his parents wanted him to be assassinated, but rather because they wanted him to be president or at least out of respect for the President. And so, now, let us look at names in the Bible.

I The Importance of Names

A The Name of God

God has only one name and it is not God. He is of course called Lord, Master, King, sovereign, Father, Shepherd etc., but those are not names they are titles. God has a personal name and He is very jealous over it. Our English use of the word God tells us nothing because there are many gods. And unfortunately many English versions never tell you God’s personal name, except by a somewhat devious trick. The word Lord appears many times.But it is spelled differently, that is, either with a capital L and a lower case o-r-d or in all capital letters. When it appears in all capital letters it is a translation of God’s real personal name. This is unfortunate because most English readers miss it. The American Standard Bible translation starting in 1901 is the key translation that preserved God’s proper name which is pronounced either Jehovah, or Yahweh. The Hebrew word elohiym is simply their impersonal word God, but in Exodus 3: 14,15 we discover God’s real name and He says this is my name forever. By this name He is forever distinguished from all the false man-made gods. Look at Isaiah 42:8 “I am the LORD, that is my name, and My glory I will not give to another!!!” The name is taken from the verb “to be” in the Hebrew and it means as Exodus 3 tells us, I am that I am, I am the self existent one. Francis Schaeffer among modern authors captured it best when he wrote about “The God who is there.” No other God but Yahweh is, nor is any other God there. Point one: Yahweh considers His name important. When Jeremiah writes about the future conversion of the Gentiles, that’s us, to worship the God of Israel the Lord says, And they shall know that my name is Yahweh.

B The Names of Men

Your name is also very important. God says in Isaiah 43:1 “But now, says the YAHWEH (name) who created you O Jacob (name) and He who formed you O Israel (name), fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you my your name.” John 10:3 tells us of Jesus. He calls his own sheep by name. Let’s start with the sweetest name and the name above every other name, Jesus. Did you think that He just got that name when he was born in Bethlehem? Really? His name means Jahweh saves and he is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. The angel told Mary in Luke 1:31, the name that he had been given in eternity past. I heard an African American preacher on TV refer the fact that Jesus is the lamb slain from the foundation of the world. He said that’s my religion, you got here too late with yours. So also the name of John, the Baptist, Yahweh says of His prophet Jeremiah, “before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” So what did he call him? Jeremiah, of course. Listen to David in Psalm 139 My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in secret in my mother’s womb..your eyes saw my substance, and in your book the days fashioned for me were all written. Days of whom? Mister X? But you might say, “What does that have to do with me?” My parents named me after so and so, or my parents spent hours reading name books in order to decide, so God had nothing to do with it. What? This is the Lord who knows what you are going to say before you say it. He is the absolute sovereign of all. If He isn’t sovereign of every atom and molecule, then he is not ruler at all. Doe he control your heredity? Does He control your environment? Then he gave you your name. You might be a boy named SUE and end up in a song by Johnny Cash, but the one thing you can be certain of is that God gave you that name before you were born, so don’t hate it, in case some of you do. “You got it from your Father, (Actually Dad was just the agent, you got it from God) it was all he had to give. So it's yours to use and cherish, for as long as you may live. If you lose the watch he gave you, it can always be replaced. But a black mark on your name, son, can never be erased. It was clean the day you took it, and a worthy name to bear, when he got it from his father, there was no dishonor there. So make sure you guard it wisely, after all is said and done. You'll be glad the name is spotless when you give it to your son.” Adam was named by Yahweh as were Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others. Eve was named by Adam, but ultimately by Yahweh. And when God brought the animals to Adam to be named have you ever wondered where Adam got the names? That’s right the Lord used Adam to name them their divinely appointed names. But surely not my dogs, Waldo or Frodo. What is your dog’s name? Right again! God named them because you gave them the name God willed in his infinite wisdom and divine power over all things. We easily miss this point because we live in  period when the providential nature of history is denied. Existence is either meaningless or hopeless and you can see what that does to names, Let us eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die. A 19th century pastor wrote, “It has been said that history is the biography of communities, but in a profounder sense it is the autobiography of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will and is graciously timing all events after the counsel of His Christ and the kingdom of God on earth.” In the middle of a golf course in teeming rain I say to myself “It’s the plan, stupid.” One more thing about names. Because they are divinely given, they’re indelible, permanent, lasting. In Matt.17 Peter James and John are with Jesus on a high mountain. Jesus is transfigured and who is with him but Moses and Elijah representing the law and the prophets, but God says out of the cloud, not Moses, not Elijah, but my Son. Listen to Him! Moses disappeared on Mt. Nebo and Elijah in a fiery chariot into glory. And what are their names in glory? The same. Consider Luke 16 the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man in Hades lifts up his eyes to see Lazarus, who had also died, in glory in Abraham’s bosom. Who are these people. The same as on earth. If you are truly converted you discover that YOUR name is written in the Lambs book of Life, It is mentioned frequently in the Book of Revelation  and Paul refers to it in Phillppians 4:3. What name would you think is written there? Your permanent, providentially, sovereignly ordained name is the name God calls you. God says in Isaiah 43:1 Fear not, I have redeemed you, I have called you by name. He gave it, He redeemed it, He recorded it, and He will never forget it.

II The Implications of Names

Although more could be said, I must move on to briefly touch on several implications and blessings of God calling you by name. The list could be unending, but a few of them are Amazement, Acceptance, Access, Assurance, Acquittal, Approval.

A Amazement

Because Yahweh has called you by name you are Amazed. Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world and if you are a true believer your name was written in the Lamb’s book of life before you were born. Your name and not another. How do I know this because when He was on earth he prayed for the people God had given him in the book according to John 17,  and he said in John 6 It is the will of my Father that of all He has given me I should lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day.

B Acceptance

Because Yahweh has called you by name you are Accepted. The Apostle John writes Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God, I John 3:1. In Ephesians 1 Paul says we are accepted in the beloved Son of God. When parents adopt a baby they get to name that child. But when the child has already been given a name, they retain it as does God.

C Access

Because Yahweh has called you by name you are granted Access. Access, of course to God, as his child, but also access to all His riches. You have everything Romans 8:17 reminds us we are children of God, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. When parents die and leave an inheritance to a child all that child ordinarily needs to collect and gain access is their name. And since we are joint heirs with Christ and he owns the cattle on a thousand hills- Well you figure it out.

D Assurance

Because Yahweh has called you by name you have Assurance, assurance of His love, assurance of salvation, and as our text says assurance of care. Listen again to the words, now says He who created you and He who redeemed you FEAR NOT for I have called you by name. Everybody is afraid (at least afraid of telling the truth in the case he says he fears nothing).  Fear not because he cares Rom.8:32 says If God spared not His own son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall he not with Him freely give us all things.

E Acquittal

Because Yahweh has called you by name, you are Acquitted. Satan is the great prosecutor, Jesus is the great advocate. If any man sin, I John 2, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one, and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Consult Job. Satan appears to accuse and God calls his attention by name to Job. And then Satan uses Job’s name and is given permission to devastate Job. And even in the midst of his sufferings Job says I know that my redeemer lives. In my flesh I shall see God. He is acquitted.

F Approval

Because Yahweh has called you by name, you are approved. Revelation often mentions our new name: old birth name, old man, new name new man. The old is not thrown away there is a name added. A name of divine approbation. Jacob the deceiver becomes Jacob-Israel, Prince with God. Simon becomes Simon-Peter the Rock. Saul becomes Saul-Paul because he is the great missionary to the Gentiles, no exclusive Jewish name for him. The new name in Revelation is like God saying well done, thou good and faithful servant. God calls you by your old name, but he has a perfect name waiting. He won’t forget the old name, besmirched by your sin, and also tattered by your struggles against sin, but he has a new one in store. A wise Educator, William Phelps long ago wrote “We are all so vain that we love to have our names remembered by those who have met us but once. We exaggerate the talents and virtues of those who can do this and we are ready to repay their powers with lifelong devotion. The ability to associate in the mind names and faces is a tremendous asset to a politician and it will prolong the pastorate of any clergyman.” I don’t know whether God calls us by name for those reasons, but I am sure that it should earn our lifelong devotion. Scenario: I die and pass on. I am walking down a street passing unfamiliar faces who do not recognize me. I enter the towering building. I pass the doorman, he is friendly but doesn’t know my name. I pass the guards who have no idea who I am. I go to the reception desk and the clerk says whom do you wish to see? I say Jesus and he takes the biggest book I’ve ever seen and looks through it for my name. He finds it and says you may go up, but my name is soon forgotten. I take the longest elevator ride of my life with an operator who doesn’t need to  know my name. At the top I enter a huge office suite and pass by several secretaries who don’t know my name either. I enter the office of the CEO and see the biggest desk I’ve ever seen. The man beyond the desk rises and excitedly says JOHN PRESTON, I’ve been waiting for you. His name is Jesus.