Ambassador of Reconciliation
1/14/12 at 10:54 AM 0 Comments

"I Have Called You by Name"

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A little boy was looking at a plaque in his church that listed the names of men from the congregation who had been in the military and had given their lives in service to their country. He asked, "Pastor, who are those people?" The old pastor replied solemnly, "Son, those are boys who died in the service." The little boy looked up wide-eyed and asked, "Pastor, did those boys die in the 8:00 service or the 10:00 service?"

All of us want our names to be known and remembered, because it means that our lives have value, that we matter to somebody. We honor people by putting their names not only on plaques but on tombstones and trophies and statues and diplomas and in halls of fame. In a few weeks, some legendary football players will be selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s a huge honor, and it must be terribly exciting to have your name immortalized that way.

But as thrilling as it is to be in a hall of fame and to have your name known all over the world, it can’t begin to compare to being known by the living God. He knows each of us by name. And He came down to earth as a human being, in human skin, so that we could know Him personally. Look what He did for Mary Magdalene. When Jesus died, His followers were devastated and they ran away in fear and discouragement. Not really knowing what to do, Mary went to the tomb and stood there crying (actually, the word means she was wailing with grief). John tells what happened next in chapter 20 of his gospel. This passage contains what I think is one of the single most exciting words in the whole Bible.

Then Mary turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, "Mary."

Jesus’ utterance of that name, “Mary,” thrills me every time I read it. Why? First of all, because it shows that He’s alive. He had been totally dead for three days. And now He is fully alive—walking and talking and interacting—and able to give life to others. Secondly, it shows that He cares about people personally. He saw Mary’s distress and He gently spoke her name. As soon as He said her name, she instantly recognized Him and she was filled with joy. And especially significant to women is the fact that Jesus’ first appearance after He rose from the dead was to a lone woman, whom He called by name. That one name, four letters, captures the whole point of the Bible—that God is alive and that He wants to have a relationship of love and intimacy with us.

Sometimes the people of Israel got to thinking, “God has forgotten us, He doesn’t care about us.” Listen to God’s response in Isaiah 49:14–16:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.

Your name is permanently engraved on His hand. If He even calls every star by name,* how much more does He know your name. He will never forget you. He will never forsake you. As He says in Jeremiah 31:3,

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.

Let this short prayer from Psalm 17 be your own:

I call on you, O God, for you will answer me.
Give ear to me and hear my prayer.
Show the wonder of your great love.
Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
Keep me as the apple of your eye.

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* "Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing" (Isaiah 40:26).

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