There has been so much talk in the past few days about names and changing names of long-time events here in the Valley. It’s been a big deal. There was a lot of emotion that we didn’t even know we had until it came up. Why? Because names are important! It’s personal.
My mother-in-law was here for part of the summer last year and we did a Bible study together. In discussion time I learned so much more about her and was very blessed by her heart for the Lord that had been mostly private (to me) up until that time. One thing that stuck with me was how emotion would catch her when she would talk about how the Lord “knew her by name”. That was incredibly meaningful to her, and I have pondered it off and on ever since. Why that?
As an Alaskan who spends a considerable amount of time in the lower 48, I am OFTEN asked if I “know” Sarah Palin. Well, most all of us here in the Valley can answer “yes, I have interacted with her at some point in my life”. But in my mind, I have thought…what is more significant is that she “knows MY name”. I feel that I have more of a connection because she knows me…not because I know her (everyone in the world “knows” Sarah Palin to some degree through the media). I feel that this makes it more meaningful to answer “yes, we know each other” than the fact that I know OF her and occasionally see her around town.
When Sarah first became famous, I honestly thought she would somehow forget my name and who I was. Totally ridiculous, I know, but I really thought that. When she ran for VP and it was election day, I went early in the morning to stand outside where she would vote, and I was at the front of the line where the roped off section was to cheer her on. The motorcade pulled up, she got out, and she came to greet many who were there. She went down the line shaking hands and when she got to me, she reached out and hugged me and said “Kim, I appreciate your support so much”. I was truly stunned! I thought she would have forgotten who I was! It’s silly, I guess, that I’d think that she wouldn’t have space in her brain to remember me because she was on a national/international trajectory politically.
I share this story to hopefully draw from this analogy. Being known is meaningful to us. Being known by God is mind-scrambling! How can the God of the universe, the creator of everything, know ME in a personal way? When you dig into a word study of “name” in the Bible, there are a lot of verses that talk about God’s names and how meaningful His names are and how protective He is of His name. But there are also a number of verses that directly say He knows our name in a very personal way. Not in an “I know OF” someone kind of way…but in an “I know them quite well” type of way.
One of those verses is in Exodus 33:17b where God says to Moses “you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name”. Moses has been pleading with God to go before him and the nation of Israel as they move into taking the Promised Land for themselves. He is leading a very wayward group of people with Aaron, who let them get completely out of hand while Moses was receiving the Ten Commandments. They are about to face a very strong army of enemies, and Moses begs for God’s presence. God tells Moses that His presence will be there, He’ll give Moses rest, and a few times He tells Moses that He knows him by name (in that personal way) and that Moses has found favor with God. This is the comfort and assurance provided to Moses. Not that God is going to miraculously wipe out all the Israelite’s foes, not that the taking of the Promised Land will be easy, and not that the Israelites will all willingly follow and do what they are supposed to do. Instead, the comfort given is that God knows Moses by name, that necessary rest will be provided during a super-human assignment, that God will go before Him in battle, and that Moses has God’s favor.
Moses still wants more. In Exodus 33:18 Moses says “Please, let me see Your Glory”…and God says to Moses in verse 19 “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim the name ‘Yahweh’ before you”. He is allowed to see God’s deep goodness in an up-close and personal viewing, as God proclaims the name ‘Yahweh’ (which means in Hebrew - a name too sacred to be spoken). INTERESTING!! The NAME thing again! God lets Moses in on who HE is. Because Moses pursues God relentlessly, God says “here I am”…this is me…through the name that is just too sacred to speak.
God, who knows each of us so thoroughly, by name, desires to be known by us…intimately. He doesn’t force us into a relationship. It’s offered. He wants to show you who He is, but He will not require you to know and love Him. He knows YOU (insert your name here) and invites you to know Him.
Names are meaningful. I understand now why my mother-in-law is so touched at age 86 by the knowledge that God knows her by name. And because she has responded to Him knowing her name, she also knows Him in a deep and personal way that is so much more than a “knowing OF” type of knowledge. Her knowledge has grown into a deep and personal relationship that is very touching to see. May God bless you with the same sort of knowledge if you choose to seek after Him.