Children are told not to do it. It’s not nice.
But that’s not always the case.
The God of the universe, who determines the number of stars and calls them each by name, knows yours. First, middle, and last. The God who told Moses, “I am pleased with you, and I know you by name,” knows yours. And not only does he know it, he calls it. John 10:3 says, “The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” That’s what shepherds do.
Maybe the most tender picture we have in Scripture of the Lord calling someone by name is the dramatic scene in John 20, where Mary Magdalene is crying at the empty tomb. Her world had caved in on Friday. Now, her deep grief is compounded by the fact that Jesus’ body has seemingly been taken away. Consumed by the hopelessness before her, she does not even realize that she is in the presence of the Lord. She thinks he is only a sympathetic gardener, asking her why she is crying.
But everything changes when Jesus utters one word – her name. “Mary,” he says. Surely, it must have been said with warmth, reassurance, and, I imagine, a loving smile on his face. At that pivotal moment, the recognition slowly dawns in her eyes, and she is overcome with joy, running to the disciples to share with them the greatest news that history has ever recorded.
Jesus could have abruptly said, “Don’t you know who I am? It’s me!” But instead, he chose to reveal himself to her simply by saying her name. And he still does the same for us. There have been times in my own life when, just like Mary, I have been swimming in my own personal seas of sorrow, anxiety, despair, or fear. In the midst of it, when the Lord has spoken to my heart, he begins with my name. “Jennifer…do not fear. Jennifer…I am with you. Jennifer…fix your eyes on me.”
We hear him when he calls us by name because we are his sheep. John 10:5 tells us, “They will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” The ears of believers have been specially attuned to be able to recognize the voice of the Shepherd. Somehow, we are able to hear his voice cutting through the clamor of other voices that assault us daily.
Because the Lord knows our names, we can be assured of our value and worth in his sight. We are not just a blur of nameless faces to him. In a sea of humanity, living on our increasingly crowded planet earth, you are no trouble for the Lord to find. He knit you together before you were born. He knows how many hairs are on your head, even though that number changes daily. Before a word is on your lips, he knows it completely.
The book of Revelation says that somewhere in heaven, there is something mysterious and wonderful called the Lamb’s book of life, where the names of those who belong to the Shepherd are specifically and carefully written down. I don’t know if the names are printed in glittering gold ink, or handwritten in an elegant, flourishing script. Nor do I know if the book sits on some formal Greek-style pedestal, or is held in the hands of Christ himself. But what I do know for sure is that my name is there…not because of anything good I have done…but only because the Shepherd called out my name and rescued me.