John 10:3b – He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. (NIV)
A newborn baby's first possession is his name. Parents normally put much time and consideration into the name that they give their child. It is a person's name that identifies and sets him apart from all the other people in the world. "Hey, you!" or "Would the tall, blond-haired lady please come here?" would soon become very tedious and confusing. Names serve a crucial purpose!
I've long been fascinated by the wide variety of patterns and structures of names all over the world. Scandinavian children are sometimes named for their father, with resulting surnames such as Jonsson or Jonsdottir. Some Spanish surnames, such as Garcia-Marquez, give honour to the two family lines that united to create the new individual. English names, such as Baker or Carpenter, may have once indicated the person's occupation. Some cultures first give their newborn child a derogatory name such as Mudface in order to repel the evil spirits. If the child survives babyhood, he is then given a permanent — and more appealing — name!
Family members are often honoured by names passed on to children. I am the namesake of my two grandmothers. Rhoda Abigail and Osie Lou morphed into Gail Lou. (Thanks, Mom and Dad, for the shortened version!) Family lines are continued through names such as James Jr., or even Henry Talbot IV. Living up to and honouring the family name can be a difficult challenge, while dishonouring the family name is shameful.
The name game doesn't stop with humans, of course. Adam got a piece of the action when God allowed him to name the animals. (How did he do that? Was he orderly and systematic in his procedure — or did he bring in a touch of whimsy now and then?)
Psalm 147:4 – [God] determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. (NIV)
What this verse tells us would be staggering even to scientists who can't begin to count all the stars, much less to identify them by name as God does.
Those who acknowledge Jesus as Saviour have their names entered in the Lamb's Book of Life.
Revelation 21:27 – Nothing impure will ever enter [the Holy City], nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life. (NIV)
God knows each of His precious children by name. A beloved children's hymn says:
- I am Jesus' little lamb,
Ever glad at heart, I am;
For my Shepherd gently guides me,
Knows my need and well provides me.
Loves me every day the same,
Even calls me by my name.
– Henrietta L. von Hayn, 1724-1782
If our names are written in the Lamb's Book of Life, one day our Creator will call us home — calling us by our name. What a welcome and wonderful summons that will be — well worth looking forward to!
Prayer: Dear Father in heaven, we are so grateful that You know us by name and that You speak to us personally. May we respond gladly and obediently when You speak. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.