In Psalm 147:4 we read that almighty God ‘determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names’. Then, in John 10:3, it is said of the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, that ‘the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out’.
It is surely a great comfort to know that God knows his children by name. Interestingly, there are four significant occasions in the Bible when God is shown to address a person by their name, not once, but twice.
In Exodus 3, we read of Moses’ encounter with God at the burning bush in the Sinai Desert. The bush was burning, but not consumed. The appearance is what is known as a ‘theophany’ — a visible appearance of the invisible God.
We creatures need fuel for energy, and we creatures wear out. The uncreated, eternal Creator though is altogether different. He is the source of all life and never grows old or decays.
‘When the Lord saw that Moses turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, Moses! Moses!’ (Exodus 3:4). God then explained to Moses how he was about to fulfil his covenant with Abraham, and make a great nation out of his descendants — a people for his own glory.
God then promised that he would intervene in grace and deliver the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, and bring them into the promised land, ‘a land flowing with milk and honey’ (Exodus 3:8), and that Moses himself would, under God, be instrumental in bringing this about.
‘Moses, Moses.’The God of the Bible is a covenant keeping God. He has chosen a people for himself. In the Lord Jesus he intervened in world history to redeem his people from sin and save them for himself.
When we put our faith in Jesus, we are promised a home in eternal glory. God keeps his promises.
In 1 Samuel 3:10 we read: ‘The Lord came and stood forth, calling as at other times Samuel! Samuel! And Samuel said, Speak, for thy servant hears’.
Here we have the call of Samuel. Samuel had been dedicated to the Lord at birth, by Hannah, his mother. And Samuel was very familiar with the externals of service in the tabernacle. But ‘Samuel did not yet know the Lord’ (1 Samuel 3:7).
There is a vast difference between a nominal and a true faith, an outward profession and an inward possession. True religion is relational; it is knowing God. ‘This is eternal life that they know thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent’ (John 17:3).
It takes a personal call from God to effect this change. And Samuel was personally called by God. ‘Samuel! Samuel!’
Every Christian can testify to the personal call of God in the gospel, for ‘calling’ is one of the vital links in the golden chain of salvation. ‘Those whom he predestined he also called …’ (Romans 8:30).
‘Effectual calling is the work of God’s Spirit whereby, convincing us of our sin and misery, enlightening our minds in the knowledge of God and renewing our wills, he doth persuade and enable us to embrace Jesus Christ, freely offered to us in the gospel’ (Shorter Catechism).
In the well-known incident on the Damascus Road, the risen, reigning Christ addressed Saul of Tarsus: ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads’ (Acts 26:14).
Saul was, up until this time, rebelling against the truth of Jesus: ‘kicking against the goads’. But truth is like a brick wall; its force overcomes us. Paul (as he is better known) then bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus.
Paul acknowledged Jesus as the longed-for Messiah and very Son of God. The persecutor became a preacher; the opponent of Christianity became its greatest exponent. The living Christ had called and converted him. And, of course, Christ still effects such great transformations today, just as miraculously, if not always as spectacularly. ‘Saul, Saul.’
In Luke 10:41, the Lord Jesus addressed a troubled, stressed soul: ‘Martha, Martha, you are troubled about many things; one thing is needful’.
‘Martha, Martha.’ Jesus knows all that troubles us and causes us anxiety. His tender address to Martha is a reminder to his children today not to be unduly anxious.
Why? Because he is our Friend and Saviour. He will surely undertake and provide for us. ‘Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you’ (1 Peter 5:7).
‘One thing is needful’ above all else, the needful matter being what Mary, Martha’s sister, did, namely to sit quietly at the feet of Jesus, listen to his word and allow everything else to fall into perspective, in the light of his love. Jesus is the most compassionate and sympathetic Saviour.
So, remember that the God of the Bible has an intimate knowledge of his children. He knows us by name and even knows the number of the hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30).
‘Moses, Moses’; ‘Samuel, Samuel’; ‘Saul, Saul’; ‘Martha, Martha’. These incidents teach us that our God is the God of the covenant, the God who calls, the God who converts and the God of compassion, all-sufficient for all our needs.
Dr Cross has authored many Christian books and articles, and has an honorary doctorate of sacred literature, from Christian Bible College, Rocky Mount, NC