He Knows Our Name...But Do We Proclaim His? - Isaiah 43:1-3a, Luke 12:4-12
Do you know how many hairs are on your head? How about your spouse’s head? Your child’s head? Your grandchild’s head? I’ll be the first to say, I have no idea. Imagine how much you would love someone and how well you would truly know them, to know how many hairs are on that person’s head! Our Scripture reading from Luke this morning tells us that is exactly how much God loves us…that is exactly how intimate God’s knowledge is of each of us. Now mind you, for some of us, that knowledge that God has is a pretty difficult task…for others…not so hard. Of course, I have been told that God only made a few perfect heads, and on all the rest he put hair.
For God to know the number of hairs on our head…that’s almost unimaginable. We are not used to people knowing us that completely (though the advent of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media where many people offer what could be considered way too much information). We are more used to business, organizations, and the government treating us like mere numbers…our bank accounts, our credit card numbers, or our social security number. We are used to people not really knowing us…but God knowing the number of hairs on our head offers to us that God’s knowledge of us, and concern for us, is far different from what we are used to experiencing.
Isaiah says that God calls us by name. God knows our name. For someone to know our name is significant. It means something to us for someone to know who we are. There are a couple of ways knowing our name is significant to us. What someone calls us often times reveals to us the level of their interest in us. If someone says to me “Hey you,” because they have never met me before, or maybe I have seen them once at some social gathering, I pretty much know that I are not very close to them. For someone to call me Mr. Pittard or Reverend Pittard, I know that the relationship between us is either business or pretty formal. Those that call me “Lee Roy” tell me that they knew me well during my high school and undergraduate years. Those that call me “Lee” have either known me my whole life, or since I graduated from Methodist. Those who call me “Pastor Lee” are folks I have encountered in the church and known long enough to try to get them to call me “Lee” and when they refused, we settled on “Pastor Lee.” If someone calls me “Sweetie” (and means it—not because they are my waitress and want a generous tip), I know that it is my wife who knows me better than anyone else.
There is even more significance to what Isaiah is saying when he relays God’s words to us saying, “I have called you by name, you are mine.” In Biblical times to know and use someone’s name was to truly know who they were. A person’s name represented their complete nature, their very being. For God to say, “I have called you by name, you are mine,” is for God to say,” I know your very essence, your very being, I know who you truly are…others may have a superficial knowledge of you, but I really and truly know who you are. I know what makes you tick; I know what you really think; I know what scares you and what soothes you; I know your real reason for doing things or not doing them; I know your name.”
That intimate knowledge of us by God should not really surprise us…for God played a vital role in creating us. The Psalmist reminds us in his prayer to God: “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.”[i]
So God knows us more than we even know ourselves, what is the significance? What are Isaiah and Luke trying to tell us in saying that God knows our name and knows the number of hairs on our head? Both are trying to reassure God’s people that God is looking out for them.
Isaiah writes, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.” Isaiah is writing to God’s people that have been in exile. The people had been scattered abroad with one empire after another traipsing their way through Judah and the surrounding area and taking the Hebrew people away as slaves and servants, or simply removing them from their homeland and placing them on what Native Americans would call “reservations.” God is saying to them,” don’t worry, don’t fear, no matter what you are going through, no matter what you will have to go through, I will be with you…and because I am with you, you will endure. I will bring you out of exile and return you to the Promised Land.”
Luke is written many years later. He is writing to the early Christians…those who have already known of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. These are the ones who have known that though Jesus was killed and buried, God displayed his power in calling Jesus forth from the grave…these people knew that death no longer had the upper hand.
Yet Luke writes, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet one of them is not forgotten in God’s sight. But even the hairs of your head are all counted. Do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Luke was dealing with folks whose faith appeared shallow. They were living in a time in which Christians were being put to death by those in authority…often guided by the religious authorities. Remember, the Gospel of Luke is written by the same one who wrote the book of Acts…what we see depicted in Acts, where apostles were jailed, Stephen and others who proclaimed Jesus name were stoned or put to death. Many believers evidently lived in fear of being put to death for what they believed.
Luke reminds the people of Jesus’ words, telling the people, “don’t worry about what they might do to you…they may rip apart your flesh and blood, but that is all they can do to you. Don’t worry about it…remember, I am the Resurrection…death no longer has a hold…death has been conquered…don’t fear those people, the end of your blood and flesh is not the end of you, you have been granted eternal life. Don’t be afraid of any other human.” Jesus says, “the only one you need to fear is the one who has a say so about your final destiny…the one who has the last say so on whether you spend it in His presence, or forever cast away from him and spend an eternity without God, living in the reality of hell.”
What are Luke and Jesus getting at? Verse 8 and following make it clear, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God; but whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
It is all about our confession of who Jesus is in our lives. Luke uses Jesus’ words to tell the folks they need to hold on to the faith, and be willing to stand up, regardless of whether it puts their lives on the line. When I hear of this, I think of Christians around the world, especially places like China and India where if a person was found to be a professing Christian, especially if they were sharing the name of Christ and calling others into a relationship with Him, they are jailed, tortured, and, at times, put to death. They have taken very seriously these words of Christ, not to worry about the folks who can hurt their bodies, but are more concerned about their relationship with the One who knows the number of hairs on our head, the One who knows and calls us by name.
My favorite author, Ted Dekker, wrote a book entitled Sinner in which it becomes illegal in the United States, in the not too distant future, for a Christian to say, “Jesus Christ is Lord…He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one can come to the Father, except through Christ.” To publically make that statement, in this book, is to be classified as using “hate speech” because it excludes other faiths, and is a federally chargeable offence. The question of the book was what would our reaction be…would the people of our nation who were Christian hold fast to their faith, proclaiming Jesus as Lord, or would they remain silent, or recant their faith out of fear.
It’s a tough question for us, my friends, because laws like that are not yet in affect here in the United States. We don’t have to worry about being imprisoned or put to death for openly proclaiming Jesus’ Name. So what, then, is the problem? Why is it that we are usually so silent about the Name of the One who knows our name?
It is not because we are living in fear of those who can kill the body. Too often our failure to confess Jesus is even much more sinister than that.
We live in fear of those who can kill our popularity. We don’t openly proclaim Jesus because someone might label us a kook or a fanatic. We don’t openly proclaim His Name because in some of our social circles to live out our faith, proclaiming Jesus through our words and actions, would mean we would have to take a stand against what others were saying and doing…and they might not want us around anymore.
We live in fear of those who can kill our prosperity. We don’t openly proclaim Jesus in the workplace because we are afraid that we might lose our jobs because we would offend someone or because we would be seen as trying to indoctrinate those around us. We don’t want to lose our livelihood, so we remain silent.
The thing we have to remember, my friends, is to remain silent in a place where we should be sharing the name of Christ, is to deny our relationship with Him. Jesus’ command was to go into all the world making disciples and proclaiming…not remaining silent and keeping our faith to ourselves. When we refuse to proclaim His name, we are denying Him as Lord of our lives.
What we have to ask ourselves is, would we rather our coworkers, bosses, neighbors, family members, and so-called friends deny knowing that Christ proclaiming fanatic---would we rather those here distance themselves from us—or would we rather Christ deny us when we stand before the throne of God—do we want when the Father asks Jesus, “Is this one of the ones you died for?” for Jesus to respond, “I’m not sure who this is”? That’s what Jesus says, if we deny Him, we risk Him denying us.
So, what will we do? God has promised that he knows us…He knows who we are and that He’s got our back…that nothing can truly eternally bring harm to us. Jesus has even promised that when we are put in a situation where we have to choose whether or not to confess our relationship with Jesus Christ, that if we don’t know what to say, if we don’t know how to respond, to simply trust Him, and that His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, will give us the words we need at that very moment. If we hold fast to our faith, if we confess to knowing the Name of the One who knows our name…that God will carry us through any floods or fires that descend upon us as a result.
God knows our name and loves us enough not only to know the number of hairs on our head, but to offer us His only Son. Can we love God enough to truly know and speak His Name? He’s promised us to give us the words…He’s promised to carry us through…He’s promised to an eternity in His presence…so whether under pleasant circumstances or under threat of death, how will we answer the question, “What’s do you call Him—what’s His Name?”
In the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.