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Calling on the name of the Lord

Another one of the first things in Genesis is the point where men began to call on the name of the Lord.  (Gen 4:26)  The text itself does not make clear exactly what this refers to, so we rely upon the rest of Scripture to flesh out the idea.

The idea of God’s name goes far beyond just a word by which we refer to him.  His name signifies all that God is in such a way that his name must be reverenced just as he is.  In first four commands of the Decalogue, the Israelites were commanded to honor God in his person, his image, his name, and his day.  Of course volumes have been written on the full meaning of each of these, but here’s Bro. Steve’s shorthand.  In these four we have compacted, condensed connections:

1.  to the one true God (all others being frauds),

2.  to his image in the living Son who was to come as God manifest in the flesh (1 Tim 3:16; Heb 1:3),

3.  to his name by which we are identified and through which we hope for eternal life (Ac 4:12),

4.  and to his day which looked back to creation, ordered the present in our worship, and hoped in the future day of the Lord when his kingdom will cover the earth like the waters cover the sea. (Hab 2:14)

When men began to call upon the name of the Lord, it was in the context of these commands which, though not yet formally revealed, were nonetheless forming in the manners of God’s people.  There was never a time when the true people of God worshipped him by statues, or listed him (as Allah was) as one of a collection of other deities, or used his name as a cuss-word.  And even though the formalized sabbath was not yet around in Abel’s time, Moses makes it clear that the offering of sacrifices to God was not the transient result of a brain cramp.  Thus, calling on the name of the Lord becomes a shorthand for something characteristic of God’s people — people identified by his name, just as we are today called Christians.  I don’t know what proper name they called him by, but I know that they did so.  And when they did so, they took him as their God, worshipped and served him, prayed to him exclusively, looked to him for hope and deliverance, ordered their lives by his will, obeyed what they understood as his law.

They were becoming a kingdom, or as Peter says it, a purchased people (which presumes possession, 1 Pe 2:9 ESV), a holy nation, and a royal priesthood.  So, by calling upon his name, they took on an identity which carried with it the hope that God would send the Desire of Nations (Hag 2:7) for the salvation of the world.  These were the people who had that hope, traced the steps of their lives in the light of it, and kept it in circulation among men by their distinctive presence.  Whatever the descendants of Cain might achieve — and they were the achievers — it all amounted to nothing unless God came at last for the redemption of man.  So they called upon him, which speaks to us of all these themes at the same time: Identity, hope, submission, prayer, and reverence.  By the grace of God, they were being called out of the mass of lost humanity as God chose for himself a people for his name. (Ac 15:14, Ro 1:5)

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