My Dad had a nickname for me. Although I often pretended to be annoyed when he used it, I felt warm inside, knowing it was his name for me and that he was saying he loved me when he called me that. In the years since Dad went home to heaven, a number of close family members have teasingly used the nickname and to be honest, I feel anger rise up when they do. I know they mean well, but they are not Dad. They don’t understand the very deep and personal emotion associated with that name – a connection between me and my father. It was like a symbol of the relationship we had. He knew me and I was his, just as he was mine.
There is much emphasis on names throughout Scripture, a practice that’s been largely lost in western culture, and this got me thinking about how God spoke to Jacob in Isaiah 43:1-2.
But now, God’s Message, the God who made you in the first place, Jacob, the One who got you started, Israel: “Don’t be afraid, I’ve redeemed you. I’ve called your name. You’re mine. When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end – because I am God, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. (The Message)
The Lord called Jacob’s name not just to get his attention, but to assure him of His constant presence, His protection, and His guidance. God had intimate knowledge of Jacob, a loving relationship with him. Jacob’s name was not something God used lightly. He was God, after all, but He was Jacob’s personal God.
He is our personal God too. He is the One who calls us by name and hold us close to Him. We are His. And He does not hold His own nonchalantly or idly. He is there in every circumstance we face, His hand outstretched to walk us through the parts we can’t navigate on our own. He doesn’t let go when we grab on to Him. He wraps His arms around us when we just need to cry. He cheers us on when we’re pushing through to accomplish that seemingly impossible thing and then He yells the loudest when we succeed. He gives us the answers to the hard questions.
Because that’s who God is – your Dad, your Father. He knows you and calls you by your name.
And I like to think He calls me by that same nickname I used to hear from my Dad.