Our name is important to us. When someone uses our name it means a lot to us, gets our attention, communicates to us certain value and worth. (I once was told some native American tribes would name their child for the first thing they saw after the baby was born. Thus Running Horse, or Sitting Bull. I never saw a bull sit, but maybe?) There once was a detective tv show about people where the opening line gave a disclaimer saying “the names have been changed to protect the innocent.” Using a phony name protected the person whose story was being told. Names communicate a lot.
We put a lot of significance in our name. Our name distinguishes us from the crowd. We think of ourselves as more than being a number. The line in the old Cheers tv show theme song said, …”you wanna go where everybody knows your name”. Why was that? Because, as the song said, “making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got;
taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you wanna go where everybody knows your name and they’re always glad you came…you wanna go where everybody knows your name.”
Cheers was an artificial environment, but one that existed to help people feel secure, affirmed and valued. That desire is in the heart of every individual. All of us see ourselves as more than another penguin in the rookery. (To us homo-sapiens they all look alike; and to them, well, maybe we all look alike?)
Moses had a profound experience with God. There is an insightful exchange for us in this conversation between Moses and God, recorded in Exodus 33. Afflicted with self doubt, (been there, done that), … Moses is looking for affirmation of who he is and assurance of what God has asked him to do… to lead a great nation. He was intimidated to go before Pharaoh and demand he let Israel go, … or else. He pleads and gets that assurance when God says to him … 1. you have found favor with me, & 2. I know you by name.
“You have found favor”. We can understand from this that God chooses to respond out of his compassion, even though he is not obligated. Then to say “I know you by name” is reassuring to Moses that he matters. In other words, God is saying, I assure you I am intimate with you and you may know that as evidenced by my calling you by name. Knowing his name is much more than if God were saying, I know your name because I’m omniscient and know all things. Rather it’s a confession of intentional intimacy by God to Moses. God was well aware of what was communicated when he said I know your name. These are sweet words of affirmation and acceptance. This intimate God is also the one who says in Luke, the very hairs of your head are numbered.
God goes on to say to Moses, “there is a place near me”. This was a place where he would choose to reveal himself. It was a place “in the cleft of the rock”. It was a place of intimacy. A place where God drew him and covered him with his hand, otherwise Moses would have been consumed in the presence of the almighty God. Revealing himself, covering us, are his provisions for us.
In this brief vignette is a picture of what God does with all of us. He draws us to a place near him where he speaks our name and communicates value, worth, significance; where we are affirmed and nurtured. This was for Moses a place of intimacy where God communicated all this by the use of his name.
So what’s in a name? Everything. Is the use of a name important?…only if you want assurance, security, affirmation, worth, dignity and value.