How do you feel about your name? I like mine; that is not entirely true, I will try to make a long story short. I go by my middle name, Abraham. I have never used my first name, no one has ever called me by it, in fact, any time my first name is used I immediately know it is not someone that knows me. While my bank accounts, credit card and other official papers have my first name recorded, that name is really not who I am. My middle name, the name I go by, am known by and respond to, I love that name. It is my Dad’s name, it is a Biblical name, not really very popular but I believe it has character, meaning and purpose. Now, I am known by many different variations of that name. People I have formal relationships with or have done business with know me as Abraham or Abe. People I have grown up with or are close, personal friends call me Abie and my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles have a few names that don’t need to be mentioned here but when they say them they are precious to me. I love my name, in it’s many forms because I believe that it defines me without boxing me in. It says a lot about where I have come from and who I am, I have never wanted someone else’s name because honestly, I have never wanted someone else’s life. There is one more thing I love about my name and this is the point of where I am heading today, I love that my name has been written in heaven. I love that God knows my name.
Luke chapter 10 tells us that Jesus sent 70 of His followers out on a “missions trip“. He sent them and told them to go out and heal the sick and to preach “the Kingdom of God has come near you.” After a certain amount of time the 70 returned and they were excited! The Bible says that they returned “with joy” and they said, “even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” Consider what they must have seen and experienced? Everything that they had watched Jesus do for almost three years they had now experienced in and through their own lives. It was amazing to see Jesus open blind eyes or cast out demons but what must have it been like when they say these things happen in answer to their own prayers? They were overwhelmed with joy and full of faith in that hour. Their excitement was at an all time high and so Jesus answered them, not to bring them down but to fill them even fuller. He gave them more authority, gave them more of His own power and more promises of being used and then He gave them something greater than they had ever seen or heard before. He said, “rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Power and authority are given to servants to use for the glory and honor of the one that holds those things, but the writing of your name, that is the talk of friendship. On the night of Jesus’ arrest, recorded in John 15, Jesus said to His disciples, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” Friendship with God was astonishing, still is. I believe that the notion of friendship and our names go hand in hand. There is an intimacy in our names, a depth and a vulnerability that is involved. What we find is that God has been calling us by name since the beginning of time. He walked with Adam and Eve and called out to them when they hid from Him. He spoke to Noah, called Abraham, revealed Himself to Isaac and Jacob. God’s relationships with all of these and many more were built on faith, on trust and on intimacy. When God spoke to Moses the first time He called his name when He saw that Moses had stopped to see the burning bush. The calling of our names is an indication that we are known, that the One speaking is not a stranger but rather a friend. Something amazing happened though near the end of the burning bush experience. Moses asked God a strange question. He said, “When I come to the children of Israel, and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you’, and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” While the question is odd to me I believe I understand Moses’ reasoning. I believe that after all they had been through, the upheaval, the hundreds of years of slavery and mistreatment, the hope that was enduring and some that was probably lost; that Moses knew that Israel needed more than a promise from the God of their fathers, they needed a promise from their God, from a current, present and intimate God.
God does a remarkable thing in response to Moses’ request, He answers Him. Three times God responds, or I should say He responds in three ways. First He says, “I AM WHO I AM.” Then He said that Moses should tell them, “I AM has sent me to you.” And then, in an enormous outpouring of love and grace and intimacy and friendship God says, that Moses should tell Israel, “YAHWEH God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever and this is My memorial to all generations.” God told Moses His name. He answered the request, He drew near to Moses as Moses drew near to Him (James 4:8). He poured out more love and more intimacy than had ever been poured out before. He revealed something He had not revealed to Abraham or anyone else (Exodus 6:2) and He again reached out to all of us in a way that we could have never imagined or expected before.
For generations Israel had called on the God of someone else (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) and many of them had actually given up. Many of us have done the same thing. We have seen God through someone else’s eyes, someone else’s experience, someone else’s songs and someone else’s words. In Luke 10 Jesus was not rebuking the 70 or trying to quench their enthusiasm, I believe He was actually tried to build and add to it. His statement that they should not rejoice that the demons were subject to the authority that He had given them was not to take anything away, it was because He was about to add something far greater. His point was not that they should not rejoice that they had been given a gift but that they should rejoice because they were known by God! I read it almost like this, “If you think the demons obeying My power in you is reason to rejoice, listen to this, your names are written in heaven!” Today I hope to encourage you with the same truth. Authority, power, miracles, signs and wonders are all wonderful, Biblical and important, but they all pale in comparison to the truth of Jesus’ promise, my name is written in heaven. To go back to my opening thoughts, I guarantee that it is not my first name, it is not the formal, unused name that God has written but He has written the name that I wear in my heart. He has written the name that describes me at my best and my worst, the name that defines my victories and my defeats, the name that I love, that I enjoy and that I want to be known by. God has written your name in heaven as well, it is His gift of love to you but it is also your gift of love to Him. The names describe relationship, they describe friendship, they describe intimacy and they describe love. Today I hope and pray that each one of us will take a deep breath in our lives, will stop the manic pace that seems to try to devour us and will sit and smile with one thought, God knows my name. He has written it in heaven. One last thought as I close. The next thing the Luke 10 tells us is that after Jesus said these perfect words to the 70 is that He rejoiced in the Spirit. Your name in heaven is not merely for your joy but it is for God’s! As you sit and rejoice over God’s perfect love for you I am confident that He will also be “rejoicing over you with singing”. Your name has brought God joy, now that is a reason to smile!