When God Calls You by Name

“When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!'” (Exodus 3:4)

Moses draws near to this bush that is on fire, perhaps mostly out of curiosity about this strange sight. As Moses draws close, the Living God captures his attention and then begins speaking to him.

God says something simple, yet full of meaning: “Moses! Moses!”

Notice first of all that God invites Moses into a conversation. It is not an abstract or impersonal conversation, but one that is deeply personal. God calls Moses by his name. Moses is not anonymous to God but is known. Moses is not just a resource to be used by God, but a person. And this personal invitation is bathed in loved. Speaking his name twice, God addresses Moses in a way that reflects tender love by repeating his name twice This reminds us that God knows all people personally, even by name, and that God has tender love for people, regardless of their background.

Next pay attention to the fact that God’s address to Moses is an invitation into authentic relationship. This episode at the burning bush begins a long relationship between Moses and God. There are ups, like the literal journey up Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments, and there are downs, like Moses’ disobedience in striking the rock. In the end, Moses was known as one who God knew and related with face to face (Deuteronomy 34:10). When we hear a computerized voice say our name, reading a text through our phone or car, it doesn’t do much for us emotionally. The message may be meaningful, but the voice often feels at odds with that, coming across as sterile and inhuman. But when I hear someone I personally know call my name—my wife, my child, or my friend—I am immediately drawn into intimate relationship and vulnerable conversation. This episode with Moses and God at the burning bush reminds us that God isn’t interested in standing at a distance. Instead, God risks entering into real relationship with human beings, knowing us and being known by us. This is an amazing and nearly incomprehensible gift.

Wherever you are right now, let me encourage you to pause. Let me encourage you to still yourself and remember there is a God who exists. He has reached out to us first in creation and He has reached out to us even more personally through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Remember that He calls you by name and wants to know you. In the stillness of this moment, hear God call you name. Then, speak your response to Him.

Listen to Him!: The call to attention for disciples of Jesus

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5)

At the mount of transfiguration, Jesus’ glory is revealed before the eyes of Peter, James, and John. Overwhelmed by all they are beholding, Peter offers to build a set of shelters for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Mark tells us “[Peter] did not know what to say, they were so frightened” (Mark 9:6).

It is a great relief, then, that before Peter can go any further with his ideas, there is a divine interruption in with several accompanying physical signs. First, “a bright cloud covered them.” This cloud represents God’s presence and power, just as at the exodus God led the people with a cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Second, there is a voice from the cloud, booming through the cloud and accompanying the transfigured Jesus. Third, there is the message of that voice, which rings with dramatic power: speaking through the cloud to them, booming with this message: “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5b).

The message here directly echoes the words spoken over Jesus at His baptism, with one significant addition. In Matthew 3, at His baptism, God’s voice speaks primarily for Jesus, affirming and commissioning Jesus into ministry. But here in Matthew 17, at the transfiguration, God speaks primarily for those who are with Jesus. The strong word, “Listen to Him!”, is for the disciples’ ears. They had listened to Him so well up to this point. Yet when Jesus begins to speak of going to Jerusalem to suffer, die, and rise again, they wonder if their idea that He is the Messiah might be wrong. But it is precisely here that they are to listen to Jesus. Even though some of the words He speaks may confuse them, particularly the part about messianic suffering and death, they must listen most attentively here.

For it is in the suffering and dying that the meaning of Jesus as Messiah will be most truly revealed. It is as if the Father says, “Listen, watch, attend to Him. What you will hear and see will shock you, but it will shock you right into abundant life.”

The New Moses

This past weekend at Eastbrook, I continued our preaching series, “Who Do You Say I Am?”, by looking at the well-known story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in Matthew 14:13-23. What does this episode tell us about who Jesus is and how can we learn to live in response to Him based on the miraculous events we encounter here? There is just so much in this passage I wish I had been able to preach 3 or 4 messages just from this text.

This message is part of the sixth part of our longer series on Matthew, which includes “Family Tree,” “Power in Preparation,” “Becoming Real,” “The Messiah’s Mission,” and “Stories of the Kingdom.”

You can find the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.” (Matthew 14:13)

Jesus’ Unsuccessful Withdrawal (Matthew 14:13)

Withdrawing from Herod Antipas and the crowds

Jesus pursued by the crowds into the wilderness

Jesus’ Heart (Matthew 14:13-14)

“He had compassion on them…” (NIV)

“His heart went out to them…”

Jesus Feeds a Great Crowd (Matthew 14:15-21)

Recognizing the needs of the crowd and limited provision

The gathering of the crowd

The miraculous provision for the crowd 

Jesus’ action: take – bless – break – give 

Jesus Finally Withdraws (Matthew 14:22-23)

The disciples are sent away

Jesus goes up to the mountain

Jesus the New Moses (Matthew 14:15-23)

Out in the wilderness

A huge crowd of people who are in need

Providing miraculous food

Jesus meets with God on the mountain

Making it Real

Encounter Jesus’ heart

Encounter Jesus’ provisionBe a disciple in Jesus’ hand

Dig Deeper:

This week dig deeper in one or more of the following ways:

• Memorize Matthew 14:19
• Journal, draw, paint, or ink this story or some aspect of it as a way of reflecting on who Jesus is and how you most need to meet with Him.
• Take some time to draw away with God for a few hours or a day. Use this episode in Matthew 14 as a basis for your day alone with God. Take time in prayer and reading Scripture. Be still and rest in God. Perhaps you could use the suggestions from the Potter’s Inn as a guide here.
• Consider reading Henri Nouwen’s book Life of the Beloved, which reflects on the fourfold action of Jesus in this story (taken – blessed – broken – given) as a metaphor for the spiritual life.

What Concerns God?

When I look at my life, there are things that concern me: my family, meaningful relationships, my finances, the state of the world, and more. I am sure that you have your own list of things that concern you.

In my Scripture readings from the past week, I was interested in finding out that there are also specific things that concern God. Look at these words from Exodus 2:

God heard their [the enslaved Israelites] groaning and He remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them. (Exodus 2:24-25)

God is concerned about people. His concern for people plays out in two different ways: 1) God’s concern that He is faithful to His promises to people, and His concern about the suffering of His people.

God is Concerned About Being Faithful

First of all, God is concerned with being faithful to the promises He makes with people. The Scripture quoted above says that God “remembered” His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Even though the Israelites are now enslaved by the Egyptians, God has not forgotten the promises He made to them over many generations. He remembers His covenant, or agreement, with Abraham: “I will make you into a great nation…” (Genesis 12:2). He remembers that He renewed that covenant with Abraham’s son, Isaac: “I am the God of your father, Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you…” (Genesis 26:24). And God remembers that, even though Jacob has done many things wrong, He renewed that covenant again with Jacob: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac….I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go…” (Genesis 28:13, 15).

God is concerned with being faithful to these promises. As it says in the Psalms: “He is faithful in all He does” (33:4). And as it says in Numbers 23:19, “God is not a human, that He should lie.” God is faithful to His promises, and He is concerned about living up to His promises to people. It is helpful for us to remember this in our lives. When we have our own concerns and worries, God is concerned about being faithful to what He has promised to us.

God is Concerned About His People’s Suffering

Secondly, God is concerned with the suffering of His people. After hearing the groans of the Israelites, God calls Moses to be a deliverer for His people. Here are God’s words to Moses that reveal His motivations in calling Moses to the job of deliverer:

The Lord said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them…’ (Exodus 3:7-8)

God is concerned about their suffering. Many people view God as an impassive, removed deity who has no sense of the pain and suffering we endure in our lives. The picture we see of God here in Exodus is quite different. God is concerned about the suffering of His people.

In the life of Christ, we come face to face with God’s concern over human suffering. On the one hand, Jesus reaches out to heal and care for people in their suffering. On the other hand, Jesus goes to the cross for the sin and evil of the world, bringing healing to a suffering world: “Surely He took up our pain and bore our suffering” (Isaiah 53:4). God is concerned with the suffering of His people, not only in this Exodus story, but also in our daily lives. He hears and He is concerned about us.

Since we live in a world filled with concerns, it is beneficial to remember that God has concerns as well. He is concerned with being true to His promises to us, and He acts in complete faithfulness with us. God is also concerned with the suffering of His people, and He acts with appropriate care and power to help us.

How has God showed up in your life with His divine concern?

Refugee Messiah

This past weekend we continued our series “Power in Preparation” at Eastbrook Church. This is the second part of our extended journey through the Gospel of Matthew. This week’s message looks at Matthew 2:13-23 and Jesus as the refugee Messiah.

You can view the message video and outline below. The video begins with a time of prayer for our nation that you can see the written form of here. You can follow along with the entire series here and the devotional that accompanies the series here. You could always join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.

“So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” (Matthew 2:14-15)

Seeking Refuge in Egypt (Matthew 2:13-18)

  • Another dream for Joseph
  • Jesus flees south to Egypt
  • Scripture fulfilled: Hosea 11:1
  • Scripture fulfilled: Jeremiah 31:15

Returning Home (Matthew 2:19-21)

  • Another dream for Joseph
  • Jesus returns to the Land of Promise

Seeking Refuge in Galilee (Matthew 2:22-23)

  • Another dream for Joseph
  • Jesus flees north to Galilee, specifically, Nazareth
  • Scripture fulfilled: Isaiah 11:1/Judges 16:17

Jesus the Refugee Messiah

  • Jesus the new King (Bethlehem – Son of David)
  • Jesus the new Exodus (Egypt – Moses)
  • Jesus the new return (Ramah – Exile)
  • Jesus the unexpected, expected One – “he had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him” (Isaiah 53:2)

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into the contrast between Jesus and Herod in one or more of the following ways:

This week dig deeper into the contrast between Jesus and Herod in one or more of the following ways:

  • Set aside some time this week to read Matthew 2:13-23 again. Then write, draw, paint, or pray aloud your own response to this series of events in Jesus’ life.
  • Read Matthew 2 in light of Moses’ life by comparing it to Exodus 1-4.
  • Look at a map of Jesus’ journey with his family to Egypt and back again here
  • Consider watching the BibleProject video, “Messiah