In Matthew 1:18-25, we learn that angel appeared to Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, and addressed him as “Joseph, Son of David.” It’s interesting that the tag “Son of David” is used. If an angel is speaking to you, it would seem that “hey you” would suffice in grabbing one’s attention, but there is something significant going on. “Son of David” was part of Joseph’s identity. It placed him in the line of Messiah (the promised Savior) who would be a descendant of David. The angel was reminding Joseph about his identity. In the very next verses, we see the interplay between name and identity again:
“All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”
Again, name is significant. For the baby who was born, two names are highlighted in three short verses: Immanuel (God with us) and Jesus (Hebrew, Yeshua for Yahwah saves). Name is identity. In our modern world, we’ve lost a full sense of identity. We frequently think of ourselves based on what we do or what we look like or what others think of us. However, God speaks to us based on our name (our true identity) and we listen and pray based on His name (His true identity).
People often ask, “How do I know if God is speaking to me?” Discernment is certainly needed. It is important that we know the name (identity) of the One we are seeking and that we are letting Him speak to the real us … the depths of us which are not completely known even to us.
In John 10:3-5, we are introduced to an image of Jesus as shepherd and Jesus says this:
“To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
Three ideas standout in these verses: we hear his voice; he calls us by name; and we know His voice. These are deep, significant realities. First, God does speak and we can hear! It is not the special or elite but the child of God, redeemed by the blood of the lamb, who can hear. It is part of who we are. Second, He speaks to us based on our identity. He doesn’t speak to us and lead us based on who we’d like to be or who others think we are or even our failures and sin. He knows our true identity as forgiven, renewed, made in the image of God people. He knows this better than we do. He knows the unique ways He made us and the unique plans He has for us. How often do we approach God based on identities that are not our core? How often do we come to God and seek Him based on what we do rather than who we are? Finally, we trustingly follow because we know His name.
Several questions flow from these realities:
- Am I regularly putting myself into a place to listen? It is a high privilege and also a necessity for being led by the God of the universe.
- Am I listening based on my perceived identity or allowing Him to speak to places in me that I may not even fully know? We are led into abundant life (the following verses in John 10) as we listen to our true name.
- How well do I know His identity? What are the kinds of things that He says?
This concept of “name” is the reason that we encouraged to pray things in the “name of Jesus” (John 14:13). It is not the name, per se, that is significant but the identity that is represented in the name. So, we pray “in the name of Jesus” not as a magic tagline at the end of a prayer, but as a reminder that we are praying based on His character and trusting His character. When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are submitting ourselves to His identity, His goodness and sovereignty and grace. Silent, restful prayer is frequently the best way to pray in Jesus’ name, trusting in Him. Mother Theresa of Calcutta commented:
“We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and sun, how they move in silence. … The more we receive in silent prayer, the more we can give in our active life. We need silence to be able to touch souls. The essential thing is not what we say, but what God says to us and through us. All our words will be useless unless they come from within — words which do not give the light of Christ increase the darkness.”
If listening to God is new (and even if it’s not), ask the Father what He wants to call you! Our listening needs to be on His terms if we want to live into all that He has planned for us.
Today, set aside a few minutes and simply sit quietly before God. As other thoughts or emotions come into your perception, let them go … entrusting them to the Father. Then, read the words from John 10:1-4. Next, ask the Father: “what do want to call me?” Sit quietly and listen. Remember, He may just want to sit quietly with you. He may just want you to rest in His presence. Asking the question alone is an act of trust and surrender and today, that may be just what He desires.
As we prepare Him room in our hearts, we began with learning to wait and then this next element of learning to listen. As we wait, He humbles our hearts. As we listen, He softens our hearts because we are learning to trust His name and our name.
Put this prayer into your own words …
Father, help me to silence every creature, including myself. I want to listen to You as I hear your voice. Help me to learn stillness so that I might be attentive to Your good and gracious voice. As I hear, may I have the courage to follow Your heart from my heart. Thank you for desiring to do life with me.