One of my closest friends has a new man in her life: Jesus.
They’ve known each other a long time, but recently they’ve taken things to a new level. They’re chatting often, from the moment she wakes up to over her coffee and on long walks. A few weeks ago she told Him she was ready to set aside “Dear Lord” in favor of a name that reflected their new status as friends.
What’s in a Name?
Moses had a similar experience in his own walk with God. In his case the Lord showed up unannounced and asked Moses to return to Egypt on an urgent assignment: “Tell Pharaoh to set the Israelites free.” (Exodus 9:1)
Well, imagine a friend you hadn’t seen in 40 years showed up one day and asked a huge favor of you. If you were even willing to consider it, it wouldn’t be for someone you referred to as “Sir” or “Mister.” It would be for someone very dear to you, someone whose name was as familiar as your own. I believe that was the heart behind Moses’ reply:
“Suppose I go to the People of Israel and I tell them, ‘The God of your fathers sent me to you’; and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What do I tell them?”
God said to Moses,
Tell the People of Israel,
‘I-AM sent me to you.’”
Exodus 3:14; MSG
YHVH or Hayah, the great I AM.
Exodus 3:14 is a life verse for me because, as a lover of words, I’ve always been captivated by how God used two of the most common-to-the-point-of-being-mundane words to capture — as fully as humanly possible — the earth-shaking truth that this God is the one true God, the only self-existent, living and active God.
When God visited Moses He called him by name; twice in fact: “Moses, Moses” (Exodus 3:4). I am touched by how God always calls us by name when He calls us into service; and sometimes twice when the ask is really big, as it was with Moses as well as Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Martha, Simon and Saul.
Certainly this is a God who understands deeply the need to be known by name.
In addition to Hayah God has many names throughout the Old Testament, based on His many attributes; a few of these include:
- Elohim (all powerful, plural noun for God, used uniquely in the Old Testament to reflect God’s triune nature )
- El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
- El Elyon (The Most High God)
- Adonai (Lord, Master)
- El Olam (The Everlasting God)
- Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)
- Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)
But, a few hundred years later when Jesus shows up, things take a distinctly new turn.
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples. He said to them:
When you pray, say: ‘Father’
Luke 11: 1-2
In Jewish culture, even up to this day, God’s name is considered too powerful and revered to be written, and so it will appear as “G-d”; from that perspective then, the notion of calling God Father, one of the most personal and intimate terms of endearment, is bold to the point of being revolutionary.
Paul, who in his first encounter with God called out instinctively, ““Who are you, Lord?” reminds us often of Christ’s invitation into relationship:
Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
…The Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”
When we call God our Father we acknowledge that the omniscient, all-powerful creator of the universe is something even more wondrous: a deeply relational being, a protective, wise and perfect parent who loves us unconditionally, even when we rebel against His loving authority. (Romans 5:8)
Putting a Face with a Name
My friend has one other stumbling block in her new-found relationship:
“I can’t see His face.”
And this is coming from the ultimate people person. She draws energy from engaging with others. She was born in a big family; she has a big family; and in a subconscious manifestation of this trait, she has filled her home with faces; virtually every piece of artwork hanging on her walls, whether abstract, dimensional or wrought from metal, features a face.
So her need is real. Here again, she and Moses have a lot in common:
Then Moses said,
“Now show me your glory.”
Exodus 33: 19
Throughout the Old Testament people share in this desire to see their unseen God:
Lift up the light of Your countenance upon us, O LORD! Psalm 4:6
Make Your face to shine upon Your servant. Psalm 31:16
Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved. Psalm 80:19
Seek His face continually. Psalm 105:4
Make Your face shine upon Your servant Psalm 119:35
Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress Psalm 102:2
Like Father, Like Son
In the final days of his earthly ministry Jesus spoke to this need very directly:
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me you will know my Father as well.
From now on you do know him and have seen him.
I imagine Jesus pointing to his own face as he said these words, in the same way my second son, who is the spitting image of his father too, sometimes mugs when he wants to say, “You see this face? Then you’ve seen my Dad too.”
It was Phillip who mustered up the courage to speak the words on the minds of the rest of the group:
“Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus’ response pierces my heart, as it surely did Philip’s:
Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.
How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? (John 14:9)
Since we are not contemporaries with Jesus in his earthly body, what does that mean for us? Growing up in Catholic school I acquired quite a collection of holy cards, and have always held onto an image of Jesus that resembles these:
But there is one final piece to this answer that cannot be overlooked:
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created them.
The Hebrew word for “His image,” tselem, means an illusion or resemblance. God created us as reflection of Himself.
So as my friend, and each of us, seek a closer walk with the Lord, we will see Him ever more clearly as we see His love shine in the faces of one another.
A friend of mine who read this post recently reminded me of a story from her own life when she similarly prayed to see God’s face. Several years ago, while she and her family were vacationing in Costa Rica, she fell off a four-wheeler and landed on her back. Plagued with a history of back issues she was terrified. As her family scrambled to find help she began praying in earnest for calm and peace saying, “Show me your face, Jesus, just show me your face and I won’t be afraid.”
A little while later she found herself in the office of a Spanish-speaking physician, unsure of how they would communicate her injury or treatment. As she looked up at him she saw a picture on the wall behind his shoulder; it was of the face of Jesus. Her heart filled to overflowing as she pointed to it and asked emphatically, “Jesus? Is that Jesus?” He turned around and then turned back to her, smiling and quietly affirmed the answer reverberating in her heart by simply nodding, “Yes.”
What a powerful reminder that prayer is a simple and effective way to overcome stumbling blocks in our walk with the Lord. Don’t be afraid to ask God to reveal Himself to you in whatever way you need to experience Him. And then keep your eyes open, for He is faithful to hear the cries of those who call upon His name in faith.
The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.