When our kids were younger, we got two kittens from a neighbor. The kittens were named Disco and Daisy and the names proved to be a perfect fit for their personalities. Daisy was such a sweet, dainty cat. On the other hand, I was convinced Disco bordered on psycho. That crazy kitten loved to take a bath with me. Not that I had invited her participation, mind you. These two kittens acted out their identities, based on the label names they had. (photo from pixabay)
Names are important
Names are so important. We select names for our children based on what rolls off the tongue nicely or is really unique. On occasion, we consider the meaning, but rarely communicate that to the child. On the other hand, I can still see the Acholi woman in Uganda who told me her legal name meant Beaten. She assured me that her mother and husband were then to beat her since that was the meaning of her name. Meaning of a name versus the label by which she was identified. Can you imagine having an identity that indicated you were to be beaten all the time?
While our legal names may not mean Beaten, we use other names that may mean even worse. Not a legal name, but the labels by which we identify ourselves. Stupid. Ugly. Fat. Never amount to anything. Hopeless. Worthless. Ashamed of yourself.
Last week, I shared about God’s identity of Israel versus the identity of Jacob. Jacob identified himself as deceiver and failure, based on his observable behaviors. God identified him as prince of God, a man who could fulfill the purpose God had envisioned for him. God assured Jacob he was chosen and not rejected. A few verses later, God assured Jacob that He responds with mercy and grace.
Jacob’s story becomes my story
Through Isaiah the prophet, God begins with this sad indictment.
18 “Listen, you who are deaf! Look and see, you blind! 19 Who is as blind as my own people, my servant? Who is as deaf as my messenger? Who is as blind as my chosen people, the servant of the LORD? 20 You see and recognize what is right but refuse to act on it. You hear with your ears, but you don’t really listen.”
21 Because he is righteous, the LORD has exalted his glorious law. 22 But his own people have been robbed and plundered, enslaved, imprisoned, and trapped. They are fair game for anyone and have no one to protect them, no one to take them back home.
23 Who will hear these lessons from the past and see the ruin that awaits you in the future? 24 Who allowed Israel to be robbed and hurt? It was the LORD, against whom we sinned, for the people would not walk in his path, nor would they obey his law. 25 Therefore, he poured out his fury on them and destroyed them in battle. They were enveloped in flames, but they still refused to understand. They were consumed by fire, but they did not learn their lesson. Isaiah 42:18-25 (NLT2)
17 But those who trust in idols, who say, ‘You are our gods,’ will be turned away in shame. Isaiah 42:17 (NLT2)
Blind. Deaf. Know what is right yet refuse to act on it. Robbed. Hurt. Facing ruin. Turned away in shame.
It’s downright depressing! Yet something similar often results when our actions flow from how we perceive or identify ourselves. CAUTION: is it my story? Is this where I am? Perhaps you feel like I’ve just “read your mail.” Nailed who you are. But hold on.
I think this is one of the most amazing phrases in Scripture. But now. But now what?
1 But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:1-2 (NIV)
After noting the failures, God reminded His people that He had created them and would prepare them to do what He purposed for them. No matter how bad it seemed or how far down they had sunk, He could and would turn it all around and take care of them.
But now, right where you and I might be in all our rebellion and ruin and shame, God is saying He knows all about it and yet He will do something wonderful. Something He already planned and promised and made available to us because of Jesus.
He reminds us that He created us. He sees the person He created so uniquely for His own special plan. Not the stupid one, the ugly one, or fat one. Not the one who always heard you will never amount to anything. Not the hopeless or worthless one. Not the one who is consumed with shame over the past.
Yet we believe that is what we are, and we have acted accordingly. Our false identity is no problem for God. He reminds us that He fashioned us as one who is far superior to our false identity. God sees his perception of us, just like He sees flawed Jacob as Israel. He calls us by a different name, one that reflects His perception of us.
How can God see me like that?
How can God possibly see me the way He fashioned me? Last week, I wrote that I have to change my thinking, but how? To what? Fear not! God initiates the change in our “name” by three incomprehensible actions.
1 But now, this is what the LORD says– he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1 (NIV)
First, He redeems us. He pays the price to “buy” us again, even though we were His to begin with. The price for all that separated us from Him and gave satan an opening into our lives was paid through Christ’s shed blood on the cross.
Second, He calls us by name. Not necessarily our legal names, and certainly not those names like Stupid, Ugly, Fat, Never amount to anything, Hopeless, Worthless or Ashamed of yourself. He uses His name for us, a name that reflects the way He sees us. Names like Blessed, Chosen, Forgiven, Child of God, Worthy One or Precious Treasure.
Third, He reminds us that we are His. His children by virtue of believing that Jesus did pay the price for our separation from God. Now that we are His, God gives us His family name (Christian or little Christ) and commits to care for us. I encourage you to take Him on this incredible offer.
12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. John 1:12-13 (NIV)
Why would God do all this?
I love the way The Message version answers that question.
3 Because I am GOD, your personal God, The Holy of Israel, your Savior. I paid a huge price for you: all of Egypt, with rich Cush and Seba thrown in! 4 That’s how much you mean to me! That’s how much I love you! I’d sell off the whole world to get you back, trade the creation just for you.
Isaiah 43:3-4 (MSG)
Because God is a personal God for us; He calls us friends. Because of the huge price paid. Israel was redeemed or freed from slavery in Egypt but Egypt paid a huge price for Pharaoh’s stubborn refusal to simply allow them to leave. All that Egypt relied upon was devastated before it was over.
It would be a huge mistake to think God didn’t care about Egypt or that He destroyed them on a whim. God cares about every human being, each one created in His image and likeness. His heart broke over Egypt. That should give us a clue about how much we mean to God and how much He desires to restore all of this to each one of us.
What do I need to do about this?
Here is the real beauty. God did almost all of it for you and me; no work or long-term striving needed on our part. John said we need to believe in His name. As difficult as it may be initially, believe that He is who He says He is. He loves you. He has paid the price for you. In spite of all you’ve been through or done, He sees you much differently than you see yourself. He sees the beauty and potential He originally formed for you. Believe in His name and simply receive or accept what Jesus has done for you and you are His. His child with all the rights and privileges and promises.
I can assure you it took time for me to really understand how deeply and passionately God cared about me and my broken heart. Learning who He really is and how He really feels was worth it. I will never forget the night, where I was and who I was with when I realized my name was not Worthless, but Precious Treasure. I acted like I was worthless, but now I know better. I encourage you to give it a try.
If you want to ponder this more, I elaborated on this much more in my latest book, God Heals Broken Hearts. It is available on Amazon or through my website at carolboggess.com.
Carol Boggess, author and speaker
Rivers – A Journey of Restoration From Broken to Breakthrough and God Sees Broken Hearts