I have redeemed thee and I call thee by thy name. Isaiah 43:1 KJV
What does it mean to be redeemed? And why would God redeem us? Is this verse even directed at us? Has He called you, and by what name? Let’s dive into this prophetic statement by discussing the accepted interpretation.
“I have redeemed thee” – here the prophet Isaiah is preparing us for the purpose of the coming Messiah. He will come to deliver us from our sinful nature and set us upon the true righteous path. He will ransom us from the clutches of evil and draw us to him. What does it mean to be redeemed?
“And I call thee” – we are all called by God. But do we hear His call? Many of us hear, but the next step is, do we answer the call? While in the service of Eli, Samuel heard God calling him, yet three times he did not recognize His voice. Based upon this verse, and the sequence it was written in, once we have been redeemed, we can now fully expect God to call us.
“By thy name” – what name does God call us by? As we study the people that God has directly interacted with, we see that He calls them by their earthly names at first. But then we see God give people new names, Godly names. He chooses the name according to their purpose, and that Godly name becomes the identity of the “new” person from that moment on. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Here are a few examples of the way God has called some of us by name, or by purpose:
God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “Father of Many”
God changed Sarai’s name to Sarah, meaning “Princess”
Mary was given instructions by Gabriel to name her son Jesus, a name which originally was Yehoshu’a and was derived from Joshua. The name mean which means “Yaweh is Salvation”, or “God Saves”.
Jesus called God “Abba”, or Daddy.
The Commander of God’s Army called Gideon by the name “Mighty Warrior”.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were commanded to name their son John, or “Yahweh is Gracious”.
Jesus renamed his disciples, for example Simon became Peter, “The Rock”.
Let’s look for a moment in the Book of Ruth. Na’omi changed her own name from one meaning “pleasantness”, to Mara, which means “bitter”. Was this authorized by God? Na’omi’s words are recorded in the King James Version as saying that God testified against her. Did she decide that this was true based upon her circumstances? Or did God somehow communicate this to her in a tangible way? What we call ourselves is critically important. Even after the restoration by Cyrus, Ezra still referred to his people as exiles. It is reasonable to assert that the names God gives us become who we are. Do our own self-imposed names also become who we are? Sadly, the latter appears to be true. I say sadly here because when we see people name themselves, they oftentimes use negative words and names, which then become their permanent personas. In sharp contrast to this practice, when God names someone, at least in most of the references we have learned about, it is often a sacred, as well as an empowering name. At times, the new name and the ensuing new persona were intended to be punitive, but in most cases the opposite seems to be true. So we see that the new, Godly name is often a launching point into a deeper relationship with God, and it sets the recipient on an honorable path, serving God wholly.
The What If
How do we determine by what God is calling us? What if, for those who have not yet discerned their true name, there is no way to hear God’s call? How do we learn our Godly name? After many years of prayer and bible study, I still cry out to God: “what is my name?” I want to know for sure, with that solid confidence, like the heroes of the Old Testament surely knew that God had called them by name.
What if we can only fully serve God and our purpose after we have shed our earthly names and become renamed by God? All the people that we have learned God named them personally, used their Godly name for the rest of their lives on this earth. It would take an incredible amount of courage to publicly announce that God has changed your name. What a bold statement would be the adoption of your Godly name, for the purpose of giving glory to God. In the Catholic faith, young men and women take their confirmation vows and choose the name of a saint to become their new name. Those receiving Holy Orders also assume a new name, and thus a new identity. What if we all did that?
Not only does God use different, and very specific names to call us by, he uses very different ways of communicating to us. How do believers learn the name that God calls them by? Some have experienced the calling through dreams and visions. Others learned of it directly from the very mouth of God.
So, first we can expect God to redeem us, and then to call us by name, a new name, an ambitious, overwhelmingly powerful name. A name to change everything!
Another What If
What if we first need to be called, in order to be redeemed? The transposition of two groups of words in this verse would greatly change the interpretation. What if the verse actually could read: I have called thee by thy name and I redeem thee. Wouldn’t this now mean that we cannot be redeemed unless God personally calls us, by name? I know that a great many people already believe this.