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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
Title:God Knows You by Name
Text:Genesis 5:1-32 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's faithfulness

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


“God Knows You by Name”
Genesis 5:1-32
We live in a very impersonal world. We are often known, not by our name, but by our social security number, or some other identification number. That was driven home to me not too long ago when I renewed a magazine subscription. The invoice instructed me to put my account number on the check. The account number was: GRA 596001 Y 17436 T. It was by such a number that the magazine recognized my identity. Rather than being the exception to the rule, that is par for the course.
But I'm sure that you noticed as we read through the names in this genealogy from Genesis chapter 5 that God knows each person by name. Sometimes we may wonder why there are such lengthy, detailed genealogies in Scripture. There are actually many reasons. They give us a record of history, they point to the human lineage of Jesus Christ, and they also remind us that God knows each individual by their name. If you have a unique name such as Mahalalel you can be sure that it is not a tongue twister to the Lord. He knows all the names of his people, whether they are bland like mine, or whether they are more challenging as are some of the Dutch and other ethnic names.
We see that not only in a genealogy such as the one before us, but we see it in many other Scriptures as well. Consider how the Lord addressed Moses in Exodus 33. The background of the chapter is Moses speaking to the Lord about the great task of leading the people of Israel out of Egypt. Moses said to the Lord: “You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”
And the LORD replied to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name..." We see that truth again in Isaiah 45:3 where the Lord speaks to the king of Persia, King Cyrus, and says, “I am the Lord who calls you by name.”
Have you given much thought to how God has called you by name? Have you given much thought to what your identity means to him? Have you thought about the significance that he doesn’t use a number for your identity, but has written your name in his book of life, if you have true saving faith in his Son?  If you have given any amount of thought to that biblical truth you should be greatly comforted by the knowledge that God knows you by name.
But while this is a great comfort to those of us who believe, it should strike terror into the heart of every unbeliever. If you, in hardness of heart, never believe the message of the gospel, then God has a place for your name, too. In Revelation chapter 20:11-12 we read: Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life.
And then in verse 15 of that same chapter John records how anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire. In a previous verse, verse10, John had described how the lake of fire is the eternal destiny of the devil and those who have followed him. He describes it as a place of eternal torment.
If your name is to be in the book of life, know that you must have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ here and now. In 2 Corinthians 6:2, the apostle Paul quotes from Isaiah 49:8, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” And then he adds:  “I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” Now is the time to have saving faith in Christ alone. Now is the time to know with certainty that by God’s grace your name is written in his book of life.
The Lord’s Remnant
Another truth that we see in between the lines of this genealogy is that the Lord has a remnant of believers on earth. As we see our society grow increasingly secular and anti-Christian, we often feel outnumbered and overwhelmed. We know that Jesus spoke about the broad road which leads to destruction, and the narrow path that leads to life, which few find. We know that he asked the rhetorical question, “When the Son of Man comes – speaking of his second coming – “will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)
We can't help but recognize that churches which are faithful to the Scripture – not just our church, but many other churches – often have dwindling numbers of people. Studies show that millennial's (those approximately 18-37 years of age) increasingly reject the teaching of God's word and have no desire to be in a church, especially a traditional church. 
At times, seeing these realities, we may feel like Elijah felt. You recall that when he was on the run from wicked Queen Jezebel he was in a great depression, even to the point of asking the Lord to call him home. He hid out in a cave where the Lord appeared to him and asked, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
But the Lord put an end to Elijah's pity party. The Lord explained to him that He was yet in control and that Elijah was to anoint Hazael king over Aram, Jehu king over Israel, and he was to anoint Elisha to succeed him as prophet.  Although Elijah thought he was the only one left the Lord reminded him in 1 Kings 19:18, “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”
And, a genealogy like this one in Genesis 5, also reminds us that God has his remnant – his people – on earth. The genealogy contains the names of many who were godly even though they lived in an ungodly era. For instance, both Enoch and Noah are commended in Hebrews 11 as men of great faith. Enoch even walked with God in such a way that he never experienced physical death but was translated directly into heaven.
Yet the world in which they lived was incredibly evil, just as our world today is intensely evil. Jesus said that as it was in the days of Noah so shall it be when he returns. And even though we see wickedness all around us this genealogy, along with other genealogies in Scripture, remind us that in the sea of humanity God yet has his remnant – his people.
And this passage reminds us that because God knows his people by name he also meets their needs in a personal and often unique way. Although we are not given details of these people’s lives, we can be sure that through the centuries that they lived, God was faithful to each one, sustaining them, knowing them by name.
That is always how it is with the Lord. Consider how Elijah was cared for as the Lord sent ravens at one point to feed him during a severe famine. Later on, he had Elijah stay with a widow at Zarephath. The famine was still raging; there was a great drought across the land that had withered crops. The widow had nothing in her house except a little jar of oil and small jar of flour; both were ready to run out. But Elijah assured the widow that the Lord would provide oil and flour to last as long as needed. And that is exactly what happened.
We may think, at times, that such personal care was only for people in biblical times. But if you think about it you will see that God cares for you and me in a very personal way, and often provides for us in unique ways that only he could use.
That was driven home to me a number of years ago. When we served a church in Vermont one of the young women from the congregation, in her early 20’s, moved from Vermont to Columbia, South Carolina. But shortly after arriving there she experienced severe stomach cramps. The doctor whom she went to see told her not to worry about it, and assured her that she would soon feel better. But in reality her appendix was ready to burst, and it did. A period of time elapsed as she trusted the doctor’s prognosis.  By the time she was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital in Columbia, South Carolina, she was on the brink of death.
On Sunday morning I gave an update on the girl’s condition and the continual need for prayer. It was in August and we had visitors in church even though it was months before the fall season when Vermont has many “leaf peepers,” tourists who go to Vermont to look at the beauty of the changing colors in the autumn season. But outside of “leaf-peeping season” we didn’t have a lot of tourists visiting that church.
After church these tourists came up to me immediately, asking me to introduce them to that girl’s dad. I had explained that her mom was scheduled to take a flight that afternoon to Columbia, South Carolina but that her dad, who was a dairy farmer, could not leave the farm until he got further help. They explained to me that they were from Columbia, and they had friends who were nurses in the very hospital where this young woman was. 
The tourists from South Carolina turned out to be such a great blessing to the family. They helped the mother find a good place to stay as she was there for more than a month while her daughter recovered. They provided hospitality for her; their friends who worked in the hospital kept a special eye on the girl from Vermont.
What is the likelihood of that happening? In the sea of humanity, how many people from South Carolina go to a small town in Vermont, especially when it is not leaf peeping season? What is the likelihood that those tourists would be in church on that given Sunday? What is the mathematical probability that they would have friends – close friends – who worked as nurses in the very hospital where the girl from Vermont was in critical condition in the intensive care unit?
Humanly speaking that is all extremely unlikely. But as Jesus said, “What is impossible for man is possible for God.” God knew the girl's name. He knew the names of the tourists who were in Vermont. He knew the entire situation; he knew the need for encouragement for the mother who was there with her daughter in the intensive care unit.
And so there should be no surprise that the same God who provided uniquely for those who lived for centuries back in Noah’s day, and for Elijah when he thought he was the only Christian around, still provides uniquely – in wondrous ways – for his people whom he knows by name today.
Our Days Ordained by God
This genealogy also reminds us that all the days ordained for us to live are known by God, and are actually written in his book before one of them comes into being. We have some very old people in this genealogy. Not only do we read of Methuselah, the oldest man in the history of the world, but also I'm sure that you noticed that Seth lived 912 years. Kenan lived 910 years, and Jared lived 962 years.
Our lives are not that long today, something that most of us are thankful for. Those long years were experienced before the time of the flood. By the time of Moses, as we read in his eloquent prayer recorded in Psalm 90, our days are but 70 years or 80 if we have the strength.
But often someone doesn't live that long. We have all known those who have the heartbreak of losing a young child, or losing a baby of only a day or two, or even just a few hours, or even still-born. The news reminds us time and again of those who are killed suddenly in tragic accidents, such as a young mother from a local town here who was recently killed in a horrific auto accident along with three of her children, including the unborn baby that she was carrying.
We may never understand why. Yet our comfort is in knowing that God has numbered our days and our years and he has written them in his book of life long before we were even born. Psalm 139:16 teaches that all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.
Loraine Boetner, in his book, Immortality, describes how every life is a completed picture in God's sight. We might not understand how that can be, especially when a child dies in infancy, or a person in the prime of life suddenly dies. But although we do not understand why God completes that picture, when we would like so much more added to it, it also gives us comfort because we know our sovereign God controls our longevity.
I once visited a widow whose daughter had recently died. I have read, and can certainly understand, that the hardest death to deal with is the death of one of your children. The normal order is inverted. We usually expect that we will outlive our children, and when the opposite happens there is profound parental grief.
And she was grieved, but she did not grieve as those who have no hope. She missed her daughter greatly, but she said, “God ordained all the days for her to live before one of them came to be. How then can I be upset with God's timing? If God saw her life as a complete picture, and called her home to himself, then I need to rest in his faithfulness, trusting that he always does what is right.”
When I left her house I realized, as I often do, that those in the pew who suffer often minister to me far more than I minister to them. What great comfort we have in knowing that all the days ordained for us to live were written in God's book before one of them came to be! And every life – from the briefest life to the longest life – is a completed picture in the sight of our sovereign and loving God.
The Faithfulness and Patience of God
This genealogy also shows us the faithfulness and patience of God. God had promised Adam and Eve that a Redeemer would come from the line of the woman. When Cain killed Abel the Lord blessed Adam and Eve with Seth. It would be through the line of Seth that the Redeemer would come. And yet the only Redeemer – the Lord Jesus Christ – would not be born until the fullness of time; the fullness of time would be millennia after this genealogy was written. And yet throughout the genealogy, indeed throughout the millennia of all history, God is faithful and God is patient.
Many Scriptures describe the faithfulness and patience of God, among them Psalm 135 and 136 where the psalmist describes the Lord's faithfulness generation by generation. And we also see his faithfulness, in part, through Methuselah's name which means, “man of the dart,” meaning “When he dies, it will come.”
Consider how evil the world was during the long life of Methuselah. He was a contemporary of Noah. The days of Noah are described in the next chapter, Genesis 6:5, where we read how the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The passage describes how God was grieved that he made mankind because the wickedness in the days of Noah was so great.
And yet even though the Lord was grieved in his heart, he waited patiently while Noah built the ark. That is what we read in 1 Peter 3:20, God waited patiently while Noah built the ark. And as Noah built the ark, Methuselah was growing older. Many commentators believe that it took 120 years for Noah to build the ark, based on Genesis 6:3. And during the length of time that it took Noah to build the ark Methuselah was growing older and older. He was 900, 920, 930. Noah was building the ark, laying the keel, putting up the ribs, fitting the sides, laying the deck.
As he did so, those around him took great delight in making fun of him. He is described in the New Testament as a preacher of righteousness. As he built the ark he spoke boldly of the need to repent of sin and to believe in the Redeemer who would yet be revealed; he warned the people that God's judgment would come upon every unrepentant individual.
But none of the people of his day took his message to heart. They said, in effect, “The preacher is crazy!” All the while Methuselah was growing older 966, 967, 968.  Food was brought on the ark; the animals were ready. And then Methuselah died. And when he died, at the age of 969, the rain came pouring down.
Through that whole time God waited patiently. Through that entire time God was faithful to the small remnant of believers, to Noah and his family. And God is still faithful to those who believe upon him. He is still patient with us. Hasn't God been patient with you? He has been so very patient with me, and continues to be. And he is ever faithful!
Responding in Faith
How do we respond to the God who knows us by name? The most important response is a response of saving faith in Christ Jesus. Noah was saved by God’s grace through faith just as you and I are. Noah believed in the promise of God that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent. He believed that the Messiah yet to be revealed would grant eternal life to all who believe upon him.
It is only by God’s grace through saving faith in Christ Jesus that we can be saved, for without faith it is impossible to please (God), for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:5-6)
Another way to respond is to remember that Methuselah was not only the oldest man who ever lived, but also remember that he had an unusually unique name. His name means, literally, “man of the dart.” Just as a dart is thrown, and hits its target, Methuselah’s life was aimed at the time of the great flood.  “When he dies, it will come,” is also an accurate way to describe the meaning of his name.
“When he dies, it will come.” The day will come when God's patience is over. The day will come when he will flood this earth with judgment upon everyone who has rejected the gospel and refused to believe in his Son.  But for all those who take to heart the warnings of Scripture, repenting of their sin, and take to heart the promises of Scripture by believing in Jesus, there is the blessed assurance of salvation from judgment.
In Malachi 3:16 we read that those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD gave attention and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who esteem His name. To fear the Lord is to have reverence for him, to repent of our sins, to believe upon his Son, to hold him in awe and wonder, to have praise and adoration for his faithfulness, patience, loving-kindness, tender mercy and saving grace.
When by his grace through faith, he knows us by name, having our name in his Book of Life, then we must, in turn, extol his name, and live lives of grateful adoration for all that he has done for us. May that be the description of your life and my life, this morning and always! Amen.
- bulletin outline -
When Kenan had lived 70 years, he became the father of Mahalalel… When Lamech had lived 182 years, he had a son. He named him Noah, and said, “He will
comfort us in the labor and painful toil of our hands caused by the ground the Lord has cursed.” - Genesis 5:12…28-29
“God Knows You by Name”
Genesis 5:1-32
I.  The genealogies of the Bible remind us that in this impersonal world:
       1) God knows each one of us by name (3-32; Exodus 33:17; Isaiah 43:1, 45:3; Revelation 20:10-12, 15) 
       2) The Lord has a remnant of believers on earth and provides personally for them (29; 1 Kings 17:1-6; 13-15, 19:14-18)
       3) All the days ordained for us to live are known by God (3-32; Psalm 139:16)
       4) Generation by generation, the Lord is faithful and patient (3-32; 1 Pet. 3:20; Psa. 145:4-5)
II. Our response: We are to walk with God by faith in His Son, Jesus Christ (22-24; Malachi3:16; Hebrews 11:5-6)


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Ted Gray

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