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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:God Knows You by Name
Text:Genesis 5:1-32 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's faithfulness
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-10-24
Updated:2020-11-02
 

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
 
Have you noticed that we live in a very impersonal world? We are often known, not by our name, but by an identification number, frequently in the United States, by our social security number. That was driven home to me a number of years 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 many reasons, including that 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 when Moses was at the burning bush. The Lord said, “You have found favor in My sight, and I know you by name...” We see the personal nature of God knowing us by name 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.” Likewise, in the New Testament we find Jesus calling people by name, surprising many of them, including Zacchaeus who probably never expected that Jesus would see him perched in a tree and call him by name.
 
The people in this genealogy are descendants of Seth. Seth was born to Adam and Eve after Cain murdered their son, Abel. The genealogy contains the names of many who were godly even though they lived in an ungodly era. They lived in the days of Noah, a time of great wickedness, a time so wicked that Jesus used that era as a reference to the evil in the last days, just before His return. He said, in Matthew 24:37, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man.”  Yet, even in that wicked society in the days of Noah, God had a remnant of faithful believers on earth, and the same is true today.
    
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)
 
As we look at the wickedness of our culture, the decline of Christianity, the apostasy that is rampant not only in our culture but also in many churches, we may feel outnumbered. Yet this genealogy reminds us that God always has a remnant of believers on earth and knows His people by name, just as He did in the days of Noah.
 
But since we live in a corrupt culture that is overwhelmingly anti-Christian, it is easy to forget that. Often we forget God’s remnant and 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. 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 reminds us that God always has a remnant of believers, even in an exceptionally wicked culture.  God has His people on earth today, just as he did in the days of Noah, and just as he did the days of Elijah.
 
This passage also 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, the Lord 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 the biblical era. 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 His people in unique ways that only He could use.
       
That was driven home to me a number of years ago while serving a church in Vermont. One of the young women from the congregation, in her early twenties, 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 burst. 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.
 
We heard about the girl’s condition on Saturday night, so on Sunday morning, before the congregational prayer, I gave an update on her condition. It was August and we had visitors in church even though it was a month 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 had few visitors in that church unless they were relatives of members of the congregation.
 
After church, the visitors came up to me immediately, asking me to introduce them to the girl’s dad. I had explained that her mom had already flown 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 visitors 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 Columbia, 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 in the days of Noah, and for Elijah when he thought he was the only godly person around, still provides uniquely – in wondrous ways – for His people whom He knows by name today.
 
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 perhaps 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 just a few hours, or still-born, or a miscarriage. Also, 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 cannot 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 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 entitled, 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 have, 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.
 
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 murdered 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; and 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.
 
We read of God’s faithfulness and patience throughout the Scriptures, and see it between the lines of this genealogy. We see His faithfulness, in part, through Methuselah's name which means, “man of the dart,” or “when he dies, it will come.” His name stood as a warning to all those in Noah’s day.
 
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 describes 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 where the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years.” 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, making the keel, 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 (2 Peter 2:5). 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.  The people of his day knew that his name had a unique meaning, that his life was like a dart aimed at a target, that whenever he died “it” – something exceptionally unusual – would happen. Just as a dart is thrown, and hits its target, Methuselah’s life and death were 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. People of his day understood his name was significant, as was his longevity, even in those times.
 
Meanwhile, food was brought on the ark; the animals were safely aboard. And then Methuselah died. And when he died, at the age of 969, the rain came pouring down and water sprang from the depths of the earth, flooding the whole world with judgment.
 
Through that whole time God waited patiently. There was ample time for repentance. And through that entire time God was faithful to the small remnant of believers, including 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!
 
The Necessity of Saving Faith in Christ Alone
 
How do we respond to the God who knows us by name? The most important response is a response of saving faith in Jesus Christ alone, for "salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). 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 Jesus Christ that we can be saved, for “without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him” (Hebrews 11:5-6).
 
But the day will come when God's patience is over. Just as the day came when it was too late to enter the ark, the day will come when it is too late to believe in Christ. The day will come when God 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, for “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1)
 
But while this is a great comfort to those of us who believe, it should strike terror into the heart of every unbeliever. The day will come when it is too late to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.
 
In 2 Corinthians 6:2, the apostle Paul quotes from Isaiah 49:8, where the Lord says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” And then the Holy Spirit 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 and Spirit’s power, your name is written in His Book of Life, that your name is indeed engraved on the palms of His hands. Now is the time to walk with God, as Enoch and other godly people throughout history have.
 
He is the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). The godly remnant in Noah’s day looked forward in faith to Him who was promised to Adam and Eve as the One who would crush the serpent.
 
May you and I, like God’s people in the past, look in saving faith to Christ alone, knowing that He will keep His people in the grip of His hand, even though we live in days so similar to the days of Noah. 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
           43:1,3; Luke 19:5) and has a remnant of believers on earth, for
           whom He provides (29; 1 Kings 17:1-6; 13-15, 19:14-18)
            
 
 
 
       2) All the days and years ordained for us to live are known by God
            (3-32; Psalm 139:16)
       
 
 
 
       3) The Lord is faithful and patient throughout all generations (3-32;
           1 Peter 3:20), but the Day of Judgment will come (Rev. 20:11-15)
 
 
 
 
II. Our response: Saving faith in Christ alone (Acts 4:12; 2 Cor. 6:2) as we walk with God,
     extolling His name with our words and lives God (22-24)
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 

 




* 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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