Calling Upon the Name of the Lord
Scripture Reading: Genesis 4:25-26; 1 Kings 18:24; Psalms 4:3; 18:3; 53:4
In the King James Version, the name of ‘Enos’ in Genesis 4:26 was spelled without the ‘h’. In the New International Version it is spelled ‘Enosh’. However it is spelled, both refer to the same person. According to Genesis 4:26, under the encouragement of Enos, calling on the name of the LORD, literally began. The Jews gave a very interesting interpretation of Genesis 4:26. According to the Targum of Onkelos, in Enos’ days the children of men ceased from praying in the name of the Lord; approximately 250 years after creation, and after the birth of Adam. The Targum of Jonathan says, “this was the age, in the days of which they began to err (go wrong, stumble) , and they made themselves idols, and surnamed their idols by the name of Yahweh. They also began to call on the names of men, the names of herbs, as well as the name of Yahweh. They made idols of them and fell into idolatry, and this was the beginning of the first invention of images.’
Well we shouldn’t be surprised because this is also what this whole nation has practiced. We make images of Jesus and we worship the image of Jesus. We make images of Mary and we worship the statue of Mary. But during that time, upon the initiation of Enos, a group emerged that began to call upon the name of the LORD. This group began to distinguish themselves. The ungodly families of the world developed and centered their lives around secular arts and business, establishing a way of self-reliance. The family of Seth, in contrast, called ‘on the name of the LORD in order to express their dependence on him. That two fundamentally different family groups, one is the majority, the other the minority was developing on the earth –the godly and the ungodly. As we get closer to the end of age, similarly we see the development of two different groups: the godly and the ungodly. What can we learn from the term ‘Calling upon the Name of the LORD’?
(1)Chosen to Call upon the Name of the LORD
The name ‘Seth’ means appointed or substituted. I believed that even today there are people that God has appointed, or substituted and chosen. John 15:16 says ‘Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.’
As God has appointed, substituting Seth for Abel, and chosen Seth and Enos, God has appointed, substituted and chosen you. I always remember the word of Kathryn Kuhlman; that she was not God’s first choice or even second choice. She was a substitute, and yet became the most powerful 20th Century woman of God. Look at your appointment; look at God’s choice of you. Out of your whole family, maybe in a family of 10, God selected you. God did not select your sisters, your brothers, your parents but He selected you. For some of you, in your entire family clan, out of all your cousins, aunties and uncles and nephews and nieces, you were the first chosen. You were the first that began to call upon the name of the LORD.
Seth came as Abel’s substitute. Jesus was Abel’s substitute. It was God’s working in the background. We are Abel’s substitute. When Seth was born, Eve said ‘God hath set for me for another seed instead of Abel.’ Eve used the name Seth that comes from the English word ‘set’. In Hebrew it is ‘Shath or Sheth’ meaning setting. It was God who put you in this environment, in a particular position, to become a firm, solid, permanent generation to call upon the name of the LORD.
Another meaning of Seth is ‘granted’. God had granted Eve another child. Eve attributed the birth of her child to the grace of God. By the divine desire you are appointed. Seth is another seed, different from the first seed. With the birth of Seth, it implied that great things would happen through Seth. Seth became the father of Enos. We are made for great things.
Do you remember the end of “Schindler’s List”? If you haven’t seen the film, it is a classic. Oscar Schindler is a German business man who, in Nazi Germany, saved thousands of Jews from being killed. But at the end he says, “I could have done more. I could have sold my car, and sold my suits and…” And in great remorse and great sorrow this man who had done so much, in tears of anguish, realized he could have done more.
Our greatness always involves souls. Our greatness is when you helped save a soul from suicide, involve in helping a family that is poverty stricken, helpless and left dilapidated, and prevent a family from breaking up through divorce or separation. I heard an amazing story. I was told that in the 911 collapse of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, out of the more than 3000 souls that were lost, more than 400 of them were firemen. At first I have to be honest with you. I was wondering what is so great about these firemen. Then when I heard that actually more than 400 of them lost their lives to save others, I was humbled by them. It was said that during the World Trade Center collapse, when a fireman happen to pass by ordinary citizens, every single citizen would look at them and say ‘Thank You for protecting us.’ ‘Thank you’.
It was said that Mayor Giuliani, the Mayor of New York at that time, would oftentimes appear at the wedding of the children of those 400 firemen who perished, and told the children who were getting married that he will be standing in as a father for them. I believe that likewise we that call upon the name of the LORD, were appointed, chosen and selected for greatness.
(2) The Character of Enos
The name ‘Enos’ means ‘man in his frailty’. Enos was frail, having delicate health, not robust, weak; easily broken or destroyed. It even meant morally weak and easily tempted. Yet it was mentioned in connection with Enos that it was then that man began to call upon the name of the Lord. I like the name Enos. Because it speaks so much of us, it was in our frailty, faint health; we that are easily broken or destroyed by life, many even morally weak and easily tempted, that we can call upon the name of the LORD.
Apparently this was the beginning of men calling upon the name of the LORD. This is the first mention of recourse to prayer. Enos’s alternative was prayer. Because of his frailty he resorted to prayer; his recourse (alternative, last resort, only option) was to call upon the name of the LORD. Somehow he was driven by his frailty to cry for maybe health and for help to this God. I Corinthians 1:26 says ‘For you see your calling, brothers, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called’. Kenneth Matthews beautifully captures the significance of men beginning to ‘call upon the name of the LORD’. He says ‘Please understand that there are two lineages even in our present civilization. There is a generation today, which is the majority that pioneers cities and civilized arts. But there is another group that God has called to pioneer worship. Enos did more than worship. They learned to call upon the LORD.’ In Moses’ writing, to ‘call upon’ regularly means to proclaim. The idea is that the people began to make proclamation about the Lord, the nature of the Lord. They make a public and official announcement.
Enos is John the Baptist. He says ‘I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness; make straight the way of the LORD. Repent; for the kingdom of God is at hand’. They indicate plainly that they worship God. As in earliest civilization, even until today, a special people began to develop and they proclaimed the name of the God. When the whole Cainite civilization began to rise and worship at the shrines of abundance and art and technology – when abuse and violence and the devaluation of life became commonplace – when vengeance became exponential – when men fancied that they were captains of their souls – a group began to proclaim the name of the LORD, the captain of their salvation.
A separation is taking place early in our history, and even today, a separation between the godly line of Enos and the line of Cain. Here we see hope, for the days seemed dark, murder and polygamy were spreading, but now we see that in the midst of the tragedies of life, the complications of sin, God has a plan! God has a people! The Enos generation was known for this: They proclaimed the name of the Lord. In proclamation we do not proclaim our own opinions or man-made doctrines; we are to proclaim the truths of God’s self-revelation in Scripture. This is distinctive of God’s people. This is a distinguished group. They proclaim the character of the Lord: they sing to his praises. There is a paradigm shift. A new model, a new standard, a pattern, a mold is taking place. With the ostensible rise with the increase in abundance, music, arts, and technology, and the demise of sin, this group rises impressively, because the only hope is to call upon the name of LORD. This is the only hope for our culture. This is the only hope for your soul. This is the only hope for the church – to call upon the name of the Lord!
(3) Application to ourselves to call on the Name of the LORD
The Old Testament often uses the phrase ‘call upon the LORD’. Like Genesis 4:26 ‘And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos; then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.’ Elijah also called upon the name of the LORD in 1 Kings 18:24 ‘And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God.’
The Hebrew word used here is ‘qara’. When ‘qara’ is used, it conveys a message; that when we call upon the LORD, then, a response is expected. The caller expects the LORD to respond to him. To call on God is to ask God to act. It is significant that most often when OT believers called on the name of the LORD, they were in a desperate situation in which only God could help. This is the second emphasis of my message. Like Elijah, Enos, the Psalmists, we should call upon the LORD when we are in desperate situations. Psalms 18:3 says ‘I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.’ Psalms 53:4 says ‘Have the workers of iniquity no knowledge? Who eat up my people as they eat bread: they have not called upon God.’ How good it is to know that God invites us to turn to him in the day of trouble and gives us his promise: ‘Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver you, and you will honor me’.
In the New Testament ‘two Greek words were used; ‘Klesis’ meaning ‘a calling’ and ‘Kletos’ meaning ‘called’. There is a significant shift in root meaning between the Hebrew and Greek terms. The OT emphasizes the utterance or the message. We have a message. We have to give the proclamation. The NT emphasizes on God meeting our personal needs. The NT emphasizes ‘the intent to call’ is to speak to a person with the purpose of bringing him nearer. As God’s children we need to learn to call upon God to bring him nearer to us. The nearness may be physical. I mean, when we call upon God, we are bringing him nearer to us. There are many times when we call upon God, we can just feel God so close and near us, like the wind, a presence that is felt.
Also the shift in emphasis in the NT has a special meaning; namely calling the LORD to a task. Calling God to act for us. I remember an incident when I was preaching in the church in Bacolod, and my spirit was especially stirred up over what I was going through at that time. Then when the song ‘Remember me’ was sung, my spirit just went up to the LORD literally. I actually was calling upon the LORD and I knew that God heard me.
And recently Pastor Lily was telling me about certain Psalms she was reading and it was exactly the same inner experiences I felt when I was in Bacolod, when I was calling upon the LORD. It says in Psalms 89:45-47 ‘The days of his youth hast thou shortened: thou hast covered him with shame. How long, LORD? Wilt thou hide thyself forever? Shall thy wrath burn like fire? Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?’ Then Psalms 89:49-50 ‘LORD, where are thy former lovingkindness, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth? Remember, LORD, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people; Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O LORD, wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.’
Actually the Psalmist is calling upon the LORD. He is asking God to act on his behalf. He is calling the Lord to a task. The intention of the call is to bring God closer to him. I want you to put yourself in Psalms 89:45-50. ‘The days of my youth hast thou shortened: thou hast covered me with shame. How long, LORD? Wilt thou hide yourself from me forever? Shall thy wrath burn like fire on me? Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou swarest unto me in thy truth? (promises). Remember, LORD my reproach and the reproach of your people; how I do bear in my heart the reproach of all these mighty people. The wicked have reproached me; they have reproach the footsteps (the ways) of me your anointed, chosen, called.’
In calling upon God we must say “How long, Lord? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire?” (v. 46). These questions come from the broken heart of a man who wondered why he is going through so much trouble. Several times we see the word remember in these verses. “Remember how short my time is; for what futility have You created all the children of men?” (v. 47). He is actually calling upon the LORD.
What could the psalmist possibly remind God about? What should be the content in our calling upon the LORD? Well, we can remind Him that our life is short. God did not make us in vain. I believe God made us for a prupose, not in vain, so remind him. Yes sometimes we receive His grace in vain. Sometimes what He does for us is in vain. But that’s our fault, not His. Life is short. That’s good to remember and remind God.
Then we remind God of His promises. “Lord, where are Your former lovingkindnesses, which You swore to David in Your truth?” (v. 49). This refers to the covenant God had made with us. It looked as though God had broken His promise. He doesn’t break His promises, but He likes to have us remind Him of them. Next, we remind God of their reproach. “Remember, Lord, the reproach of Your servants–how I bear in my bosom the reproach of all the many peoples, with which Your enemies have reproached, O Lord” (vv. 50,51). Remember our reproach. Why? Because it detracts from the glory of God. Let’s remind ourselves that we are here to bring glory to His name.
The psalmist ends on the mountains: “Blessed be the Lord forevermore! Amen and Amen” (v. 52). He starts with burdens and ends with blessing. He starts with sighing and ends with singing, because he lifts his broken heart to the Lord when he calls upon the LORD. When you go through troubled times, call upon God to remember God’s promises and remind Him of them. He is faithful to His Word.
Sometimes it is not easy to reconcile God’s providences with his promises, yet we are sure that God’s works fulfil his word. When the great Anointed One, Christ himself, was upon the cross, God seemed to have cast him off, yet did not make void his covenant, for that was established for ever. The honour of the house of David was lost. Thrones and crowns are often laid in the dust; but there is a crown of glory reserved for Christ’s spiritual seed, which fadeth not away.
That is the purpose of Calling upon the LORD. God’s unchangeableness and faithfulness assure us that He will not cast off those whom he has chosen and covenanted with. They were reproached for serving him. The scoffers of the latter days, in like manner, reproach the footsteps of the chosen ones when they ask, Where is the promise of his coming? The records of the Lord’s dealings with the family of David, show us his dealings with his church, and with believers. Their afflictions and distresses may be grievous, but he will not finally cast them off. We just have to call upon him. Self-deceivers abuse this doctrine, and others by a careless walk bringing themselves into darkness and distress; yet let the true believer rely on it for encouragement in the path of duty, and in bearing the cross. The psalm ends with praise, even after this sad complaint. Those who give God thanks for what he has done, may give him thanks for what he will do. God will follow those with his mercies, who follow him with praises!
In conclusion, therefore when applying to ourselves to call upon the name of the LORD, we are encouraged to call, to cry, to call out with a loud voice. It involves great emotion because of the nature of your trials, to shout, to scream and to exclaim. We call upon the name of the LORD for deliverance. Calling upon God involves proclaiming his reputation and attributes. It is equated with taking hold of him, acknowledging him as your only God and LORD. Calling on His name is different from merely praying. Yes, calling is a type of prayer, for it is a part of our prayer, but calling is not merely praying. The Hebrew word for call means to ‘‘call out to,’’ ‘‘to cry unto,’’ that is, to cry out.
The Greek word for call means ‘‘to invoke a person,’’ or ‘‘to call a person by name.’’ In other words, it is to call a person by naming him audibly. Although prayer may be silent, calling must be audible. Calling on the Lord is to be rescued from distress (Psa. 18:6; 118:5), from trouble (Psa. 50:15; 86:7; 81:7), and from sorrow and pain (Psa. 116:3-4). People who have argued about calling on the Lord found themselves calling on Him when they were subject to a certain trouble or illness. When our lives are free from trouble, we will argue about calling on the Lord. However, when trouble comes, there will be no need for anyone to tell you to call on Him. You will call spontaneously. We call on the Lord to rescues us and deliver us. We need to call on the Lord when in distress and trouble. Furthermore, Psalm 116:3-4 tells us that calling on the name of the Lord rescues us from many negative things such as pain, sorrow, death, and hell. If you want to be delivered from such things, you need to call on the Lord.