He Knows Your Name (Ros' Blog)
I’ve just come back from a week at Center Parcs on a Through the Roof holiday, where we looked at some of the New Testament characters who were noticed by Jesus when other people didn’t notice them. None of us on the holiday are well known. Some have learning disabilities and live in care communities or supported living. And yet to watch the love and care everyone showed to each other was a real blessing. To hear people read the Bible, perhaps stumblingly, and pray simple but heartfelt prayers was the most uplifting experience. At least one person on the holiday found it life-changing and she said she had rediscovered her calling.
Some people in the Bible scarcely get a mention, their names hastily dropped into the list in a genealogy, or given a passing mention in someone else’s story. And yet they are included for a reason. Here are a few of them whom you might not have noticed:
Huldah is named as a prophet, the wife of Shallum (yes, I know, you haven’t heard of him either). Her name may not appear in lists of the Biblical great and good, but she was clearly a significant person in her day. When the young king Josiah was presented with the book of the law, and discovered the many ways in which his predecessors had failed to obey it, he sent messengers to enquire of the Lord. And in those days, when you wanted to know what the Lord had to say about something, you went and asked Huldah. She must have had quite a reputation as someone who spent time listening to God and knew what was on His heart.
Adlai only gets mentioned once in the Bible, and then only for being someone’s father. He was the father of Shaphat, who was the father of Elisha the prophet. We might perhaps wonder why it was important for him to be named in Scripture when we are told only this one fact about him. But we know a lot about the character of Elisha – his devotion and obedience to God, his loyalty to Elijah, his determination not to miss out on receiving a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. Where did he get those qualities from? Surely these values must have been instilled in him by his father and grandfather while he was growing up. Without their influence he might never have followed Elijah, Naaman might never have been healed of his leprosy, the bitter water at Jericho might never have been purified, and the widow’s dead son might never have been brought back to life.
Then there’s a woman who isn’t even named, we know of her only as the wife of an unnamed man who lived at Bahurim. When Absalom was pursuing David to kill him, two messengers were on their way to warn David so he could escape. They were spotted and reported to Absalom, who sent men to capture them. They called at the house of a man in Bahurim, and his wife helped them to climb down into a well to hide, then spread a covering over the well and scattered grain over it. Without her action they would not have escaped to warn David, and he and his men would have been wiped out. Absalom, rather than Solomon, would have succeeded him to the throne of Israel, and the nation’s history would have been very different.
Then there’s the man who is named in our English Bibles as Ebed-Melek, although in reality the Hebrew Eved-Melech isn’t actually a name; it simply means the king’s slave. The king’s officials heard Jeremiah prophesying a warning from God, and they went and complained about him to the king, who shrugged and told them to do what they liked with him. So they took him and threw him into an empty well where he sank down into the mud at the bottom. Ebed-Melek went to the king and pointed out the wickedness of these men’s actions, effectively condemning Jeremiah to starve to death. The king responded by authorising thirty men to rescue Jeremiah and save his life.
All these people played a vital part in God’s plans. Like these Bible characters and the many more whom I could have listed, none of us who went on the Center Parcs holiday are household names. But God knows every one of us by name, and we matter to him. Just as God cared enough to mention these forgotten characters in the Bible, many of them by name, so He cares for each one of us, however obscure or unknown, and never forgets any of us. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, “Can a mother forget the baby who is nursing at her breast? Can she stop having tender love for the child who was born to her? She might forget her child. But I will not forget you. I have written your name on the palms of my hands. Your walls are never out of my sight.”
So if you’re feeling forgotten, overlooked or insignificant, this is a reminder that you are none of those things to God. You are never out of His sight. You are never forgotten. He wears you like a permanent tattoo, always embossed on his hands. The part you play in His great scheme for the universe can’t be played by anyone else. You are an essential component of the world he designed, and without you something vital would be missing. And just like those minor characters whom God ensured were included in the story of the Bible, some small action by you might make more difference to the course of events than you can ever imagine.