Call Upon the Name of Yahweh

Call Upon the Name of Yahweh

In Romans 10:13, Paul tells us that, "whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."  At first glance this might seem like an easy thing to do so that we might be saved.  Some might mistake it to mean that this is all we need to do to be saved.  It makes it sound like such a trivial venture.  But the aspect of calling upon the name of the Lord is a phrase loaded with powerful and weighty implications for us.  It is not a trivial thing and we must seriously consider what it means in a Biblical context. 

Now it is apparent that Paul is quoting from Joel 2:32 but the real beginnings of this start back in Genesis.  So this morning we are going to do a little Bible study on what it means to call on the name of the Lord.  We will start in Genesis were it is mentioned five times.  Next we will consider the name of Yahweh and what it means to know the name of Yahweh.  This will takes us into considering the Temple as a place for Yahweh’s name to dwell.  Finally we will consider the implications of all this for ourselves and for the future age to come.

I am hoping to show that to “call upon the name of the Lord” means

  • Realizing that the things of this world are temporary
  • Recognizing that we are sinners and need of Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.
  • Desiring the eternal of things of God that his kingdom would come

Sounds like the gospel in a nutshell.

Basis in Genesis

The very first time the phase is used in Scripture is Genesis 4:26.  But before this statement is made in the text we are given a study in contrast in verse 17,

"And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch."

Psalm 49:6-11 comments on this,

"They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches; {7} None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: {8} (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:) {9} That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption. {10} For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others. {11} Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names."

So Cain, by the action of naming a city after his son, shows the pattern of a man that trusted in himself.  He thinks he will live forever and that his house will continue forever.

In stark contrast Seth had a son named Enosh.  Names are important because Enosh means man but not like the man Adam which means a human being, ruddy, full of life, the breath of God, Enosh means man, mortal, dying.  Seth had come to realize his end, the end of every man, which is the grave.  And so it was at this time that men began to look for something permanent, something established, something immortal, so they began to call upon the name of Yahweh.  It’s very apparent that Seth and his descendants had a very different outlook on life then Cain and his descendants.  They weren’t like the men in chapter 11:4 who said, “Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name…”


So after the story of the tower of Babel, where men sought to make a name for themselves, we are given the lineage of Seth leading to Abram.  Now what kind of city was Abraham looking for?  Hebrews 11:8 gives us the answer.

"By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.  By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: for he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God."

So it is of no surprise that we read of Abram calling on the name of Yahweh in Genesis 12:8,

"And he removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD."

Abraham was not of the seed of Cain, he was not of the seed of Babel, he was of the seed of Seth who looked for something better, something everlasting.  To these men calling upon the name of Yahweh meant appealing to God that he would intervene to end the misery and strife and bring that seed, Jesus, to set up the kingdom of God.  He had been given the promise of inheriting the land and he was calling on God to make it happen.

The place is significant and again the names are important.  Bethel means “house of God” and Hai means “heap or ruin” and comes from a root meaning “wickedness or perverseness”.  It’s almost as if the very landscape is teaching the lesson that a choice has to made between God or sin, everlasting life or destruction.

Again in Genesis 13:4 Abram calls on the name of the Lord.  After his sojourn in Egypt and a low point in his life he makes a bee line back to Bethel, where his tent was before, calling on the name of the Lord.  He renews his commitment and desire for the eternal things of God.

The next time Abraham calls on the name of the LORD is in Genesis 21:33,

"And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God."

Now this again is after a time of considerable tension with the inhabitants of the land and fighting over wells.  He makes a covenant of peace with Abimilech in v. 27 by providing seven ewe lambs.  Thus the name of the place was called Beer-sheba meaning “the well of the oath” or “the well of seven”.  Seven being a number associated with a covenant (remember that).  Now it’s evident by studying about Beersheba that it became a place of importance for Isaac and Jacob as well.

It is in Beersheba that Abraham plants a tree and calls on the name of Yahweh.  Planting a tree is quite unique and one may wonder why he did this.  It differs from the other instances where Abraham builds an altar and calls on the name.  It makes me wonder if this tree was pointing forward to Jesus Christ, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree” (1 Peter 2:24).  In more then one place in the New Testament the cross is referred to as a tree.  Is this far fetched?  When the tree was planted Isaac would have been a baby (cp. v. 1 to v. 22).  At the beginning of chapter 22 it says, “and it came to pass after these things…”  This draws in the planting of the tree and the events that surround it with the sacrifice of Isaac which points toward the sacrifice of Christ.  One might even wonder if the wood for the burnt offering was from the same tree he planted.

To round it out we have Isaac also calling on the name of the Lord, in Beersheba after struggling with Abimilech in Genesis 26:25.  With all these references to the patriarchs calling on the name of Yahweh a passage in Exodus 6:3 may seem strange.

"And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them."

Now there are quite a few verses where you can find Abraham, Isaac and Jacob pronouncing the name Yahweh (e.g. Gen. 15:7).  What God is really saying here is that they had not known the Yahweh name by experience.

You see the LORD God had made a promise to Abraham which entailed two things, a seed and a land.  To the first Abraham saw the fulfillment in Isaac and his sons and so Abraham experienced God as the Nourisher or the El Shaddai.  A careful look at the record in Genesis shows that if the name God Almighty or El Shaddai appears it is then associated with the seed that was to multiply (i.e. Gen 17:1-2).  On the other hand, if the Yahweh name (or LORD in capitols) is used then the promise is about the land being given to that seed (i.e. Gen 15:7).  So this is what is meant when it says "by my name Yahweh was I not known to them", in so much that Abraham had never known, or experienced the fulfillment of the land being his and his children's.  As it says in Acts 7:5, “He gave him none inheritance in it, no, not so much as to set his foot on.”

That is why the Lord continues on in Exodus 6:4 to say, “I have established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan.”  He further explains himself in verses 6 through 8,

"Wherefore say unto the children of Israel,

I am the LORD, and

I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and

I will rid you out of their bondage, and

I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:

{7} And

I will take you to me for a people, and

I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. {8} And

I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and

I will give it you for an heritage:

I am the LORD."

Like bookends, there are the statements “I am Yahweh”.  To describe how they would know Yahweh he gives them seven things (number of covenant) that he would do.   And so the children of Israel would know the name by experience.

The Temple – A Place for the Name

Once the children of Israel inherited the land there was a place for the name of the Lord.  It says in Deut. 12:10-11,

"But when ye go over Jordan, and dwell in the land which the LORD your God giveth you to inherit, and when he giveth you rest from all your enemies round about, so that ye dwell in safety; {11} Then there shall be a place which the LORD your God shall choose to cause his name to dwell there; thither shall ye bring all that I command you; your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto the LORD:"

There was to be a city where God would choose for his name to dwell.  That city is Jerusalem.  I believe this to be so because the phrase in v. 10, “rest from all your enemies round about” is used in 2 Samuel 7:1.  Obviously this is a well meaning context since it is David wanting to build a house for Yahweh who up to this point had dwelt in a tent.  And what does Yahweh say to him in verses 12-13,

"And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever.  I will be his father, and he shall be my son."

No wonder David was so eager to capture Jerusalem, to bring up the ark, to purchase the threshing floor of Araunah, and to set up the supplies for the building of the house of Yahweh.  For hundreds of years Yahweh had waited for a place to put his glory, so that he may dwell among men.  A city whose builder and maker was God.

We know all to well that this was not permanent, but it was only a foreshadowing of greater things to come.  The prophet Ezekiel describes the glory which dwelt between the cherubim lifted up and came over the threshold of the house, out to the east gate, over to the mount of Olives and lifted up into the heavens no more to be seen until the glory of the Lord was to be revealed in his son.

Where are we now?

Where do we stand now brothers and sisters?  Are we not in the same position as Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, sojourners and pilgrims in this earth?  We are calling on the name of Yahweh around our sacrificial altar of Jesus Christ.  Turn with me to 1 Peter 1:15-19

"But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;  because it is written, 'Be ye holy for I am holy.'  And if ye call on the Father (Yahweh), who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work, pass the time of your sojournings here in fear: Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."

Notice how Peter uses the phrases "call on the Father" with the idea of sojournings and things which are temporary, but we are redeemed with something which shall not pass away, the precious blood of Christ.  It is no surprise that Peter also uses the symbols of the temple as in chapter 2:5

"Ye as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."

God is now in the process of building his house which are his people, in which his name shall dwell.  The culmination of the house, of his name, of his glory will be revealed in the kingdom age when the glorious multitudes will give praise to God with one consent.  Then will all the saints know the name of Yahweh as we all inherit the promises.  It’s a time that Revelation 3:12 speaks about when it says,

"Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name."

Looking to the Future

There is one more passage we should look at in Zephaniah 3:8-9.  Here is a time in the future when people will call upon the name of Yahweh.

"Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the LORD, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. {9} For then will I turn to the people a pure language (lip, cp. Heb. 13:15), that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent."

If what we’ve determined before is true then these people are not the saints.  The immortal saints do not call upon the name of the LORD because the name of the LORD is all ready written on them.  The people here are those who are left of all the nations that came up against Jerusalem.  They are the “many people” spoken of in Isaiah 2 who go up to the mountain of the LORD to learn his ways.  They call upon the name of the LORD because they now desire the eternal things of God.


My dear brothers and sisters, let us not grow weary in our wanderings.  We have come here to commemorate the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ, to call upon the name of Yahweh.  Let us remember him as the promised seed who has redeemed us by his blood to be a people for his name, called out of the Gentiles (Acts 15:14).  Let us look forward to that day when we shall say, "blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." (Luke 13:35)  Yes let us not only look forward to that day but yearn for it, for the establishing of a righteous kingdom as the prophet Isaiah declares in chapter 62:6-7

"I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of Yahweh, keep not silence, and give him no rest till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth."