WORSHIP THROUGH THE AGES (2) – Calling On The Name Of The Lord

After Cain killed his brother, God cursed the ground that had received his brother’s blood on his account. Never again would it yield its strength to him as before. This was a crushing blow to a farmer – a man who had depended upon agriculture for his living. God told him that he would become “a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth” (Gen. 4:8-12).

After Cain expressed the fear that anyone who came across him might kill him, God placed a mark on him to assure that this would not happen. Following this, “Cain went away from the presence of the LORD and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden” (Gen. 4:16). We should especially mark that statement about Cain going away from the presence of the Lord. It underscores the division of humanity that began to take place from that time on.

In the following few verses we observe that Cain and his descendants are first to develop the beginnings of civilization. Cain was the first city builder, naming the city after his firstborn, Enoch.

“It [the name Enoch, mr] signifies dedication or initiation, and, in the present case, seems to indicate a new beginning of social existence, or a consciousness of initiative or inventive power, which necessity and self-reliance called forth particularly in himself and his family” (Barnes).

Some think this city was probably walled. Given Cain’s fear of being killed at the hands of another man that is a reasonable possibility. Considering that he had fled from the presence of God, he would have had no other protection than the sign God had set upon him.

There arose among the descendants of Cain the arts (music) and sciences (metal working) albeit apart from God. It would hardly seem that these would be altogether devoted to the betterment of man or to progress in the best sense of the word – but to sensual and destructive ends. After all, there is nothing said about Cain’s descendants seeking to worship or honor God in what they did. Indeed, one of Cain’s descendants carried on the legacy of violence as seen in his actions of vengeance and even boastfulness of it in Gen. 4:23-24. It seems that this sets up a pattern that is followed throughout history.

From this point sin became progressively worse as time went on. Of course that is the exact picture we get from the 5th chapter and on into the 6th when God decides to destroy man from the face of the earth by means of the flood. It is also the same pattern Paul described in the first chapter of Romans. Man without God will only become worse and worse. This is a lesson our present day world would do well to learn.

On the other hand, the descendants of Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, “began to call upon the name of the LORD” (Gen. 4:26). You will notice that the word Lord is in upper case letters. The name of the LORD was not written or spoken by the Hebrews lest they err in spelling or pronouncing his name. They used the tetragram or “Tetragrammaton” if referring YHWH (rendered Jehovah, KJV, Yaweh in many later translations). When the Hebrew scriptures were translated into what we now call the Septuagint this tetragram was written as LORD.

One writer states:

This expression is used of prayer in 1 Kings 18:24,37 and Psalm 116:4. In the earlier scriptures, in almost every use of to call on the name of the LORD involves the construction of an altar and the offering of a sacrifice (Genesis 12:8, 13:4, 21:33 – implied, 26:25; 1 Kings 18:24). All of the Old Testament sacrifices were only as effective as the believing of the one offering them. All of these sacrifices entailed acknowledging God’s lamb who would be revealed in the future. To call “upon the name of the LORD” was to formally enter into a covenant by coming into His presence.

We can definitely say that this calling upon the name of the Lord represented a change in man’s recognition of God and of his need for a relationship with him.

Isaiah 67:7 gives us another insight as to what it meant to call on the name of the Lord …

There is no one who calls upon your name,
who rouses himself to take hold of you

Here, to call upon the name of God is equivalent to rouse one’s self to take hold of him. Isaiah had repeatedly excoriated the Jews for their exercise of religion without understanding or caring what God really wanted of them as well as their insistence on worshiping idols. God had punished them for this and yet they had not gotten the message – they had not cultivated a relationship with him as he had really wanted. He wanted them to “take hold” of him, to desperately cling to him as their best and only friend and the only God.

Man has long harbored the mistaken, deistic idea that God is far away and not really interested in anything other than our strict adherence to his restrictive commands. While God does expect obedience to his commands, it is more than just obedience that he is interested in. He made us to be in relationship with him. He wants us close to himself. He wants us to know our dependence on him and to rely on him in all our weaknesses and temptations. He wants to pour our hearts out to him in prayer (conversation) and to express our joys (praise, thanksgiving). He wants us to acknowledge our mistakes and errors and seek his forgiveness because he is eager to forgive us. He is a gracious God and wants us to learn all we can know about him so that we can be like him.

In order to do this we must come close to him and “call upon” his name. The efforts of men in olden times in calling on his name were, I believe, their efforts to have just such a kind of relationship with the Creator.Their attitude certainly differed greatly with that of Cain’s descendants.

What are the benefits of such a relationship with God – a relationship in which men call on the name of the Lord? Consider the words of the psalmist in Psalm 116:4

Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul

Here he called upon the name of the Lord for deliverance or salvation. Paul, in Romans 10:13 states; For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” This is a quote taken from Joel 2:32 which Peter also quoted on the day of Pentecost. Peter gave instruction Acts 2:38-39 to the people on Pentecost who were ready to call on the name of the Lord …

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

The psalmist again (Psalm 116:13) speaks of calling on the name of the Lord in this manner …

I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the Lord

Here the idea seems to be that he would accept or take unto himself the salvation the Lord provided him. Indeed, that is the only gracious thing we can do when the Lord in his great love provides for us “so great a salvation” in the blood of Jesus Christ. How sad it is that there are people who know of the salvation God offers and will not accept it!

The third time in this Psalm the phrase is used is in Psalm 116:17

I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
and call on the name of the Lord

Certainly it would be ungracious to call upon the name of the Lord for salvation, accept that salvation and then not be grateful for it. The Hebrew writer, (Hebrews 13:15), puts it this way …

Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”

Are all these things worship? Indeed they are! It is bowing before our God and Creator. It is honoring his name. It is doing obeisance. These things are done out of a heart that is filled with adoration for God and in obedience to his expressed will for us. In responding to God in the manner described by the psalmist, we are joining with the descendants of Seth in “calling upon the name of the LORD.”

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