Posted in theology

When the Bible repeats a name…

By Elizabeth Prata

When the Hebrews wanted to express intimacy within a close relationship with someone, they repeated their name twice. Doing so was an expression of a close, personal bond. Knowing this ancient manner of speaking brings all the more sweetness to the following biblical examples:

On Mount Moriah when Abraham had been instructed to sacrifice his son Isaac, and Abraham was about to plunge the knife into Isaac, the Angel of the LORD (Preincarnate Christ) stopped Abraham, saying,

“Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:11).

When God called to Moses from within the burning bush, He said,

 “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Exodus 3:4b).

God encouraged Jacob to go to Egypt in Genesis 46:2, He called to him:

And God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, “Jacob, Jacob.” And he said, “Here I am.”

God called to Samuel in the night, “Samuel, Samuel” in 1 Sam. 3:10.

God called to Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4)

We must not forget the most intimate relationship in the universe that sparked the most desolate lament upon separation- from Jesus on the cross, crying out “My God, My God.” (Matthew 27:46).

You might note that some of these intimate, loving calls from the LORD happened before the person He was calling knew Him. Samuel had just begun his training in the temple. Saul/Paul certainly didn’t know God. But we do read in 1 John 4:19 that “We love because he first loved us“. He initiates the love, He establishes the relationship.

Therefore, the question of life is not whether we know Jesus, but does He know us?

My two points, the notion of the repeated name calling and the the scriptural truth that He knows us first is tied together in one verse that has devastating meaning. Matthew 7:21-24.

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.

Let’s unpack this.

The people standing before the judgment throne of God thought they knew Jesus. They are abruptly and shockingly told they never had the relationship they thought they had. They were ignorant of the one-way nature of it. Or they were self-deceived. Or they never examined themselves to see if they were in the faith. (2 Corinthians 13:5). Perhaps they bumped along in what they thought was a walk with Jesus but no one ever lovingly confronted them with the fact that fruit is absent. Or maybe they were never lovingly disciplined by their elders at church on church non-attendance.

Jesus looks them in the eye and dismisses them from His presence. “I never knew you,” He will say.

Oh! WOE!

He says that all their religious work was for naught. Everything that they did in His name is completely and totally rejected. The teaching they did in His name, and their mighty works, and casting out of demons, everything else, all for nothing. Empty. Void.

‘And then He will declare to them’…the word declare here is homologeó which means to publicly declare. A deeper meaning of this compound word in the Greek is to “speak to a conclusion.” It’s very final, this word. He will proclaim, or declare, with finality, the non-existent relationship.

Here is MacArthur’s explanation:

And here Christ openly proclaims that He does not know them. That same word, homologia him will I confess before My Father.” The same word is used. If you’re not willingly openly proclaiming Christ here, then He will not openly proclaim you there. Instead He says, “I never knew you.”

Worst of all, He calls them evildoers, workers of lawlessness, ye that work iniquity, lawbreakers, or simply evil people (depending on the translation.) In all cases, the news is very, very bad. Where they say “Lord, Lord”, their expression of intimacy, He utterly rejects any knowledge of or hope for a relationship by voiding their life.

Their final moments standing before Jesus will be of shock, rejection, and pain. As the Judgment concludes, He says,

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.‘ (Matthew 25:41).

This is serious, serious stuff. I do call out false teachers, people who think they are doing the Lord’s work, but are not. Why? This verse is haunting. It makes me cry every time I work with it. Can you imagine this scene? I have to, because it’s in the Bible. But do I want to? No. But this is the verse I think of every time I engage with a false teacher or their disciples. This. Every time.

It is agreeable that the Lord calls to His people by an endearment like the repeated name. We have a loving and perfect Savior who is also our Friend, Groom, Brother and so much more. For those who are truly saved, they will hear the welcoming words of Jesus. Maybe He will say, “Elizabeth, Elizabeth, well done good and faithful servant.” How sweet those words would be.

jesus love


Christian writer and Georgia teacher's aide who loves Jesus, a quiet life, art, beauty, and children.

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