Monday, December 22, 2014

What Does it Mean to Call Upon the Name of the Lord?

Are you calling upon the name of the LORD or are you saying prayers?  As we read the scriptures and hear sacred words quoted in our temples we hear the command given to “call (qara) upon the name of the Lord”.   When we hear these words spoken the first thing that usually comes to mind is to pray (palel).   In hearing this phrase we usually recommit to doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling our efforts to say our prayers morning, noon, and night—in the kitchen, in our car, in the bathroom, at the bar (you get the idea).  Sometimes we get frustrated because in our efforts to reach up unto the Most High we cannot discover what keeps us from rending the veil of unbelief that separates us from him.

When we think of God as our “Heavenly Father” we often visualize God like our Daddy and ourselves as five year old children running up to give Daddy a hug and ask for a piece of candy.  While God does have a “Daddy” aspect to his character the concept of Father in a Hebraic culture is more closely in line with that of a tribal Patriarch—Ruler, Judge, Protector, and Enforcer of Law.  In fact, the phrase “calling upon the name of the Lord” is best understood as covenant language that can be likened to a subject calling upon (or appealing to) the King who is the owner and ruler of everything.  Like Job who makes his appeal to God and the Court of Heaven, we are dealing with a covenant concept that has more in common with our modern court room and legal proceedings than our nightly dinner with Dad.

In Ancient Israel salvation is seen as drawing near or coming back into the presence of God from where we have fallen.  Because of our fallen state we cannot enter directly back into the presence of God because no unclean thing can reside in his presence.  In his mercy God is continually inviting us to come (boh) unto him by creating a place for him to come to.  The temple is an example of this sacred space.  How close we want to be to him depends upon us.  Are we content to dwell in the outer court or do we desire an audience with the King of Heaven before his throne?

Calling upon the name of the Lord is similar to making a covenant/legal appeal to the throne of heaven.  Behind the veil of the Holy of Holies is the place where God’s Throne resides.  What is called the Mercy Seat or the Ark of the Covenant is literally the throne of God where his presence sits.  The Holy Place where the menorah, the horned altar, and the table of shew bread sits is his Throne room where the High Priest goes to offer up  appeals to Heaven and to inquire for further light and knowledge (instruction) from God to carry out his laws or to seek judgments and dispensations from the King of Kings based upon the needs of the people, the laws, and the terms of his covenant.  In fact words such as the “way”, the “truth”, and the “life, as well as the “gate”, etc. are all terms that draw upon this imagery of God’s throne room/ courtroom.


The Brother of Jared calling upon the name of the Lord is a key example of a man appealing to God before his courtroom.  In Genesis 11 God rendered judgment on mankind with the penalty of scattering them and mixing their language.  The King of Heaven looked down upon the earth, saw what was going on, and declared his ruling upon them:

“Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.” (Genesis 11:7-8)

The language would be mixed and the people would be scattered as a result of God’s ruling.  Similar to obtaining favor with a King by honoring the King and being obedient to his decrees, the Brother of Jared had obtained favor with God.  As such he could approach the Throne of Heaven and Intercede for his people.   The Brother of Jared then cried out (Hebraic thought—made a legal request or proclamation) to God regarding the two judgments God rendered:

“And the brother of Jared being a large and mighty man, and a man highly favored of the Lord, Jared, his brother, said unto him: Cry unto the Lord, that he will not confound us that we may not understand our words.” (Ether 1:34)

1.        The Brother of Jared made a legal request for God to stay his judgment upon him and their relations regarding the confounding of their language:

“And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon Jared; therefore he did not confound the language of Jared; and Jared and his brother were not confounded.  Then Jared said unto his brother: Cry again unto the Lord, and it may be that he will turn away his anger from them who are our friends, that he confound not their language.  And it came to pass that the brother of Jared did cry unto the Lord, and the Lord had compassion upon their friends and their families also, that they were not confounded. (Ether 1:35-37)

2.       The Brother of Jared made a legal request for God regarding their scattering:

“And it came to pass that Jared spake again unto his brother, saying: Go and inquire of the Lord whether he will drive us out of the land, and if he will drive us out of the land, cry unto him whither we shall go. And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth? And if it so be, let us be faithful unto the Lord, that we may receive it for our inheritance.” (Ether 1:38)

As of a result of the Brother of Jared crying unto the Lord, God stayed his judgment upon them in regard to confounding their language and directed his judgment in regard to them being scattered.   The Brother of Jared’s requests were not a tirade of fake emotional outbursts but making a legal plea before the Judge of all the earth to reduce or alter the ruling sent forth from God’s courtroom.  Because the Brother of Jared had honored God and found favor with him he could act as an intercessor between God and his people.

In the Torah the Prophets were agents of God. They were God’s authorized prosecuting attorneys. They brought  covenant lawsuits against nations. They reminded the common people as well as rulers of the covenant that God had made. Then they reminded the listeners of the statutes and judgments of that covenant. They charged people under the terms of that covenant.  Then they warned the nation of the fact that God, the one true king of Israel, would bring His curses against the nation unless they came back to the terms of the covenant (i.e.  such as war,  disease, pestilence, famine and economic ruin).

The prophets called the nation to repentance reminding them of the promised blessings for honoring God and keeping the laws of his Covenant.  If the breach of covenant was healed then deliverance and blessings followed.  If the breach was not repaired then the nation was destroyed and the people were scattered and taken into captivity.

After making his plea before the Judge of Heaven and Earth, the Brother of Jared and his people were taken to a place where they rested for four years.  Judgment had been passed and the sentence carried out.  While their language was not confounded they were still taken away into another land.  The judgments were for national sin not the personal sins of the Brother of Jared or his people.  The judgment having been carried out the next step was complete legal restoration.  Just as the rendering of judgment is a legal process the process of restoration is a legal process.  God does not cast judgment lightly nor does he take restoration lightly. 

His process of restoration includes cleaning the people up, teaching them his laws, conditioning them to live his commandments, and finally bringing them back into his presence before his throne. 

So What?

So what then does all this have to do with the Brother of Jared “Calling upon the name of the Lord” in several places.  In fact after being led away from the Tower of Babel and being delivered from the mixing of the languages, the Brother of Jared was chastised for not “calling upon the name of the Lord”:

 And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord. (Ether 2:14)

To be chastised by the Lord for the space of three hours must give us an indication of the importance of “calling upon the Lord”.  But is “calling upon the name of the Lord” really the same thing as praying, “Lord, Lord” and then thinking we have called upon his name?  Remember, our scriptures were given to Israelites in an Israelite culture and then translated into English.  As such there are expressions that have different meanings in their culture and language—in other words something is getting lost in translation.

The key to understanding the phrase “calling on the name of the Lord” is to recognize that it is more than just directing a verbal petition to God.  The word call (qara) means not only to appeal to but to proclaim something (and to proclaim can be words, actions, or both).   It is a legal appeals process before God’s throne.  While verbal supplication to God is part of this process it also includes carrying out covenant laws, rituals, and edicts put in place for the people to be brought to Salvation (Heb. Returned into the Presence of the LORD).    As with any legal proceeding, we cannot appeal in ignorance or without any legal basis.  We have to know the charges and the judgment rendered and we also have to know that we are literally appealing to the court of Heaven. 

In the case of the Brother of Jared his failure to call upon the name of the Lord may have entailed a failure to enact, proclaim, or conduct the covenant appeals process for him and his people.  His prayer before coming into the presence of God speaks volumes as he approaches God in an ancient pattern or protocol that has been passed down in Judaism in a prayer called the Amidah.  This pattern of prayer is also known as the protocol of the king (as in a servant before a king) making his covenant plea before the Kings throne. (something I will post on later)

Paul and Calling Upon the Name

The idea of “calling upon“ as a legal appeal can be seen in the New Testament as well. As is recorded in Acts 25:11:

“If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

The word “appeal” (Greek: epikaloumai) is the same word translated as “call” (or calling).  The same wording that can also be seen in Acts 2:21 and Acts 22:16. Paul, however, was not on his knees by his bed praying to Caesar to save him.  As a Roman citizen he was appealing to Caesar under that system of law to have his case heard and judged by a court of Caesar.  As with any court of law, Paul had to submit to whatever legal requirements that were imposed by that system of law for his case to be brought before Caesar.   These legal requirements or ordinances were part of his appeal (calling upon) to Caesar.

Another example of what it means to call upon the name of the Lord is found in Acts 22. In speaking of his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus the Apostle Paul stated that Jesus instructed him to “arise and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all things which are appointed for you to do” (Acts 22:10).  As a result Paul demonstrated his belief in Jesus  by obeying the commandment he was given and he went into the city and waited there for instructions.  Over the next three days Paul as a sign of humility fasted and prayed but  his fasting and prayer was not the summation of his “calling upon the name of the Lord” or his legal appeal. 

Even though he was given the wake-up call of his life, fasted, and prayed to God he had yet to “call on the name of the Lord” for salvation. When Ananias came to Paul, he told him:

 “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (22:16)

Ananias knew that Paul had not yet “called on the name of the Lord,” or made his legal appeal before the throne of Heaven because he had not yet complied with the terms of the appeals process—baptism for the remission of sins.   The phrase, “calling on the name of the Lord,” describes what Paul was doing when he was baptized for the remission of his sins.   He was making a legal appeal to God by complying with the command of Heaven to be baptized for the remission of sins.  Every person who desires to “call on the name of the Lord” to be saved does not do so by just praying, “Lord, Lord” (Matthew 7:21), but by obeying God’s instructions to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.  In doing this they call upon God or appeal to God under the terms of his covenant and as a result of sincere humility (submitting to God’s laws and will) in complying with God’s commands he fulfills the appeals process.

So when you awoke, heard the message that was given, and went into the water of Baptism according to the doctrine of Christ in sincerity you literally Called upon the Name of the Lord or Appealed to Heaven to commence the restoration process for full fellowship with God and the Church of the First Born.  Other appeals can and must be made to the throne of Heaven and further compliance with his instructions must be observed to restore honor.

This baptism is a literal fulfillment of calling upon the name of the Lord, but it is not the only appeal we make in the process.  This is why we must learn and follow God’s covenant pattern and laws he has given us.  Like Adam and Eve we have covenanted  to  follow this pattern of sacrifice forever:

“And he gave unto them commandments, that they should worship the Lord their God, and should offer the firstlings of their flocks, for an offering unto the Lord. And Adam was obedient unto the commandments of the Lord. And after many days an angel of the Lord appeared unto Adam, saying: Why dost thou offer sacrifices unto the Lord? And Adam said unto him: I know not, save the Lord commanded me.

And then the angel spake, saying: This thing is a similitude of the sacrifice of the Only Begotten of the Father, which is full of grace and truth. Wherefore, thou shalt do all that thou doest in the name of the Son, and thou shalt repent and call upon God in the name of the Son forevermore. (Moses 5:5-8)