We Know His Name (click to view/download originally published pdf)
Jesus. You just don’t appreciate how awesome that is. Jesus.
You can say that name. For you, it’s easy. Jesus. You see? For most of you, you’ve been able to say that since the days when you were learning your very first words. Jesus. What an amazing thing!
And the reason I say that you don’t really appreciate it is that you don’t live in the time of Agur. Other than that he was the man through whom the Spirit originally inspired the words of Proverbs 30, we know almost nothing about him. Solomon recognized him as a prophet and included some of his sayings in his collection. He doesn’t appear to have been an Israelite. He may, in fact, have been descended from Abraham’s less famous son, Ishmael. That’s about as much as we can say. What we don’t know has frustrated Bible students for centuries.
But what all of those students have known for the last two thousand years made Agur envious. What we know and take for granted Agur longed to hear! “Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and the name of his son? Tell me if you know!”
We Know His Name. I want you to learn to appreciate today what a big deal that really is. We know the one who has gone up to heaven and come down. We know the one who has gathered up the wind in the hollow of his hand. We know the one who has wrapped up the waters in his cloak and who established the ends of the earth. Even his closest associates had to ask, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” But we know who he is. We know his name. His name is Jesus, and he is our ruler, our Savior and our brother.
It’s probably the “ruler” part that Agur had in mind. People usually do. They don’t understand by nature that the “Savior” part is, in fact, the more important part. They want to know the name of this world’s ruler for the same reason that you want to know the name of the manager at a restaurant that just gave you food poisoning. They want to know the name of this world’s ruler for the same reason that everyone wants to know exactly who to blame after a disaster like the 9/11 attacks or Hurricane Katrina. When things go wrong, you want to know who’s in charge. You want to know who’s responsible for the pain and heartache and loss. You want to know the name of the person to blame.
You know that the name of the person in charge in this world is Jesus. The question that sets you apart from Agur in this respect is not, in fact, “Do you know his name?” That does set you apart, of course, because you know Jesus’ name and he never did. But what sets you apart in looking for the person who’s in charge of this world is that you know so much more about the Ruler of the world than he did, but you are so reluctant to take comfort in it.
Think, brothers and sisters, of how conversations about God usually go with us. You tell someone that Jesus is a perfectly loving, gentle Savior. And what do people usually say? “If he’s so loving, then why does he allow such-and-such to happen? If he’s so loving, why does he allow so much pain and evil in the world? Why doesn’t he just put a stop to it all?”
What do you say? Do you say that he doesn’t want these things to happen but evil people do? Do you give the impression that the Lord is caught in a struggle with evil and that sometimes, despite his best efforts, evil gets the upper hand? How weak and how slow we are to understand what the Lord tries so hard to teach us about himself in the Word!
I want you to think before you answer another question like that. I want you to think about Agur, asking for the name of the one who gathered up the wind in the palm of his hand and wrapped up the waters in his cloak. I want you to remember that people have always been asking about the one who is in charge of the wind and waves, the Almighty One who has the power to control all things, so these questions are to be expected.
But then I want you to remember that Agur hit the nail on the head when he asked if there was anyone who could tell him this Mighty God’s name. And I want you to remember that you know his name. I want you to remember that you know his name and that knowing his name makes all the difference.
What I want you to remember is something that you learn in Catechism and Bible Information Class. Before you answer a challenging question like that, I want you to go back to the basics and remember Jesus’ name.
Do you know what I’m talking about? I’m not just talking about remembering that his name is Jesus. I’m talking about remembering what Jesus means. Jesus means “The LORD saves.” Remember that. Remember that Jesus means “The LORD saves.”
The LORD saves. Like when he saved the disciples who were almost drowned in their boat, like when he gave Paul the lives of all the people aboard his ship, the LORD commands wind and wave. Storm and disaster bow to his whim. Jesus’ name refers to the fact that the LORD cares about people and interferes with the natural flow of events in order to save them.
“The LORD saves” is the name of the person who is in charge. I want you to remember that name, the name that Agur longed to hear, whenever someone challenges the love or justice of God. When you remember that Jesus means, “The LORD saves,” you will be reminding yourself of a record that God has established, a record of saving his people again and again. You will remember that he saved Noah and his family in the ark. You will remember that he saved Moses and the Israelites from slavery and oppression in Egypt by parting the Red Sea. You will remember that he saved Jerusalem during the Assyrian Siege by wiping out an entire army while the Israelites slept through the night. You will remember that the LORD has and always will save those who call on his name.
But, God-willing, you’ll also remember something more. If, when someone challenges the love and power of God, you remember Jesus, you will also remember that if God were to answer the call of all who insist that he must come down and rid the world of all evil, he would also be getting rid of you. And you will remember that the name Jesus really means that the LORD set up an extraordinary plan for punishing all evildoers while sparing you. You’ll remember that the name Jesus means that the LORD saved you from the punishment your evil deserves by being punished in your place—suffering hell in your place.
Tell people that. When they imply that God should get down here and get rid of all evil, tell them that you are evil and that they are evil. Tell them that God already has a plan to rid the lives of his children of all this world’s evil, but first he executed a plan to make evil people like us to be his children. Tell them that the one who wraps up the waters in his cloak also used his extraordinary power to imbue the waters of baptism with the power of forgiveness in his name. Remember his name, by which he called you to repentance and granted you a new life. Then call whoever would challenge the righteousness of God to repent of their own evil rebellions. Call them to repent of their evil thoughts and ways and tell them to trust in Jesus, who is the LORD in human flesh, the One who came here to suffer in our place and set us free to live with him eternally.
You see, when it comes to God using his power to protect people from the disasters of this world, we ourselves are too often so angered or frustrated by our personal struggles that we do not remember how wonderful it is that we live in a time of prophetic fulfillment and salvation. We of all people should know better than to question God’s love or his power. Quite honestly, even Agur didn’t do that. He longed to know the name by which the Savior would be known, but he also freely admitted that he was ignorant of all the ways of God, and he could accept what he didn’t know in the same faith that gives us forgiveness, joy and peace.
But rejoice, brothers and sisters! Rejoice! We know his name! We know his salvation! We know his almighty power that is ever at work to watch over each and every one of us! Jesus means that “The LORD saves!” Repent and release your doubts and fears, for “Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.” So wrote Agur, and we say, “Amen.”