Isaiah 43: 1b “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine
There is a phrase in sports which is to “call a player’s number”. This generally means that when the outcome of a game is hanging in the balance, when some heroics are desperately needed, the coach chooses a player to step up and win it. All the coach needs to do is to call out their number.
Anytime the game was on the line for the NBA Chicago Bulls in their heyday of the 1990s (where they won 6 NBA titles), all the coach had to do was to draw up a plan to get the ball to number 23, Michael Jordan. If you got the ball in his hands in the dying seconds, you felt confident that he would win the game for you. Likewise for the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, when the football game came down to a last desperate attempt to score a touchdown, the coach or quarterback knew they just had call out number 80, Jerry Rice. Draw up a play that got the ball anywhere close to arguably the best receiver in history, and you knew Rice would come up with the reception.
There is no greater honour for an athlete than to have your number called. You recognize that you have been personally chosen by the coach to accomplish an urgent task. The coach thinks enough of you to call your number.
In today’s scripture reading from Isaiah, God used His prophet to speak to his people. The tribe of Judah was suffering under the might of the Babylonian empire, and it appears that the prophet was being used to rebuild the people’s understanding of who they were as God’s people, and that the Babylonian superpower was of no concern to God. God had “summoned (them) by name”. In effect He had called their number.
Likewise, as believers we have all been called by name. He has called your number. In John 15:16 Jesus said to his disciples: “16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” This is the same message for all believers; God calls our number, but the choice is ours whether we heed the call. Sometimes the call can seem scary and overwhelming. I think of great leaders like Moses who were not thrilled with God calling their number. Exodus 4 is a very real description of the mental torment Moses was going through as he resisted God’s call. This culminates in Moses outright saying: “’Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.’” (v.13b). Fortunately, the story did not end there, as Moses accepted the call and watched God do incredible things through his leadership, which included saving his people.
Whether you are the athlete who is excited to have their number called by their coach, or perhaps the one who is a little more tentative, understand the awesomeness of the mighty God of the universe inviting us to partake in what he is doing here on earth; and he will give you all you need to undertake the calling. “10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10). Pray to God and express your willingness to serve him and ask him to reveal to you what “good works” He has prepared for you to do. Listen for your number.