The LORD, The Holy one of Israel is the actor throughout this entire salvation oracle. God is essentially the subject of every verb. God has created, formed, redeemed and called us by name. God is with us. God considers us precious and esteemed. God loves us. God will gather us from the four corners of the earth. And at the end of this salvation oracle the conclusion is reiterated that God created, formed, and "made" everyone who is called by his name. The focus of the text rests entirely on God's action. However, all of this is done in relation to each of us.
These words in Isaiah 43:1-7 are spoken even after Israel had completely turned their back on the LORD. The people turned their back on God even though from the beginning God forms us like a potter working with a lump of clay. God shaped our very bodies in our mother's womb. Or as in Job 10:11 the image of the seamstress is used to speak of our being knit together with bones and sinews over which is placed the skin and flesh. And if that is not intimate enough for you God calls each of us by name.
On this Sunday in which we observe and celebrate Jesus baptism we can reflect on any number of things including a theology of baptism, the various practices in the history of the church regarding baptism, as well as understandings of infant baptism. Instead I want to have us think about the phrase in this text, "I have called you by name, you are mine."
In the ancient world naming was incredibly important. Of course, in the act of infant baptism we ask what a child is to be named. This name is in addition to the surname or family name or last name. This name distinguishes an individual from other people in a family. The giving of a first name is not a universal custom.
Biblical traditions show any number of other naming traditions. There are symbolic names such as Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14), names that have geographical elements attached to them (Jesus of Nazareth), and names get changed to signal a change in status (Sarai to Sarah Genesis 17:15). In some few cases God gives the name of the individual (Luke 1:31).
In our Isaiah text God knows those to whom he is speaking by name because they are his. They will be with God wherever, whenever, and however they go. In fact at the end of our passage all of us who are spoken to are not only known by name but we are called by God's name (Isaiah 43:7). With that comes a responsibility for us to show God's importance and significance since that is what it means to glorify God.
Celebrating Jesus baptism is a reminder to all of us that by grace we bear God's presence every day. How will each of us show others the grace that has been bestowed upon us in our baptism?