“God numbers all the stars,
calls each of them by name.”
I love astronomy, to track the phases of the moon as it waxes and wanes. I don’t mind getting up late at night to see a lunar eclipse or to watch the splendor of a meteor shower.
I can even pick out a few constellations in the night sky. The Big Dipper, of course, is easy to find as it points the way to the North Star. Cassiopeia, the queen, sits on her throne. Orion floats overhead each morning as I wait with my children for the school bus.
In the rural area where I live, I can see countless stars in the night sky. On clear nights, the Milky Way stretches overhead in a vast array of unimaginably distant stars. Astronomers give stars identification numbers, but I much prefer the intimacy of names. I relish their exotic sounds: Sirius, Alpha Centauri, Perseus, Andromeda.
Just as God knows the names of all the stars, he knows my name also.
What’s in a Name?
Abraham Lincoln once said, “I never behold [stars] that I do not feel I am looking into the face of God. I can see how it might be possible for a man to look down upon the earth and be an atheist, but I cannot conceive how he could look up into the heavens and say there is no God.”
Someone made all this. Someone numbered and named the stars. Abraham was told that his descendants would be “as countless as the stars of the sky” (Genesis 22:17). All of Abraham’s descendants have names, and our loving Father knows them all. He assures me, “See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name” (Isaiah 49:16). It comforts me to think of my name engraved on God’s very being.
During my pregnancies, my husband and I spent hours thinking about names. Sometimes he or I wasn’t quite sold on the name, even in the delivery room. But at the moment of birth, when that warm, new body was placed in my arms for the first time, I spoke the chosen name into that baby’s tiny ear and whispered, “Welcome to the world.” At that moment, the name became the person, forever linked in love.
Like the Good Shepherd, I know my flock and they know me. God named us all, he cares for us in this world and he will welcome us to his eternal home.
Called by God
On lazy summer evenings, as the shadows lengthen across the backyard, I call my youngest children home in the singsong chant of parents the world over: “Katheeee, Christieeee.” I need to listen to my Father calling me by name as well.
In my early years of motherhood, God called to me in the voices of my children. I responded by becoming a work-at-home mom. Now that my children are growing older, I find I’m being called to serve more in my community.
When our high school needed an advisor for its yearbook and newspaper, I answered the call. Our parish is planning a new church building and asked for committee members. I heard God calling me to that process as well.
God, my loving parent, made me, cares for me, and calls me by name. It’s up to me to answer the call.
Understanding Psalm 147
Psalm 147 is a hymn which praises God for God’s twofold activity: the creation and care of the universe as a whole, and the salvation and care of a special people, Israel. The power that “numbers all the stars” (verse 4) is the same one that “heals the brokenhearted” (verse 3) and “sustains the poor” (verse 6). The dynamic word which natural phenomena obey (verses 15-18) is the same word that gives Israel its covenant law and expects Israel likewise to obey (verses 11, 19-20).
This psalm forms part of the crescendo of praise which concludes the Book of Psalms (Psalms 146—150).