Call me. Maybe.
Call me Ishmael.
I can call you Betty and Betty when you call me when you call me Al.
Do you get the references? (First person to name all three correctly in the comments will get $5 from me via paypal. I swear. Leave your comment and your email.) Welcome to the first week of my online Bible study, There Is No Small Call. (Click here to read There Is No Small Call Introduction.) I’m doing this weird thing of an online Bible study with audio teaching. I hope you join me. This is the first week! Read the post first or listen first. They go hand in hand!
Pop quiz, hotshot. Choose the best answer from below. What best describes the meaning of the preceding statement?
A. He is not a good person, you are running a fever, and I need to put on a sweater.
B. He’s great, you’re really great, and I am most excellent.
E. I hate the English language.
In case you missed it, the English language is in flux. (I’m sure other languages are as well, but I can only speak to the one that I know.) Over time, words become stripped of meaning or gain new meanings through use. Even if new meanings don’t obscure the original, sometimes a word becomes so familiar that we use it without being able to articulate what it actually means or implies.
CALL is one of those words.
What comes to mind when you hear that word? I would guess that most of us say “call” on a daily basis, generally talking about using the phone. But it has a lot of other meanings as well, and when I stopped to really examine the word, I found a lot of places and phrases and ways “call” is used. Here are a few examples:
to call in poker
The Call of the Wild
“I Just Called to Say I Love You”
“Call me Ishmael.”
a close call
Miriam-Webster provides the following definitions for call (both noun and verb): to shout; to request or command; to make a brief visit; to summon an assembly; a divine vocation; the attraction or appeal of a particular activity, condition, or place.
That does not even include all of the definitions! The word “call” is full of meaning, but we hardly stop to think about it because it’s so familiar.
“Call” is just as rich in the Hebrew and Greek uses in the Bible. The Hebrew QR’ of the Old Testament can mean to call or summon by name; to summon an assembly; to give a name to; to serve God in some capacity or form; to describe and indicate a relationship between God and the one called. In the New Testament “call” has its base in the Greek word kalein and includes the Old Testament QR’ meanings as well as the specific call from God for people to find salvation in Jesus.
You probably didn’t need me to define the word call. I doubt any of those definitions (English, Hebrew, or Greek) surprised you. But let’s look a little deeper at what the word implies and what other meanings it carries with it.
Call implies communication. No matter what definition or context you find the word, communication is involved. From the call of a referee on the field to a phone call, information is being exchanged. Even with a cat call, meaning is being transferred from the whistler to the object of attraction.
On an even more deeper level, call implies relationship.
Think about that for a moment. The relationship might be generic—if you’re stuck in a well, calling for help, any old person will do. But you are hoping that a relationship of rescuer to victim will be established. A phone call is specific, directed toward someone you already know, whether it be a close friend, family member, or a service representative with your electric company. Even in Genesis when God calls (names) the light “day,” He establishes a relationship with creation. If that gives you pause, think about the deist idea that God simply made all things and then sat back and watched. Even naming an inanimate thing demonstrates and creates relationship. The degree and intimacy may be different, but a call establishes and sustains relationship.
When I began writing this Bible study, it was with the idea that we all have a calling. Whether you are a mom or a missionary, none of these callings is small. They are all significant in the eyes of God. I still do believe that, but as I came to study God’s Word with this idea in mind, I realized that my idea itself was too small.
God has something bigger to say to us about calling than my small idea. God is a relational Being. He created all things, named all things, and called people into relationship with Him. In the coming weeks, every Wednesday we are going to be looking at various aspects of God’s call to us.
I hope that you will come to know that YOU have a calling from God, and there is nothing small about it. In the comments, let me know what you think of as YOUR calling. Also, don’t forget to name the three references!