Today's reading: Genesis 4; Matthew 4.
"At that time people began to call upon the name of the LORD." (Genesis 4:26b ESV)
The name of the Lord. This is the first mention of "calling upon the name of the Lord" (4:26). In Gen 4 we see the continued downward spiral of sin, specifically in the family of Cain. The first case of domestic violence resulting in murder and the first perversion of God's institution of marriage, seen in Lamech's polygamy. Further, Lamech's extravagant boast of vengeance paves the way for what we will find in Genesis 6. We also see the rise of technology and arts. It is the line of Cain that is noted for this, while the line of Seth is noted for living before the Lord. By God's grace we can use musical instruments (designed by a descendant of Cain) to sing praises to God rather than to ourselves.
Our God is not a generic god. He has a name, and he gives us his name by which we may know and call upon him. A name was more than just a bare word, it contained a description. (See for example Exodus 3:13ff, and God's name, "I am"; also John 17:6, 26). The point is that we do not get to "name" God or call him whatever we'd like. We do that for our children, our pets, and our friends (equals) to whom we give nicknames. When we are introduced to someone great we dare not call them whatever we'd like!
So it is with the Lord. In grace he stoops and invites us to know him and to draw near to him by calling upon his name. As Christians we pray "in the name of Christ" because we approach God through the Person and accomplishments of his Son, the Lord Jesus.
Notes on Matthew 3 and 4.
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17 ESV)
Repentance is the appropriate way to "prepare the way of the Lord" (Mt 3:2ff). Jesus also calls for repentance (4:17). This means a change of mind, heart, and behavior, in light of who the Lord is. It is first to turn from unbelief to faith, and then from a sinful life to one of obedience. This is an ongoing practice for the Christian. Martin Luther wrote in the first of his 95 theses, "All of life is repentance", meaning that as believers we will constantly need to deal with our sinful attitudes and actions (1 John 1:5-10).
John the Baptist exercised a powerful ministry of preparation. According to Jesus he was the last and greatest of the OT prophets (Matt 11:11). Whereas many of his generation looked forward to the coming of the Messiah in a political or national way, John called for personal and individual repentance. Each one of us ultimately will be baptized by the Holy Spirit or by the fire of Messiah's judgment (3:11-12). There are only two destinies.
The triune nature of God is seen here at the beginning of Jesus' ministry (3:16-17) and the three-fold name is given in the Great Commission (28:19). Prophets were commissioned by God as authorized spokesmen from God, but the Father's statement in 3:17 reveals the unique and personal bond between him and our Savior, that he is "my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased."
My take-aways. There are only two directions for humanity: a) either to make a name for ourselves (continuing the autonomy of the first sin), or b) calling upon the name of the Lord. The first results in pride, perversion, self-justification, and violence; the second humbles us in our approach to God our Creator and Redeemer. I need to know and trust God as he has revealed himself, not as I might want him to be. Confessing sin and repentance are part of my daily walk with the Lord. I do not trust Jesus as one savior among many, or even the greatest prophet, but as the beloved Son of God, whose life and death have satisfied my every lack before God.
Image above of John the Baptist by Titian, now in the Museo del Prado, Spain.