The problem of God “Calling”

“Calling” –  

as in being called by God  


hearing the call of God  

or ???  

But what does it really mean?

It’s not like it’s a real phone call.

I’m writing this as a detailed explanation of “Calling” for an article called “The “Healthy” and the “Sick.  What did Jesus really mean? If you’re coming from there – glad to see you.  If not – maybe you’d like to check it out afterwards?

So – the “Call of God”.  It’s one of those church words.  It’s used, with an assumption that everyone knows what it means.  Or maybe, that everyone will figure out what it means.  Or – maybe – it’s one of those words that is so polarizing that no one wants to really touch what it means,

Personally, I vote for the last option.  Given that this is an introductory type of discussion, I won’t go into that here.  However – at some point, it is good to know why this disagreement over something that seems to important.   I’m working on something else titled The problem of Either/Or & Both.  When it’s finished, I’ll put a link to it in here.  You can also subscribe to this site to get emails of all new posts.  Just use the subscribe button on the right side of this page – towards the top.

“Calling” – as a general topic is God’s summoning of people to Himself, as well as for particular tasks.
That’s nice – but it really doesn’t say much that’s meaningful to a non-church person, does it?

So  let’s add a couple examples of “Calling” from the Bible.  BTW – this still won’t be enough, but it will start to paint a picture.

“Calling” of Isaiah

Isa 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

This verse if from the book of Isaiah – and it tells of of the moment when God “called” Isaiah to deliver a message to God’s people.

So – you may ask, where is the word “call”?  It’s not there.

Well, it is.  Sort of.  Just not so you can see it.  But the “church” people – they know it’s there.  It shows up in the meaning of the word that we just read as “saying”, as in Isa 6:8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  Turns out, if we look at the meaning(s) behind the Hebrew word that get’s translated as “saying” in your Bible, we see this –

559 אָמַר, אָמַר [ʾamar /aw·mar/] v. A primitive root; TWOT 118; GK 606 and 607; 5308 occurrences; AV translates as “said” 4874 times, “speak” 179 times, “answer” 99 times, “command” 30 times, “tell” 29 times, “call” seven times, “promised” six times, and translated miscellaneously 84 times. 1 to say, speak, utter. 1A (Qal) to say, to answer, to say in one’s heart, to think, to command, to promise, to intend. 1B (Niphal) to be told, to be said, to be called. 1C (Hithpael) to boast, to act proudly. 1D (Hiphil) to avow, to avouch.  1)Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

You can see, in definition 1B – to be told, to be said, to be called.  So, when doing the translation, NIV and KJV (and many others) chose to use the word “saying”.  However – the “churchy” word is “calling” – as in I heard the voice of the Lord calling. 

The “Calling” of Levi

This example comes from “The “Healthy” and the “Sick.  What did Jesus really mean? that I mentioned earlier is the reason for this particular article.  The passage in question is –

Mk 2:13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

Since Jesus was present on earth in Human form, the difficulties of the word “Call” are significantly lessened.  When one person asks another to “follow me” – the intent is pretty obvious.  The speaker wants the person to whom they are speaking to – well – for lack of a better phrase – follow them.

God calling His people – through Ezekiel

Earlier, we looked at God calling Isaiah.  There’s only one other instance of the exact Hebrew words that were translated as The Lord says / saying – the words used to call Isaiah in the Old Testament.  They come in Ezekiel, but there’s something a bit different here.

Eze 21:8 The word of the LORD came to me: 9 “Son of man, prophesy and say, ‘This is what the Lord says:

What’s different?

In Isaiah – The Lord was speaking directly to Isaiah – “calling” Isaiah to do something.
In Ezekiel – The Lord was speaking through Ezekiel – to His people – calling His people to do something.

God calling you – through Jesus – through others through others …

So far we’ve seen individuals “called” in both the Old Testament (Isaiah) and New Testament (Levi).  

And we’ve seen, in the Old Testament, the calling of a group of people (God’s people) by way of another person (Ezekiel) delivering God’s message.

The only thing missing then, is a New Testament example of the same thing – God calling a group of people to reach out to other people.  Well – here it is –

The Great Commission

Mt 28:16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Given that this one covers a time period ranging from the years of Jesus’ ministry all the way to the end of the age, something different must take place.  In this example, just as God called Ezekiel to deliver His message to His people, Jesus calls His disciples to deliver His message.  

But then we see something different.  Jesus tells His current disciples to make more disciples.  As noted, these people will likely die (and in fact did die) before the end of the age.  Way before.  Many, many generations have come and gone.  So Jesus tell His disciples to spread the word and make more disciples.  They, in turn, are to spread the word and make more disciples.  Who will also spread the word and make more disciples.  And Jesus will be with these disciples – all the way to the end of the age.

Guess what that means?  
First – if you are Christian – Jesus is calling you to make more disciples.
Second – if you are not Christian – Jesus has called someone else to reach out to you – spread His word to you – and make you a disciple as well.
It’s a cycle of “calling” that Jesus speaks but once – but literally takes effect all the way until the end of the age.

So if you’re a Christian – and wonder if you’ve been “called” – clearly, the answer is yes.
Called to do what?  That’s another story.  Another subject for another article.  Something to be worked out between you and God.  Others can help you find your “calling” – find the thing you’ve been “called” to do – but ultimately is was and is God that “called” you,
Even in the case of “making disciples” – there are do many ways to do this.  So many ways to spread the word.   Or support others who will spread the word.  Or help those who have recently received the word.  


Series Navigation<< The problem of FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and DoubtThe problem of “Fear of the Lord” >>

References   [ + ]

1. Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.

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