I love the Lord, for He heard my voice;
He heard my cry for mercy.
Because He turned his ear to me,
I will call on Him as long as I live.
It is written, “Whosoever shall call upon the name of the LORD, shall be saved,” (Joel 2.32; Romans 10.13). This is a blanket promise made to everyone regardless of their ancestry, sex, age, or social status. It gives the full requirement for the LORD’s salvation, and none are free to add or subtract from it. Neither more nor less can be laid upon those who desire the salvation of the LORD.
But this does leave open the question of what it is to call upon the name of the LORD. Psalm 116 answers that question.
The first thing to note is that calling on the name of the LORD is a call for mercy. (v.1) Mercy involves two things: pity and action. Mercy involves a sympathetic heart toward someone’s distress and adds to that sympathy an attempt to relieve that distress. That distress first concerns our sin (Psalm 51) but goes on to include all the distresses we may experience because we live in a sin-cursed world. When we call upon the name of the LORD, we are calling on Him to take note of our miserable condition, to pity us for that condition, and to do something about it.
I believe that the main reason that many never call upon the name of the LORD is that they do not perceive any need for the LORD to pity them. They do not see themselves as unworthy like the Canaanite woman did when she pleaded for mercy from the Lord Jesus even though He first ignored her, then insulted her by comparing her to a dog. Instead, she willingly took the position of a dog if that meant she could get some crumb of mercy from the Lord.
Also, people do not perceive themselves as desperately needy and unable to remedy their own case as blind Bartimaeus did. He cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Though told to be quiet by others, he persisted, and when the Lord heard him, He stopped and asked the man what he wanted. The Lord truly pitied him in his helpless condition and added action to that by granting sight to the man.
Next, we see that calling upon the name of the LORD is a life-long activity, “I will call upon Him as long as I live,” (v.2). Some see calling upon the name of the LORD as a one-time event. The religion of my youth saw it that way, going so far as to encourage people to repeat “the sinner’s prayer” as it was given to them bit-by-bit like wedding vows. Afterward, they were told they had called upon the name of the LORD, and would thus be saved no matter what.
But that is not what the Psalmist says. For sure, there is a first time that a person calls upon the name of the LORD. But it is certain that if there is a first time, there will be many more times as new and fresh troubles arise and new and fresh occasions and remembrances of sin come up. If we must look back to some single occasion of calling upon the name of the LORD in order to assure ourselves we shall be saved, it is quite likely we are not saved. Those who do not upon Him throughout their lives have not called at all.
With such a wonderful blessing attached to calling on the name of the LORD, it is only wise that we be certain that we have done so. We must be careful that our calling on His name was not done as some religious performance or even as a praise-worthy thing. Calling on the name of the LORD is always a cry for mercy from a desperate person who feels undeserving of God’s goodness and unable to fix their own problem. And it is a call that extends throughout that person’s life!