What does it mean to “Call on the Name of the LORD?” This is one of those questions which has different answers. Remember first of all what the 'NAME' of the LORD is. God's 'Name' is 1) All the titles and names by which he is called. For instance, Christ is a Title and Jesus is a name. Here in this article we are focusing on the all-capitalized name “LORD,” or in the Hebrew, “Yahweh”. This is a special name which is used in the Bible for the God of the Promise, the God of the Covenant, who wants all people to be saved and so made a promise to save them and carried out that promise through Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection. God's 'Name' is also 2) Everything we know about God. His characteristics or attributes which describe him, especially as he shows Himself to us in His Word.
Calling on the Name of the Lord then is first of all identifying Him. How do we distinguish this God from false gods? God identifies Himself as he proclaimed His name to Moses on Mt. Sinai. He says: “Exodus 34: 4 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the Lord. 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.” God is proclaiming or telling us about his Name, the LORD.
Calling on the Name of the LORD is also a confession. As the prophet Joel writes: “2:32 - And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved;” So everyone who confesses faith in Jesus as their LORD and Savior, everyone who believes, will be saved.
Next, calling on the Name of the LORD is worship and proclamation. One could maybe say this feature covers all of the other uses. It started early among the family of God. As early as in the days of Adam and Eve, we are told: “Gen 4: 26 - Seth also had a son, and he named him Enosh. At that time men began to call on the name of the Lord.“ This seems to be a public worship service where one of the people 'preaches' to their family and household, and also to the people around them, about the LORD and what he has done and promises to do for them. We see this also in the worship lives of Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 12, 13, 21 and 26.).
Part of our worship is calling on the name of the LORD, or prayer. We see this in the story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel, when he tells the priests of Baal, you “call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD.” We see how Moses and Aaron and Samuel (Psalm 99:6) called on the name of the LORD, and in times of trouble we say with the Psalmist 116:4 “Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, save me!” And we know that he promised to hear our prayers and will answer them. And then we call on the name of the LORD with thanksgiving (Ps. 105:1).
Last of all we see how God's Old Testament church bore the Name of the LORD, as the ark of the covenant and the city of Jerusalem did. And like God's people then (Deuteronomy 28:10), we today also bear his name. When people look at us, they are to see us as the people of God, as Christians who carry the Name of the LORD, people who confess and proclaim what God has done for them. The greatest gift which the LORD gave us for which we can offer him thanks every day, from now into eternity, is the gift of Salvation through His Son. Isaiah says: “In that day you will say:
“Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name;
make known among the nations what he has done,
and proclaim that his name is exalted.
5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”