Do you remember the name-calling in the old westerns? The villain would say to the hero, “Cowboy, you’re a coward!”
The hero would respond, “Waal Mister, them’s fightin’ words!” And the slug fest was on.
I think one reason it resonated with us is because it reminded us of how ridiculous the childhood bully’s taunts were, and perhaps how silly we were to let him/her upset us. But also, it resonated with us because no one likes a smear on his name or reputation. A name signifies the person and all that is inherent in, characteristic of, and identified with that person. To make a name for oneself is to create a reputation, an identity. People take a good reputation very seriously. We are passionate about our name.
How much more important is God’s name than ours! God wants people to know and worship Him. To do so, they need to know who He is. But we tend to have many false ideas about Him. God’s acts throughout history demonstrate who He is, to make of His name a beautiful setting that shows off the glittering diamond of His character.
For example, God says that when He brought Israel out of Egypt, He did so primarily to make a name for Himself (Exod. 9:16). Yes, He loved His people, but His glory was uppermost. In the miracles of Moses He demonstrated His power. In the plagues of Egypt, judging Egypt’s gods, He demonstrated His holiness, justice, power, and supremacy. In the Passover, He demonstrated His judgment on sin, His mercy, grace, love, and provision. By the pillars of fire and cloud He showed His presence and special protection of a specially chosen people. By His deliverance through the Red Sea, He again demonstrated His provision, power, judgment, mercy, and rule. He put His character on display through His works so that men could see who He is and be drawn to Him. The subsequent testimony of Rahab forty years later shows that God achieved His purpose. She told the spies that “we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea…what you did to the two kings… No courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God…” (Josh. 2:8-11). Rahab knew God’s name and the character that went with it, and was drawn to Him as a result.
Centuries later, God told Ezekiel the same truth. He had rescued Israel out of Egypt “for the sake of My name.” Repeat, “for the sake of My name” (Ezek. 20:9, 14). In other words, He did it so that people might know that He is the Lord. There was also a coming restoration, and it would be achieved for the same reason. That intent is stated six times in chapter 20 alone, and about eighty times in the whole book. This theme is important.
God certainly redeems people in order to pour out the riches of His grace upon them for eternity. What unimaginable love and goodness!
Yet as it exhibits the beauty of His grace, redemption is intended more for God’s glory than for the sake of those who are saved. We benefit, but He must receive the glory. Believers are saved not just for ourselves and our enjoyment of His love, but for His purposes. We are to bear His image, to show others the character of God befitting the Name so that they may know that He is the Lord and be attracted to Him.
As I read in Ezekiel 20 the repeated theme, “for the sake of My name” and “all flesh will see” and “in order that they might know that I am the Lord,” emphasizing that the purpose in Israel’s redemption was God’s glory, I had to lean back in my chair and examine my attitude toward His redemption of me. His grace and the increasing knowledge of all facets of His character ought to produce a passion for His glory. Was I glad for my salvation (and rightly so), or was I also looking beyond my benefit to His glory? Was I passionate about exalting His name?
What about you? Are you passionate about God’s glory? Do you get excited about it? Are you motivated to obey Him “For the Sake of [His] Name”?