Reading again in Ezekiel this morning and chewing on a conundrum God shares with His prophet.
To not deal with His people’s idolatry and rebellion was to allow them to continue to defile the land of promise, the land of His holy presence. So, He must judge them and send them out of the land. But to scatter them among the nations was to profane the reputation of the Promiser, to dishonor His holy name. And God cares about His glory.
“I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned My holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the LORD, and yet they had to go out of His land.’ But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.”
(Ezekiel 36:19-21 ESV)
What’s a holy God to do? What course is left for a Creator who knows the only hope for His creation is to know Him as He truly is? Holy and just. Faithful and true.
Ignore the sin and His name is defiled in the land as He appears less holy than He really is. Deal with the sin and His name is profaned among the nations as He comes off as unable to fulfill His promises. Feels like a no win.
But not if He brings them back into the land. And not if He brings them back in a radically different condition.
Cleansed from all their uncleanness. Divorced of their idols. A new spirit within them, their spiritual DNA rewired. Hearts of stone removed and replaced with hearts of flesh. The Holy Spirit of the Holy God taking up residence in them so that they walk in His holy ways and are careful to obey His holy rules. Dwelling in the land promised to their fathers, living as people of promise–holy and righteousness–as you’d expect the people of a holy God to do (Ezek. 36:24-28).
And not because they deserve it. Not because of their own merit. Not because of their good works. Not because of their reputation or glory. Not for the sake of their name. But for the vindication of His holy name. And for that reason alone.
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate My holiness before their eyes.”
(Ezekiel 36:22-23 ESV)
Yes, God would bring them home after their exile. But for the sake of His name. True statement, He would love them with an everlasting love. But for the vindication of His glory. Absolutely, He would grace them with amazing grace, transforming them through supernatural transformation. But not so they could boast in their righteousness, but that the nations might know the only true Source of Righteousness. For sure, though beyond what could ever be imagined, the holy God would send His holy Son in flesh. And that, to die an unholy death to bear the wrath deserved by a rebellious people. So that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have everlasting life. But not for their sake, but for the sake of His holy name.
It really isn’t about us, is it?
To be sure, we are the benefactors of grace. But His name is the reason for grace. No doubt that we are loved with a steadfast love. But so that the world might know that God is love. We are His people, infused with His Spirit, possessors of eternal hope. But for the sake of His peerless reputation.
Our sin judged on the cross. Our hearts made new. Our lives being transformed. For the sake of His holy name. And that alone.
It really isn’t about us.
Such marvelous, abounding grace. But for His glory alone.