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  • Writer's pictureRev. Chris Brademeyer

For The Sake of His Name


For the Sake of the Name

Exaudi, the 7th Sunday of Easter – 5/12/2024

Ezekiel 36:22-28

Rev. Christopher W. Brademeyer

 

That portion from God’s holy Word for consideration this morning is our Old Testament lesson from the book of the prophet Ezekiel in the thirty-sixth chapter with special emphasis on verses twenty-two and twenty-three which read as follows:

 

“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. 23 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.”[1]

 

Thus far the Scriptures.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

                Ezekiel had a difficult job. The people of God were in a foreign land, oppressed by their Babylonian captors. They had been hauled away from the land that God had promised them. They were cut off from the Temple, the place where God centered His presence and His promises. They were threatened constantly that their way of life might be swallowed up by the foreign nation, religion, and customs of those around them. Ezekiel began prophesying shortly after the second to last King of Judah, Jehoiachin, was sent into exile, which means that the date for the earliest part of the book of Ezekiel is 593 BC, that is, 593 years before the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. This particular passage is later, putting the date of this prophecy somewhere closer to 570 BC, which is the date of the newest part of the book of Ezekiel the prophet.

                But, for our purposes, it is important for us to note the context of this time period: the people of God were exiled from home, cut off from a number of their fellow Israelites, and their religious beliefs were thrown in turmoil by the destruction of the holy Temple in Jerusalem. The reason for this was simple as well: Israel had turned away from God, followed foreign gods, gave their children over to demons in the form of idols, and lived lives of selfishness and greed. As an aside, it was during this period that the Israelites began to be called “jews”, which is shorthand for a Hebrew term meaning “of Judah,” which is the name of both one of the tribes of Israel and the southern Kingdom which came into being when the north rebelled against Solomon’s son, Rehoboam 338 years prior.[2]

                Now this is an important thing in history. God had chosen to call out a nation, put His holy Name on them, and now they were subjugated to another, pagan and unbelieving people. Not only is there a concern in this for God’s people on the part of our Maker, but there is also the misuse of God’s Name that comes with such a thing. That is to say, God’s Name is certainly holy in itself, but we human beings ought to treat it as the holy thing that it is. So often, both in our personal lives and in greater moves of history, the Name of God is attacked. Sometimes it is attacked in the obvious and simple manner of those who blaspheme Him. That is to say, they speak against God or attribute lies to Him.

                For example, there are those who argue that God does not love us. Sometimes they do so from using logic to point out that this world is full of sin and evil. Others do so by appealing to their emotions and feelings by pointing out that it is easy to not feel loved by God. The antidote to this is not logic or feeling, both of which are easy enough to manipulate or mislead, but to look to what God has said and revealed about Himself in His acts in history. And, when we look there, we see our Lord say over and over that He loves us even to the point of giving His only Son into death for us and our salvation.

                But there are other ways that God’s Name is misused beyond these simple things. False doctrine, false teaching, that is teaching against what God has stated about Himself in the Bible, is to attach God’s Name to something wicked and untrue. It is to attribute to God things that are not true and, in so doing, misleads people about Who God is and what He has done. There are sinful acts that attack God’s Name, both individual and collective. For example, if I sin against you in some way then I have besmirched, that is, attacked and sullied and made dirty God’s Name because I have been marked with God’s Name in my Baptism and have been included in His body thereby. Collectively, we Christians can do this in similar manner when our congregations and denominations fall into sin or other wickedness, as is the case with the famous and terribly tragic example of sexual abuse amongst clergy and congregations that has come to light in recent times.

                But God does not suffer His Name to be abused. Now this can be, and often is, heard as a terrifying thing. After all, we have all broken the Second Commandment, and have not used God’s Name as we ought. But it is also a promise. That is to say, when we who are covered with God’s Name and who have it invisibly marked into our very souls and person, when we are attacked, harmed, ridiculed, in danger, suffer, experience hardship, or have any other evil thing visited on us, we know that God will not suffer His Name to be attacked in this way. This is a basis for confidence in our standing before God.

                Yes, of course, God loves and cares for us and this is the basis of much of the comfort and peace we Christians have by the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. But we also have the comfort of knowing that God does not suffer the misuse of His Name and so whenever sin, evil, or harm finds its way to us, God will redeem, restore, and rebuff for the sake of His Name.

                This is why our Lord did not suffer the people of God to stay in exile. Their imprisonment was an attack on the holiness of His Name. And in granting to Israel of old His gracious forgiveness for their idolatry and thereby cleansed them from all the uncleanness that Israel had covered herself with, He also vindicated His Name.

                And, just as the Lord prophesied here through Ezekiel, God’s mighty acts for those covered in His Name has brough the glory of that same Name to all the earth. Gentile, pagan nations have been given the very light of salvation. Our ancestors were given the light of the Gospel and were pulled from the darkness of their paganism. And today there are Christians of every tribe, race, and tongue throughout all the earth, all who have been marked with God’s Name and made part of a brotherhood of men that transcends all earthly divisions and which lasts unto eternity.

                So, dear friends, take heart. Our time is not so dissimilar to the time of Ezekiel. Yes, we are preserved thus far by God’s grace from imprisonment, exile, torture, and death for our faith in the Lord Jesus, but increasingly we Christians find ourselves strangers in a stranger land. Increasingly, those around us do not share our customs or ways. Their manner of speech and dress can even seem foreign. Their understanding of us is ignorant, at best, and severely misinformed at worst. And, like the people of God that first heard these works over 2600 years ago, we feel like the powers around us may envelop us and consume our way of life.

                Now there are certainly things that may be taken from us by the world, and some of these may turn out not to be important at all. But the important stuff, those things that last forever, even to eternity itself, these cannot be taken away. They are ours not because of us or what we do, but because of Almighty God. You have been baptized into Christ and have been marked with God’s Name. And no matter what may befall you, you will endure for the sake of His Name. God does not suffer the misuse of His Name and His promise to you this day is this: you will be restored, indeed, even given resurrection and life eternal through Christ Jesus. You already have this in part, then in full. After all, it is for the sake of His Name.

 

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

 

The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.


[1] Ezekiel 36:22-23 English Standard Version

[2] The rebellion of Israel occurred in 931 BC.

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