Whom do we honour?
In an age when many clamour for, and even demand, respect, Steve Maltz urges us to look elsewhere
God is the most misunderstood Person in the Universe. Many claim to hear Him, see Him, feel Him, be guided by Him yet most of them are duped by imposters and substitutes. It is the deception of our age and it has left Him with a bad press, with many questionable and horrific acts committed in His Name. Even by ‘so-called’ Christians. Even by sincere Christians. Let us cut right to the chase.
"Therefore say to the Israelites, 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone” . (Ezekiel 36:22)
God’s Name is very important to Him. We see a watered-down version of it in society where many clamour for undeserved ‘respect’ and are willing to commit acts of violence to obtain it. Let’s make it clear from the outset that God is the only Person in our World who deserves respect, the only Person Who’s Name is not to be profaned among the nations. Any act that is performed in His Name, whether by Christians or others, is going to be reckoned, judged and rewarded accordingly by Him. It is an aspect of His character that is generally ignored because of its implications. But sweeping it under the carpet does not lessen its power.
In the Ezekiel passage above God speaks of the good things He is going to do for His people, Israel. It’s not that they deserve it, because they had profaned His Name. It was because of His Name that He was going to do it. To understand these things we need to understand Him better. Here are a few pointers:
God does all He can to grab our attention.
We are perfectly capable of reading God’s Word and missing His Voice. Perhaps we just don’t have our spiritual antenna tuned, either through a crisis of faith, a general despondency or through a perceived over-familiarity with the text.
God uses the most unexpected people to carry out His plans.
He chooses who He chooses. That was true of the Nation of Israel, that small, noisy, contrary and stiff-necked people. And it was also true of those individuals whom He selected to carry out His plans. Now there’s a case for declaring just about every character that God chose from His own people as flawed. God really is in charge and He will continue to use others in your life (as well as you in theirs) to fulfil His purposes in the long-term. Our task is to discern when this is happening and not to resist it.
God does things in His own way and to His own schedule.
Jonah felt that God was unreasonable to want to save the evil city of Nineveh. So he ran away and became a fish dinner. Yet even in this act of defiance, God was able to use him to reveal Himself to his ship mates and save their souls. The people of Judah in Babylonian exile felt that it wasn’t time to repair the Temple back home, but Haggai reminded them otherwise.
God prefers it if we don’t mess Him around.
If prizes could be given out for moaning, the Children of Israel in the desert would have hit the jackpot. Despite the miracles of deliverance they witnessed, they still didn’t always have sufficient trust that God would supply their physical needs. “Lord” , cried Moses, “for how much longer am I to carry these people?” Anyway they demand meat (despite their behaviour falling to a new low), so He gave them meat, lots of it … followed by a plague.
God often does more than He is given credit for.
Perhaps the biggest lesson often missed by the leaders and Kings of Judah and Israel is that their successes were not due to their efforts, only their failures were! Did they really believe that a generation of slaves could defeat the battle-hardened Amalekites through some sort of innate military canniness?
And it happened, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. (Exodus 17:11)
No, this wasn’t because Moses was controlling a belt-fed machine gun. He was simply following God’s instructions however strange they may have seemed at the time. God had a habit of doing that. Witness the highly complex sacrificial system, with its exact measurements and detailed instructions that had to be carried out to the letter! Sometimes He requires us to partner with Him in these joint endeavours. It’s all very well expecting Him to win the battles for us or accept our sacrifices, but there always has to be something we have to do, even if it is just praying (not that this is an insignificant activity!).
God reveals more about Himself than we usually notice.
God has poured Himself into the ink on your printed Bible. Until we individually learn to hear His voice in other ways, the printed Word is all we have. It’s a shame that it is a second hand Word, translated from a language that is both beautiful and impenetrable, into that of our everyday speech. What we gain from having the words in English, we lose through missing the nuances and subtleties of Hebrew.
As a chief function of Holy Scripture is to draw people back to their Creator, it is paramount that He is properly represented. We need an authentic vision of God, so that we can appreciate Him properly. Many, if not most, of His actions are to that end and He has a neat phrase for it; for My Name’s sake. We have already seen this in Ezekiel:
Therefore say to the House of Israel, Thus says Adonai, the LORD, I AM not doing this for your sake, O House of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I shall sanctify My great name, which was profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst, and the nations will know that I AM the LORD, says Adonai, the LORD, when I am sanctified in you before their eyes. (Ezekiel 36:22-23 One New Man version)
A good Name …
He needs a good Name, a good reputation, so you can see that when Israel had profaned His Name, this is not good and results in dire consequences. Yet He persevered with His people and promised them (in the next few verses in Ezekiel) that He still has a great future planned for them. God does not go back on his promises. He repeats this in 1Samuel 12:22 and reminds His people that He’s only holding back His wrath for His Name’s sake, because it’s wrath they surely deserved (Isaiah 48:9).
Both Jeremiah (Jeremiah 14:7,21) and the Psalmists understood this and remind God of His great attributes, His forgiveness (Psalm 25:11), guidance (Psalm 31:3) and salvation (Psalm 79:9) and they are all good demonstrations of His good Name.
Surely it should make us tremble in an age when even some Christians are surely profaning His Holy Name in their actions. Is He forestalling judgement for His Name’s sake or is the Church ripe for a major shock?
So we have seen that God still acts to grab our attention, still uses the most unexpected people to work with, does things His own way, prefers it if we don’t mess Him around, often does more and reveals Himself more than we realise. He is far more involved in our World than many in the Church realise.So how can we ensure that all we are doing isfor His Name’s sake?
“See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:10-12)
“For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this...” And here we return to the all-importance of God’s Name and reputation. Our decisions must be for His Name’s sake and for His Glory, not for the glory of man and must certainly not act against His glory, such as the times when Ancient Israel rebelled against Him in their spiritual adultery and defamed His Name.
It is a matter of honour and respect. In all we are doing … are we respecting His Name …are we honouring God?
(This is taken from Steve’s new book, Livin’ the Life, available now for £10 from www.livinthelife.church)