I Will Sanctify My Great Name II (Ezekiel 36:23)

Joseph Duggan

And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.

We have earlier noticed in study of this portion of God's word

  • First: That God has a name, a self-revelation to men and it is a great and glorious name.
  • Second: That it will – irrevocably, irresistibly, inescapably – it will be sanctified.
  • And Third: That God will do it himself and is not dependent upon men.

I would have you note further

  • First: Our obligation to sanctify God's name.
  • Second: The response of men to their obligation.
  • And Third: The means by which God sanctifies his name.

I Our obligation to sanctify the name of God flows, as we have seen, from the Nature of the name of God, revealing, as it does, His nature, that is His omnipotence, His omniscience, His holiness, His majestic exaltation, and His works, that is, that is He is creator, that He is Lord of His creation, that He is the redeemer of His people.

The obligation of His people to sanctify the Lord's name is, further, is heightened, or we might say, is aggravated, or perhaps, is made more crucial by the fact that the name of God has been manifested to a world, to a society of human beings, which is evil, yea, which is in the state of active and vitroiolic and blasphemous rebellion against its creator and Lord.

The enmity against God which fills the world is well attested to in this chapter of Ezekiel. Thus in verse 2 we have reference to “the enemy”. In verse 5 the prophecy is “against the residue of the heathen, and against all Idumea, which have appointed by my land to their possession with the joy of all their heart, with despiteful minds, to cast it out for a prey.” Indeed the entire chapter makes repeated reference to the heathen, and what they do and think.

Because it is in this kind of a world that God's people live, the obligation to sanctify God's name becomes even more pressing and imperative. Indeed, why did God choose Israel by calling him from Egypt? What is the purpose of God's choosing for himself a people?

He says: “Ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6)

It is the same thing in the New Testament. “Ye are a chosen generation a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, ..” -- and why -- “ that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” I Peter 2:9.

Our obligation to sanctify God's name, then, derives from

  • The greatness of that name
  • The unholy atmosphere into which the name is made known
  • And the calling by which we are called.

II The Response of God's People to Their Obligation, however has traditionally fell far short of the necessities of the situation. Thus Israel in the Old Testament show a strong tendency

  1. to forget that the Lord was holy, that he was omnipotent, that he was their Lord.
  2. They failed to walk circumspectly, cautiously, carefully in an evil atmosphere. They not only failed to discern and to hate teh wickedness round about them, but moreover learned to love the ways of the heathen
  3. and they forgot to nature of their calling

Read the history of Israel in the wilderness. Meditate upon the behaviour of our fathers in the land, and even in exile, as Ezekiel shows. See how God's name is not honored.

Shall we say that God's people fell short of giving unto God the full measure of the glory which was due unto His name? NO! At least that is not the words which the Lord uses: It wasn't simply a matter of falling short of achieving a desired good, but instead the positive working of a forbidden evil, He says: “My great name which was profaned” polluted, defiled, sullied, and not simply profaned, but much worse, “profaned among the heathen.”

This sin, these sins, this apostasy, this blasphemy, was not committed in a dark corner, but in the full light of public display, and moreover, the heathen could not only look upon Israel's sin and say – see theirs is not really a Holy God, but also they could look upon the lowly miserable condition of Israel: not simply one of the many nations upon the earth, but the people upon whom God had set his Love and in whom the Lord had made his name to dwell – a unique people – and the heathen could look upon them

  • and mock
  • and deride
  • and laugh

and this people were “taken up in the lips of talkers, and were an infamy of the people.” (36:3)
“These are the people of the Lord, and are gone forth out of His land.” (36:20)
“See what an ineffectual, faithless, powerless, worthless God the Israelites have – he has even sent them into exile.”

The scorn which fell upon Israel necessarily devolved upon God and upon His great name. And notice, further, the parallel structure of the second and third clauses of 36:23 “my great name – which was profaned among the heathen” & “which ye have profaned in the midst of them.”

It's bad enough that God's name is profaned. It's worse yet that it is profaned among the heathen, but see the tragedy of the thing: God's name isn't simply defiled by some external force, but is is defiled by none other than His own people.

God reveals Himself to us – to you and to me – as Elohim – the strong. Do we profane his name when in our day to day existence we can find no strength greater than our own?

He manifests His person to us as LORD. Do we profane His name when we acknowledge His rulership over seas and winds and nations, but do not submit to his Lordship our own resources in terms of our possessions, our energies, our abilities?

His name is the Holy One. Do we profane his name when we resist the words of God's Spirit:

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy
I Peter 1:13-16

The name of God is dreadful awesome. Do we profane it when we break his most sacred law without the least shudder?
The name of God is Elyon – the exalted one. Do we drag that name into the dust by setting our affections on things on the earth?
The name of God testifies to his self-sufficiency and determination, to his being the source and purpose of activity: and do we attempt instead to use God for the purposes of our will, saying not thy will, buy mine be done?

Do we say unto Jesus, “Lord, Lord...” and do not the things which he says?
Do we call upon the name of Jesus Christ by whom we are to die to sin, and then continue to live in those sins which characterized the unregenerate life?
Is the name of God profaned? Is the name of God profaned among us? By us, by our faithlessness?
Do we pollute His name in a dark corner, or in the midst of the heathen? -- Perish the thought! Because this is not the work which God Almighty is working in His people. For despite temporary failures, setbacks, and inconsistencies, which behavior does not – must not – and shall not characterize the life of those who are dead in Christ, whose lives are hid with Christ in God (Col 3:4) and who live in the newness of the resurrected life of Christ.

And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes.

First – we have notices the imperative nature of the obligation that God's name be sanctified.
Second – the response of men to their obligations in this matter and there is the response of the unregenerate man and, on the other hand, the response of the regenerate.
Third – now see the means by which God sanctifies his name. And in discussing the means we must again return to that which we emphasized earlier that it is God who will do it and He is not dependent upon men.

When Joshua, in the face of defeat, prayed: “O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it and shall cut off our name from the earth” and “what wilt thou do until thy great name.” Joshua 7:8,9

And when Moses prayed in the wilderness, “Now if thou shalt kill all this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of thee will speak, saying, Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which he sware unto them, therefore he hath slain them in the wilderness And now, I beseech thee, let the power of my Lord be great, according as thou hast spoken ... “ Numbers 14:15-17

Neither Joshua nor Moses were using such an appeal solely in order to gain an undeserved rescue, but they realized – as should we – that the sanctity of God's great name was the primary consideration and that when you went to the heart of the matter, it was God and it was only God who could work with the almighty power and irresistible will which was necessary.

When it comes to something like the sanctification of his great name, God does not leave the job up to the weakness and inconsistency of men, just like he doesn't leave salvation up to men. At which point we might be tempted to say – oho! don't change the subject – ah, but we are not changing the subject. For the sanctification of God's great name and the salvation of God's people are put in the closest juxtaposition and are absolutely intertwined throughout scripture, by Moses, by Joshua, by the Psalmist, by the Prophets, by Jesus Christ, By the Apostles.

Oh yes, we hasten to admit that there are non-salvational means by which God sanctifies his name: Thus the Lord in sending the plagues upon Egypt, declares that it is for the purpose that Pharaoh might know that there is none like him in all the earth. (Ex 9:14) He says: “For now I will stretch out my hand, that I may smite thee and thy people with pestilence; and thou shalt be cut off from the earth. And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.” Exodus 9:15,16

There are similar statements throughout the prophets which show that God does and will sanctify his name in a manner which is not gracious.

Ezekiel provides a number of poignant examples of this, as in chapter 28, verses 22 and 23

Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against thee, O Zidon; and I will be glorified in the midst of thee: and they shall know that I am the LORD, when I shall have executed judgments in her, and shall be sanctified in her. For I will send into her pestilence, and blood into her streets; and the wounded shall be judged in the midst of her by the sword upon her on every side; and they shall know that I am the LORD.

Similarly in chapter 38,

the raining of hail, fire and brimstone upon the archenemy of the Lord, under the name Gog
v. 22

is described by the Lord as the time “when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog.”
v 16

But while we must hasten to admit that there are non-salvational means by which God sanctifies his name, the Scriptures frequently hold to the forefront salvation, blessing, the forgiveness of sins, cleansing, and the bestowal of a new heart as the means by which God sanctifies his name.

Actually, as we have seen before, these three things:

  1. The manifestation of God's glory
  2. The salvation of God's people
  3. The destruction of God's enemies

work most frequently together. So that 1 is achieved through 2 and 3. 2 is wrought in 1 and 3, and 3 is is accomplished by 1 and 2.

The glory and blessedness of the text before us is this: that the in you is an “in you” of favor, of grace of blessing, of salvation, of adoption, not an “in you” of judgment as is pronounced against Zidon and Gog.

God could have promised that he would sanctify his name in us

  • by smiting us with pestilence
  • by causing our blood to fill the streets
  • by raining upon us brimstone
  • by casting us into outer darkness

He could have sanctified his name in his judgment upon our rebellion for he is in no wise dependent upon us, but the glory and blessedness now before us is this: that instead he chose to sanctify his name by sending that one, whom Ezekiel elsewhere calls David – that is the heir to David's throne. And again the one shepherd – that is the Messiah who would lead his sheep into the sheepfold of the Kingdom of God. And he comes, as our Lord Jesus Christ himself bears witness to his ministry, he comes “not to destroy men's lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9:56)

The glory and blessedness of this part of God's word is this: that God's sanctity is revealed in our salvation.

But what is salvation? Is it merely being snatched as embers from the fire. Are we dragged unwillingly, unrepentantly, rebelliously, into the kingdom of God? Are we swept into a land flowing with the milk of life and the honey of grace? While still encrusted with our uncleanness and love of iniquity?

Is this salvation?
Is this the salvation by which and in which God vindicates, manifests, and establishes his holiness?
Nay, but listen instead to the work which the promised Messiah will do in his people and for his people:

For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. ¶Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that were not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations. Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel. Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause you to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by and they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities are become fenced, and are inhabited. Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined places, and plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken it, and I will do it.
36:24-36

And God will do this thing in us, irrevocably, irresistibly, inescapably, certainly because it is his glory that he manifests and it is his power and his will by which he does so.

This, then, is the means by which God sanctifies his name.

In conclusion, return briefly to our obligation to glorify God and ask:
How shall the heathen know that the LORD is God, the almighty, the Holy One, the Terrible, the Only Self Sufficient, Mover of Heaven and Earth, the Exalted One?

How shall we cease defiling and degrading the name of our God in the midst of an evil generation?
“and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you ...”

When we are cleansed from our iniquity.
When we cease from our idols.
When we receive a new heart and that new spirit which only God can give.
When that spirit causes us to walk in God's statutes and keep his judgments.
When we dwell in that land, that inheritance which Christ has purchased for us by his own blood.

Some of this that is, especially, the fullness of of this, is yet future, but the heart of it is here and now, at least, it should be at least, for us, it must be, for in Christ “we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will, that we should be to the praise of this glory, who first trusted in Christ ...” and we are “sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of the our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Eph 1:11-14)

Therefore, brethren

  • Know the greatness of that great name which is to be sanctified in us
  • Forget not that unholy atmosphere into which that name is to be made known
  • Be filled with awe and with glorying in contemplation of that calling in Christ by which we are called to sanctify God's name.