by Joseph P. Duggan
Our text is found in Ezekiel's gospel prophecy, chapter 36, verse 23:
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.
The scope of our meditation is defined by the words of God Almighty: “And I will sanctify my great name”
“What is in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” such was the Shakespearean view of nomenclature, or the art of name-giving.
Apparently – though who can really tell – Gertrude Stein opposed such a philosophy in her famous dictum that “A rose is a rose is a rose”
Now, I don't suppose that there is anything in Scripture which compels us to any particular dogma to control the use of and the bestowal of names. Names can be chosen for their symbolism, for the pleasurableness of their sound, or for any reason whatsoever.
To the minds of the ancients, however, names were meaningful; they were representative, not simply, no merely, a group of sounds or letters used to identify things, thus, for example, in the Old Testament
The first woman is given the name “LIFE”, in our transliteration of the Hebrew, “Eve”, “because she was the mother of all living” (Gen 3:20)
and Noah is so named because of his fathers hope that he “shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the LORD hath cursed.” (Gen 5:29) alluding to the word for comfort or giving of relief.
We find "Uzzah” - strength
“Hannah” - grace
“Solomon” - peacable
“Jehoshaphat” - Jehovah will judge
and on and on.
Now, certainly sometimes, indeed frequently, these names were poor choices and the individuals did not live up to the high hopes and expectations upon which their parents doted, but that their names were intended to be meaningful is obvious.
The same situation prevailed in New Testament times, where we note the bestowal of a name upon one man who in all respects sanctified by his life that name which he bore:
“Thou shalt call his name Jesus for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matt 1:21)
While men in Bible times sometimes did to a greater or lesser extent fulfill their names, and sometimes did not at all, here was a unique man, indeed, God the Son come as man, who truly was as he was named,
“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” (Matt 1:22,23)
When the Lord refers to his “great name”, when he speaks through the prophet Ezekiel “I will sanctify my great name”, he speaks of something meaningful.
He speaks not of a group of sounds employed as a convenient way of designating himself, but he speaks of His own Being and Nature and works in the terminology by which he reveals himself to mankind.
Thus He is Elohim – The strong
His name is Adhonai – The Lord the possessor and ruler of creation.
His name is Kadhosh, or better yet Kadosh Yisrael – The Holy One of Israel.
His name is El Shadday – The terrible, the God of awesome power
His name is Elyon – The Exalted
He reveals himself to Moses by that name which has traditionally been rendered as Jehovah, which testifies of his self-existence, his self-sufficiency, his self-determination.
In considering the prophecy “I will sanctify my great name” and we ask, how much significance is there to the name of God, the sure answer must be; PLENTY – yeah, even more than we imagine.
At issue here is not a convenient tag which designates an unknown being who dwells in the heavens,
not a meaningless word,
not a mysterious occult symbol or sound,
but the name of God which constitutes a vital part of his self-revelation to men.
It is to men an expression of his nature, and further a revelation of the nature of his relationship with creation in general and his people in particular.
Think of this:
The very fact that God has a name, or names, is a bestowal of grace to us, because it is a revelation to us, a condescension of the creator unto the created.
The name of God is a communication to us of a knowledge
of His Holiness
of His Exaltation
of His Omnipotence
of His Lordship
and as such it is indeed a great name, and incidentally, I think it is proper to add a foot-note here in respect to the reference which the Psalter makes to the name of God.
Roughly 100 times it directs our hearts and voices to The Name not any one of these particular, specific names, but simply: God's name, or Thy name, or the name of our God.
I think it quite an understatement to say that we who employ the Psalms in our worship, should and must therefore, make a studied and conscientious effort to be aware of the vast significance of the name of God in terms of his grace and glory, his holiness and majesty, to have a heightened appreciation of what the name of God means, and means to us, rather than slurring over such references as if they were so many meaningless and unimportant sounds.
Our first point, then, is that God has a name.
Secondly, notice this: It will be be sanctified.
Now when we speak of the people of God being sanctified, we refer to their becoming holy.
Obviously, in referring to God there is a different emphasis, for His holiness has never been impaired. However, His holiness has been
degraded in the eyes of men.
Through the sin of the Israelites, whereby the enemy, the enemies of God, have been encouraged to mock and deride people of God for their low condition.
And this is a terrible thing because it is not simply a reflection on the merit and power of the Israelitish nation, but a reflection upon that nation's God.
And in this situation the Lord declares that His great name will be sanctified.
That is, not made holy, but declared, proven, manifested to be holy.
The Holiness of God, His Majesty. His Exaltation, His Glory, His Power, yea His Deity will be clearly established in the sight of all men.
it will be forcefully and inescapably, impressed upon men that God is yet God.
It will be vindicated!
And notice very carefully that it is not simply a matter of grace to men that this is done, “But I had pity for mine holy name”, (36:21) “I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for my holy name's sake.” (36:22) It is not a matter of grace to men in the ultimate consideration, but something much more important: that the name of God should receive its due glory.
There is nothing more important in the Bible than that man should receive God's grace
for this one thing:
that God should be God, that his name should be sanctified, and if God be not God, if God be powerless to enforce the prerogatives of this deity, then there is not grace for us, there can be no deliverance from our sin and misery.
Here then is the Lord's declaration:
His great name will be sanctified.
It will be done
It is not in any doubt for uncertainty
It will be done
It will be done whether or not your or I or this group or that is obedient or faithful or whatever. His will is in no way dependent upon our response.
It will be done.
There are not many things that are certain in this world. We don't know if the sun will rise tomorrow morning I don't know if I'll ever get home this evening, you don't know if your live until the end of this worship service, but of this one thing you can be absolutely sure: the great name of God will be sanctified.
First, then, God has a name, a great name.
Second, it will be sanctified.
Now third, notice who it is that will do so, he says: “I...” “I will sanctify my great name.” It is God that will sanctify his great name, not man.
Now it is the duty of every an to sanctify God, that is
the glory and holiness of his creator, and it is the special duty of God's own people to do so, as Peter reminds us: “Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts”, I Peter 3:15)
But it is, of course, God who must work in and through his people to energize and direct this sanctification of the Lord's name. In the last analysis it must be the work of God to sanctify his own name, for this is not the kind of thing that can be left to the whim of men who have a proclivity to defile the works of the Lord with their uncleanness.
The fact that his name will be sanctified irresistibly, inevitably, means that there must be a force directed to this end which can and doubtless will act irresistibly so that the result is never in doubt. This force can only be God Himself and thus he says, “I will sanctify”.
The Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ comes with the proclamation: “bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance” (Matt 3:8). That is – repent, so that you can fulfill your obligation to sanctify the name of God, but – God in effect says – I am not dependent upon you if you refuse to repent, If you refuse to sanctify my name, I will still have the Glory which is mine, even if it means that I must raise up stones to become the true children of Abraham.
You are invited to sanctify My name.
You are commanded to sanctify My name,
but if you refuse
I will still do so
I am not dependent upon you
I will not permit My glory to be hid
I will not allow My will to be frustrated
I will sanctify My great name.
“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 your before their eyes.”
In conclusion notice that the word of the Lord says something additional, above and beyond the declaration
“I will sanctify my great name”,
He says also,
“I will sanctify my great name ... in you ...”
God is not dependent upon us, He does not need us to give him glory, He will Himself do this irresistibly, BUT observe carefully that speaking with the same authoritative voice He also declares and promises that the sanctification of His name will be done in us.
Now He could do it apart from us. He could sanctify His name through our condemnation, as he will with the heathen, but what is important here is not what God could do, but what He says He will do. And what He says He will do is this, “I will sanctify my name... in you ...”, which, as he explains in the following verses, means, in this case, in our being blessed with the fruits of salvation in its comprehensive scope.
And there is nothing more important in the Bible than that man should receive God's grace, to be redeemed, to be blessed with a full salvation except – for this one thing – that God should be God that is name should be sanctified.
The word of hope and glory which Ezekiel brings to us here is that God will sanctify His name by means of (not the only means, but the one in which we are now interested), by means of granting a full salvation to his people, that is, God manifests His majesty through our deliverance from sin and misery.
Thus, let your hope, your joy, your faith, your thankfulness be without limitation, for our God
says not: “I'm going to give you another chance”
says not: “I'm going to make it easier for you to fulfill your obligations”
says not: “I'm going to lower my requirements that you sanctify my name.”
but says: I will sanctify my name irresistibly, inexorable, without doubt – in you.
And what is the name of God, that is: what is the revelation of God, what is the manifestation of His holiness, majesty and glory, what is the work of God in human society, but none else than God the Son come in the likeness of men, and called by the name Jesus because he shall save his people from their sins.
The one of whom Peter declared: “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:2)
Him who has been given “a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil 2:9-13)
Know the name of God, the revelation of God, His self-manifestation, His glory, His holiness, His grace. And know it to be a great name.
Know that his name will be sanctified ... inevitably
Know that God Himself will do it, not weak, puny, ineffectual and faithless men, like ourselves, God Himself, the almighty and majestic will do it.
And knowing these things, ever thank God that through Jesus Christ it is in us that this shall be done.