In Ezekiel 20. God speaks of Israel’s rebellion and states three times, throughout the chapter, a variation of “Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them in the wilderness, to make a full end of them. But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out.”
In church, we often hear the message of God’s love for His people. John 3:16 [For God so loved the world . . .] was probably the first memory verse I learned in Sunday school when I was young. Even when we discover and discuss our own identity in Christ, we talk much about us becoming great in Christ Jesus. God died for me because He loved me and thought of me as worthy to save by sacrificing His Son. Why else would he have died for us, right?
But when we encounter the phrase in bold, up top in Ezekiel 20, there seems to be a cause of some friction in our minds and hearts. Did God save us for us or did God save us for Himself? And what a question that is. The Word of God in Ezekiel clearly states, “But I acted for the sake of my name.” Not for the sake of my people, but “for the sake of my name.”
Initially, that statement and idea may hurt us deep down. I will be the first to confess that it feels good and warm inside to believe that God died for me because I am so special to Him. I think we love the idea that God’s ultimate desire is to love us and to bless us. The message of His great love for us may even romance us. Therefore, it is not surprising nor unreasonable when our egos are bruised a bit and the feeling of being special is lessened when confronted with a message that is a little different than what we are used to or want.
So if God did not save us for our sake but His namesake, does He even love us then? Yes. Yes, without a doubt.
God saving His people for the sake of His own name does not contradict the truth of Him loving us greatly. The Bible often speaks of love as putting others before yourself or to seek not your own, so the idea of God putting Himself before others seems wrong, contradicting what He commands His people.
We must understand that God is Creator God and we are His created creatures. Creator and creature are not and will not be on the same level ever. John Piper says, “The rules of humility that belong to a creature cannot apply in the same way to its Creator.” The reason is this. If God is the most glorious one and is of infinite worth and value, as communicated by the Word of God, then He is being consistent with the Truth by pursuing ultimate glory in Himself. If God were to gain ultimate joy, pleasure, and glory in Man, that would go against the Word of God and He would no longer be God. Therefore, because God is a God of love, power, mercy, grace, and all the awesome things we know and describe Him as, it is a GREAT thing that God seeks to glorify His own name. [Read John Piper’s Desiring God]
Man’s salvation, sanctification, and glorification are not the ultimate goals of God. We are not the end. The glorification of God Himself is the ultimate goal of God. But the people of God should not get depressed and feel less special because of this fact. We, as children of God, are indeed incredibly cherished by God. He loves us immensely! The beauty and mystery of God’s truth, in this case, is the idea that God ultimately desiring to glorify Himself does not detract from His love for us at all! It doesn’t lessen our value, it increases His! He loves us as much as we think and a lot more. As we gain deeper understanding of God and His will, we somehow begin to realize that we aren’t as important as we thought in the big scheme of things. But that’s okay because as long as we are a part of God’s glorious plan, we are far more blessed than we would ever deserve. Thank the Lord.
May we come to the revelation, by the Spirit of truth, of how greater and more glorious and awesome our God truly is. We are nothing apart from You. Not to us, but to Your name be the Glory.