Then, house of Israel, you will know that I am the LORD, when I deal with you for the sake of my name and not according to your wicked ways and ruinous deeds. This is what the LORD God says.
If I told you that I write these reflections "for the sake of my name," you'd be rightly concerned. If I told you that everything I do in life, I do "for the sake of my name," you'd recognize that I am consumed with pride, and badly in need of repentance. Most of us recognize that we should not be living solely for our own reputation. That's how I was raised. If I happened to receive honor for doing something excellent or laudable, that was fine. But I was supposed to live to serve God and other people, not to serve the interests of my own fame.
Thus, I used to be uncomfortable when I read passages of Scripture like Ezekiel 20. Time and again in this chapter, God says that he does things (or refrains from doing things) "for the sake of my name." God seems to care more about his glory than he does for the well-being of his people. At least that's how it looks in this chapter. I fretted that God was pictured here as doing something wrong, as seeking that which I was taught should not be sought.
To be honest, I still find some of the language in this chapter to be unsettling. When God says, "I act for the sake of my name," my first impulse is to tell the Lord, "Hey, that's not right." But I have come to understand that it is in fact quite right for God to care about his own name and to seek his own glory.
Why is this the case? For one thing, God deserves to be glorified. He deserves the honor and worship of every being throughout the cosmos. Thus, it is absolutely right for God to be honored. And it is absolutely right for God to help us honor him.
Moreover, when we glorify God, we are blessed. We are doing that for which we have been created. We are finding our rightful place in the universe. Glorifying God or acting for the sake of God's name is not limited to the sort of thing we do in church. Yes, it includes singing and praying and receiving the sacraments and ministering to others. But we are called to glorify God through everything we do. Moreover, when we live in the world in a way that reflects God's kingdom, then the nations will be drawn to honor his name.
Only God can rightly say, "I live for the sake of my name." You and I are called and blessed to live for the sake of God's name in all that we do.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: In what ways do you live for God's glory? What might it mean for you to live for the sake of God's name in your workplace? What is the ultimate purpose of your life, really?
PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for saving your people for the sake of your name. Thank you for saving me for the sake of your name.
May your name be glorified in and through my life. Teach me how to live for you each and every moment. Help me to offer my whole self to you, so that your name might be honored because of me.
All praise be to you, glorious and holy God. Amen.