Friday, February 23, 2007

so you don't want to live in the promises?

Hobbes expounds on Ezekiel 36:16-37

He counts over 65 times that God acts so that “the nations may know that I am the Lord God“, or some other similar phrase.
It is clear that the desire behind God’s work in and through His people is that His name be glorified - that the nations may know He is a holy God.Unfortunately ... God had to deal with His people “[It is] not for your sake, O Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went” (22). Regrettably, Israel were ‘among the nations’ because of the judgement of God, as a result of “the blood which they had shed on the land, because they had defiled [themselves] with idols” (18). Not only had they been idolatrous but they had profaned the name of God in foreign lands.

What does it mean for God’s name to be “profaned”? For the Israelite a distinction was made between the holy and the profane. It was not necessarily sinful or immoral for something to be profane. Rather, to be profane is to be ordinary and common, in sharp contrast to that which is holy. But, it was utterly sinful to treat as ordinary that which had been set-apart as holy (see Lev. 10:9-11; Eze. 22:26). In this case, the Israelites had made common and ordinary the holy name of God.

But, how did Israel manage to profane His holy name while in exile? They did so by not living in the promises and blessings of God in the sight of the nations! The nation of Israel was a chosen people and, in chapter 62, Isaiah prophecies that the nation “will call them, ‘The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD’; And you will be called, ‘Sought out, a city not forsaken’”. However, in Ezekiel 36:20, the nations said something quite different. They mocked the people of God, declaring “These are the people of the LORD; yet they have come out of His land.”

The possession of the land represents a fulfilled promise of God - the land which was given to His people; the place where He chose to dwell amongst them; where the people of God were to prosper and increase. Yet, they had now been taken captive and brought to a foreign land. Rather than being a light to the nations, they had been defeated. In ancient times, when a nation was defeated, their god was also considered defeated and “carried off” as plunder. God’s holy name had become ordinary because the surrounding nations saw no evidence that God’s promises were true among His people.

So, God must act - but not for His peoples sake, but for His glory. He says: “I will vindicate the holiness of my great name” (23a) thereby proving to the doubting nations that he is indeed the Lord God Almighty. And He achieves this restoration by showing His holiness in an unexpected way: “I [will] vindicate my holiness through you before their eyes” (23b). For this to be achieved a radical transformation and renewal is required among His people. The well-known passage in verses 24-32 describes this work of God in us, and is more fully revealed in the teaching and work of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.

Do the nations around me question whether my God is who I say he is? Do our lives also make common God’s holy name? We profane His holy name by professing to be a recipient of God’s promises, yet not living the extra-ordinary life which their fulfilment will inevitably produce. We make God’s name common by being satisfied with very much less than what Scripture promises to His people. If we are able to live as dynamic witnesses to the reality of God’s promises then let us do so, so that the nations will have no reason to say ‘these are the people of the LORD; yet they have come out of His land.’

Are you living in exile from the promises of God? The fruit of God’s work in our lives is not merely for our own sake, but for the sake of God’s holy name; that the nations will know that our Lord is God - when He shows himself holy through us!
It is for God's glory that His Kingdom has come. If you have reduced the Gospel to life after death, you've missed the Gospel. The Gospel is the good news of the Kingdom. It is life after life after death. Jesus died and rose again. He provided for us to join in that (symbolized through baptism). Now is the time for the Kingdom, for us to live the life He intended after we join with Him in death and resurrection - not our physical death and resurrection.

And if we do not live in the promise of the Kingdom, we have done harm to the Gospel and the witness of God.

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