Reading through Ezekiel the last few days, the phrase “they shall know that I am the Lord” continues to stand out. It’s repeated over and over and over again. God says it to Israel and to the nations. This morning I tried to count all the times that God says “they shall know that I am the Lord.” I found 72 instances in Ezekiel were God said “they shall know that I am the Lord.” (Depending on your translation that’s how many disciples Jesus sent out two by two…huh.)
My perception is that when most people think of Ezekiel they think of judgment or end times prophecy. But, it’s the phrase “they shall know that I am the Lord” that seems to be repeated more than anything else. That’s the theme of Ezekiel’s ministry. God was speaking through Ezekiel saying, “I will show them who I am.”
This is one way that Ezekiel is a type, a shadow, a forerunner of Jesus.
Hebrews 1 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom he also created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” Jesus is exactly who God is. God sent Jesus so that when we see him we would see God’s glory. “They shall know that I am the Lord.”
John 1 says, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth…No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has had made him known.” Jesus came that God might be known by us. “They shall know that I am the Lord.”
In the passage above from John 1, note who it is that God says “they shall know that I am the Lord.” It is those “who believed in his name.” Those who believe in God’s name, in God’s character, and who he is are given the right to become children of God. That is they are given the right to dwell in his kingdom.
Believing in the name of God takes us back to Ezekiel. Throughout Ezekiel, God says he will act so that “they will know that I am the Lord.” That means to know his name – I Am. But, God isn’t acting for Israel or the nations. He’s acting for himself, for his name. In Ezekiel 36, God says, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.” God is acting to vindicate, to clear of any blame or suspicion, the holiness of his name.
Israel had profaned God’s name to the nations. The nations got a false impression of God, who he is and what he is doing in the earth, because of how Israel lived. But, God said he will act in such a way that Israel and the nations will no longer be able to blame him for what is happening in the world. God will vindicate the holiness of his name.
How would God do this? By setting up his own kingdom, a kingdom not of this world. His son, Jesus, would be the Lord and King of that kingdom. Because Jesus, and only Jesus knew God, and further he came from God, Jesus could be the exact image and representation of God’s glory. Jesus, by establishing his kingdom on the earth, could vindicate the holiness of God’s name. He would set everything right.
Notice that God didn’t try to restore, to bring back, the earthly kingdom of Israel. The earthly kingdom of Israel was a rejection of God (1 Samuel 8). Nor did God try to redeem or make good the empire that was then ruling the world, Rome. God wasn’t going to use a kingdom of this world to establish his own. God is not about making bad things good. He is about making dead things live. He is about transformation. He is about making all things new. He is a creator. A new heavens and a new earth. A new Jerusalem. As God does that “we will know that he is Lord.”
This is something American Christians should consider. By making God’s name synonymous with America, American Christians have profaned God’s name. By siding with politicians and leaders that profane God’s name, Christians profane the name of God, which is holy (that’s separate and distinct). We have caused blame and suspicion of who God really is, to be attached to his holy name. God will not stand for that. He will vindicate his name by establishing his own kingdom, not America’s. He will vindicate the holiness of his name to all the nations through Jesus and the building of his kingdom.