TODAY’S READING: EZEKIEL 36-38
“But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came. ‘Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: 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.'” – Ezekiel 36:21-23
Israel was to be a light to the nations. They were to be a people that revealed the glory of God to the nations around them.
But, when Israel went to the nations, instead of being a light, revealing the glory of God, Israel had profaned the holy name of God.
How did they profane the name of God?
Ezekiel 37:17-18 says, “When the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it be their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity…for the blood that the had shed in the land.”
Ezekiel uses the metaphor of woman in her menstrual impurity to show that Israel had profaned the name of God by shedding blood.
What does it mean to profane something?
The Hebrew word translated profane means to be defiled, to profane, to desecrate, to render unholy, to put into use. According to the Lexham Theological Workbook, this Hebrew word describes the act of defiling something holy by treating it as common.
In English, the word profane means to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt; to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use.
Israel took the name of God, which was holy, and made it common. They treated the name of God with abuse, irreverence, contempt. They debased the name of God by putting it to use in a wrong, unworthy, and vulgar manner.
How did they profane the name, the character, of God? How did they make God’s name, his character, unholy?
Israel made God’s name and character unholy by shedding blood, by warring, by killing their enemies.
But, God said he was going to act. He was not going to act for the sake of Israel. No, he was going to act for the sake of his holy name, his holy character. God was going to restore, to vindicate, the holiness of his name. And, when the nations saw the vindication of his holy name they would know that he is Lord.
What is the holiness of God, of God’s name?
1 Peter 1:14-16 says, “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.'”
We are to be holy in the same way that God is holy.
Jesus said this another way in Matthew 5:48, which says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” To be perfect is to be spiritually mature, to be complete, to be holy. Therefore,, Jesus is saying to be holy as God is holy.
In verses 5:46-47, Jesus tells us what being perfect, being holy, as God is holy is not like. He says, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”
The Gentiles love as the world loves. They love their own and hate their enemies. The Gentiles shed the blood of their names. And, notice that Peter said not to be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance. Peter is saying don’t love the way used to, loving only your brother or those that love you. For, this is what Israel was doing when Ezekiel prophesied that they profaned the name of the Lord by shedding blood.
Loving as the Gentiles did and Israel did in its former ignorance was to love those who love you and hate those who hate you. But, this was not being holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect. Rather, it was to profane the name of God, to put God’s name and character to common use. For, it is quite common to shed the blood of your enemies.
So then, what is being holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect?
Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:43-45. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Is it not clear what it means to be holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect?
It means to love your enemies, to do good to your enemies. This is what makes God holy. This is what makes God uncommon, unique, set apart. And, it is the same for us.
We are not holy because we hold to a set of rules, to some more guidelines. We are holy because love as God loves.
How do we know God loves us?
1 John 4:8-10 says, “God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
We know God is love because Jesus Christ died for us.
When did Jesus die for us?
Romans 5:6, 8, 10 says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Chris died for the ungodly…But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…For while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son.”
God loved us, Christ died for us, while we God’s enemies.
This is what makes God holy. God is not holy because he cannot tolerate sin and what destroy all sinners in an everlasting fire forever and ever. No, God is holy because instead of killing his enemies he dies for them.
Throughout the ages, men have used God’s name as justification to kill their enemies. The Old Testament shows that Israel did this repeatedly.
But, in Ezekiel, God said he would act to vindicate the holiness of his name. He wa not going to act for the sake of Israel. He was going to act for the sake of his name.
The singular act, the sine qua non, that God performed to vindicate the holiness of name for all ages was to die on the cross, to die the most shameful death ever devised by men, the most wicked and vile intention of all the evil intentions of man’s heart.
God vindicated the holiness of his name by shedding his blood not by shedding the blood of others.
The singular act of Jesus crucified on the cross defines the name and character of God. This act is what makes God holy. This is why Jesus was the slain lamb before the foundation of the world. He is so because this is who God is.
And, in case you are wondering, for Jesus to come again to slaughter millions, to confine people to an everlasting, eternal judgment of fire, to destroy millions, would be to profane the name and character of God.
God doesn’t kill his enemies. He dies for them.