The Seventh Sunday of Easter - Ezekiel 36:22-28, "Hallowed Be Thy Name"
[Read Ezekiel 36:22-28]
Hallowed Be Thy Name
[vv. 22-23] 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. 23 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.”
Not for your sake, O Israel, but for the sake of my name I am about to act – I am about to do this new thing. They did not merit God’s favor. But God will make His name holy among them.
The land of Israel was stripped of all the best – fields emptied of cattle and crops – wine presses sitting dry – no longer the land of milk and honey it once was. Where are the people of Israel? They are not at home. They’re in captivity. They are judged. They are exiled by God.
The Israelites had the Scriptures. The Israelites had knowledge of the true God. The Israelites, in fact, had God’s name on them. They were God’s children, people of His name.
Just as a “Smith” carries that family name, Smith, wherever he goes – and if I’m a Smith, my character and conduct can sully that name – in the say way, the Israelites were the carriers of God’s name in the world, and, by their character and conduct, they profaned that name.
The Israelites knew God but worshiped and put their trust in idols. They had the Scriptures but lived by the false beliefs of their neighbors. They no longer called on God’s name but trusted in the might and wealth of nations.
The Israelites knew God as holy, yet walked in the same impurity – in thought, word, and deed – as their unbelieving neighbors. There was no difference between the life of a believer and the life of an unbeliever – same values, same wants, same desires as their neighbors who didn’t know the Lord. An unfruitful faith which is no faith at all.
The Israelites walked in such a way that God’s name was profaned among their neighboring nations. You, brothers and sisters, are God’s baptized children, children of His name today – baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. You carry God’s name among your neighbors. Is God’s name kept holy by you, or does your worldly life, or your inaction in the things of God, profane His name?
We pray in the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name”, which is a request: “God, let Your name be holy.” We’re asking that His name would be holy. Our Small Catechism explains:
“Hallowed be Thy name.”
What does this mean?
Answer: God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.
How is God’s name kept holy?
Answer: God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!
The Israelites were not teaching or believing God’s Word in its truth and purity. They were not living holy lives according to it. They were judged. Exile. Captivity. Yet, in captivity, God’s name was only further sullied and profaned among the nations where they were held captive.
We know the importance of God’s name: “All who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” [Romans 10:13]. But who will call upon God’s name when it is made unholy even by His people?
God says, “I will act for the sake of my holy name” – the name that saves – So that “the nations will know that I am the Lord.” God will restore His name so the nations can call upon it for salvation. So, what will God do for His name? He will make His people new.
[vv. 24-26] “I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. 25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
God shows grace. Not for their sake – that is, not because they deserve it – not for the sake of their worthiness or merit (they have none) – but for the sake of God’s name, the name the nation’s must call upon for salvation. God shows grace. He makes new those who bear His name, just as you bear His name by your baptism.
God did this, finally, once and for all, on the day of Christ. On the day of Christ’s cross and resurrection. By Christ’s death, God has made you clean from all your uncleanness and all your idols. By Christ’s death, God forgives.
By Christ’s resurrection, God makes new. “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.” God raises up a new man in the sinner. A new man with a heart of flesh. The new man from Christ in you.
You bear the name of “Christian”, you bear the name of Christ, and Christ is in you. From your calling upon the name of the Lord for forgiveness and pardon, others will learn to repent and call upon the Lord’s name for their forgiveness.
And by the life of the new man, the new heart, living in you – hearing and believing God’s Word; living a holy life according to it. By that life of Christ’s resurrection risen up in you, God’s name is kept holy in a dark world – a world in which even so many churches teach the world’s teaching, and not God’s pure Word.
Not for your merit or worthiness, but this new man, new heart, new spirit is born in you as a pure gift of undeserved grace – for the sake of God’s name. “Everyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” [2 Corinthians 5:17]. “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” [Galatians 2:20].
The old sinner is still in there, jealous for control. Daily renounce the old and speak and do and think the things of the new heart, of the New Man of Christ – the things of God’s pure Word. It can be done because God will do it. He has said so: “I will put my Spirit within you, and I will cause you to walk in my statutes, and I will cause you to be careful to obey my just decrees” [Ezekiel 36:27]. God will do it. He does make His people new, for His name’s sake. Amen.