Therefore tell the house of Israel that this is what the Lord GOD says: It is not for your sake that I will act, O house of Israel, but for My holy name, which you profaned among the nations to which you went.
1. The first point to be noticed, and the one most characteristic of Ezekiel, is the Divine motive for the redemption of Israel — Jehovah's regard for His own name. The name of God is that by which He is known amongst men. It is more than His honour or reputation, although that is included in it, according to Hebrew idiom; it is the expression of His character or His personality. To act for His name's sake, therefore, is to act so that His true character may be more fully revealed, and so that men's thoughts of Him may more truly correspond to that which in Himself He is. What is meant to be excluded by the expression not for your sakes . All that it necessarily implies is, not for any good that I find in you. It is a protest against the idea of Pharisaic self-righteousness that a man may have a legal claim upon God through his own merits. The truth here taught is, in theological language, the sovereignty of the Divine grace. A profound sense of human sinfulness will always throw the mind back on the idea of God as the one immovable ground of confidence in the ultimate redemption of the individual and the world. When the doctrine is pressed to the conclusion that God saves men in spite of themselves, and merely to display His power over them, it becomes false and pernicious, and, indeed, self-contradictory. But so long as we hold fast to the truth that God is love, and that the glory of God is the manifestation of His love, the doctrine of the Divine sovereignty only expresses the unchangeableness of that love and its final victory over the sin of the world.
I. THE ISRAELITES HAVE PROFANED GOD'S NAME AMONG THE HEATHEN. They are universally known as the people of Jehovah. When exiled from their land, they are the objects of derision and contempt to the heathen who behold them, and who, despising them, despise also the Name of Jehovah.
II. THE LORD IS MOVED WITH PITY FOR HIS OWN NAME. The language, nay, the very thought, is remarkably bold. But especially as it is repeated, it must be taken as deliberate and intentional, and as corresponding with a wonderful and Divine, though but partially comprehensible, reality. His Name, his reputation, even among the heathen, is dear to him, and he deigns to be concerned when men speak lightly of his Name and blaspheme him openly. In human language, he is distressed at the evil things which are said of him among the enemies of his people.
III. THE PURPOSES OF GOD'S MERCY ARE NOT PROMPTED BY ANY DESERTS OF ISRAEL. "I do not this for your sake, O house of Israel." This is a principle which should ever be borne in mind in interpreting Old Testament history. The Hebrew writers are faithful, candid, and outspoken in describing the national character, in relating the actions of their countrymen. They were a rebellious and stiff-necked people. They had their good qualities, but their many and grievous sins are not extenuated. If God chose them as his peculiar people, it was not for any special excellence or meritorious ness in themselves. And when he restored them from captivity, he let it be understood that he did this not from a regard to their deserts.
IV. GOD'S PURPOSES OF MERCY TO ISRAEL ARE PROMPTED BY A REGARD TO HIS OWN NAME. He had made certain promises to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and those promises he must needs fulfill. He has intentions of mercy to mankind to be realized by means of the "children of promise," and he will not allow those intentions to be frustrated. He has his own faithfulness to vindicate, his own moral attributes to manifest. By his Name must be understood his character, especially as known among men; and, this being the case, it is not difficult to comprehend the meaning of "having pity on his holy Name."
V. PITY BECOMES PRACTICAL IN THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL TO THEIR OWN LAND, BY WHICH GOD'S NAME IS SANCTIFIED. There is dignity and even moral grandeur in the resolution which is expressed in this passage; it is felt to be worthy of him in whose lips it is placed by the prophet. When the great work of restoration is achieved, the nations who behold it see that the taunts and ridicule in which they have indulged are both foolish and blamable. Israel is proved to be the consecrated nation, preserved by God's wisdom and goodness as the instrument in effecting his purposes. The Lord God is seen to be, not powerless like the so-called gods of the nations, but omnipotent and just. His promises are vindicated as faithful. "I will sanctify my great Name and the nations shall know that I am the Lord." - T.
I had pity for Mine holy name.
I. ATTEND TO THE EXPRESSION, "MY NAME'S SAKE." The name of God, as employed by the sacred writers, has many and most important meanings. In the 20th Psalm, for instance, it embraces all the attributes of the Godhead. "The name of the God of Jacob defend thee"; that is, when paraphrased, may His arms be around; may His wisdom guide thee; may His power support thee; the bounty of God supply thy wants; the mercy of God forgive thy sins; may the shield of heaven cover, and its precious blessings crown thy head. Again, in Micah 4:5, where it is said, "We will walk in the name of the Lord," the expression assumes a new meaning, and indicates the laws, statutes, and commandments of God. Again in the blessed promise, "In all places where I record My name I will come unto thee and I will bless thee," the expression bears yet another meaning: it stands for religious ordinances and worship, and rears, by the hand of faith, a holy temple out of the rudest edifice, changing into heaven-consecrated churches those rocky fastnesses and lonely moors where our fathers found their God in the dark days of old. Contenting ourselves with these illustrations of the various meanings of this expression in Scripture, I now remark that here the "name" of God comprehends everything that either directly or remotely affects the Divine honour and glory; whatever touches, to use the words of our Catechism, His titles, attributes, ordinances, word or works; or anything whereby God maketh Himself known.
II. WE ARE TO UNDERSTAND THAT THE MOTIVE WHICH MOVED GOD TO SAVE MAN WAS REGARD TO HIS OWN GLORY. This doctrine, that God saves men for His own glory, is a grand, a very precious truth; yet it may be stated in a way which seems as offensive as it is really unscriptural. Have you never observed how concave mirrors magnify the features nearest to them into undue and monstrous proportions, and how common mirrors, that are ill-cast and of uneven surface, turn the most beautiful face into deformity? Well, there are some good men whose minds appear to be of such a cast and character. Neither seeing nor exhibiting the truths of the Bible in their proper harmony and proportions, they represent our Lord in this matter of salvation as affected by no motive whatever but a regard to His Father's glory, and even God Himself as moved only by a regard to this end. Excluding from their view the pity and love of God, or reducing these into shrunken and small dimensions, they magnify one doctrine at the expense of another; and thereby weaken, if not annihilate, some of the most sacred and tender ties which bind the believer to His God. I know that we should approach so high a theme with the deepest reverence. It becomes us to speak on this subject, and on anything else that touches the secret movements of the Divine mind, with profound humility. Yet, reasoning from the form of the shadow to the nature of the object which projects it, from the image to that of which it is the reflection, from man to God, I venture to say, that it is with Him as with us, when we are moved to a single action by the influence of various motives. To borrow an example from the place I fill. The minister ascends the pulpit to preach; and, in preaching, if worthy of his office, he is affected by a variety of motives. Love to God, love to Jesus, love to sinners, love to saints, regard to God's glory, and also to man's good — these, like the air, the water, the light, the heat, the electricity, the gravity, which act together in the process of vegetation, may all combine to form and inspire one sermon. They are present, not as conflicting but as concurring motives in the preacher's breast. This difference, however, there is between us and a perfect God, that though — like the Rhone, which is formed of two rivers, the one turbid, the other pure as the blue sky above it — our motives are mixtures of good and evil, all the emotions of the Divine mind, and the influences that move God to action, are of the purest nature. Never, therefore, let us exalt this doctrine of the Divine glory at the expense of Divine love to sinners. His love to sinners is His mightiest, His heart-softening, as an old writer called it, His heart-breaking argument; and it were doing Him, His blessed Gospel and our own souls the greatest injustice if we should overlook the love that gives Divinity its name, which sent, in His Son, a Saviour from the Father's bosom, and was eulogised by an apostle as possessed of a height and depth and breadth and length which passeth knowledge.
III. OBSERVE THAT IN SAVING MAN FOR HIS "HOLY NAME'S SAKE," OR FOR HIS OWN HONOUR AND GLORY, GOD EXHIBITS THE MERCY, HOLINESS, LOVE, AND OTHER ATTRIBUTES OF THE GODHEAD. The truth is, that God saves man for much the same reasons as at first He created him. What moved God, then, to make man, or, when through the regions of empty space there was neither world rolling, nor sun shining, nor angel singing — when there was neither life nor death, nor birth nor burial, nor sight nor sound, no wave of ocean breaking, no wing of seraph moving — when God dwelt alone in silent, solemn, awful, but complacent solitude, what moved Him to make creatures at all, and with these bright worlds, suns, and systems, to garnish the vacant heavens, and people with its varied inhabitants a lonely universe? These are the deep things of God, and it becomes us with our finite and fallible minds to approach them modestly. Still, by turning the eye inward on ourselves, we may form some conception of the mind of God; even as a captive child, born and retained in a dark dungeon, may learn something of the sun from the beam that, streaming through a chink of the riven wall, travels the grey lonely floor; or even as, though I had never walked its pebbly shore, nor heard the voice of its thundering breakers, nor played in summer day with its swelling waves, I could form some feeble conception of the ocean from a lake, from a pool, or from this sparkling dew drop, which, born of the womb of night, and cradled in the bosom of a flower, lies waiting, like a soul under the Sun of Righteousness, to be exhaled to heaven. Look at man, then. Is he a poet or a philosopher, a man of mechanical genius or artistic skill, a statesman or a philanthropist, or, better than all, one in whose bosom glow the fires of piety? It matters not. We perceive that his happiness does not lie in indolence, but in the gratification of his tastes, the indulgence of his feelings, and the exercise of his faculties, whatever they be. Assume the same to be true of God, and the conception, while it exalts, endears our heavenly Father to us. Does it not present Him in this most winning and attractive aspect, that the very happiness of Godhead lies in the forthputting, along with other attributes, of His goodness, love, and mercy? The minnow plays in the shallow pool, and leviathan cleaves the depths of ocean; winged insects sport in the sunbeam, and winged angels sing before the throne; but whether we fix our attention on His least or greatest works, the whole fabric of creation seems to prove that Jehovah delights in the evolution of His powers, in the display of wisdom and love and goodness; and, just as it is to the delight which God enjoys in the exercise of these that we owe creation, with all its bounties, so is it to his delight in the exercise of pity, love, and mercy that we owe salvation, with all its blessings. Let us be both humble and thankful. Salvation is finished. Salvation is offered, freely offered. Shall it be rejected? Oh, take the good, and give God the glory. Say, He is the God of Salvation; and in His name we will set up our banners.
( T. Guthrie, D. D.)
1. To tell man that he has no merit is no doubt a humbling statement. It lays the loftiest, self-sufficient sinner in the dust. Yes, this doctrine, like death, is the true leveller. It puts all men on the same platform before a holy God. It sets crowned kings as low as beggars, honest men with rogues and thieves, and the strictest virtue, virtue which the breath of suspicion never sullied, alongside of base and brazen-faced iniquity. God pronounces our righteousness — observe, not our wickednesses, but our devotions, our charities, our costliest sacrifices, our most applauded services — to be filthy rags. Trust not therefore to them. What man in his senses would think of going to court in rags, in rags to wait upon a king? Nor think that the righteousness of the Cross was wrought to patch up these; to supplement, as some say, what is either defective or altogether awanting in our personal merits. Nor fancy, like some who would embrace a Saviour and yet keep their sins, that you may wear these rags beneath His righteousness. God says of every sinner whom Faith has conducted to Jesus, Take away the filthy garments from him, "Behold I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment."
2. If this doctrine is humbling to human pride, it is full of encouragement to the lowly penitent. It lays me low in the dust, but it is to lift me up. It throws me on the ground, that, like Antaeus, the giant of fable, I may rise stronger than I fell.
II. IT IS AS IMPORTANT FOR THE SAINT AS FOR THE SINNER TO REMEMBER THAT HE IS NOT SAVED THROUGH PERSONAL MERIT, OR FOR HIS OWN SAKE. When age has gnarled its bark and stiffened every fibre, if, turning that to the right hand which had grown to the left, or raising a bough to the skies which had drooped to the ground, you bend a branch in a new direction, it long retains a tendency to resume its old position. Even so, when God has laid His gracious hand upon us, and given this earthly soul a heavenward bent, how prone it is to start back again! Of this sad truth, David and Peter are memorable and dreadful examples. And who that has attempted to keep his heart with diligence has not felt, and mourned over the old tendency to be working out a righteousness of his own, to be pleased with himself, and, by taking some satisfaction in his own merits, to undervalue those of Christ? So was it with that godly man who, on one occasion — most rare achievement! — offered up a prayer without one wandering thought; and afterwards described it as the worst which he had ever offered, because, as he said, the devil made him proud of it. So was it also with the minister who, upon being told by one, more ready to praise the preacher than profit by the sermon, that he had delivered an excellent discourse, replied, You need not tell me that; Satan told me so before I left the pulpit. Ah! it were well for the best of us that we could say with Paul, We are not ignorant of his devices. Oh, it is needful for the holiest to remember that man's best works are bad at the best; and that, to use the words of Paul, it is not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy He hath saved us, through the washing of regeneration, and the renewing of the Holy Ghost.
III. THIS DOCTRINE, WHILE IT KEEPS THE SAINT HUMBLE, WILL HELP TO MAKE HIM HOLY. Here no ornament to park or garden, stands a dwarfed, stunted, bark-bound tree. How am I to develop that stem into tall and graceful beauty, to clothe with blossoms these naked branches, and hang them, till they bend, with clustered fruit? You cannot make that tree grow upwards till you break the crust below, pulverise the hard subsoil, and give the roots room and way to strike deeper down; for the deeper the root, and the wider spread the fine filaments of its rootlets, the higher the tree lifts an umbrageous head to heaven, and throws out its hundred arms to catch, in dews, raindrops, and sunbeams, the blessings of the sky. The believer, in respect of character, a tree of righteousness of the Lord's planting; in respect of strength, a cedar of Lebanon; in respect of fruitfulness, an olive; in respect of position, a palm tree planted in the courts of God's house; in respect of full supplies of grace, a tree by the rivers of water, which yieldeth its fruit in its season, and whose leaf cloth not wither — offers this analogy between grace and nature, that as the tree grows best skyward that grows most downward, the lower the saint descends in humility the higher he rises in holiness. The soaring corresponds to the sinking. We have wondered at the lowliness of one who stood among his tallest compeers like Saul among the people; wondered to find him simple, gentle, generous, docile, humble as a little child, till we found that it was with great men as with great trees. What giant tree has not giant roots? When the tempest has blown over some monarch of the forest, and he lies in death stretched out at his full length upon the ground, on seeing the mighty roots that fed him, the strong cables that moored him to the soil, we cease to wonder at his noble stem, and the broad, leafy, lofty head he raised to heaven, defiant of storms. Even so, when death has struck down some distinguished saint, whose removal, like that of a great tree, leaves a vast gap below, and whom, brought down now, as it were, to our own level, we can measure better when he has fallen than when he stood, and when the funeral is over and his repositories are opened, and the secrets of his heart are unlocked and brought to light, ah! now, in the profound humility they reveal, in the spectacle of that honoured grey head laid so low in the dust before God, we see the great roots and strength of his lofty piety.
( T. Guthrie, D. D.)
2. The intellectual side of the conversion of Israel is the acceptance of that idea of God which to the prophet is summed up in the name of Jehovah. This is expressed in the standing formula which denotes the effect of all God's dealings with men — "They shall know that I am Jehovah." The prophet here regards conversion as a process wholly carried through by the operation of Jehovah on the mind of the people; and what we have next to consider is the steps by which this great end is accomplished. They are these two — forgiveness and regeneration.
3. The forgiveness of sins is denoted by the symbol of sprinkling with clean water. But it must not be supposed that this isolated figure is the only form in which the doctrine appears in Ezekiel's exposition of the process of salvation. On the contrary, forgiveness is the fundamental assumption of the whole argument, and is present in every promise of future blessedness to the people. For the Old Testament idea of forgiveness is extremely simple, resting as it does on the analogy of forgiveness in human life. The spiritual fact which constitutes the essence of forgiveness is the change in Jehovah's disposition towards His people, which is manifested by the renewal of those indispensable conditions of national well-being which in His anger He had taken away. The restoration of Israel to its own land is thus not simply a token of forgiveness, but the act of forgiveness itself, and the only form in which the fact could be realised in the experience of the nation. In this sense the whole of Ezekiel's predictions of the Messianic deliverance and the glories that follow it are one continuous promise of forgiveness, setting forth the truth that Jehovah's love to His people persists in spite of their sin, and works victoriously for their redemption and restoration to the full enjoyment of His favour. In urging individuals to prepare for the coming of the kingdom of God he makes repentance a necessary condition of entering it; but in describing the whole process of salvation as the work of God he makes contrition for sin the result of reflection on the goodness of Jehovah already experienced in the peaceful occupation of the land of Canaan.
4. The idea of regeneration is very prominent in Ezekiel's teaching.(1) The need for a radical change in the national character was impressed on him by the spectacle which he witnessed daily of evil tendencies and practices persisted in, in spite of the clearest demonstration that they were hateful to Jehovah and had been the cause of the nation's calamities. And he does not ascribe this state of things merely to the influence of tradition and public opinion and evil example, but traces it to its source in the hardness and corruption of the individual nature. In exhorting individuals to repentance, Ezekiel calls on them to make themselves a new heart and a new spirit, meaning that their repentance must be genuine, extending to the inner motives and springs of action, and not be confined to outward signs of mourning. But in other connections the new heart and spirit is represented as a gift, the result of the operation of the Divine grace. Closely connected with this, perhaps only the same truth in another form, is the promise of the outpouring of the Spirit of God. The general expectation of a new supernatural power infused into the national life in the latter days is common in the prophets (Hosea 14:5; Isaiah 32:15). But no earlier prophet presents the idea of the Spirit as a principle of regeneration with the precision and clearness which the doctrine assumes in the hands of Ezekiel. What in Hosea and Isaiah may be only a Divine influence, quickening and developing the flagging spiritual energies of the people, is here revealed as a creative power, the source of a new life, and the beginning of all that possesses moral or spiritual worth in the people of God.
5. Note the two-fold effect of these operations of Jehovah's grace in the religious and moral condition of the nation.(1) A new readiness and power of obedience to the Divine commandments. Like the apostle, they will not only "consent unto the law that it is good"; but in virtue of the new "Spirit of life" given to them, they will be in a real sense "free from the law," because the inward impulse of their own regenerate nature will lead them to fulfil it perfectly. Shame and self-loathing on account of past transgressions.
6. This outline of the prophet's conception of salvation illustrates the truth of the remark that Ezekiel is the first dogmatic theologian. Although the final remedy for the sin of the world had not yet been revealed, the scheme of redemption disclosed to Ezekiel agrees with much of the teaching of the New Testament regarding the effects of the work of Christ on the individual.
(John Skinner, M. A.)
PlacesEdom, Jerusalem, Mount Seir, Tigris-Euphrates Region
TopicsAct, Cause, Heathen, Holy, Name's, Nations, O, Polluted, Profaned, Sake, Sakes, Says, Thus, Unclean, Wherever, Whither, Working
Outline1. The land of Israel is comforted, by destruction of the heathen, who spitefully used it
8. and by the blessings of God promised unto it
16. Israel was rejected for their sin
21. and shall be restored without their desert
25. The blessings of Christ's kingdom
Dictionary of Bible ThemesEzekiel 36:22
1055 God, grace and mercy
1185 God, zeal of
1115 God, purpose of
LibraryJanuary 2. "I Will Cause You to Walk in My Statutes" (Eze. xxxvi. 27).
"I will cause you to walk in My statutes" (Eze. xxxvi. 27). The highest spiritual condition is one where life is spontaneous and flows without effort, like the deep floods of Ezekiel's river, where the struggles of the swimmer ceased, and he was borne by the current's resistless force. So God leads us into spiritual conditions and habits which become the spontaneous impulses of our being, and we live and move in the fulness of the divine life. But these spiritual habits are not the outcome of some …
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May 30. "I Will Put My Spirit Within You" (Ez. xxxvi. 27).
August 25. "And I Will Put My Spirit Within You, and Cause You to Walk in My Statutes, and Ye Shall Keep My Judgments and do Them" (Ezek. xxxvi. 27).
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The Person Sanctified.
Evidences Internal and Experimental.
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