Summary: Christians are responsible for developing God’s reputation in the world. The failure to do this well always leads to action from God.
Holiness and the Name of God
Text: Ezekiel 36:16-27
Introduction: Proverbs 22:1 says, "A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." Now of course what’s being talked about here is not really a quality name, although if you’re thinking about one for a future baby to be born to your family, I would like to recommend "Kerry." It’s very versatile! No, we recognize that the writer of Proverbs is not referring to one’s name, but rather one’s reputation, and of course, we all agree that reputations matter. Have you ever considered how difficult it is to shake a bad reputation? Consider the case of a substitute teacher of a 4th grade class at the Fuller School in south Chicago. On May 9, 1994, a group of students accused him of sexually molesting several of them. By that afternoon the school board had met and promised to bring in counselors for the children. By evening the story was all over the local news broadcasts. But the next day police investigators came and interviewed 14 of the children, and authorities determined the charges were false. Apparently the children made their false accusation because the substitute teacher threatened to report their unruliness. One radio announcer reported that a child had promised to give his classmates a dollar if they would join in the lie. Speaking to this problem, Jackie Gallagher, a spokeswoman for the Teachers Union said, "Sexual abuse charges are one of the hazards of the profession--a new one. Kids get sharper. It is akin to putting glue on a teacher’s chair twenty years ago." The Teachers Union president said that exonerating the teacher doesn’t always make things better. "What usually happens when a person is accused of this kind of thing is they’re exonerated by the board publicly but then later, quietly, they’re let go." IT’S HARD TO RESTORE A GOOD REPUTATION even when we’ve done nothing to tarnish it.
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the church is the visible representation of Christ to the world (See Acts 1:8-- We are Christ’s witnesses). So it is not out of line to say that people will develop an opinion of Jesus based on the evidence we present. The question we must ask ourselves today is, "What kind of reputation have we established for Him?" In the text that was read this morning, we see that the same thing was happening with regard to the nation of Israel. They were building the reputation of Yahweh to the nations. The only problem was that they were doing a lousy job of it. Let’s take a moment and look at this passage and see what went wrong.
Background: The Israelites, a holy nation (See Exodus 19:6), were given a holy land (See Psalm 78:51-54) which was made so by the presence of a holy God (See Exodus 3:5) with a holy name (See Exodus 36:22). Yet they failed to acknowledge and honor His holy name (Contrast with Exodus 20:7 and Matthew 6:9) and instead tarnished His reputation among the nations by engaging in their pagan practices. As a result the Jews were the objects of God’s wrath, first through the Assyrians and then, later, through the Babylonians. It was during this latter time that Ezekiel was commissioned by God to prophecy about their return. In the passage we’re looking at today, Yahweh addresses the prophet and reviews what happened and, then, reveals His plan.
I. What did Israel do (See Ezekiel 36:16-19)? They defiled God’s name. The word for "defile" means to render something unclean. When something was declared to be unclean it was consider unworthy of being used for holy purposes (See Leviticus 10:10). Ezekiel likened it to a woman’s period, which made her unclean (See Leviticus 15:19-24). Any contact with the realm of death, either through the loss of bodily life-fluids (e.g. blood, semen etc.) or touching a corpse made one unfit to be in contact with the realm of life. In effect, they made God seem to be unholy and, instead, ordinary and common, How did they do this?
A. They committed two specific crimes that polluted the land (See Ezekiel 36:18). Note that there was no ambiguity regarding these offenses when it came to the Law of God. They were forbidden by Him.
2. They committed idolatry (See Ezekiel 22:3-4; Exodus 20:4-6). The action of presenting their children to Molech was not just murder, but also idol worship as this false god was nothing more than the fabrication of the Babylonians.
B. Because they did this, God dispersed them among the nations (See Ezekiel 36:19). God punished them by scattering Israel among the nations where they were free to pursue their rebellion to their heart’s content but it would not result in their satisfaction. Quite the contrary, Israel would mourn the day they rebelled (See Deuteronomy 28:64-67). Application: Have you ever noticed that sin holds out the promise of satisfaction without ever achieving it? It looks so good, but it is always destructive. Illustration: The Mexican man who loaded the scrap metal from a southern Arizona junk pile into his beat-up pickup truck bed was excited. This big haul would mean food on the table and money in his pocket once he transferred the metal into cash at the scrap metal recycler in Mexico. As the truck pulled onto the highway, little steel balls from an antique dental X-ray machine began to drop onto the ribbed bed of the truck. These tiny, radioactive marbles bounced among the shifting sheets of metal and rolled back and forth in the truck bed. Some of them spilled along the highway. After the scrap metal had been transformed into pesos, the man hurried back to his village, metal balls still rolling in the grooves of the truck bed. In no time at all the children discovered the shiny, bright treasures—and the game of marbles was a popular sport in the village. The balls were a coveted addition to any child’s collection of glassies, cat’s eyes, peewees, and jumbos. Before long, many in the town began to complain of similar symptoms: red rash, fatigue, loss of hair, vomiting. After many months and several deaths in the village, the truth was discovered: dozens of people were suffering from severe radiation poisoning. The pretty little balls, held, traded, and treasured, turned out to be both delightful and deadly. Scripture clearly teaches us that the wages of sin is death. Yet too many times, we think we can play with it like a child with marbles and not be hurt. Eventually, however, it will destroy us.