Monday, December 13, 2010

Glorified For Our Sakes

God would be glorious without us, an obvious statement indeed, but one that needs to be affirmed nonetheless. God need not be affirmed by humans or angels in order to remain the Almighty. Therefore, when we read in Scripture that God is concerned about His Holy Name (Ezekiel 36:22), we must ask the question, “why?” Why would a God who needs no affirmation be concerned when we are not glorifying Him? He does not seem to lose anything of necessity. It seems to be a loss for the human who does not uphold God in his or her mind and not a loss for God, and this is exactly the point.

God wishes to be glorified for our sakes. It is only natural that God be glorified. He is the most glorious. God is pleased by our praise, not simply because He is being uplifted, but He is pleased because, by our uplifting of His Name, we will be blessed. And a God of outward focused love is always concerned for the sakes of those He loves. While this at first glance might seem selfish on the behalf of God, we need not come to such conclusions. God knows that those who glorify Him will draw closer to Him through the recognition of sheer truth. As we draw closer to Him, we draw further away from sin and destruction. We draw closer to life. Thus, we are the benefactors of relating to God through worship. Look for a moment at the nation of Israel.

Throughout their history, Israel goes through times of obedience and times of rebellion. As Israel rebels against Yahweh, the Lord allows them to experience the inevitable results of sin in order to teach Israel its need for reliance upon God. Thus, Israel often finds itself delivered into the hands of its enemies. While Israel is supposed to be enjoying the fruits of the promise, including living within the Promise Land, instead, as a result of rebellion, they are often dispersed among the surrounding nations, often nations hostile to the Hebrew people.

While in dispersion, the people of Israel are living far below their privilege as the people of God. As a result, the surrounding nations see that the divine promise to Israel is not being fulfilled, and, instead of attributing the lack of fulfillment to Israel’s lack of obedience to God, the other nations assume this to be a sign of the weakness of Yahweh, of the true God (Ezekiel 36:20). Thus, God states that something must change. The people of God need to be holy so that God might be glorified. But, once again, what does it matter to the Almighty when mere humans misunderstand His glory; no matter what humans think, God is still glorious.

At first, it seems that God is simply concerned for His reputation for His reputation's sake: “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 profaned among the nations to which you came” (Ezekiel 36:22). God suggests that He will send His Spirit so that Israel might have the ability to remain obedient (vv. 26, 27). While it is obvious that Israel will benefit from His outpouring, God suggests that He does it for the sake of His name, but why?

“I will sanctify my great name [through Israel], which has been profaned among the nations [by Israel]…and the nations will know that I am the Lord…” (Ezekiel 36: 23). God plans to pour out His Spirit upon Israel so that the name they profaned will be sanctified before the nations. Thus, while God says that He does not redeem Israel for its own sake, we should not assume that it is merely for His own sake that He acts. Remember, God does not say that He is merely concerned for His name, but for that name which was profaned before the nations. The corrective is for the nations, the whole world, to understand His glory. To further understand this point, we must look to God’s original and ongoing intent for calling out the nation of Israel. When God establishes His purpose for Israel in speaking to the father of that nation, Abraham, He suggests that Israel will be such a nation that it will bless the entire world (Genesis 22:18; 26:4). Thus, to redeem Israel is to continue this purpose of blessing the world. While the nations are now degrading God by their assumptions of Israel, the chosen people of the promise, God intends that the whole world know that He is the Lord, and when humans actually see the glory of God, they, more often than not, worship Him. Once again, through His glorification, we are blessed.

Our God is not a petty God needing us to affirm Him for His own sake. Instead, He is such a God that, by His outward focused love, He would will our happiness forever. He concerns Himself with our opinion of Him for our own sakes. Otherwise, if God were concerned merely of Himself, He could simply give up on us. As previously stated, to affirm God as glorious is to be blessed through a drawing closer to Him, the source of life. However, let me not be misunderstood. Should we merely worship God because it benefits us? Not at all…

By His very nature God should be glorified. Simply because I am highly valued by God does not give me any right to become prideful. It certainly does not mean I should hold a low view of myself or others as children of God, but glorifying God is a call to give God all honor and praise, to be self-forgetful and outward focused. Less of me is more of Him, and the more of Him I receive, the more blessed I am. If we are truly to display God’s love to the world and to glorify His name, we will be like Him in that we concern ourselves with the sake of others and not with the sake of the self.

Throughout the writing process for this blog post, I worried that I might overemphasize my point. While my point is to raise awareness concerning God’s purpose for our worship in that He is focused upon us, I, of course, did not want to in turn glorify man above God. We owe our all to God. However, as I see it, this understanding of God’s want to be glorified more honors God than merely stating that He needs to be glorified for the sake of being glorified. Honestly, what does a perfect being “need” anyway? Without understanding our need to glorify brings about joyful relationship, we simply downplay the personal aspect of God and make Him out to be vain. But, if we realize that God is concerned for our sakes, we begin to glimpse into His love, and realize He is anything but vein.

Praise Him!