Now we’ve come to our Advent text, Ezekiel 36:22-23, “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. 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.”
Last week I mentioned that in this text we find the why, how, and when of God’s action to restore His people. Why will God restore His people? Because He will act for the sake of His holy name, which is being profaned. How will God restore His people? By vindicating the holiness of His great name, so that all the nations (including Israel) will know that He is the Lord. In response to having His name be profaned by His people’s wicked living and the nations wicked scoffing God is stirred up to act.
Did you notice why God will act though? It is stark and blatant statement we cannot gloss over. He is He acting for who? Who is He acting in behalf of? Read 36:22, “It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My great name…” The reason God is about to vindicate His holiness before them is not because of His people, but because of His passion over the fame of His name. To put it another way, God is about to act for His glory.
This is why it says “all shall know that I am the Lord” after He acts in behalf of His great name. I cannot over emphasize this detail enough. The phrase “…and you shall know that I am the Lord…” up to Ezekiel 36:22-23 occurs 57 times in the book of Ezekiel. The only other place in the Bible this phrase is used so repeatedly is in the book of Exodus, showing that God saved His people out of Egypt for His own glory, that the Pharaoh and all Egypt would know who the Lord really is. What does this mean? It means that the reason God is about to show up and restore His people, the reason upholding and founding all other reasons, the reason that gives meaning and vibrancy to all other reasons is His own glory among the nations! This is why God saves His people. He did this way in Egypt and He is about to do it again when He saves them out of captivity in Babylon.
We have answered the question of why and how God will restore His people, but we have not yet answered the question of ‘when.’ God will act, not for the sake of His people but for the sake of His holy name, vindicating His holiness before all nations…but when will do this? Enter Christmas and our earlier question of getting down to the reason why we celebrate the momentous occasion of Christ’s advent among us each December. Why did Jesus come?
Listen to Paul’s answer in Romans 3:21-26, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
So you see what God promised to do in Ezekiel 36:22-23 He did on the cross. On the cross God publicly displayed His righteousness, crushing His Son for the sins of His people, and giving His people His Son’s holy and righteous credit in our account. This is the glorious exchange on the cross, where God vindicated the holiness of His great name for all who have eyes to see. But think about it, where does the road to the cross begin? The manger. The incarnation. But bring the whole of Ezekiel 36 forward with it: God did not carry out the whole of the incarnation for His people’s sake, He did it for the sake of His name which had been profaned among the nations, to vindicate His holiness, or as Paul said it, “This was to show God’s righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”
So why did Jesus come? What the reason beneath all other reasons that the first Christmas occurred? Jesus came for God, and as a result of His advent here among us all nations now know (more are knowing everyday) that God is the Lord. God is now seen as both just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. The fame of His name brought the Son of God to earth, and the fame of His name now brings us to all nations with the message of the Gospel.