Jesus Advented Among us For God – This is Good News For Us

Perhaps some of you are finding yourself rubbing up against this truth because you don’t see how something so God-centered could ever be good news for you. Is that you?

I really do believe that the reason Jesus came, underneath all other reasons the Bible gives us, is for God. But I also really do believe that it is good news for us that Jesus came firstly for God. Why? God gets the glory, we get the joy. Lets go back to Ezekiel once more to see what happens in the rest of the Ezekiel 36.

Read Ezekiel 36:25-27 to see the consequences of God having concern for His holy name…

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. 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. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

When Jesus came to vindicate the holiness of God, He ushered in the New Covenant, and these verses describe in great detail the benefits of the New Covenant we receive when we place our faith in Christ. You see, you and I are people with a heart that is naturally stony and hard. Our only hope of salvation is for God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to remove our hard stony hearts and give us new hearts that are moldable and soft, fit for His forming and purposes.

What is needed is not merely a new ethical direction or a deeper resolve or decision to live a better life. What is needed is not a new set of clever strategies, or a spiritual retreat for rehabilitation seeking to make us live better lives from the same resources.

We need to become new in every meaning of the term or else there is no hope for change. The fall totally broke us, and now we find ourselves in need of a complete transformation from the inside out, and here in these verses God promises that He’ll do it. A new heart, a new Spirit, a new obedience. A change so deep in us that it effects what we desire. You know what Jesus calls this change in John 3? The new birth, being born again. This is a call for joy unspeakable – for all those who have placed their faith in Jesus have become new, and now we can say with utter confidence, “I am no longer what I once was, and by God’s work I am becoming something I never dreamed possible!

But why would He show such favor to such underserving sinners like you and I? Look at 36:32, “It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you.” Again we see, this great work of God in the Incarnation, to clear His name from being profaned, to proclaim His holiness, to give sinners exactly what we need to salvation, God does for His own glory. “Let that be known to you.”

Christmas happened firstly for God’s glory, and because of that those who place their faith in Christ are given all they need for salvation and life in Him.

Advertisements

The Fame Of His Name Sent the Son

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.

Concern For the Holiness of God’s Name

Our text is Ezekiel 36:22-23, but to get the whole scene we must read this verse in it’s context which begins in 36:16, so lets set the stage:

“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, when the house of Israel lived in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds. Their ways before me were like the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity. So I poured out my wrath upon them for the blood that they had shed in the land, for the idols with which they had defiled it. I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.”

Ezekiel prophesied to God’s people after they had been carried off in exile to Babylon. Ezekiel was himself one of those people carried off to exile with the rest of the people. In the first 24 chapters of the book Ezekiel points out that judgment has come to the people of God for their own sin, that exile has not occurred by chance, and that it is the judgment of God on His people for their rebellious hearts against His law and ways. From chapters 24-33 the focus changes a bit and rather than judging His own people for their rebellion God pronounces judgments on the nations around Israel for their refusal to obey Him. When we come to Ezekiel 33 God changes His tone. After pronouncing judgment in full on His own people and the nations surrounding them, we then see God promise restoration. Life will reign where only death has been present. God pour out His Spirit on His people, and the destroyed temple (the central symbol of God’s presence among His people) will be restored, and God will once again dwell with His people. But how will God do this? Why will God do this? When will God do this? All of these questions are answered in our text.

36:16-17 give us the reason God judged His people. While they lived in their own land they didn’t live as God would’ve wanted them to live, rather they lived how they wanted to live and therefore defiled the land they lived in by their wicked ways and deeds. God says there ways and deeds were utterly disgusting to Him that they were similar to the uncleanness of a woman in her menstrual impurity.

Therefore 36:18-19 give us the consequences of such living. 36:18 God says he poured out His wrath upon them and 36:19 says God scattered them among the nations. They had been bowing down to other gods, slaughtering other men/women/children to these gods and therefore filled their own land with blood.

Notice 36:20, God says that when His people got to the nations where He had driven them, His own name was profaned. How? The other nations saw Israelites streaming into their own land and concluded that God was not powerful enough to keep His own people in His land, so they mocked God. God responds in 36:21 by saying when He heard His name being mocked He “had concern for His holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.”

This concern for His name, would change everything.

Joy…Peace…Goodwill…? Are You Kidding?

Christmas can be a confusing time for us.

We sing “Joy to the World” and “Peace on Earth and Goodwill toward Men” but have you ever been to WalMart on Thanksgiving Evening or black Friday? There is hardly any Christmas cheer at places like this, rather ‘self’ is King and the latest and greatest material possessions are the only currency we care about. People dueling it out for the latest Frozen doll, flat screen TV’s, iPhone’s, and this years top seller over all others – guns. The FBI averaged 3 background checks per second for 17 straight hours during this years sales. I’m not against owning a gun(s), I state this to point out the large difference between the world we live in and the songs we sing during Christmas. Even more so the National Institute of Health points out that prior to Christmas day there is an increase in certain types of severe mood swings, depression, and alcohol-related fatalities while after Christmas day there is an increase in the use of emergency health institutions for self-harm behavior like suicide and overdose. The Christmas season can be a very tumultuous and lonely time for a lot of people, and the Christmas cards we give out to family and friends with reindeer and snowy houses resembling Thomas Kinkade portraits don’t help explain what this season is all about.

Which, in my opinion, is what is needed during this season the most. We must explain and remind ourselves and those around us why we do Christmas at all. So behind all the trimmings and trappings, all the sales and merchandise, and all the lights and trees, what is Christmas really about?

Jesus.

But more importantly, the reason Jesus came. So let’s ask the question: why did Jesus come? Really, why did the first Christmas happen? Why did Jesus advent among us? According to the Bible the primary, the supreme, the first and foremost reason Jesus ‘Advented’ among us was FOR GOD. Particularly Jesus came for the vindication of God’s holiness. But I don’t want you to merely take my word on this, I want you to see this in the Scripture itself, so for the next few days we’ll be in Ezekiel 36.

(to be continued)

Jesus Came for Vindication

During Advent we study, think on, and remember the great and glorious reasons why Jesus came to earth.  Before we mention anything or give any reason for Christ coming, the first reason must be laid down.  Jesus came for God’s glory to vindicate the holiness of His name.  What?  Hang in with me.

Where does the Bible say that Jesus died for God’s glory? Ezekiel 36:22-23 says “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 My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD,” declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their midst.”

What do we learn from this verse? God is about to act, not for the sake of His people, but for the sake of His great name. What is He about to do? God is acting to prove, vindicate, and show Himself holy and righteous in the sight of all the nations. Why? So that the nations will know that He is God, because of the mighty work He is about to do within Israel.

What is this action that God is referring to? God is referring to an action where He will prove Himself righteous. When did God prove Himself righteous most explicitly and where does Ezekiel 36:22-23 find its most ultimate fulfillment? On the cross of Christ. Romans 3:25-26, “God displayed (Jesus) publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the patience of God He passed over sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  God’s action described in Ezekiel takes place on the cross, where God proved Himself holy, by killing His Son rather than those who sinned against Him and profaned His name. Therefore, first and foremost, Jesus died on the cross to prove that God was holy. Remember what God said about how He was going to act? ”It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name…” God sent Jesus to die, for the sake of His great name, to show that He was still righteous.

Now, why does it matter so much that we believe this? If we believe that Jesus died for mankind before dying for the glory of God, than we have to believe that Jesus saw greater pleasure in dying for us than in dying to prove His Father’s holiness. It is blasphemy to say that Jesus desires us before He desires His Father. Do not get me wrong, Jesus did die for us, and our sin was on Him on the cross. Jesus was not thinking of our sin and salvation above everything else. Jesus on the cross, above all other things, was dying to show that God is still holy. Jesus died for God.

What am I trying to say? For so long, the people that God had redeemed out of Egypt, the very people that had been chosen for Himself, had done so much sin in the sight of all the nations, so much that when the other nations looked at Israel, they said, ‘Israel’s god is a joke, he isn’t holy if his people live like that!’ God saw it, and He would not stand for this any longer, He is jealous for His glory and will not allow it to be trampled any longer. One day God will act to vindicate His name of all the guilt, and will clear His name of all the profaning that had come to it. No longer will God be made to look foolish because of His obstinate people. One day, God will be the One who acts to vindicate His holiness. He will do this for His name’s sake, not yours. Not mine. How will He do it? He will prove Himself holy, publicly, in the sight of all the nations. Most of us know Psalm 46:10 but we don’t know the end of the verse, “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” This is the promise that God has pledged Himself to keep and because it is God behind the promise, it cannot fail.

In Romans 3:25-26, we see this breathtaking scene described when God acted to vindicate His own name by crushing His Son so that God would be seen as righteous.

“It Is Not For Your Sake”

There is a popular Michael W. Smith song that has been playing on the radio for many years, in which the chorus says, “Like a rose, trampled on the ground, You (Jesus) took the fall, and thought of me, above all.” This song is called Above All, and its main point is that above every reason Jesus came to die on the cross, humans were #1. Is this true? Did Jesus die first and foremost for me? Did Jesus think of me before He thought of God? The song would like us to believe this is true. I am going to try and persuade you that thinking Jesus died for us first, is not true, nor honoring to God.

Jesus did die for us, but not above all else. Jesus died, first and foremost, for God’s glory. Two questions arise from this:

1) Where does the Bible say this? & 2) Why does this matter so much?

Let’s take one at a time:

First, where does the Bible say that Jesus died for God’s glory above all? Ezekiel 36:22-23 says “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 My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD,” declares the Lord God, “when I prove Myself holy among you in their midst.” What do we learn from this verse? God is about to act, not for the sake of His people, but for the sake of His great name. What is He about to do? God is acting to prove, vindicate, and show Himself holy and righteous in the sight of all the nations. Why? So that the nations will know that He is God, because of the mighty work He is about to do within Israel.

What is this action that God is referring to? God is referring to an action where He will prove Himself righteous. When did God prove Himself righteous most explicitly? On the cross. Romans 3:25-26, “God displayed (Jesus) publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the patience of God He passed over sins previsouly committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” What do we learn from this verse? God’s action described in Ezekiel takes place on the cross. On the cross, God proved Himself holy, by killing His Son, and not those who sinned against Him and profaned His name. Therefore, first and foremost, Jesus died on the cross to prove that God was holy. Remember what God said about how He was going to act? ”It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name…” God sent Jesus to die, for the sake of His great name, to show that He was still righteous.

Now, why does it matter so much that we believe this? If we believe that Jesus died for us first, than we have to believe that Jesus saw greater pleasure in dying for us than in dying to prove His Father holy. It is blasphemy to say that Jesus desires us before He desires God! Do not get me wrong, Jesus did die for us, and our sin was on Him on the cross. Jesus was not thinking of our sin and salvation above everything else. Jesus on the cross, above all other things, was dying to show that God is still holy. Jesus died for God.

What am I trying to say? For so long, the people that God had redeemed out of Egypt, the very people that had been chosen for Himself, had done so much sin in the sight of all the nations, so much that when the other nations looked at Israel, they said, ‘Israel’s god is a joke, he isn’t holy if his people live like that!’ God saw it, and He would not stand for this any longer, He is jealous for His glory and will not allow it to be trampled any longer! One day God will act to vindicate His name of all the guilt, and will clear His name of all the profaning that had come to it. No longer will God be made to look foolish because of His obstinate people! One day, God will be the One who acts to vindicate His holiness! He will do this for His name’s sake, not yours! Not mine! How will He do it? He will prove Himself holy, publicly, in the sight of all the nations! Most of us know Psalm 46:10 but we don’t know the end of the verse, “Be still and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” This is the promise that God has pledged Himself to keep and because it is God behind the promise, it cannot fail! In Romans 3:25-26, we see this breathtaking scene described when God acted to vindicate His own name by crushing His Son so that God would be seen as righteous!

Lord cause us to love this truth in place of man-centered substitutes, in Jesus name, amen.