What's in a name? I have four names. Lynda Lee Schultz Bloedow. The last, my mother's maiden name, never really made much difference until I lived in Colombia and Venezuela where it was vital on official documents. The trouble was that its pronunciation sounds like a popular swear word in Spanish! Not good! Schultz was basically impossible to pronounce at all. Lee was easy and Lynda or Linda is a Spanish word, but not one usually used as a name so I got some odd looks when I introduced myself. Some people thought I was vain since "linda" means "pretty" or "lovely."
Names mean something. And no one is more jealous of His Name than God. His reputation hangs on what people think when they hear His Name. And what people think when they think "God" depends on what the people who claim to be His followers are like. They are His representatives, His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20).
In Ezekiel 36, God says this to the prophet: "Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defied it by their conduct and their actions. Their conduct was like a woman's monthly uncleanness in my sight. So I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defied it with their idols. I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, 'These are the Lord's people, and yet they had to leave his land.' I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone" (vss. 16-21).
God's judgment on His people came as a result of the damage their actions had done to His reputation, to what His Name came to mean to unbelievers because of them.
We all want people to think well of us when they hear our names. But of greater concern should be protecting the Name we bear as CHRISTians.
Peter encouraged believers in exile to maintain their faith and live righteously no matter what "...so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander" (1 Peter 3:16).
Israel's story doesn't end with her punishment for profaning the Name of God through her rebellion. The Lord's message to Ezekiel continues this way: "Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone. I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Sovereign Lord, when I show myself holy through you before their eyes" (Vss. 22, 23).
He then described how He would restore His people and their fortunes—and why.
"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all impurities and from your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws...you will be my people, and I will be your God...Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loath yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced by your conduct, O house of Israel!" (vss. 24-32).
When we defame His Name and our actions damage what others think about Him, He will respond. The consequences will not be pleasant. But His Word assures as that repentance, revival and restoration are possible because they too, bring glory to His Name.
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:14).
We like to think that everything is all about us. It isn't—it's all about Him, and the Name that is above all names.