Saturday, March 07, 2009

God sanctifies Himself (Ezek. 38:23)

Last Sunday I shared a SS lesson with the combined Adult and Young Adult classes at Burlington Bible Methodist Church. I attempted to answer three questions:
1. What does it mean for God to sanctify Himself (Ezek. 38:23)?
2. What does it mean for us to sanctify God?
3. How do the answers to the first two questions relate to the first petition of the Lord's pattern prayer, "Hallowed by thy name?"
In this post I share my answer to the first question. As I journeyed through all the OT texts on holiness, I was struck by the following verses.
Isaiah 5:16 But the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, And the holy God will be sanctified in righteousness.

Ezekiel 20:41 "As a soothing aroma I will accept you when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you from the lands where you are scattered; and I will be sanctified among you in the sight of the nations.

Ezekiel 28:22 and say, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am against you, O Sidon, And I will be glorified in your midst. Then they will know that I am the LORD when I execute judgments in her, And I will be sanctified in her.

Ezekiel 28:25 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "When I gather the house of Israel from the peoples among whom they are scattered, and will be sanctified in them in the sight of the nations, then they will live in their land which I gave to My servant Jacob.

Ezekiel 36:23 "I will sanctify 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 am sanctified among you in their sight.

Ezekiel 38:23 "I will magnify Myself, sanctify Myself, and make Myself known in the sight of many nations; and they will know that I am the LORD."'

Ezekiel 39:27 "When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their enemies, then I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations.
"Sanctified" appears to have the same basic information component in reference to God that it does in reference to things or human persons: separateness or set apartness. God is sanctified when He acts in a way that clearly separates Him, i.e., distinguishes Him, from the pantheon of ANE gods.

His name had been profaned ("made common, ordinary") by the exile of Israel. From the standpoint of the watching world, Yahweh turned out to be no more powerful than any of the other gods that Nebuchadnezzar's military juggernaut had toppled. Yahweh was, in fact, less power than the Babylonian gods, because the Babylonian gods had empowered Nebuchadnezzar to capture His city and destroy His temple.

This is what Yahweh will not tolerate: being made to look ordinary. Thus he promises that He will sanctify Himself (distinguish Himself from all others), magnify Himself (demonstrate His greatness to the world), and make Himself known in the sight of many nations (Ezek. 38:23) by bringing Israel back from exile and reestablishing her in her land.

The statement that he "is sanctified in righteousness" (Isa. 5:16) deserves special attention. Righteousness in Hebrew, contrary to what many theological word books say, is "conformity to a standard." I am convinced that Lev. 19:35-36 and Deut. 25:13-15 provide the key texts for understanding what it means for something to be righteous: it measures up to the standard under consideration. A righteous scale is one that weighs a pound as a pound and not as a 1.5 lbs or .75 lbs. Righteousness in persons is their conformity to whatever standard is under consideration.

Righteousness in God is God's conformity to His own standards, i.e., His self-consistency. Since God's character sets the standard for righteous behavior in human morals, since character is the standard to which He always adhere. And this is one of the things that sanctifies Him, i.e., sets Him apart and establishes His incomparableness. If the ANE gods were anything, they were fickle and perfidious. This is precisely the opposite of the character of Yahweh. He is righteous in all His ways.

When we pray the first petition of the Lord's prayer, one of the things we are asking God to do is act in the world in a way that clearly manifests the unique excellence of His character and being thereby distinguishing Himself, setting Himself apart, from all others "gods."

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