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GOD GUARDS HIS NAME YET BESTOWS IT ON US
by Philip Owen

            Have you considered the ramifications of Paul’s observation in his epistle to the church at Philippi about the truth that, because of the willing self-humbling of Christ and His submission to death, “God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:9b-11)?  Without getting into the niceties of this particular name, we must acknowledge that by whatever name or names the Persons of the Trinity call themselves (and they are many), they are immeasurably precious and infinitely glorious.  And because those names betoken the character and attributes of God, He is at pains both to protect the integrity of His name and promote its honor.  The sixty-third chapter of Isaiah is remarkable for mentioning the name of the Lord four times.

            In the first place, Isaiah tells us that the Lord determined “to make for Himself an everlasting name.”  And how might we expect Him to do that?  Living in a university town, we see many large endowments bestowed on various colleges and schools with the stipulation that the facilities built with these donations be designated “Jones Auditorium” or “Smith Hall,” all with the hope that these structures will immortalize the giver who enabled them to be built.  Did God dot the wilderness with structures named after Himself?  No, He moved some water so that His people might be delivered from slavery in Egypt:  He “caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them [Israel] to make for Himself an everlasting name” (v. 12).  He parted the Red Sea so that His people might escape and closed it up again in order to drown Pharaoh’s army and deliver His children.

            Secondly, Isaiah tells us that the Lord determined to make for Himself “a glorious name” (v. 14).  How?  By winning the Olympic games?  By leading a conquering army?  He surely did the latter.  But in addressing the Lord directly, Isaiah says, “You led Your people, to make for Yourself a glorious name” (v. 14b).  God reveals that He glorifies Himself by watching over and leading a weak and helpless handful of slaves.  By helping the helpless, delivering those who were of no profit to Him, by rescuing those who had forgotten Him and so failed to serve Him, He exhibited the love, mercy, longsuffering, and bountiful goodness of His nature to undeserving sinners.

            Third, Isaiah affirms the remarkable truth that the One whose name is “from of old” was both Israel’s Father and Redeemer (v. 16).  That the eternal God—infinite, all-powerful, all-glorious, and perfectly holy—should claim rebel Israel as His sons beggars description and would be completely unbelievable and unique were it not for the fact that He would later also redeem a race, sunken in sin, and raise them up to be sons of God and joint heirs with Christ—a place of infinite wealth. But He also deigned them to become the Bride of Christ—a position of inexpressible intimacy.

            Fourth, as though to seal the deal, Isaiah marvels at the sins of His people in light of the undeserved blessings they have been privileged to receive from the hand of God.  He decried the fact that they had “become like those over whom You have never ruled, like those who were not called by Your name” (v. 19).  Now the very fact that Isaiah bemoans Israel’s condition testifies to the fact that God had in fact called them by His glorious, everlasting name.  He had condescended to confer the honor, glory, and exalted dignity of His own name upon them, knowing full well that they would rebel against His love and reject His grace. 

            And still He calls them by His name and will give them a glorious kingdom lasting for a thousand years.  And may we remember that the Lord has bestowed His glorious, everlasting name on the New Testament church, as well.  And may we not, as ancient Israel, disdain the name and the infinite blessings given by the One who has called us His.  May our lives manifest the glory of that name.

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