READ : Exodus 9:8-16
Our business is to be proclaiming the name and publishing the fame of God throughout the world. There is nothing greater or higher for us to do. Nothing!
This is the second half of a two-part message that looks at God’s purpose in using the plagues to deliver his people from slavery in Egypt. In Part 1 we learned that God unleashed this series of awesome disasters first of all to impress upon his own people his ability to save them and to give them a story of his mighty deliverance that they would never forget. His second reason was to challenge the false gods of Egypt and demonstrate who really rules the world. Now in part 2 of this message we learn the most important reason of all behind the 10 plagues of Egypt.
GOD’S NAME AND FAME
So here is my basic question: Why the plagues and the devastation they brought upon the land of Egypt? Why the escalating judgment that is visited upon the people of Egypt in their solidarity with their false gods and stubborn ruler Pharaoh? Why did God do it all? Here is the bottom-line reason. God speaks through Moses to Pharaoh.
I will send the full force of my plagues against you and against your officials and your people, so that you may know there is no one like me in all the earth. For by now I could have stretched out my hand and struck you and your people with a plague that would have wiped you off the earth. But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.
Exodus 9:14-16, niv
God’s ultimate purpose in all of this business is the same as his purpose in everything that he does: to increase his fame throughout the world. His reason for acting as he does is to exalt his name so that his name will resound from one end of the earth to the other. Thus everyone will hear of him, everyone will know about him, will know who God is and what he can do.
Your name, in one sense, is your reputation. It is the renown that you have. For most of us our name doesn’t go outside our own family circle, or very rarely beyond that. But some people have “made a name for themselves,” as we say. Think, for example, of Tiger Woods, the American golfing professional celebrity. I recently noticed a news report that he signed a $100 million contract to be the spokesperson for Nike Athletic gear for the next five years. $20 million a year just to wear their logo and to appear in their commercials! Why? Because he’s made a name for himself throughout the world by his incredible achievements on the golf course.
Well, that’s the same kind of thing God was doing in the Exodus. The Bible says literally that God was making a name for himself by saving his people and delivering them from bondage. For example, here is a passage where centuries later David speaks to the Lord in prayer:
Who is like your people, like Israel? Is there another nation on earth whose God went to redeem it as a people, and to make a name for himself, doing great and awesome things for them, by driving out before his people nations and their gods?
David is talking here about the Exodus. What was God doing then? He was making a name for himself. David goes on,
And you established your people Israel for yourself to be your people forever; and you, O Lord, became their God. And now, O Lord God, as for the word that you’ve spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, confirm it forever; do as you have promised. Thus your name will be magnified forever in the saying, “The Lord of hosts is God over Israel.”
2 Samuel 7: 23-26a
So this is what God is doing. In saving his people he is magnifying his own name, his own reputation as a God who can do that. Or again, from the book of Isaiah, God is the one
who caused his glorious arm to march at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them. . . .
There’s the Exodus again. Why did God do this?
. . . to make for himself an everlasting name. . . . Thus you led your people, to make for yourself a glorious name.
Isaiah 63:12-14, nrsv
WHY GOD WANTS TO “MAKE A NAME” FOR HIMSELF
Now maybe at this point we should pause and ask, “Is this good?” Is this effort of God to make a name for himself worthy of him? Does it seem a little egotistical? Is it vanity on the part of God to want his name to be spread throughout the world, to want it exalted and magnified above every other name? Is God like the politician or celebrity who hires a PR agent in order to make sure they keep getting their name and picture on television? Is he the sort of demanding, temperamental star who, when he’s not given the deferential treatment that he thinks he’s entitled to, screams out, “Don’t you know who I am?” Is that what God is like? I don’t think any of us are in danger of believing that!
Here are some conclusions I’d like to suggest about this matter of the name and fame of God being spread throughout the world. My first thought is that God’s concern for his name is fundamentally a concern that he be recognized and acknowledged as God. What might be egotistical for us is for him the only true and appropriate response. The name of God deserves to be lifted up because God is infinitely worthy. The order of things, the very nature of things demands that he be known and praised everywhere.
Let’s be clear. God doesn’t need fame any more than he needs our worship. We mustn’t make the mistake of thinking that God is clutching after something that somehow will fill a void in his life, the way so often we human beings clutch after things like fame or celebrity because we’re empty inside or insecure. God needs nothing outside himself. God did not create us in order to have someone to worship him. God has all the satisfaction he needs in the perfect love and communion of his tri-personal nature. The Father, the Son and the Spirit are complete and whole in the unity of the Godhead. So God does not want to make his name known because he craves notoriety.
A second reason God publishes his name is because in doing so he is also revealing his character to the world. He’s showing what he’s really like. When we read about the plagues in Exodus, we mustn’t think that God is a bully who’s just sort of throwing his weight around. Remember, the reason God sent Moses back to Egypt in the first place was in order to liberate his people from slavery. It is no accident that slaves have always been drawn to this story. Think, for instance, of the old spiritual – “Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt land, tell old Pharaoh, ‘Let my people go!’” This story of a liberating God sustained African Americans for 250 years of slavery and another 100 years of oppression afterwards. God is a God who delivers people from bondage. That’s what his “name” reveals.
Moreover, in unveiling his character, in showing us the glory of his nature and his being, God is also giving us a window into what that glory ultimately is. God’s glory isn’t just a dazzling, spectacular image of brightness and light. Toward the end of the book of Exodus in chapter 33 Moses pleads with God, “Show me your glory. I want to see your face.” And God says, “I can’t do that, but I will cause my name and my glory to pass before you.” And so he hides Moses in the cleft of the rock, and as he goes by he proclaims, “My name, the Lord, the Lord, rich in mercy and full of compassion.” This is supremely the glory of God: his grace, mercy and compassion for sinners.
So when God wants his name to go out throughout the world, it’s not for his sake primarily. It’s for our sake. The reason he wants people to hear about him and know about him is because he wants them to know him as the only Savior.
That brings me to my final conclusion. Our business is to be proclaiming the name and publishing the fame of God throughout the world. There is nothing greater or higher for us to do. Nothing. We are God’s publicists. That’s our calling. We must declare the great name of our Lord, who is mighty to save. But this also means something for the way we live our lives, both as individuals and even more as a community of those who bear the name Christian. Think about that – we carry the name of the Lord with us everywhere and always. This means it is terribly easy for us to defame it through our conduct.
There is nothing more important for us to do than to enhance God’s reputation by demonstrating in our own lives his power to change. This is a calling for all of us. We have a missionary duty to live our lives in such a way that people say, “The Lord is among you.” Has our passion for spreading the fame of God our Savior waned? Do we imagine we need to do something more significant than that? Nothing, nothing can be more significant than that! It is our highest and most urgent responsibility, and to God alone be the glory!
Prayer: Lord, we do ascribe to you the honor and glory due to your name. Through Jesus Christ. Amen.