Then this further message came to me from the Lord: “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by the evil way they lived. To me their conduct was as unclean as a woman’s menstrual cloth. They polluted the land with murder and the worship of idols, so I poured out my fury on them. I scattered them to many lands to punish them for the evil way they had lived. But when they were scattered among the nations, they brought shame on my holy name. For the nations said, ‘These are the people of the Lord, but he couldn’t keep them safe in his own land!’ Then I was concerned for my holy name, on which my people brought shame among the nations.
“Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord: I am bringing you back, but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name, on which you brought shame while you were scattered among the nations. I will show how holy my great name is—the name on which you brought shame among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the Sovereign Lord, then the nations will know that I am the Lord. For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.”
The mountains were symbolic of Israel’s strength (Ezekiel 35:6-8). To the exiles in Babylon, this promise seemed impossible. This message emphasizes God’s sovereignty and trustworthiness. He would first judge the nations used to punish Israel (Ezekiel 36:1-7) and then restore his people (Ezekiel 36:8-15).
Why did God want to protect his holy name—his reputation—among the nations of the world? God was concerned about the salvation not only of his people, but also of the whole world. To allow his people to remain in sin and be permanently destroyed by their enemies would lead other nations to conclude that their false gods were more powerful than Israel’s God (Isaiah 48:11). Thus, to protect his holy name, God would return a remnant of his people to their land. God will not share his glory with false gods—he alone is the one true God. The people had the responsibility to represent God properly to the rest of the world.
Believers today have that same responsibility. How do you represent God to the world? Your priorities and values speak volumes to a listening world.