‘For My Name’s Sake’
Why God acts to protect His holy name
I am Charlie Perry’s great grandson. That fact may not mean much today, but in my small hometown many years ago, it meant plenty.
Charles H. Perry was a man of impeccable integrity. He was highly esteemed by everyone who knew him or did business with him, and his reputation as a godly Christian followed him everywhere. People knew him to be kind, friendly, scrupulously honest, and always willing to lend a helping hand.
And if you were blessed enough to be related to Charlie Perry, you reaped the benefits of being associated with his good name, as my mother will attest to even today.
A good name extols a person’s character. The more reputable the individual, the better his name. King Solomon wrote, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches” (Prov. 22:1). Why? Perhaps because a reputation lives even beyond the grave.
God has a “great name” (1 Sam. 12:22). Fifteen times the phrase For My name’s sake appears in the Bible (NKJV). God’s name extols His character. His integrity, reputation, holiness, and even His glory are all closely linked to His name. And often God acts to sanctify His name and prevent it from being disgraced.
A primary name of God is Elohim. According to Bible scholar Dr. William Allan Dean, “The name Elohim is made up of two Hebrew words. El means ‘the Strong One.’…Combined with this word ‘el’ is the word ‘alah,’ meaning to swear or to pledge oneself.”1 So Elohim exalts God as the One who can make a promise and has the strength to back it up.
For example, when the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, promising to give to his descendants a specific land, seed, and blessing forever, He had the power to make the promise and to keep it. God’s holiness and integrity, in fact, require that He do so. Why? “For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; for how should My name be profaned?” (Isa. 48:11).
Many people seem to misunderstand God’s motives. God often acts to protect His holy name. He has promised to restore Israel’s kingdom, not due to any merit on Israel’s part but, rather, for His name’s sake. It brings glory to Him to keep His promises. If He ever failed to keep a promise, He would be a liar or a weakling. He is neither. “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Num. 23:19). “Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it” (Isa. 46:11).
God has concern for how His name is represented among the peoples of the earth. When Israel dishonored His name, God scattered them among the nations:
And they were dispersed throughout the countries; I judged them according to their ways and their deeds. When they came to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned My holy name—when they said of them, “These are the people of the Lord, and yet they have gone out of His land.” But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went (Ezek. 36:19–21).
He was concerned because the Gentiles were supposed to learn about the true and living God by observing Israel’s righteous behavior. In fact, when King Solomon dedicated the first Temple, he announced Israel’s mission: “that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other” (1 Ki. 8:60).
Instead, Israel’s unrighteous, corrupt, immoral behavior produced a false picture of God and profaned His name, dishonoring His character.
God’s great name is linked to His glory. The word glory means “distinguished honor, praise, exalted reputation, something bringing praise, worshipful adoration, magnificence, splendor.” The apostle Paul instructed believers in Corinth, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). Eating is not a spiritual activity, but even something so mundane should be done in a way that glorifies God. Nothing ever should be done to disgrace or discredit Him. Believers in Christ in particular should strive to maintain virtuous names because our reputations are linked to the Lord’s.
In 1870 Lydia Baxter penned the lyrics of the hymn “Precious Name.” The words resonate as strongly today as they did then: “Precious Name, O how sweet! Hope of earth and joy of Heaven.” God’s name is indeed the hope of Earth and joy of heaven. In this sorry world we live in, people desperately need to understand God’s character—His strength, faithfulness, amazing love, and gracious forgiveness. And the only way they see those qualities is through the people who bear His name.
Paul instructed the Christians at Corinth, “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). As believers in Jesus, we represent the name, character, integrity, morality, and heart of the Lord in a hostile world.
There was a time when I couldn’t go anywhere without people recognizing me as Charlie Perry’s great grandson. And I was glad. But I’m happier today if people recognize me as a child of the Most High who belongs to Jesus, the “Shepherd and Overseer” of my soul (1 Pet. 2:25).
- Dr. William Allan Dean, The Names of God (Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia College of Bible, 1963), 2.