God’s Passion to Shout His Fame to All the Earth

March 22, 2009

Isaiah 48:9-11 (ESV)

For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 11For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

The prophetic book of Isaiah is regarded by some as a little Bible. It is divided into two: Chapters 1-39 and 40-66. The first 39 chapters resemble the 39 books of the Old Testament with an emphasis on God’s righteousness, justice, and wrath. The last 27 chapters picture the 27 books of the New Testament which highlight the grace, love, and mercy of God found in Jesus Christ. From Chapters 1 to 39, Isaiah was prophesying judgment against Judah and the Gentile nations. Although Judah was God’s chosen people, along with Israel, they deserve God’s punishment because “they have forsaken the LORD; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him” (1:4 NIV). God will use the future mighty empire of Babylon to punish his people. Because of their sins, God’s wrath was kindled against them. They deserved to be wiped off like the other pagan nations.

But there is hope of God’s mercy for them and for the other nations. That is the burden of Chapters 40-66. One might wonder, Why would God turn from dealing with them so severely to treating them with mercy?

God will do it because of his passion to shout his fame to all the earth! Throughout Isaiah, as well as throughout the Bible, we can see that behind all righteous and gracious acts of God is his passion that his name be known in all the earth. He desires strongly that his fame will be broadcasted in all the world through his chosen people. This is obvious in this passage from Isaiah 48:9-11:

For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. 11For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

Look at the text and notice the repetitions emphasizing God’s passion for his name, his praise, his glory. “For my name’s sake…for the sake of my…For my own sake, for my own sake…how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” What does this passage, with its emphasis on God’s commitment to his name, teach us?

An Unshakeable Reason for Hope

God’s passion for his fame is our hope. The reason there is hope for them is because God’s passion for his own name. “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off” (v. 9).

What is meant by God’s “name”? It is not merely titles ascribed to him but it stands for his reputation. John Piper defines fame as “well-known name. His name is who he really is, especially, who he is for us…he delights in being known for who he really is. He loves a worldwide reputation.”[1] The fame of God is God being made well-known. Like a famous brand or a popular celebrity’s name, God wants his name be known. A photographer sometimes put his name on his photos so that people will know that they are his work. They must be credited for that work of art. God’s works in our world and in our lives have the name of God signed on them. He wants to make known to us that they are his work. He must be credited for it. The question is, do we recognize it?

His name is who he really is, and God is passionate for who he is: “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it…” (v. 11a). He won’t let anyone bring disrepute to his name for so long; he will put an end to it: “for how should my name be profaned?” (v. 11b). He will not trade his fame for anything less: “My glory I will not give to another” (v. 11c). God’s name is his reputation, his praise, his glory. God’s passion for his fame is His commitment to make Himself well-known. You don’t want someone to speak ill of your name, right? Don’t you think God has more right not to let anyone speak bad about him. God is delighted when people proclaim his name, declaring his greatness and his goodness.

God’s God-centeredness or self-centeredness is not wrong. Our self-centeredness is. Israel can find hope and comfort in the majestic greatness and the awesome goodness of God (Chaps. 40-48). They can find a reason to rejoice for the Lord is committed to making his name known. Through his mercy to them, he will be made known. If God will put an end to them, his name will be dishonored. God’s passion for His fame, then, is the hope of Israel, as well as the hope of nations. And if it was their hope, it is our hope also. You have a very rich friend and you are struggling to provide for your family. Your friend knows it and didn’t do something about it. That’s sinful, hopeless self-centeredness. God has everything you need and he will to give it to you because he has deep concern for his own reputation. Is that sinful selfishness? No! That’s admirable, hope-filled self-centeredness. Only God has the right to be self-centered partly because our hope depends on it.

If we are God’s people we can be assured that God will not cut us off from his grace and loving care because he cannot be unfaithful to his own name. This is hope for me. I want God to be self-centered! Again, quoting Piper, “The great ground of hope in all the God-centered servants of the Lord has always been the impossibility that God would let his great name be dishonored for long among the nations. It was inconceivable. This was bedrock confidence. Other things change, but not this-not the commitment of God to his ‘great name.'”[2]

Demonstrated Throughout Israel’s History

God’s passion for his fame is demonstrated throughout Israel’s history. This passage is not an isolated case. God’s God-centeredness is the unshakeable ground of the hope of Israel, as it has been since God calls them from Egypt.

In the Creation of the Nation. Human beings fell into sin. God has a plan to redeem mankind. He started with Abraham to build a people for himself through a covenant. Then Isaac, Jacob, Joseph. Through them God started to create a people for himself. Israel, the nation, was called and created by God to shout his fame. God referred to them as the people “called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made…the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise” (43:6-7, 21). They were called by God not because they were more righteous than other nations, not because they were mightier than others, but simply because God is pleased that through them he will be made known.

In Exodus. Because of the famine the people of Israel moved to Egypt. They were taken care of because of Joseph. Then he died and a time came when a new ruler of Egypt, who did not know Joseph, arose. Because they began populating, the Egyptians feared them, so they subjected them to slavery. Through Moses’ leadership, God brought his people out of Egypt. It is God “who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, who led them through the depths? …[God led his people] to make for [himself] a glorious name” (Isa 63:12-14). The psalmist testified to the same thing that although they rebelled against God even when they were about to cross the Red Sea, “yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power” (Psa 106:7-8).

In the Conquest. They were still rebellious after the Exodus from Egypt. God made them wander for 40 years in the desert before finally settling in the promised land. Through the leadership of Joshua, they began conquering the land, destroying its inhabitants under God’s command. Because of their unfaithfulness, God caused them to be defeated against Ai. Joshua’s appeal to God shows his passion for God’s fame, “O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name” (Jos 7:8-9)?

In the Kingdom. Finally God gave their land a period of rest. But not for long. Because they did what was right in their own eyes, God sent other nations to punish them. They cried for help, and the Lord still answered them by giving them judges to deliver them from their enemies. This cycle went on for many years. Then they had rest under Samuel’s leadership. They cried to God to give them a king. They were envious of other nations. Because the people did not acknowledge that he was their king, the Lord was so furious he was ready to forsake his people. But that won’t happen.  Samuel prayed for them, and comforted them by saying, “For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself” (1 Sam 12:22).

In the Exile. God granted them kings to rule over them, warning them that he will punish them if they will not walk in his ways. After Solomon, David’s son, died, the kingdom was divided into two – the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. Of the 20 kings that the north had, none walked in the fear of God. Of the 20 kings that the south had, only 8 walked in righteousness. They led the people in idolatry and apostasy. God sent them to Babylon as exiles, away from their land. But is God finished with them yet? No! They will return to their land because of God’s zeal for his name, “Now I will restore the fortunes of Jacob and have mercy on the whole house of Israel, and I will be jealous for my holy name” (Eze 39:25).

I want you to see through this brief survey of Israel’s history that God had not lost his zeal for his fame. His passion always burns hot. It never loses steam. His commitment to make his name known was not lessened, even by his people’s incessant rebellion and unfaithfulness. There is no reason for Israel, and for us his people, to lose hope in God. God will never bring dishonor to his name, and even if anyone will dishonor his name, he will make sure that it will not last. That is God’s commitment. We stand on it.

The Foundation for Our Passion for His Fame

Now, if God is so committed for his own fame, then how does he want us to respond? He wants us to realize that God’s passion for his fame is the foundation for our passion for his fame. If God’s passion to shout his fame in all the earth, isn’t it his will that we, his chosen people, must have the same passion to shout his fame in all the earth? Not for our own fame but his. Not to give glory to ourselves, but to his name. Not so that people might praise us, but so that people might praise his deeds. We must be passionate to give glory to God’s name. Israel was created, redeemed, disciplined, and preserved for this. The church today is also called by God to this same passion. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9 NIV). We must be passionate for God’s fame…

In all of life. May this be the heartbeat of our life, “Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you; your name and renown are the desire of our hearts” (Isaiah 26:8 NIV). We must live with a passion to shout God’s fame. All of life – whatever we do, whenever, wherever we go, and however we do it – all must be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Col 3:17). The honor of Christ must be the goal in everything we do. Before doing something, ask yourself first, “Will this thing make Christ look glorious and great and admirable?” If yes, do it with all your might. If no, why will you still do it?

In worship. We must sing to the Lord with a passion to shout his fame in all the earth. “Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel” (12:5-6). When was the last time you really sing to God with this kind of passion? Worship leaders, lead us through your music. Express your passion. Don’t just sing and play music without passion. You are singing for God, for God’s sake! Brothers and sisters, do you have this kind of passion running inside your veins that you are so excited to worship that you don’t want to be late and miss the singing together? Then why are you here if you don’t care whether or not you sing and declare that God is great and glorious and good? Will God’s name be honored if you will say to him, “Lord, you know what, I have a very important business to attend to this Sunday morning. Please excuse me for today’s worship service?” Do we have the guts to say that to God? You don’t but you are still doing it.

In prayer. We must pray to God with a passion to shout his fame in all the earth. “Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted” (12:4). God is delighted when we call upon his name for help. God’s name is exalted when we recognize our need of him and when we give thanks to him for meeting that need. We get mercy, he gets the glory. May we desire not just to get help from God but for God’s name be honored. This must be the first petition in our prayer: “Hallowed be thy name” (Matt 6:9). This must be the last thing we will pray about: “In Jesus’ name. Amen.” Our prayers must be a petition asking God to make his name known. God is delighted when he hears us asking for the very thing he is committed to do, namely, to glorify his name. What are the things we are praying for? Pray for the things that will make the name of God famous to many people.

In world missions. It is fitting to end this sermon, and our sermon series, with an appeal to you to be involved in missions. Missions must be the heartbeat of our church because it is the heartbeat of God. Doing missions must be done with a passion to shout his fame in all the earth. Yes, people are lost without Christ. That’s one of the reasons we do missions. But there is one reason much greater than that – God’s name is not honored among many peoples in the world. This is the primary reason we do missions – to make known the name of God to the peoples of the earth. God declares through Isaiah:

…the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and shall see my glory…And from them I will send survivors to the nations…to the coastlands afar off, that have not heard my fame or seen my glory. And they shall declare my glory among the nations (66:18-19).

More than a third of the world’s population have never heard the name of Jesus. Most of them are the Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in Asia. God wants his name be known among them. But who will bring God’s name to them? We went to Hong Kong a few weeks ago and marvelled at the great structures dedicated to Buddha. Our response should not have been delight but sadness that the famous name among them is Buddha and not Christ. God does not want rivals. “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (42:8).

We must be like Paul in his passion for missions. He was an apostle to the Gentiles “for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Rom 1:5). It was his ambition to preach Christ where he is not yet named (Rom 15:20). Let us go where Christ is not yet named. Most of us cannot go physically, but we can go to make the name of Christ known to them through our prayers and financial support for those who are going.

Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you. 6They have told the church about your love. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans. 8 We ought therefore to show hospitality to such men so that we may work together for the truth (3 John 5-8 NIV).

We have long been neglected the one mission of the church, to make God’s name famous to those who have never heard. It may be our neighbor, or the town next to us, or Mindanao, or the unreached peoples in Vietnam. Let us go back to what we are supposed to be doing from the very beginning. That is why the leaders of this church will meet for three days straight this coming April 9 to 11. We will seek to listen to what God is telling us to do and to plan our strategies for accomplishing our God-given mission. Pray for us. Pray for all of us here in this church that our hearts may beat the same heartbeat as God, with an all-consuming passion to shout his fame to all the earth.

[1]John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God, revised and expanded (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2000), 98.

[2]John Piper, The Pleasures of God, 105.

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