To be part of the Family of God implies great responsibilities. Isaiah shows how great these are when he declared the words of Yahweh: “Every one that is called by MY NAME … I have created for MY GLORY” (Isa. 43:7, 21). A “people for His Name” therefore implies a “people for His Glory”; a people who have been privileged to develop a special relationship with “the Father … of whom the whole family in Heaven and earth is named” (Eph 3:14, 15). God’s Name, God’s Purpose, God’s Character, God’s Glory are all terms identified with His plan to develop from among men a Divine Family that shall fill the earth, when perfected, to the entire exclusion of flesh and blood. Such
a family is described as “a people for His Name”.

When we examine God’s dealings with Israel, we not only appreciate better the important words of Acts 15:14, but we come to understand more completely what God desires of us. The story of the deliverance of Israel from Egypt is well known to us but why did God extend Himself to save this people who had become idolatrous in the land of the enemy? If God merely wanted to save the Israelites He could have done it by the simple extension of his power, but though they were the Covenant people made so by descent from Abraham, they had first to be born again (John 3:3). It was comparatively easy to save the people; it was much more difficult to make them worth saving. This was something in which God needed the co-operation of the people. When that co-operation was not extended, and the people refused to heed God’s instructions, that generation perished – the Word was not found in them.

Separation and Dedication

 In the case of Israel, as with us, this involved the dual requirements of SEPARATION and DEDICATION. It was not merely SALVATION, but GOD MANIFESTATION that was Yahweh’s purpose with Israel as it is in all His work of creation. Israel was constantly reminded of this. They were taught to repeat the following words: “We were Pharaoh’s bondmen in Egypt; and Yahweh brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand … He brought us OUT FROM THENCE, that He might BRING US IN …” (Deut 6:21-23). First “slaves in Egypt”, then “taken out” of the Gentiles, then “brought in”. The word “Ecclesia” (called out ones) is expressive of God’s purpose to take out of the Gentiles a people for His Name and, as such, Israel was “the ecclesia in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38) because they had been “called out” of Egypt.

Yahweh brought them out for a purpose, namely “that they might be unto Me for a people, a name, a praise, a glory” (Jer 13:11) – that is, to be part of the family of God on earth. Moses declared: “Yahweh shall establish thee an holy people unto Himself, as He hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of Yahweh thy God, and walk in His ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of Yahweh” (Deut 28:9-10).

They became a “People for the Name”, that is, a people created for “My Glory”. This required that they must LEARN THE TRUTH, LOVE THE TRUTH and be CHANGED BY THE TRUTH.

Israel failed to measure up to the lofty standard required of them. God brought them to the borders of the Promised Land (Num 13,14): the spies were sent out and returned with the information that the land was outstanding in fertility and beauty – but with this good report there also came the statement that there were tremendous difficulties to face. The inhabitants were powerful in physique and strong in defence. In type, the flesh was powerful, and Israel felt their inadequacy to grapple successfully with such a foe. So reasoned the spies on their return (Num 13:17-33). Their words were true to this extent that Israel, unaided, certainly could not have succeeded. But were they expected to enter the land unaided? Had not God shown them by these things, that He would assist them against their enemies?

The Goodness of God

 They forgot His goodness and thought only of their problems. They complained to Moses and threatened to kill him. They mocked at the faith of Caleb and Joshua and made ready to stone them. They tempted Him, proved Him, having seen His works forty years and God repudiated an ungrateful people. Moses however interceded on their behalf, pleading with God on the basis of His MERCY, His LONG-SUFFERING, His GOODNESS – in short, His CHARACTER – to pardon the transgression of the people.

They were pardoned to the extent that God did not destroy them out of hand, but it was obvious that they had not that spirit of God in them that leads to eternal life (Num 14:24). Therefore, they were condemned to die in the desert (Num 14:28, 29; Heb 3:17). Only faithful individuals out of that godless generation were saved. But that did not mean that God’s purpose would not be fulfilled. To Moses there came the first of several declarations throughout Scripture proclaiming the Divine purpose: “But as truly as I live all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh” (Num 14:21).

The Living God

 The word “but” expresses reassurance. One generation had failed, but in spite of this, God’s purpose would not fail! If we eliminate the two words “as” printed in italics in the A.V., God’s statement becomes: “But truly I LIVE, (and) all the earth shall be filled with the Glory of Yahweh”. The Israelites had been acting as though He did not live. They had complained of difficulties, as though God did not know of them; they had said the problems were too great, as though He were dead and could not solve them. They had spoken as though they must overcome all things in their own strength, as though they could not derive strength from Him. They had acted as though He were no greater than the idols of the nations – inanimate gods that could not hear or save.

Israel failed because the people neglected the means that could have given them the victory. They brought discredit on God’s Name, which they bore (Ezek 36:22), instead of Glory as was intended (Deut 28:58). Now He reminds Moses that “HE LIVES” and His purpose would be fulfilled.

Does HE LIVE in our lives? Let us remember these words and learn the lesson that we cannot fight the fight of faith alone, in our own strength, but only through the means that He can and will provide. He has provided His Word as the means of instruction and His Son as the means of reconciliation and incorporation into the Divine Family. He has provided the family as a means of offering security and encouragement to the members who reveal the family characteristics and “endeavour to keep the unity of the spirit in the bonds of peace”. Nowhere is this better expressed than in the words of the Lord, “And I have declared unto them Thy Name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith Thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

 The name of God in Scripture usage is expressive of all that God is and all that He has revealed of His purpose. By His revelation He is known – and that by which He is known is His name. It is much more than a name which distinguishes the God of Israel from the gods of other nations. Yet in the name which God gave Himself at the bush there is embodied a memorial of His purpose in the highest sense, and to know His name in that sense is to know what He has revealed. In a personal sense Jesus had revealed the name of God, for he had shown by word and act the character of God; and by revealing himself as the Son of God had made known the steps by which God would fulfil the significance of the name “Hewho- shall-be”.                        

John Carter

The Gospel of John pp 192,193