This is something that is frequently left out in our Bible teaching. It adds a very valuable dimension to our understanding of the relationship that God expects between Himself and His people. Let us first establish that this is not a stand-alone passage. For if it were, then we would be very wary to build a doctrine on it.
In Deuteronomy 8:18 we get a glimpse of how a Covenant God thinks. Moses lists the many blessings that God will provide for the Israelites if they are faithful to God. He also identifies the curses that God will bring upon them, if they are not faithful in obeying Him. He warns them that when God blesses them, they must give Him the credit and do not erroneously conclude that what they have achieved is by the strength of their own hand. In this context, Moses affirms that it is God who gives us the power and strength to produce wealth. But then He states the motivation, or at least a part of the motivation, behind God’s giving us the power to make wealth. It is to confirm His covenant which he swore to our ancestors before we were born- an application of the literal text. This statement takes the focus off of us and places it on God. God does what He does in large measure because He zealously watches over His word.
In Psalm 38:2, we find a very interesting verse that has involved me in quite a few discussions. Which is more important, powerful or valuable… God’s Word, or God’s Name? The NIV translates the same Hebrew word as “name” in the first instance and then as “fame” in the second instance. Both “name” and “fame have the same Hebrew origin “shem” as indicated by Strong’s #H8034. Since closeness has first claim on context, we need look no further than Psalm 138:2 for the verdict on which is the more appropriate translation. The first part of verse 2 says, “I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name…” Because the subject is praise, and because the subject of praise is supported by the physical posture of “bowing down”, we are left with just one question. Do we praise God’s Name or do we praise God’s fame? It is at the name of Jesus that every knee shall bow… not at His fame (Philippians 2:10-11). Therefore if the accurate translation for the first use of the Hebrew word “shem” is “name”, then the second one should also be “name”, as is rendered in the KJV. And this is where the problem begins. How can God’s Word be magnified over His Name? And it can’t. For His Word and His Name are one and the same. I reconciled the problem by concluding that the most appropriate interpretation is “you have magnified your Word and your Name above all things.”
The very essence of God’s faithfulness, hinges on his zealously guarding His Word. And in Ezekiel 36:32, it is spelt out. It is my loyalty to my Word and my faithfulness that causes me to restore you and place a new heart in you. But even as I do that to protect my name, you ought to be loathing yourself because of the sins you have committed.
It is natural for us to have a problem reconciling this clear statement with other passages that speaks about God not remembering our sins and separating us from them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). Remember Bible Study 101 in Proverbs 26:4-5? When the Word of God presents us with two apparently contradicting statements, don’t choose one. Accept both. The Apostle Paul asks a rhetorical question… “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? (Romans 6:1) Far from wanting to continue in sin because we are forgiven by God’s grace, we should be ashamed and disgraced because of our conduct.
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