And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them (Ezekiel 36:23)
Years ago comedian George Carlin built one of his routines around the seven words you can’t say on television. As it turns out, Carlin’s seven words you can’t say on television are identical to the seven words that should not be included in a daily devotional. As for what those might be I’ll have to leave you to your own imagination and well-stocked vocabulary.
For most people, the word ‘profanity’ is the larger category that encompasses Carlin’s seven words as well as long list of others. Indeed, the American Heritage Dictionary defines profanity as “obscene or irreverent language.”
But there’s more to it. The noun ‘profanity’ has a verb form, ‘to profane.’ So we’re not simply talking about words we use, but something we do or a way we act. Again, the dictionary helps us out here: “to treat with irreverence” or “contempt for what is sacred.” While a dictionary provides a helpful definition, the Bible gives us a story.
In Ezekiel 36 God’s people had profaned his name by worshipping idols. They had made God look small and trivial, one god among many. God responded to their idolatry with judgment and sent them into exile. What is interesting about Ezekiel 36 is that God is promising to restore his people. There will be a return, a gathering together of a people who have been battered and scattered.
But God makes it clear: he is not doing this for their sake; this isn’t an act of compassion born of God’s aching heart. God will do this for the sake of his name. “I will show the holiness of my great name.” The command regarding God’s name is given to us as a means of witness in the world.
Our most offensive profanities are often silent. They are a way of life that treats God as small and impotent. I can think of two very common ways that we silently profane God’s name.
We profane God’s name with our worry. Constant anxiety says that we are facing something that God either cannot or will not handle. Fear marks a life that is void of a faithful, good and powerful God. Our worries seem to make God small. Sure, we all worry at times – but to feed on the worries is to profane God’s name.
We also profane God’s name with our anger. Often our anger is provoked when something doesn’t go our way or when people don’t do what we want them to do. Our anger is born of our lack of control and our need for control is an affront to God who rules all things for our good and his glory. Sure, we all get angry. But to live angry profanes God’s name.
A confident life glorifies God’s name. A life lived at peace magnifies God’s name. So watch your life as well as your language. What has you worried or angry today? Be bold. Bless others. And hallow the name of God.
Magnify your name in my life, O God. Grant me grace to live in such a way that you are shown to be great and good in all that concerns me. Forgive my silent profanity, my worry and anger, and glorify your name in my life, I pray through Jesus our Lord. Amen.