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For Whose Sake - A reflection by Isaiah Thomas

Over the last year or so, it has been a personal focus of mine to get better at following through on goals, both relationally and occupationally. As someone who loves sports, I am well aware of the importance of a good follow-through. It can be difference between a great jumpshot or baseball swing, and a rather poor one. More importantly, as I have gotten older and acquired heavier responsibilities, I have realized the whether or not I follow through on something typically has fairly significant consequences. On one hand, to follow through on an important venture such as planning a great vacation for you and your spouse, or a fun trip with friends feels like a big win for someone like me who is not a great planner. On the other hand, the times that I have disappointed my wife, friends, or family the most are times that I have failed to follow through on my word or an agreed upon expectation. If you are like me, one of the worst feelings in the world is the feeling that you have hurt or let down loved ones in a deep way. What is more is that as imperfect beings, we will all struggle to follow through, or struggle with reconciling with other people who failed to follow through.

This brings me to an aspect of God’s character that has kept my engine running these days in the midst of this tragic pandemic we are living through. Recently, our church has been closely studying Psalm 23, which is one of my personal favorites, as it speaks to the life-giving presence of God, our Good Shepherd. It is a psalm that I had been required to learn in school a very long time ago it feels like, but this time around there is a verse that sticks out to me more than the rest. Psalm 23:3 reads, “He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” It has not been until recently that the ending phrase “for his name’s sake” caught my attention. Initially, I asked, “why in the world did the psalmist write ‘his name’s sake?’ Are we not the sheep who need the saving? Is it not for our sake that the Shepherd leads us?” I think these are good questions to ask, but I think a better question perhaps is “what is it about God’s name that motivates Him to act, and why is it important for us?”

I think we get a glimpse of the answer in the story of Israel in Exodus, while God is instructing them on how to properly worship Him. “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. And they shall know that I am the Lord their God, who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them. I am the Lord their God” (Ex. 29:45-46). Here is the Maker of Heaven and Earth saying that He has called a people to Himself simply so that He may know them, and that they may know Him as well. If we follow the story of Israel, we know that they failed time and time again to follow through on proper worship of God. Despite God’s will to lead them on the right paths (Ps. 23:3), Israel (like the rest of us) as sheep strayed away (Isa. 53:6). God in his righteousness has had every right to punish us. Yet in his steadfast love and faithfulness (Ex. 34:6-7), God chose to forgive our sins by sending His Son to stand in our place on the cross as a ransom for many. As we approach Good Friday and ultimately Easter, let us praise God that He wants us to know His name, and that He continues to make it known, and that the love of God has been given to us (John 6:26). Thank God that He follows through for His sake.

Isaiah Thomas has been working as a pastoral intern at Northside Church for almost two years while pursuing an MA in Biblical Studies at RTS Washington, DC. Married to Abbey Thomas for almost 1 1/2 years. 

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