It's an important thing.
The dictionary defines the word this way:
1. (a): overall quality or character as seen or judged by people in general
(b): recognition by other people of some characteristic or ability
2. a place in public esteem or regard; good name
Have you ever been in a position where people spread rumors about you?
Have you ever had your reputation doubted, attacked, soiled?
A long time ago, I did something that was out of character for me, and it affected my reputation.
I was a senior in high school – (I told you it was a long time ago!) At the time, I was considering a career as a teacher. So, my good friend and I enrolled in a Teacher Observation class. Once a week, we were allowed to leave campus to visit a local elementary classroom.
It was a pretty big deal – for one thing, my high school was a closed campus. That meant that we weren't allowed to leave school grounds until our day was done. No open lunch– no venturing off campus if you happened to have a gap in your schedule.
So, this was a real privilege to be able to leave for a class.
However, after a couple of months, my friend convinced me that we could just tell our teachers that we had an "assembly" at school, and we wouldn't be coming to the classroom that day. Then, we'd go eat and have some fun.
After awhile, my mentor teacher caught on – (I suppose he questioned two or three assemblies a month, always on the same day of the week) – and he reported us.
Our supervisor called us into her office and read us the riot act.
The worst thing was all the accusations she threw at me about my character. You see, I was a VERY. GOOD. GIRL. A solid citizen, an honor student, a pretty compliant and rule-following person.
And she accused me, among other things, of being a slacker, a cheater, a liar.
I flashed back on this incident when I read today's "Bible Pick 'Ems." It's found in the book of Daniel.
First, a little background information.
It is the first year of the reign of Darius the Mede – (the son of Ahasuerus) – who had become the king of the Babylonian Empire. During this first year, Daniel learned that Jerusalem must lie desolate for 70 years.
I love how Daniel says it, in his very own words:
"…I, Daniel, learned from reading the word of the LORD, as revealed to Jeremiah the prophet, that Jerusalem must lie desolate for seventy years. So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and fasting…I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed…"
You know, you gotta love Daniel.
Here he is, trapped in exile, and yet he is faithful to his God, and to the reading of His Word. And, not only does he read the Word, he is responsive and obedient to it – he does NOT stop at reading – he acts in faith.
His prayer is beautiful.
But it's this particular passage that has me pondering:
"'Listen as I plead. For your own sake, Lord, smile again on your desolate sanctuary. O my God, lean down and listen to me. Open your eyes and see our despair. See how your city – the city that bears your name – lies in ruins. We make this plea, not because we deserve help, but because of your mercy. O Lord, hear. O Lord, forgive. O Lord, listen and act! For your own sake, do not delay, O my God, for your people and your city bear your name.'"
And here's what I'm pondering.
It's the way that Daniel prays. He prays for himself and his people, yes. But it's not what he prays for that is interesting to me – it's how he prays for it.
He calls on God's reputation.
Do you see it?!
For YOUR own sake, Lord, smile again…
See how YOUR city – the city that bears YOUR name…
We make this plea…because of YOUR mercy…
For YOUR own sake, do not delay…
For YOUR people and YOUR city bear YOUR name…
I've read passages like this before in the Bible. Where someone calls upon God's own reputation to move Him to act. I've often wondered about this.
Is it manipulative?
Is it self-serving?
Is it wrong?
It doesn't seem to be. At least if it's done from the proper heart-position. So, what am I missing?
I try to think of a human corollary. For instance, let's say hypothetically my son says something to me like this:
"Hey Mom, you might not want to wear your sweatpants outfit to pick me up, for your own sake."
Is he thinking about me? Or about HIS reputation – and the possible embarrassment from a sweatpants-wearing mom? Or is it somehow a combination of both?
I'm not sure I have the answers on this one, but I'm pondering.
God seems to welcome these kinds of prayers. Sometimes He even honors them.
I think it's that heart-position thing.
Daniel started his prayer with confession and repentance. He started with a humble heart, and a spirit willing to be obedient. He called on God's reputation, because he held God in such HIGH esteem. He KNEW God – and He didn't want God's reputation to be soiled because of His faulty and flawed people.
That makes sense to me.
Maybe if I begin to align my heart more truly with the God that I so highly admire and esteem – the LORD who inspires awe and reverent fear in me – then I can also ask for answered prayers for the sake of HIS honor – (of course, always yielding to His Sovereign will).
Lord, we bear Your name. Sometimes we don't wear it very well. But, in spite of all our failings, make us better ambassadors for Christ.
And for the sake of YOUR reputation, please show us mercy.
"I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, FOR MY OWN SAKE, and remembers your sins no more." (Isaiah 43:25, NIV)
What do you think about this? What does it mean to call on God's reputation in prayer?
"When in doubt, search God out!"