The account in Ezekiel looks at the same event (“the wilderness wanderings”), but provides a deeper insight into the mind of God. It helps to shed some light on God’s motives behind the situation:
” 6 On that day I swore to them that I would bring them out of the land of Egypt into a land that I had searched out for them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands. 7 And I said to them, Cast away the detestable things your eyes feast on, every one of you, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. 8 But they rebelled against me and were not willing to listen to me. None of them cast away the detestable things their eyes feasted on, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the midst of the land of Egypt. 9 But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations among whom they lived, in whose sight I made myself known to them in bringing them out of the land of Egypt…
14 But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out… 17 Nevertheless, my eye spared them, and I did not destroy them or make a full end of them in the wilderness.
18 “And I said to their children in the wilderness, Do not walk in the statutes of your fathers, nor keep their rules, nor defile yourselves with their idols. 19 I am the Lord your God; walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules, 20 and keep my Sabbaths holy that they may be a sign between me and you, that you may know that I am the Lord your God. 21 But the children rebelled against me. They did not walk in my statutes and were not careful to obey my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; they profaned my Sabbaths. “Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them and spend my anger against them in the wilderness. 22 But I withheld my hand and acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out… I did it that they might know that I am the Lord…
39 “As for you, O house of Israel, thus says the Lord God: Go serve every one of you his idols, now and hereafter, if you will not listen to me; but my holy name you shall no more profane with your gifts and your idols.
44 And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I deal with you for my name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds, O house of Israel, declares the Lord God.”
Both accounts in the Psalms and in Ezekiel contrast Israel’s rebellion against God with God’s utter kindnesses and steadfast goodness toward Israel. However, in the passage found in Ezekiel, God informs us that it was primarily because of His own name’s sake that He did not utterly destroy them. (Moses had it right when he interceded for Israel’s salvation in Deuteronomy 9:26-29.) It was due to God’s zeal for His own renown that Israel experienced such lavish blessings from the hand of the Lord. In like manner, it is for the sake of God’s glory that we experience such lavish, undeserved grace even today.
In summary, it was the “sake of [God’s] name” which spared Israel in the past, and it is the “sake of [God’s] name” which secures their future hope of restoration as well. But for those of us who are in Christ now, it is the “sake of [God’s] name” that is the basis of His dealings with us too. God’s zeal for His own renown is the motivating factor behind all the good that He bestows upon His people. Truly, God’s glory IS our greatest good!