“For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself.” (1 Samuel 12:22)
The name of God often refers to his reputation, his fame, his renown. This is the way we use the word “name” when we say someone is making a name for himself. Or we sometimes say, that’s a “name” brand. We mean a brand with a big reputation. This is what I think Samuel means in 1 Samuel 12:22 when he says that God made Israel a people “for himself” and that he would not cast Israel off “for his great name’s sake.”
This way of thinking about God’s zeal for his name is confirmed in many other passages.
For example, in Jeremiah 13:11 God describes Israel as a waistcloth, or belt, with which God chose to highlight his glory, even though there were times when Israel was temporarily unfit. “For as the loincloth clings to the waist of a man, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, declares the Lord, that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory, but they would not listen.” Why was Israel chosen and made the garment of God? That it might be a “name, a praise, and a glory.”
The words “praise” and “glory” in this context tell us that “name” means “fame” or “renown” or “reputation.” God chose Israel so that the people would make a reputation for him. God says in Isaiah 43:21 that Israel is “the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.”
And when the church came to see itself in the New Testament as the true Israel, Peter described God’s purpose for us like this: “You are a chosen race . . . that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
In other words, Israel and the church are chosen by God to make a name for him in the world. This is why we pray first and foremost, “Hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). This is why we pray, “Lead us in paths of righteousness for your name’s sake” (see Psalm 23:3).
When we speak of being a God-centered people, remember, this is because we are joining God in his God-centeredness. And on this side of the cross, that means being a Christ-dependent, Christ-exalting people. “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake” (1 John 2:12). “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17).