One of the things parents do while waiting for a child to be born is to pick a name for their baby. They usually begin by bouncing names off one another. How does this one sound, or this one? How does the name sound with our last name? How about naming a daughter after my grandmother? How about naming the baby after my last girlfriend? Names can be part of a family history or they might have come from a grocery store booklet with the imaginative title “What to Name Your Baby”. Names may be made up because Mom and Dad can’t agree on a name or names may be chosen because they happen to be popular that year, like when all the little girls are named Brittany and all the little boys are named Kyle. What’s in a name?
Have a look at these names for instance and you may see the importance of naming our children. The name Barbara Doris Wyre could become Barb D. Wyre (barbed wire) William Board is Bill Board. Candace Dish gets shortened to Candi Dish. Dwayne Pipe is pretty self explanatory. Joseph King could be Joe King (joking). Denise Rachel Nockin becomes Denise R. Nockin (de knees are knockin’). Mary Christine Smith sounds like Mary Chris Smith (Merry Christmas). And Gerald Attrick becomes Jerry Attrick (geriatric). Are names important? Most definitely. Do they make a difference? They certainly do to the people whose parents didn’t think their children’s names out very well.
Biblically, names meant much more than they do today. Names were descriptive of their owners. In the book of Genesis, the first man was called Adam, which is simply the Hebrew word that means ”man” or “mankind”. The first woman’s name was Eve, the meaning of which is “life” or “life-giving”. Pretty appropriate name for the mother of all humanity. When God chose Abram, He renamed him Abraham which may not sound like much of a difference to us, but the new name meant “father of a multitude.” Abraham would become the father/founder of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths.
God’s name is no different and represents who God is. God's name is inseparable from His person. In Exodus 34: 5-7a, God is giving Moses the Ten Commandments for the second time (after Moses threw a fit and in doing so also threw the tablets the commandments were written on and smashed them, thus being the first person to break all ten commandments simultaneously). As Moses is taking the new blank tablets up to meet God, “The Lord God came down in a cloud and stood beside Moses there on the mountain. God spoke His holy name, ‘the Lord’. Then He passed in front of Moses and called out, ‘I am the Lord God. I am merciful and very patient with my people. I show great love and I can be trusted. I keep my promises to my people forever, but I also punish anyone who sins.” This is the person identified by the name God. If this is not the person that comes to mind when you say or hear the word God, you are not speaking of the God of the bible. God’s name stands for all the bible says God is.
Psalm 9:10 says “Everyone who honours Your name can trust You, because You are faithful to all who depend on You.” To know God who is revealed in scripture is to believe that what Psalm 9 says is true, it is factual. What we believe to be true or factual forms our beliefs, it governs our passions, feelings, desires and therefore, our will. Because God’s name is intricately wrapped with God’s character, we have to accept in our belief in God, that God is who God says He is and in doing so, we start to love and trust in God and then our will is ultimately moved to do God's will.
God has a lot of names in the Old Testament. Elohim, the “Creator God”; El Elyon, the “possessor of heaven and earth”; Jehovah-Jireh, “the Lord will provide”; Jehovah-Rapha, “the Lord that heals”; Jehovah-Raah, “the Lord our Shepherd”; Jehovah-Sabaoth, “the Lord of Hosts”; Jehovah-Shama, “the Lord is present and near”. In the person of Jesus, God is called the Bread of Life, the Living Water, the Way, the Truth, The Word, the Life, the Resurrection, the Good Shepherd, the Bright and Morning Star, the Lamb of God, the Rose of Sharon, the Lily of the Valley, the Door, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. All names for the same God. And all names that stand for very specific truths concerning God's person. And therefore, as God’s people, as disciples of Jesus, our belief should, in the long run, mold our behaviour. The kind of person you are is directly connected to what you believe about God.
A.W. Tozer wrote, “No religion has been greater than its idea of God.” That means then that no church is greater than its understanding of God. If that’s true, we can only do big things as a church based on our ability to believe that we worship a big God, one for whom nothing is impossible. We must know who God is so that we can think about |God, speak about God, act toward God and worship God properly. This is exactly what we are saying when we pray the line in the Lord’s Prayer that says “hallowed be Thy name”.
The word “hallowed” or in the Contemporary English Version, the word “honour” means to set something apart from all else as holy. It means to consecrate, to venerate something or someone. In the Lord’s Prayer, we are praying that God be hallowed. By this request, we are declaring our desire that God be thought of, spoken of, and treated as holy by all. That God be glorified is our first and primary concern as Christians. By praying “hallowed by Thy name” we are asking God to direct all things (including our thoughts and actions) to His own glory. To pray “hallowed by Thy name” is to ask God to make this true in our lives especially. We are praying “God, grant that we properly think of, speak of, and worship You.” Everything that God has brought into existence is intended to bring glory to God's name, to hallow God's name, to honour God.
There are consequences to not treating God with the respect and veneration and holiness He deserves. Throughout the bible, events are described where people did not treat God as hallowed. When the Israelites were wandering around the desert for 40 years, the people complained of not having water to drink. (Numbers 20: 8-13) God told Moses to speak to the rock, but Moses struck the rock instead. The result was, the people got water. However, Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land. Why? Because He couldn’t take directions when they were clearly given to him? No. It was because he did not hallow God’s name. He and his brother Aaron treated God disrespectfully. They didn’t pay attention to the details of God’s instructions. They modified God’s word to them. It was as if they didn’t think God was holy, deserving perfect respect and obedience. What Moses and Aaron felt and thought became more important to them that the revealed will of the living God. To disobey God is to express disbelief, to treat the Lord as if He were not holy. It is to declare that we know better than God what is best for us. It is to prove that God's glory is not our central concern.
The situation happens again and again throughout scripture. Saul loses his throne because he refused to treat God as holy (1 Samuel 15:11). Uzziah refused to hallow God’s name by defying God’s instructions and is struck down (11 Samuel 6:7). Aaron’s sons are killed by God because they decided that the details, the instructions that God had given about worship didn’t matter (Numbers 3:4). Ananias and Sapphira died because they lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5: 1-11). The Corinthian Christians came to the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner and God disciplined them – they became sick and weak and some died for their arrogance and disrespect to God (1 Corinthians 11:27-30).
The bible makes a good deal out of the fact that God has a name by which He can be known. Modern people sometimes think of God as a concept, some vague experience to which Christians have attached the label, Creator, Redeemer and Spirit. They imagine God to be the sum of the highest and best aspirations of humanity, or a primitive way of thinking of our morality, or the expression that each of us has when we are alone with our thoughts. But when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are saying something quite different. God is not man said in a loud voice. In the prayer we are saying that God is personal, God lives and acts, God revealed God’s self in a human form that was named Jesus. “Hallowed be Thy name.”
The fitting response to the holiness of God as we pray this prayer is to honour God’s name in everything we do and say. Perhaps you thought the Christian faith was mainly about trying to do the right thing and living a good life. But this way of viewing things puts the cart before the horse. Being a Christ-follower is not mainly a matter of what we do or how we live, but first a matter of what God in Christ has done. We have no idea how to live until we first know who God is.
A student was the first person in his family to go to college. Someone came up to the student on campus and offered some illegal drugs, saying, “Go ahead, try it. It’ll make you feel good.” The student emphatically replied, “No!’ “Don’t be so uptight,” was the response. “Nobody is going to know that you tried a little dope, got a little high.” “That’s not the point,” the student responded. “The point is that my mother cleaned houses and washed floors to send me to this college. I am here because of her. I am here for her. I wouldn’t do anything that might demean her sacrifice for me.”
That comes close to how we are to react to the holy God. Christians don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t bless war, in order to get on the good side of God, since Jesus has already made us right with God the Father through His sacrifice. We are to live in the light of our knowledge of God’s name, God’s holy and hallowed name. The conflict we endure in this world as we try to live out our faith shouldn’t come as a surprise to us. It comes with the territory.
In praying the Lord’s Prayer, in naming the holiness of God, we discover not just who God is but also who we are. We are daily reminded that we are not our own. We belong, not to ourselves and our desires, but to God. The ten commandments tell us not to take the Lord’s name in vain. To say “God damn” is considered blasphemy, but the Nazi army who went into battle with the words “Gott mitt Uns” (God With Us) committed a greater blasphemy to the holy name of God. To invoke the name of the free, mighty God as a patron of our causes is to take the name of God in vain. Those who are being formed by praying, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name…” are not permitted to abuse the holiness of God by attempting to put a leash on God, then dragging God into our crusades and cruelties. Every time we pray the words “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name” remember who God is and appreciate the fact that despite God's holiness God came to us. Our task is to strive to live as we pray.