Gradual (Psalm 83:18, 13)
[Let your enemies] know that you alone, whose name is the LORD,
are the Most High over all the earth.
O my God, make them like whirling dust,
like chaff before the wind.
Today’s sermon was written and preached by our field worker, Seminarian Matthew Fenn.
Have you ever seen someone who you recognized but had no idea what their name was? Have you ever been in that situation and tried to do the nickname thing to get out of it? “Hey buddy!” “My name’s not buddy.” “Sure, it is partner.” When we meet someone for the first time, we introduce ourselves by our names. Why do you think we do that? We tell them our names so that they can get to know us and relate to us. Knowing someone’s name is important for our relationships, isn’t it? If your best friend never knew your name, you’d question how much they truly valued your friendship. “You’re my best friend Rosie.” “My name is Karen.”
God’s Name is His Self-Revelation
But a basic sort of question here is what is God’s name? You may not know this, but God has only one name. We call him Lord, Father, Saviour, God, the Most High, the Almighty. These are all titles for God, but they are not his name. God has a proper name. It’s used almost 7000 times in the Old Testament. In Hebrew, God’s name is Yahweh. Our gradual says that God’s enemies “will know that you alone, whose name is Yahweh, are the most high over all the earth.” The Jews considered God’s name Yahweh to be so holy that they did not pronounce it, instead they called him “Lord.” So, when we call Jesus “Lord” we’re saying that Jesus is Yahweh in human flesh.
What is a name? A name is a word which identifies. My name, Matthew, tells identifies me. God’s name then refers to his person, his authority, his reputation. God’s name then refers to who he is, what he does, how he is regarded, and his presence among us! God’s name is who he is. God and his name cannot be separated. The only way for human beings to know and experience God shows us who he is. God has acted in history. He has made himself and His ways known to His servants, and especially through Jesus of Nazareth, who is Emmanuel, God with us. God has given us His name so that we might know who He is, and that we might tell others about Him.
Because God’s name refers to who he is, why do we ask for his name to be hallowed in the Lord’s Prayer? To hallow means to treat as holy or honourable. You could say it, “may your name be holy” or “may your name be honored”. God’s is holy and if His name is just a term that refers to who he is, then his name is holy. We don’t make God’s name Holy. It’s already holy! The Lord Yahweh is “the most high over all the earth,”
What are we asking?
If God is already the most high, and if his name is already holy, what is it that we’re praying about when we say “Hallowed be thy name”? We’re not asking about the nature of God’s name in itself, but we’re talking about our use of God’s name. People need to know that the one is named Yahweh is the most high. There’s a connection here between the Lord’s Prayer and the Second Commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, thy God, in vain.” We are not to misuse God’s name or slander his reputation. We pray that we may use God’s name properly and that his reputation, his good name, may not be slandered.
So, God’s name should have its proper honor and respect among us. We should treat it as a valuable treasure; as the holy thing it is. So how do we do that? How does Gods name become honored among us? Consider that it’s important in our relationships to use our friend’s names with respect. Can you imagine using your friends name as a swear word? Imagine if you stubbed your toe and yelled out, “Mark Bromhall!” As silly as that sounds, isn’t that exactly what’s happening with God’s name today? Instead of showing God’s name the same kind of respect we’d give to our friends, many movies and TV shows use God’s name as a curse word. In the Lord’s prayer we pray, “Hallowed be Thy name,” and that means that we know God, and that we have some sort of positive relationship with him, one where we get to know him.
If we are to get to know him, we should believe what he says. That involves our doctrine. Doctrine is what we believe, teach, and confess about God, Christ, salvation, His word, and so on. We should believe and teach what God says in his Word. Why is what we teach, important for keeping God’s name honored among us? How would you feel if someone went around putting words in your mouth and saying things you didn’t agree with? People like to use God’s name to decorate their false teachings. There are many people running around Christendom claiming to be teaching what God says when he clearly hasn’t. These are using God’s name for their own purposes. Some are even using God as an excuse to get rich! But it also happens when people don’t teach God’s word purely. If you mix a little bit of truth with a little bit of error, God is not honored. So, we are called to cling to what God has taught us in His word and has been passed down in His Church from generation to generation!
This also involves how we live. Our lives as Christians can reflect on how God is perceived by others. You can affect God’s reputation in the world. That is why we are called to live holy and godly lives. That also means, our sin dishonors God’s name. When we live like the devil and then claim to be Christians, people call us hypocrites and use it as an excuse to not believe in God. Consider an example: imagine a child or teenager who is just wild. Maybe they insult and disrespect everyone they see. Perhaps they care for no one else but themselves. They’re rude. They care nothing for other people’s thoughts, feelings, property. What does that say about their parents. When you encounter such a situation, isn’t your thought, “Where are their parents? Didn’t their parents ever teach them some manners? If the child is this bad, I wonder how bad their parents are? Wow! Remind me never to go over to their house for dinner. Some people’s kids!” How the child acts reflects upon the training, discipline, and parenting of their parents. How we live and believe reflects in a similar way upon our heavenly Father.
“The Most High”
The way God’s name has been honored and hallowed the most didn’t involve us. When Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer, he was looking ahead to the cross. God sent him to earth for a mission, for a reason and Jesus glorified and hallowed His Father’s name. Jesus was raised as a carpenter’s son in backwater Nazareth. He was baptized by his cousin in the Jordan river and preached repentance and the forgiveness of sins throughout the land. He healed the lame, deaf, and blind. He rid the temple of extortioners. He dared to call the religious leaders hypocrites and “sons of hell”. He raised the dead and proclaimed the kingdom. Through all of that, the name of the Father had been hallowed, honored, and glorified. In his every trial Jesus called upon God. He always trusted what his Father said and taught the truth. His perfect sinless life brought honour to his Father.
But there’s more to it than that. In the Upper Room, during the institution of the Lord’s Supper, in the dark garden of Gethsemene, greeted with the kiss of a friend’s betrayal, during a kangaroo court, with chilling and bloodthirsty cries of “Crucify him!” echoing through the chambers, on the Via Dolorosa, carrying the weight of the cross on his bloodied back, all the way to Calvary, “the place of the Skull”. “That men may know that thou whose name alone is the Lord, art the most high over all the earth”. The most high God, high and lifted up upon the cross. Hung high, for you.
Through the cross, the name of God is made holy. Through this selfless sacrifice, the name of God is hallowed. Through the unbounded love of God revealed dramatically on that dark Friday, the name of God is honored. Jesus, who had always perfectly hallowed God’s name, willingly took upon himself the dreadful consequences of our sin. And because of that, you can be baptized into the Triune Name for the remission of your sins. God’s name was given to you in Holy Baptism. Just like we put our names in our books to claim ownership over it, God has claimed ownership of you in Baptism. God has adopted you as his child so that you can call him your Father. God cares for and sustains you. God has promised, he has given you his Word, and that’s a word you can cling to and which will not return empty. You call upon God as your Father in any trial or need. You can pray, praise, and give thanks! Amen.