May 19 – Hallowing God’s Name

Hallowed be Your name.—Matt. 6:9c

Scripture (1 Peter 1:16) commands believers to be holy (“hallowed”), whereas it recognizes God as being holy. So attributing to Him the holiness that already is His is how we hallow His name.

As with every other truly righteous action, hallowing God’s name must begin in the heart. Peter reminds us to “sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1 Peter 3:15). When we do this, we also sanctify Him as Lord in our lives, as we above all affirm that He exists: “for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).

Discovering and believing scriptural truth about God is also a way to hallow His name. Any deliberate ignorance or wrong doctrine about the Father shows gross irreverence for Him. But if we want to completely hallow His name and have full reverence for Him, we must go on to have a constant awareness of the Father’s presence. David was a great example of this: “I have set the Lord continually before me” (Ps. 16:8).

Perhaps the greatest way of all for us to hallow His name is by following His will—down to the smallest task—making it the entire goal of our lives to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31).

Furthermore, we hallow God’s name by drawing others to Him. “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may … glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16; cf. Ps. 34:3).

Everything we do, think, say, and communicate is a reflection on the name of God, since we have been called by His name and wear it as our chief identity. When are you most likely to forget that you bear the name of Christ, that you carry the responsibility for doing nothing to defame or discredit it?[1]

God’s Priority

hallowed be Thy name. (6:9c)

At the beginning Jesus gives a warning against self-seeking prayer. God is to have priority in every aspect of our lives, and certainly in our times of deepest communion with Him. Praying is not to be a casual routine that gives passing homage to God, but should open up great dimensions of reverence, awe, appreciation, honor, and adoration. This phrase introduces a protection against any sentimentalism or overuse and abuse of Father, which is prone to being sentimentalized.

God’s name signifies infinitely more than His titles or appellations. It represents all that He is-His character, plan, and will. When Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the commandments for the second time, he “called upon the name of the Lord. Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin’ ” (Ex. 34:5–7). The characteristics of God given in verses 6–7 are the equivalent of “the name of the Lord” mentioned in verse 5.

It is not because we simply know God’s titles that we love and trust Him, but because we know His character. “Those who know Thy name will put their trust in Thee,” David said, “for Thou, O Lord, hast not forsaken those who seek Thee” (Ps. 9:10). God’s name is seen in His faithfulness. In another psalm David declared, “I will give thanks to the Lord according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High” (Ps. 7:17; cf. 113:1–4). In the typical form of Hebrew poetry, God’s righteousness and His name are paralleled, showing their equivalence. When the psalmist said, “Some boast in chariots, and some in horses; but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God” (20:7), he had much more in mind than the title by which God is called. He spoke of the fullness of God’s person.

Each of the many Old Testament names and titles of God shows a different facet of His character and will. He is called, for example, Elohim, the Creator God; El Elyon, “possessor of heaven and earth”; Jehovah-Jireh, “the Lord will provide”; Jehovah-Shalom, “the Lord our peace”; Jehovah-Tsidkenu, “the Lord our righteousness”; and many others. All of those names speak of God’s attributes. His names not only tell who He is but what He is like.

But Jesus Himself gives the clearest teaching about what God’s name means, because Jesus Christ is God’s greatest name. “I manifested Thy name to the men whom Thou gavest Me out of the world” (John 17:6). Everything the Son of God did on earth manifested God’s name. As the perfect manifestation of God’s nature and glory (John 1:14), Jesus was the perfect manifestation of God’s name.

Hallowed is an archaic English word used to translate a form of hagiazō, which means to make holy. Words from the same root are translated “holy, saint, sanctify, sanctification,” etc. God’s people are commanded to be holy (1 Pet. 1:16), but God is acknowledged as being holy. That is the meaning of praying hallowed be Thy name: to attribute to God the holiness that already is, and always has been, supremely and uniquely His. To hallow God’s name is to revere, honor, glorify, and obey Him as singularly perfect. As John Calvin observed, that God’s name should be hallowed was nothing other than to say that God should have His own honor, of which He was so worthy, that men should never think or speak of Him without the greatest veneration (cited in A Harmony of the Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979], p. 318).

Hallowing God’s name, like every other manifestation of righteousness, begins in the heart. “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts,” Peter tells us (1 Pet. 3:15), using a form of the word that hallowed translates.

When we sanctify Christ in our hearts we will also sanctify Him in our lives. We hallow His name when we acknowledge that He exists. “He who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). To the honest and open mind, God is self-evident. Immanuel Kant had many strange ideas about God, but he was absolutely right when he said, “The law within us and the starry heavens above us drive us to God.” (See William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, 2 vols. [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], 1:208)

We also hallow God’s name by having true knowledge about Him. False ideas about the Sovereign One are irreverent. Origen said, “The man who brings into his concept of God ideas that have no place there takes the name of the Lord God in vain.” Discovering and believing truth about God demonstrate reverence for Him; and willing ignorance or wrong doctrine demonstrate irreverence. We cannot revere a God whose character and will we do not know or care about. But acknowledging God’s existence and having true knowledge about Him are not enough to hallow His name. We must have a constant awareness of His presence. Spasmodic thinking of God does not hallow His name. To truly hallow His name is to consciously draw Him into every daily thought, every daily word, and every daily action. David put the focus of his life where it should always be-“I have set the Lord continually before me” (Ps. 16:8).

The Father’s name is most hallowed when we behave in conformity to His will. For Christians to live in disobedience to God is to take His name in vain, claiming as Lord someone whom we do not follow as Lord. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ ” Jesus warned, “will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). When we eat, drink, and do everything else to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31), that is hallowing His name. Finally, to hallow God’s name is to attract others to Him by our commitment, to “let [our] light shine before men in such a way that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Psalm 34:3 sums up the teaching in this phrase with a lovely exhortation: “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”[2]

The First Petition

9c. Hallowed be thy name. In ancient times the name was not generally regarded as a mere appellation to distinguish one person from another, but often rather as an expression of the very nature of the person so indicated, or of his position, etc. This was true to such an extent that frequently when in some important respect the facts concerning a man had undergone a change, he was given a new name. See pp. 132, 138. The name was to some extent identified with the person. This is especially true with respect to the names of God. God’s name is God himself as revealed in all his works. This is not so difficult to understand, for also among us the same holds with respect to the name Jesus, as is clear from the poetic line, “That beautiful Name, that beautiful Name from sin has power to free us!” (from the hymn “That Beautiful Name,” by Jean Perry). We immediately recognize the fact that a mere vocal cannot free or save anybody, but a person can—and does!

Now since God’s names reveal who he himself is, it is necessary for us to know them. This, moreover, is very rewarding. In the Old Testament the Supreme Being is called ’El, that is, God, viewed as the Mighty One. This name occurs in various combinations. ’El-Shaddai is God Almighty, the source of salvation for his people (Gen. 17:1; Exod. 6:3). ’Elohim (Gen. 1:1) is a plural, and refers to God in the fulness of his power. ’Elyon indicates the Most High (Num. 24:16). ’Adonai points to God as Master (properly “my Master”) or Lord; cf. “O Lord, I am not a man of words” (Exod. 4:10). The meaning of the name Jehovah is to some extent explained in Exod. 3:13, 14; cf. 6:2, 3. It is a form of the verb to be, and has been interpreted to mean “I am that I am,” or “I shall be what I shall be.” In the original Hebrew this name consists of the four letters YHWH, and is therefore called the tetragram (maton). There came a time, perhaps about 300 b.c., when the Jews, owing to a. their reverence for God, b. their interpretation of Lev. 24:16, and c. their resulting fear of becoming guilty of the sin of desecration, ceased to pronounce this name. In reading Scripture they substituted for it ’Adonai or, less frequently, ’Elohim. The Masoretes, those Jewish textual experts who flourished between the destruction of Jerusalem (a.d. 70) and the tenth century, but whose activity in a more general sense antedated the period of the Maccabees and extended to the year a.d. 1425, attached to the four consonants (YHWH) the vowels of ’Adonai (or of ’Elohim). It is sufficiently clear from such passages as Exod. 6:2–4; 15:1–3; Ps. 83:18; Isa. 42:8; Hos. 12:5; and Mal. 3:6 that the name Jehovah, however it be vocalized or transliterated, emphasizes God’s unchangeable covenant faithfulness toward his people.

Various combinations occur in connection with this name. Probably most familiar are the designations “Jehovah of hosts” (Ps. 46:7, 11), and “Jehovah our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6). Other combinations are “Jehovah will provide” (Gen. 22:14), “Jehovah (is) my banner” (Exod. 17:15), “Jehovah heals you” (Exod. 15:26), “Jehovah (is) peace” (Judg. 6:24), and “Jehovah (is) my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1).

To hallow God’s name means to hold it in reverence; hence, to hold him in reverence, to honor, glorify, and exalt him. To do this, far more than a merely intellectual knowledge of the meaning of the divine names is required. Humility of spirit, gratitude of heart, earnest study of God’s works until observation changes into rapturous astonishment and worship is certainly implied. The composers of the Psalms knew what this meant. Everywhere—in the work of creation and in the events of history—they observed and took time to meditate upon God’s majesty. They viewed their God as the One who delivered them from their enemies and constantly protected them. As such he was a God filled with wrath aimed at those who rejected him and who persecuted his people. This very wrath was, as it were, the proof of his tender love for his own (Ps. 3; 4; 5; 7; 11; 13; 14; 18; 48; 50; 63; 97; 135; etc.). As to the latter (the tender love), the Psalms are filled to overflowing with the idea that for those who trust in him the Lord is the hearer of prayer, the refuge in the time of storm, the one who daily cares, who blots out transgression, and never forsakes his children, not even at the moment of death (Ps. 16; 17; 23; 42; 73; 81; 89; 91; 92; 103; 111; 116; 118; 146; to mention but a few).

“Hallowed be thy name” means, therefore, that the one who has been brought into fellowship with this tenderly loving Father now calls upon everyone to share this experience with him, and to exalt this glorious God. This means far more than that the petitioner does his utmost to fight profanity. It has a positive content. The supplicant calls upon the entire creation and especially upon the world of men to praise his God. He exclaims, as it were, “O magnify Jehovah with me, and let us exalt his name together” (Ps. 34:3). He traces God’s steps in history (Pss. 76–80, especially 78; further 106; 107; 118; 124; 126; 136), and wants his children and everyone to adore and glorify God because of his wondrous deeds. He also is filled with gratitude and amazement when he observes God’s wisdom and goodness in nature, and he desires that his own thrilling observations and lasting impressions shall be shared by others, so that they too may see the reflection of God’s glorious attributes in the sky above as well as in the earth below, and may exult in the One whom he calls “my God” (Ps. 8; 19; 29; 63; 65; 104; 139; 145; 147; 150).

So also today the person who knows what it means to pray “Hallowed be thy name” will joyfully magnify the Lord when he beholds the blue of the starlit sky, full of silent beauty and majesty, with its myriads of stars, scintillating like so many dewdrops upon the meadows of the heavens. He praises God when he sees his glory reflected in the softly blending hues of the rainbow, in wooded hills, fruited groves, murmuring brooks, sparkling lakes, and meandering rivers, as well as when he listens to the richly variegated, almost continuous song of the mockingbird. He marvels when he contemplates the wisdom of God revealed in the construction of the human body (Ps. 139:15, 16). And when from general revelation he ascends to special revelation, and ponders the implications of such passages as Isa. 53; John 3:16; Rom. 5:8–11; 8:31–39; and 1 Cor. 8:9, is it any wonder that he falls in love with the matchless name of him who through Christ is his Father, that he pours out his heart in fervent doxologies (2 Cor. 9:15; Eph. 1:3 ff.; 1 Peter 1:3 ff.; Rev. 19:16, 17), and urges others to do likewise?

Style and grammar help us to enter into the spirit of this prayer. Not only is the contrast between the three imperative passives, all in the third person, of the first three petitions (literally, “Let be sanctified thy name, let come thy kingdom, let be done thy will”) in striking and pleasing contrast with the second person verbs of the last three requests, but also these three crisp, opening third person imperatives, being aorists and in each case heading the petition, stress urgency. With respect to the first petition this means that the worshiper is so completely filled with unrestrained eagerness that the Father’s name be adored, honored, and glorified, that he cannot wait to communicate his consuming desire that it receive this honor from the lips, hearts, and lives of everyone.

The Father’s name will not be hallowed throughout the world unless his royal rule be acknowledged. This leads to[3]

[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 148). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 377–379). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew (Vol. 9, pp. 327–330). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

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