"Hallowed be Thy Name" (Part 3 of 4)
Author: Dwight A. Pryor (of blessed memory)
- from the third lecture in the audio seminar Praying Biblically
I have been studying a little bit about the Puritans. They called their church buildings ‘meeting houses’ – why do they call them meeting houses? Because they understood what we don’t, that the people are the church and not the building. You assemble as the church, you don’t go to church. So you would go to the meeting house and assemble there as the church. In all their meeting houses it was obligatory that there be windows in those buildings, and that the windows be transparent, because they wanted to be continually reminded of their duty to their world. We tend to live in buildings in which we encase ourselves in our own worship experience, we put stained glass windows that block the outside world so we can be blessed with light coming through, reminding us of all our great blessings. But in Jesus’ point of view our window should be transparent, because when we acknowledge that God is our Father, our immediate concern should be: the world — and our responsibility as his covenant partner, indeed as his son/daughter, is to go out into that world and to show to that world that the God of Israel is God, and he is kadosh, kadosh, kadosh.
Notice what God said through the prophet – Is. 43:1, 3, 7. Why God? Because of vs. 10, 11 – ‘you are to be my witnesses.’ The first thing you must understand with respect to the holiness of God, is you must know that God is God – it is a matter of knowledge. The second thing is that you, once you have come into this knowledge, have a commission to be his witnesses. Therefore he says in vs. 12 (here is your responsibility) – ‘you are my witnesses, that I am God.’ How do we sanctify God’s name? Many ways:
we do it by studying his Word and obeying it;
we do it by being kind, considerate and loving one to one another;
we do it by feeding the hungry, clothing the poor;
by teaching children in school that God is God and the ethical source of all morality;
we do it by the way we treat our wives and the way we treat our husbands;
we do it by our conduct.
There was a famous rabbi who was the head of the Sanhedrin in the first century before Jesus – a great sage. He was a worker in flax and his disciples were concerned how hard was his labor, how difficult was his work. They came to him one day and said, ‘rabbi we wish to buy you a mule to help carry this heavy load, to ease your burden.’ So they go to an Ishmaelite and buy a mule from him and bring it to the rabbi, and they noticed that around the neck of the mule is hanging a beautiful pearl. And the students get very excited and they say, ‘rabbi, look what a great blessing, not only did you get the mule, you also get the pearl.’ And they quote Prov. 10:22. But what did the rabbi say? He said, ‘I bought a mule, not a personal gem, this isn’t mine, this belongs to the owner of this mule.’ The disciples said, ‘but, rabbi even if we are forbidden to steal from gentiles, surely we are not obligated to return the things they lose?’ It sounds reasonable to us, doesn’t it? (finders, keepers!). The rabbi responded to that little bit of carnal wisdom in this way: ‘do you take me for a barbarian?’ To the contrary what he wants is for the name of God to be blessed on his account. So he insisted that the pearl be returned to the Arab, who was its owner. After they had returned the pearl to the Arab, he said, ‘blessed be the God of Shimon.’ What did Shimon do? He sanctified the name of the God of Israel by his conduct. And when he heard the response from his disciples, upon hearing that a gentile had said ‘blessed be the God of the Jews’ – Shimon said, ‘this is more to me than all the money in the world.’ It was said of the great Rabbi Hillel who lived just before Jesus and who in many ways embodied the same spirit as Jesus, that all that he did he did for the sake of the name of God.
To pray ‘hallowed be Thy name’ is to conduct yourself in a different way, in a way in which what matters to you is not your legal rights, but your spiritual responsibility to in every way bring honor to your God, to bring his holiness into this world. That is why Isaiah says, ‘you are my witnesses that I am the Lord God, there is none other.’ Because of this he says in ch. 49:3 – ‘you will show forth my glory; I will take pride in you.’ When Judah was exiled in Babylon, God became concerned less his reputation be profaned—the gentiles might think that the God of Israel was impotent rather than understanding that the exile was due to God’s justice. And so he says, ‘I am going to restore the Jews to their proper place, I will show the holiness of my great name.’ (Ezek. 36:22) ‘God, how are you going to do that?’ Vs. 23 – ‘when I show myself holy through you before their eyes.’ By returning Israel from its exile, God demonstrated through his people that he was God, and that he was holy.