"Hallowed be Thy Name" (Part 4 of 4)
Author: Dwight A. Pryor (of blessed memory)
- from the third lecture in the audio seminar Praying Biblically
Sometimes your conviction about the importance of sanctifying God’s name is so great that you must be willing even to die for the sanctity of his name, you must become a witness (martyr – the word that came from Greek into English). We have an account of this happening during this exile. Dan. 3:16-18 – Nebuchadnessar creates this enormous idol of gold and he commands that everyone will bow down and worship it. But these three young men refused to do so; they said, ‘put us into the blazing furnace if you must, our God is quite capable of delivering from that if he wishes, but even if he does not we will go to our death with the name of Yahweh on our lips – we will bow before no other god.’ And in rescuing these 3 young Israelites, God shows himself to be holy. So in the Jewish culture, to speak of the sanctifying of the name of God (kiddush hashem) is often a synonym for being martyred for God. According to the Jewish teaching you can set aside in a life threatening emergency all of the commandments, save three. You cannot under any circumstances engage in idolatry, in sexual immorality (adultery) and you cannot under any circumstances falsely shed blood (murder). In these 3 cases, even if your life is threatened and death is immanent, you must choose to sanctify the name of God – even by the witness of your death.
This is why God in Malachi 2 is so upset with the preachers of his day; he says, ‘you are profaning my holy name.’ ‘How are we doing it?’ they say. ‘You are not keeping the faith, you are not maintaining the covenant of your marriages, you are robbing me of my tithes and you are marrying yourself to idols, you are profaning my name.’ But notice what he says in Malachi 4 to those who sanctify and hallow his name, to those who honor his name. In ch. 2:5 he talks about Levi, and he says, ‘he revered me and stood in awe of my name.’ O, that that would be said of us and of the church! - that we revered God and stood in awe of his name. Then in ch. 4 he says, ‘there is a day coming when there will be people who will sanctify my name.’ Notice what he says in vs. 2, 3 of those who sanctifies his name.
My friends, you will never appreciate or properly understand Jesus’ intense (and I mean it, it was quite intense) hatred, dislike, and rebuke of hypocrisy among those who had set themselves apart. The reason Jesus was so caustic and critical in his comments, not upon their teachings but upon their conduct, is the same reason that if he was standing here today delivering the message, he would be on your case and on my case. Because in our hypocrisy we are profaning the name of God. Jesus was in many ways part of the Pharisaic world – but what he was grieved about and at times would become irate about, was this kind of false piety that would utterly profane the name of God. He would be deeply grieved that those of us who come to church and worship and give the confession of our lips, and dance and praise and weep and preach, and then walk out of here and dishonor him by our disobedience, by our lack of reverence for his name, by our conduct of selfishness, immaturity, egotism, greed, wealth and power that we pursue. He would be just as caustic to you and to me, because he understood what it means to say, ‘Thou art holy O God, and Thy name is holy.’ That’s why he says in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt. 5:16 - ‘you are supposed to be a light, even a light to the gentiles — let your light so shine by your conduct that you continually sanctify the name of God, and let the pagans say: blessed is your God – he is Lord, he is God.’ 2 Thess. 1:11, 12 – here Paul speaks in the same spirit.
So when we pray ‘our Father’ we are speaking of our identity, and when we pray ‘hallowed be Thy name,’ we are speaking of our responsibility. One of the most beautiful prayers in the Siddur begins this way:
‘Great and holy be your great name in this world O Lord - the world which you had created according to your will. May you establish your kingship during our lives and during our days, and during the life of the house of Israel - even speedily and in a near time.’
Then the congregation is supposed to respond to this prayer with one of the most cherished words in all of Jewish liturgy –
‘Let his great name be blessed for ever and ever.’ Blessed, praised and glorified, exalted, extolled and honored, magnified and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be he. Though he be high above all blessings and hymns, praises and consolations which is uttered in the world. —AMEN
That is the essence of Jesus’ prayer, ‘hallowed by Thy name.