Summary: In a series on the Lord’s Prayer, this sermon is the first part of an examination of the meaning of the first petition ’May Your Name be kept Holy’, answering the question ’How do we keep God’s Name Holy?’
A PATTERN FOR PRAYER
HOLY IS HIS NAME (PART 1)
"It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!" Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. Then I said, "It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies." Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, "See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven." Then I heard the Lord asking, "Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?" I said, "Here I am. Send me."" (Isaiah 6:1--8, NLT)
"Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy." (Matthew 6:9, NLT)
A plane leaves Heathrow Airport under the control of a Jewish captain. His co-pilot is Chinese. It’s the first time they’ve flown together and an awkward silence between the two seems to indicate a mutual dislike.
Once they reach cruising altitude, the Jewish captain activates the auto-pilot, leans back in his seat, and mutters, ’I don’t like Chinese..." "Oh, you don’t like Chinamen?" asks the co-pilot, "Why not?" "Your people bombed Pearl Harbour, that’s why!" "No! No!" the co-pilot protests, ’China did not bomb Pearl Harbour! That’s Japan, not China!" "Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese... what’s in a name, it doesn’t matter, you’re all alike!"
A few minutes of silence followed. Suddenly the co-pilot announces "I do not like Jews!" "Oh yeah! Why not?" asks the captain. "Jews sank the Titanic!" says the co-pilot. "What? You’re insane! Jews didn’t sink the Titanic!" exclaims the captain, "It was an iceberg!" "Iceberg, Goldberg, Greenberg, Rosenberg ... what’s in a name? No matter...all the same thing!"
What’s in a name?
William Shakespeare quotes Juliet in his famous play Romeo and Juliet as saying said "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" By this she was saying that the names of things do not matter, only what things are, thereby implying that his family name meant nothing and they should be not be separated by their family feud.
Do names mean nothing? It is interesting that as Jesus begins His Pattern for Prayer that we call the Lord’s Prayer, His first petition focuses on the Name of God. Having addressed God as Father in Heaven, He tells us to pray... ’may Your name be kept holy’
The question is ’What does it mean to keep the name of God Holy or as the older versions put it to hallow the name of God?’ For some this is just a reminder of the third commandment ... "You must not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name." (Exodus 20:7, NLT). Whilst it is vital to maintain this and all the other commandments, I do not believe that this is what our Lord had in mind.
To understand this petition, we need first to grasp two salient points.
1. IT’S ALL IN THE NAME...
TO THE HEBREW A NAME WAS
MORE THAN A TITLE OR IDENTIFIER. In our modern world a person’s name is chosen at birth by one’s parents. Chosen either because they liked the name or possibly because of some family connection. Whatever name is given to us it serves to distinguish us from other people. In ancient times a name had great significance attached to it such that one’s name was often a ...
A CHARACTER REFERENCE. There was a vital connection between a name and the character of the person who bore the name. This could either reflect the circumstances surrounding or preceding the birth of the child, the prayers and aspirations for the child or some significant character trait of the child. For example Jacob, which means supplanter or deceiver, was so named because he was born grasping the heel of his older twin brother. Throughout his early life Jacob sought to deceive his brother among many others!
2. UNDERSTAND THE WORD ... ’TO MAKE/KEEP HOLY’
The word used is ’hagiastheto’ which derives from the Greek word ... ’hagios ’ from which our English words holy, holiness, saint and sanctify derive. The word therefore means to treat something as ’hagios’ or holy.