Summary: Jesus teaches to long for the name of God to be held in esteem.
I THINK I MUST HAVE BEEN in the fourth or fifth grade, and I’d come into the proud ownership of a brand new baseball. I mean, it was the real deal. The core was firm, the skin was tight, the threads were prominent and taut. It even had the word “Official” on it. It was a gem.
So I got up a game with the kids in my neighborhood. They brought their gloves and bats, and we laid out makeshift bases, chose up sides, and began to play.
Now, across the street from where we were playing there was a vacant lot, covered over with tall grass and weeds and heavy underbrush—just the sort of place a baseball might like to hide.
And sure enough, the moment came when someone hit the ball, and it went across the street into the thicket. My heart sank. We’d never find it there, I thought. “Did anybody see where it went?” I asked. The game stopped while we hunted for the ball. Soon the other boys got discouraged and went home, and I was left alone. It was then that I turned to prayer. I said, “God, if you will let me find my ball, I’ll…I’ll…” I couldn’t think of any way to leverage God into helping me find that ball. And then it came to me: “God,” I said, “if you will help me find my ball, I will never cuss again.”
And guess what. I spotted the ball. I ran over to the place, pushed back the weeds, and picked it up. I don’t remember whether or not I thanked the Lord. I’d like to think I did. And, as to whether I kept my end of the bargain, I’ll let you figure that out for yourself. Some things are best left unsaid.
And maybe the story would have been best left untold. I didn’t know it at the time, but I do now. God doesn’t make bargains, and I wouldn’t want to leave you with the impression that he does. But I told you the story because it reminds me that, for the greater part of my life, my prayers have been me-centered. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. I viewed God as something of a cosmic bellhop, a celestial “go-fer,” whose main job, besides creating the universe and everything in it, of course, was to give us what we ask for in prayer.
But I know now—and you do, too, I’m sure—that such a notion of God is a mere fantasy. He’s nothing like that. If we want to know what God is like, we need to turn to the Scriptures, to verses like the passage we read just a moment ago from 1 Timothy. What does that passage tell us about God? It starts by saying that he “gives life to all things.” Do you believe that? There are many who don’t. There are many who don’t believe that life was given, much less given by God. They think it appeared spontaneously through some kind of chemical interaction. They think there was no plan or purpose behind the beginning of life, that it just happened for no rhyme or reason. And yet, here in 1 Timothy we find an expression of one of the central claims of the historic Christian faith: that God and God alone is the author of life.
And if that is true—and I need to tell you, I believe it is—then let me ask this: Does not God deserve to be acknowledged by those who have come to possess life because of his creative power? And not only acknowledged but honored? If we read on in the passage, the apostle Paul, who wrote it, charges us “to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach.” Which commandment, I wonder, is the apostle talking about? It could be any of them, really, but I’m going to suggest that, if it could be any of them, it could certainly be the third commandment, the one that says, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Deut. 5:11; cf. Ex. 20:7).
And what that means is that we are to honor God as he has revealed himself in Scripture and as he has made himself known to us in Christ. And how is that? Well, look at 1 Timothy again. Chapter 6, verses 15 and 16. How is God described there? He is “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” He “alone has immortality.” He alone “dwells in unapproachable light.” “No one has ever seen or can see” him. “To him [there is to] be honor and eternal dominion” ascribed.
This last part—the part that says “to him be honor and eternal dominion”—this is exactly what Jesus urged us to pray for in the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer. He said we are to pray, “Hallowed be thy name.” That is, we are to pray that God’s name—which is simply another way of referring to his person—will be given the honor that is due him. To be hallowed is to be seen as holy, and to be holy is to be separate. To hallow God’s name is to recognize that he is separate from us, that he is different from us. God is the Creator of all that is. He is very much involved with his creation, but he is not to be identified with his creation. There is not a little of God in all of us. There is no divine spark in the human breast. God is not one with nature. He is God, and we are not. He is exalted on high, “the blessed and only Sovereign.” That’s how our text puts it. And we are to pray that this will become known far and wide. And we are to pray for this first, before we pray for anything else. Do you see that?