Hallowed Be Thy Name
(Honoring God’s Name--Part 2)
Dr. Roger W. Thomas, Preaching Minister
First Christian Church, Vandalia, MO
We are in the midst of a study of the Lord’s Prayer and the principles that we can learn about our praying from the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples to pray. Tonight we are looking again at the very first petition of the prayer—“Hallowed be thy name.” It is significant that the very first thing we are told to pray about is God’s name. At the top of our prayer list stands a concern for the name and glory of God.
I proposed in the beginning of our study that the Old Testament Malachi provides a good commentary on the meaning of this petition. At the end of the Old Testament, Malachi took the people of God to task for not “hallowing God’s Name.” In fact, this concern for God’s name is a central theme that runs throughout the book. Consider all the places where this concept surfaces in the book:
(Mal 1:6 NIV) "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?" says the LORD Almighty. "It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. "But you ask, ’How have we shown contempt for your name?’ . . . (Mal 1:11 NIV) My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun. In every place incense and pure offerings will be brought to my name, because my name will be great among the nations," says the LORD Almighty. . . . (Mal 1:14 NIV) "Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king," says the LORD Almighty, "and my name is to be feared among the nations. . . . (Mal 2:2 NIV) If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name," says the LORD Almighty, "I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me. . . . (Mal 2:5 NIV) "My covenant was with him, a covenant of life and peace, and I gave them to him; this called for reverence and he revered me and stood in awe of my name. . . . (Mal 3:16 NIV) Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. . . . (Mal 4:2 NIV) But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.
In each chapter of Malachi, the prophet challenges the people of God, especially the priests, for failing to show proper regard for God’s name. They failed to hallow his name in four different ways. Those four areas instructive for our lives as well. The more concerned we are about the issues connected with these matters, the more we are ready to truly pray, “Hallowed Be Thy Name.”
The first area was worship. The prophet warned the priests of the dangers of their practice of approaching worship as it were a matter of convenience and seeking the easiest way out. They had turned the worship of a holy God into something that was trivial. Our manner of worship may have changed from the Old Testament sacrifices, but this challenge remains the same. Worship is not primarily about us, what we want, what we like, or what we can get out of it. Worship is about honoring God’s name. It is about asking what does God want out of this?
Honor God’s Name is also affected by our words. Malachi challenges the priests (2:7-9) to use their tongues to bring honor to God’s Name and not cause others to disrespect the God they claim to represent. The same tongue with which we pray “Hallowed be thy name” dare not speak in such a way that God’s Name is dishonored. The Third Commandment warns of this same danger.
Malachi links God’s Name to two other areas of life. Both can be hot button issues for the modern church. For that reason alone, we need to listen closely to what Malachi taught 2400 years ago. To pray, truly pray, “Hallowed be thy name” requires taking a close look at our marriages and our giving.
In the last half of chapter 2, the prophet moves from preaching to meddling. It is one thing to speak in generalities about worship and honest talk, but many moderns are likely to react the same way the Israelites did to the prophets when the messages starts getting too close to home. “My marriage and my pocketbook is none of your business,” we are likely to be told. To which, Malachi would likely say, “But I thought we were praying about ‘Hallowing God’s Name.” You can’t do that and tell God “off limits” to these two critical areas of life.
Listen to Malachi’s words on marriage. (Mal 2:10-17 NIV) Have we not all one Father ? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another? Judah has broken faith. A detestable thing has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem: Judah has desecrated the sanctuary the LORD loves, by marrying the daughter of a foreign god.
How did Israel dishonor God’s name? By claiming that Jehovah was Lord and then ignoring his instructions regarding marriage outside of the faith. That was no small matter then or now. Especially in a context where a marriage partner insisted on introducing false gods and idols into the home, God could not be honored in such a marriage. That is no less true in the life of a modern believer who wants to become a life partner with some one who does not share one’s faith in Christ or believe that it is important. To go through the charade of a Christian marriage in such a context would be to dishonor God’s name.
More and more, we tend to view marriage and weddings as a secular matter. More than once I have heard folk act as if they had a right to be married in a church if they wanted and the church had not right to tell them how the wedding ought to be conducted and certainly no right to tell anyone who they could or could not marry. I suspect some of us in this room tend to think that way. This is clear evidence that secular thinking has replaced biblical thinking in many of our lives. In a Christian wedding, the name of God is invoked. His blessing is called for. It is said clearly that what is being done is in recognition of his word and the fact that he joins couples in holy matrimony. Think how contradictory it is to say that and then proceed in a manner that totally ignores the authority of God. If we mean what we pray when we pray “Hallowed be thy name,” then we dare not allow that thinking to reign. Why should one want to have a Christian wedding that invokes the name if God if one is not willing to take God’s Word into consideration in marrying? I think that is a good question.
But Malachi is not finished. “ Another thing you do: You flood the Lord’s altar with tears. You weep and wail because he no longer pays attention to your offerings or accepts them with pleasure from your hands. You ask, "Why?" It is because the LORD is acting as the witness between you and the wife of your youth, because you have broken faith with her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant. Has not the LORD made them one? In flesh and spirit they are his. And why one? Because he was seeking godly offspring. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith with the wife of your youth. "I hate divorce," says the LORD God of Israel, "and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment," says the LORD Almighty. So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.
Make no mistake about it—divorce happens. Some times nothing can be done to prevent it. But it is seldom, if ever, good. Almost all of the time, divorce creates more new problems than solutions for old ones. Followers of Jesus must be kind and gracious toward the divorced. Forgiveness and fresh starts always in order for those who truly want to walk in God’s ways. But we cannot claim to rightly pray, “hallowed by thy name” and take lightly God’s Word about the sanctity and permanence of marriage. Our praying and our marriages are connected.
This truth helps explain a puzzling piece of scripture in 1 Peter 3. After having called wives to live pious, submissive lives, the Apostle challenges husbands to treat their wives with respect and consideration. In a world where husbands had legal and physical control over their spouses, Peter calls for Christian men to live on a higher plane than what their society expected. They were to answer to God not just the cultural norms that surrounded them. Then Peter offers a surprising reason— “so that nothing will hinder your prayers (1 Pet. 3:7). How we honor God in our marriages and families does have an affect how we pray “hallowed be thy name.”
Next, Malachi really gets nosey and brings up the subject of giving. Let me offer a side comment here. I have not spoken yet on Christian stewardship. I will—that’s a promise! I must because it is a clear and certain part of God’s word. Many people act as if money talk was unspiritual. Or that a follower of Jesus should be free to do with his money whatever he wants. Both are false. Money is extremely spiritual.
Your money and what you do with it is a reflection of your deepest love and priorities. That is why Jesus taught us that where our treasure is there our hearts will be also. Of course you can do whatever you want with your money. But you can’t do just anything with your money and live a consistent Christian life. If someone says, my money is mine and I am not about to give it to anyone else, I say that person has bigger problem than money. They have a heart problem and a faith problem. No one, but no one, in whom the Spirit of God resides can consistently display such an attitude. The Spirit always produces humility, compassion, and generosity.
Back to Malachi. (Mal 3:6-14 NIV) "I the LORD do not change. So you, O descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed. Ever since the time of your forefathers you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. "But you ask, ’How are we to return?’ "Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me. "But you ask, ’How do we rob you?’ "In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse--the whole nation of you--because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not cast their fruit," says the LORD Almighty. "Then all the nations will call you blessed, for yours will be a delightful land," says the LORD Almighty. "You have said harsh things against me," says the LORD. "Yet you ask, ’What have we said against you?’ "You have said, ’It is futile to serve God. What did we gain by carrying out his requirements and going about like mourners before the LORD Almighty?”
The prophet clearly connects faith and generosity with the things of God. He promises blessings for those who give away what God has put in their hands. Secular minded people don’t understand the first principles about this concept. Hopefully those who pray, “hallowed be thy name” do—not just in word but also in practice.
We will return to this topic on another day. Let’s close our discussion of giving tonight with a quote from Christian pollster George Barna. In his new book Boiling Point, he has this observation on stewardship in the American church:
Compared to people from other nations of the world, Americans are generous, donating more than $120 billion every year to the million-plus charities and churches in the country. The greatest share of that money‹almost half‹goes to religious organizations, especially churches. Most people get into the act: More than 8 out of 10 adults gave away money last year and two-thirds of all adults donated to a church or religious center during the year.
But the generosity and sense of commitment is not universal. About one-third of all adults‹and 1 out of every 6 born-again Christians‹gave no money to a church last year. In spite of the widespread teaching and emphasis upon tithing, only 8 percent of born-again Christians tithed their income to churches last year. The median donation by Christians to their churches was approximately $1,000 per household, or a bit less than 3 percent of their gross household income. Interestingly, the smaller the church, the less money the typical individual donates.
But stewardship is not simply about tithing or giving money on a regular and generous basis. It is about a mind-set or lifestyle as much as anything. Again, research confirms that American believers are looking for simple formulas and freedom from sacrifice. Often, if the church campus looks good and the church budget is being met, then believers feel they have accomplished all they need to with the resources God has entrusted to them.
Conclusion: So far this discussion has tended largely toward the negative—as was the prophet’s words. But I must end with a note of promise as did Malachi. God can and will be honored by his people who choose to walk by faith. When that happens, great blessing results. It always does.
Listen to how the last chapter of Malachi begins: (Mal 4 NIV) "Surely the day is coming; it will burn like a furnace. All the arrogant and every evildoer will be stubble, and that day that is coming will set them on fire," says the LORD Almighty. "Not a root or a branch will be left to them. But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall.”
***Dr. Roger W. Thomas is the preaching minister at First Christian Church, 205 W. Park St., Vandalia, MO 63382 and an adjunct professor of Bible and Preaching at Central Christian College, 911 E. Urbandale, Moberly, MO. He is a graduate of Lincoln Christian College (BA) and Lincoln Christian Seminary (MA, MDiv), and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (DMin).