READINGS: Exodus 20:1-6; Isaiah 6:1-5; Matthew 6:5-9;
We spoke last week about intimacy – that close relationship Jesus had with his Father so that he could call him “Abba” – and how the Holy Spirit works in us so that we too can say “Abba, Father”. We talked about prayer – how important it is – because relationships require communication.
You know my favourite story about communication. A couple before a divorce court – and the judge wanted to know what the problem was. She complained that he seldom told her that he loved her. “Why not” said the judge. “It seems to me you do love your wife”. “Oh I can explain that” said the old codger. “When we were married I told her that I loved her – and I said to her that if I ever changed my mind, I would let her know”.
Women need to hear these things – and men need to say them. That’s free marriage advice today.
Our relationship with God requires communication. But as we made it clear last week, it’s not all about our wants – our shopping list prayers. It is a relationship that involves communication about Him. We need to tell God how much we love Him. How we feel about Him – and praise Him.
- We are children of a Father.
- But he is also the Heavenly Holy God.
Matthew emphasizes that – probably because of his Jewish audience. That positioning of God high above us together with the next line of the prayer create the other side of the swinging pendulum – the contrast.
This is a loving intimate Father – yes – but he is a heavenly – distant – and holy God.
Remember that the first petition of the prayer is “hallowed be thy name”.
You may remember last week that passage from Isaiah where the prophet prays that God would tear open the heavens and come down. In next verse he prays that God would come down and make his name known to his enemies and the nations.
The name of God for people of the Old Testament was revered – as someone pointed out during our discussions on the Lord’s Prayer – it’s held in great esteem as holy.
In itself it was unpronounceable. Too Holy to come out of the human mouth.
That’s why to this day orthodox Judaism uses the term HASHEM for God – meaning “the name” instead of Yahweh or Jehovah, the “I am” name revealed to Moses at the burning bush. Or “Adonai” meaning Lord. (“Jehovah” of course is the result of putting the vowels for Adonai over the word YHWH – the I am name.)
So the Lord’s prayer is in line with Jewish thought. God is above all others and all else – in heaven – and his name is to be hallowed.
Like a human father, there is the contrast.
One the one side there is this love for a child – wanting the very best for them – and on the other there is this disciplinarian who holds up super high standards for the children, and draws lines in the sand – forbids things and warns of consequences. And punishes in the hope that behaviour will change.
- On the one hand our human father is the dad who says Yes and spoils us. That’s grace and love. He wants us to do well.
- On the other hand, he is the dad who says No and punishes us. That’s about consequences. Standards. Rules. Values. The family name.
The child who knows how much her dad loves her, knows how angry he will become if she makes bad decisions that damage her.
God the Father is also the Holy God of judgement who loves us but hates evil – it’s a similar contrast.
And so we are to “hallow” God’s name – to honour and revere it.
- It’s really about adoration and praise.
- To honour his name is to give him the credit for who he is and what he has done.
- To focus on God rather than all other things.
Here’s the test question: What preoccupies you when you are in thought – wrestling with the things of life?
Tim Keller suggests this: what is always on your mind – that’s usually what you adore – what you love the most.
I was listening to a Brazilian Olympic athlete last night talking about her passion for running. How she thinks about it all the time. How it’s on her mind at night when she lies awake. She came from a very poor part of Rio. This is her passion.
The big question to answer today is about your passion – Is it God?
To hallow God’s name is to treat it as sacred and ultimate. There is no other word in English. We still use a very old English word.
This is about the most important, crucial, central thing in your life.
Keller talks about the “supreme beauty” in your life. For me it would be your greatest love.
- If God is all that to you, then you will be thinking about Him and his glory in your prayer time in your inner chamber.
- And during your spare time during the day.
- And when you lie on your bed at night. Reminds me of Psalm 63.
You see it in the life of David – a man after God’s own heart. In Psalm 63 for example:
Psa 63:1 A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah. O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psa 63:2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Psa 63:3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. Psa 63:4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. Psa 63:5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
Psa 63:6 On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Psa 63:7 Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings.
- What you do in secret tells you who your God is. It was William Temple who wrote – your religion is what you do in solitude.
- The primacy of praising and honouring God frames everything we do.
- What we day-dream about also speaks about who our God is.
And this loving Father who is also Holy and just is everything to us.
- Our Father – so merciful – look how low he comes, look at his compassion and love, how he wants my best, and yearns for my happiness.
- Who art in heaven – look how high he is – look at his glory – his majesty and holiness – his power – and his wrath against evil.
Like a pendulum – it swings as much both ways – the more you see his love – the more you see his greatness!
Tim Keller also says this – listen carefully to this:
- His fatherliness makes his heavenliness non-intimidating.
- His heavenliness makes his fatherliness not just comforting but absolutely liberating – he is all powerful to keep his promises.
It puts it all into perspective: Exo 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
And then the idols – those substitutes: Exo 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. Exo 20:5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, Exo 20:6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
And then the honour of His name: Exo 20:7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
You can understand Isaiah then facing this vision of angels declaring, worshiping, honouring this holy, holy, holy God, declaring this in his prophecy:
Isa 6:5 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
His life is polluted by the rebellion of God’s people – compared to this holy God he is vile and polluted. But when you read on – he is cleansed and commissioned.
So are we. Not through a live coal but by the cross – the blood of Christ – his taking on himself as the lamb of God – our sins – and giving us the gift of righteousness and the right to be called his beloved children.
- Let’s really honour His name in our lives.
- Let’s give him the praise and glory and worship and honour that His due his wonderful name.
“Our Father, who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name!”