Every Day Has His Name on It
Pick any blade of grass and turn it over. It should say, "Made by God." At the bottom of every sunset you should be able to see the words "Brought to you by God." Even though this world is polluted, fallen, a horrible disfigurement of what God meant it to be, it still belongs to God. It still has His name on it. And the very first thing we ask God the Father in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray is what? "Hallowed be Thy name."
What a funny petition? What is so important about the name of God? The name of God according to the Old Testament is a strong tower; it's a defense for God's people. The name of God endures forever and is to be forever praised. His name alone is excellent. The Lord's name is to be blessed, praised, thanked, and glorified. Virtually every single Sunday in who do we confess our help to be? Not in the power, might, wisdom of the Lord but "in the name of the Lord." Jesus is the One who came "in the name of the Lord." On the night He was betrayed, Jesus in praying to the Father said that He manifested, kept the disciples in, and declared unto them what? God's name. And what does it mean to be in heaven according to Revelation 22? "They will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads."
God's name is very important. How else can you know God? You do not know God by thinking about God, by speculating about God, but by naming God. Yet, you can't do that unless He first tells you His name. Haven't you ever had trouble naming something? You knew it had a particular name. You fumbled around for the name in your mind. You weren't satisfied calling it a "thing-ama-jig." It wasn't enough to refer to it as "that" or "it." God has a name and we can't come to Him, call on Him, or praise Him apart from that name.
Jesus directs us first to pray "hallowed be Thy name" because God's name is all important. God saves us by means of putting His name on us. By Baptism, He puts His name on our heart and head. In His Name, and only in His name, He forgives us our sins. You are neither forgiven nor saved because you think are, feel you are, or hope you are. You are forgiven and saved only in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Revelation 14 says the only ones saved in the end are those having God's name written on their foreheads.
God's name is holy in itself. We can't make God's name unholy, but we can misuse His holy name. And we do, don't we? We misuse God's holy name when we use it frivolously as an exclamation. It is the most serious of sins, far more serious than murder, adultery, or stealing to say the simple interjection, "O my God!" Yet it is said all of the time even by people who bear the name of God!
Would you tolerate people using your name so casually? Why not? Because you couldn't stand it. You would constantly be hearing your name, but no one was really calling on you, praising you, or wanting you. You don't use an ordinary person's name frivolously if you believe they can hear you. God not only hears every word you utter with your lips but every word you think. Yet, we use His name as an expression of surprise or joy or even as a meaningless sound as if God was a deaf, lifeless idol.
God's name is everything that God reveals about Himself. Psalm 138 says God has magnified His Word above His name. When people believe or teach something that God does not say in His Word, they are putting God's name on what doesn't belong to Him. You don't tolerate that with your name, do you? If someone put your name on reports, statements, checks that were not yours, you would scream bloody murder; you would demand the police do something. Yet, it is no big deal to you when people in God's name say things that God has never said. They put God's name on what does not belong to Him. You and I do the same thing when we believe things in God's name that God has never said.
Of course, not just false teaching, and believing defiles God's name, so does false living. God has put His name on us in Baptism. We are forgiven in His name. In His name we eat and drink the Body and Blood of His Son. After telling my father about some escapade in the Army, my dad said, "Remember that's my name you're carrying around." That brought me up short. It wasn't just or even primarily my first name that I could be mudding up; it was mainly my last name which was his and I only had by him giving it to me. When we who are marked by the name of God live lives contrary to God's Word, we don't just bring shame to our confession of faith, we bring shame to the God we believe in, shame to the God who has saved us by giving us His name.
But sadly, God's name isn't that big of a deal to us. That's why we have so little zeal to pray "hallowed be Thy name." Our name means more to us than God's. In fact, we will give up God's name to protect our own. We don't want to be called unloving or judgmental, so we refuse to stand by God's name when He judges and condemns what the world considers permissible. We don't think it that big of a deal when people depart from God's Word, though we don't tolerate our kids departing from ours.
The fact that our lives are contrary to God's name doesn't bother us because God's name isn't that important to us. We expect God to tolerate abuses of His name that we don't even think Santa should. Actor Billy Bob Thornton made a movie where Santa was a cheat, a crook, and not nice to kids. O how people protested. How dare Hollywood drag the good name of Santa through the mud by depicting him as such a monster. Yes, we have more respect for our stories than we do our faith; more respect for Father Christmas than for God the Father; more concern for the guy in the red suit that brings us presents than for the God who brings us salvation.
Every day has God's name on it. Every aspect of every day of our lives belongs to God. Yes, yes, I know the world cares nothing for this. I know the world is content with some general belief in a god and living as best one can under commandments 4-10. But the true God is concerned with perfection, and He is concerned with saving us. Now if you want a real Christmas miracle, you think about that for a moment. How can God who demands perfection save us who are grossly imperfect? He does this by bringing us to pray, "Hallowed be Thy name."
"'Hallowed be Thy name' Father. Your name is kept holy when I acknowledge that I am and always will be a sinner before you. Nothing I have ever done, said, or thought has been holy. It has always been ruined by sin. I cannot be holy enough to stand in your presence, let alone ask you anything. But you have told me to stop looking at my unworthiness and instead to look to the worthiness of your only beloved Son, Jesus. He lived in my flesh and blood, in my fallen, polluted world, yet He never sinned, not in deeds, not in words, not even in thoughts. Daily He hallowed your name. He didn't use it frivolously. He always taught it correctly, and always lived according to it. Only to Jesus can I point and say there is Someone who hallowed your name.
"But if your name was going to be kept holy, Your promise to punish sins had to be kept too. Punishing me for all eternity wouldn't be enough to satisfy your wrath against my sins. Only pure, holy, unblemished things can be pleasing offerings to the holy God. I am none of those things. I am all impurity, unholiness, and blemishes. If your name was going to be kept holy, sins against your holy word would have to be paid for by One who is pure, holy, and unblemished. Therefore, Your name was hallowed in Jesus bearing my sins, in Jesus suffering for every last one of them, in Jesus bearing my guilt and the punishments it deserves. In His crown of thorns, in His whippings, in His nailing, in His anguished cries, Your name was being hallowed.
"So, in Jesus, covered by Jesus, washed by Jesus, forgiven by Jesus, fed by Jesus, I can pray ahallowed by Thy name.' Yes, Lord even if it means my name is sullied, my name is humbled, my name is cast out as wretched, so be it; only let Thy name be holy. Even if it means my plans are frustrated, my flesh is angered, my thoughts are shown to be foolish, so be it. Only let Thy name be hallowed. Cast down, O Father, any and all, even myself, who teach or live contrary to your holy name.
"Let me, O Lord, chant with the seraphim and the 4 living beings around Your throne, aholy, holy, holy.' Whatever in my believing, teaching, or living that is contrary to Your holiness forgive it for Jesus' sake and then root it out of my life. May your holy name sanctify everything in my life be it hardship, pain, sorrow, even death so that it may be to the praise and glory of Your holy name and my eternal wellbeing. Make me see every blade of grass, every sunset, every drop of rain, everything in all creation including what might seem evil, bad, and difficult to me as having Your name on it and as being a gift from You to me.
In life, in death may Your name O most gracious Father be what comes to my lips certain that for Jesus' sake I can say it and You will hear it. When I say as my dear Savior did, "Father glorify Your name," may I hear You say as He did, aI have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.' And if that means I go to the cross as He did, may your holy name be last on my lips as it was on His certain that into your hands I may joyfully commend my spirit." Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Midweek Advent III (20051214); First Petition Lord's Prayer