Hallowed Be God's Name
Psalm 103:1-13 (ESV) Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
The First Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name,” sounds obscure to our modern ears, but it simply means, “Dear Father in heaven, let Your name be hallowed—let Your name be kept holy.” We can’t make God’s name holy by our prayer; it’s already holy in itself, as we pray in Psalm 103, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His holy name!” So in the Lord’s Prayer we are asking that God would cause us here on earth to keep His holy name holy.
On the other hand, it is possible for us to treat His name as unholy, so we are praying that He would prevent His name from being profaned or defiled among us. God’s name is holy in itself, but when it is misused by people, it’s like taking a beautiful diamond ring and covering it with mud; the diamond is still precious, but its beauty and value cannot be seen by others because it is covered by the profane mud.
God’s name is how He has revealed Himself to us, and how He wants us to call upon Him, so He wants His good and holy name to be used rightly. A name used to mean something more than it does today. You were raised to keep your family name “sacred.” You realized that when you were out in public, you were representing your family in the eyes of the world. If you did something to disgrace your family, you would be dragging down the family’s good name; your poor behavior would profane or defile your family name and bring shame to your parents.
But today’s cultural heroes—actors, athletes, and musicians—behave shamefully in public with no regard for their family names (if they even have chosen to retain their surnames!). In our fragmented and decaying society, many people today don’t care about preserving the good reputation of their family name since preserving a good name today doesn’t count for much. But there isn’t anything new under the sun, since God’s people in Israel also failed again and again to keep His name holy as they chased after false gods.
But in the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, God vindicated the holiness of His name and earned forgiveness of sins for the entire world. Holy and innocent Jesus, who had done nothing in His life to dishonor God’s name but instead had hallowed His Father’s name at every moment, was crucified like a murderous, unholy criminal. Jesus came to redeem us from all our sins, all of the times Israel and all of us poor, miserable sinners have treated God’s name as if it were insignificant; all of the times we have ignored God’s Word and run His name through the dirt. The blood of Jesus was shed to cover all those sins.
In Baptism, Jesus takes the name of God and puts it upon us to claim us as His own. The name of God conveys His presence, and when each of us is baptized “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the Holy Trinity comes and makes His dwelling with each of us. Those who are baptized in Christ’s holy name and believe in Him should never doubt that God is with them every step of the way, constantly being gracious, daily and richly forgiving sins, and constantly calling us back to Himself.
Enlightened by the Gospel, we now have a fresh understanding of the importance of us having God’s name upon us, and our need to keep God’s name holy. According to the First Petition, our greatest concern in life should be praying that God’s name be kept holy; the most important goal of our life should be living in a way that glorifies the name of our Lord and God.
As faithful children of God, our business is to hallow God’s name by making sure that His doctrine is our doctrine, and that our lives mirror His will by obeying His commandments. As children of God wanting to honor our Father, we preserve God’s name from being shamed when we reject false doctrine and flee from sinful living. We confess the holiness of God’s name to the world when we only teach the proper doctrines of Holy Scripture and order our lives according to the Ten Commandments. May God grant this to us for the sake of Jesus Christ!
Prayer (LSB 766):
1. Our Father, who from heav’n above
Bids all of us to live in love
As members of one family
And pray to You in unity,
Teach us no thoughtless words to say
But from our inmost hearts to pray.
2. Your name be hallowed. Help us, Lord,
In purity to keep Your Word,
That to the glory of Your name
We walk before You free from blame.
Let no false teaching us pervert;
All poor deluded souls convert.
9. Amen, that is, so shall it be.
Make strong our faith in You, that we
May doubt not but with trust believe
That what we ask we shall receive.
Thus in Your name and at Your Word
We say, “Amen, O hear us, Lord!”