************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 122 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 15, 2012
Q & A 122
"Hallowed be Your Name"
At the time of Jesus it was unlawful for a Jew to speak before a certain hour of the morning. Before this hour, he couldn't greet his wife or children or neighbor. To us it this may sound unfriendly. The Jews, however, were firm believers in morning prayers. Every Jew had to start each and every day by talking with his God. And, no Jew had any business talking with his wife, children, or neighbor until this happened.
It appears to me that the Jews have the right idea though its execution can use some refinement. All too often we do things without first going to the Lord. All too often prayer is an after thought rather than a high priority.
One day, says Scripture, Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He finished, one of his disciples said to Him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples" (Lk 11:1). Jesus response?
(Mt 6:9) This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name ..."Notice, Jesus teaches not the what but the how of prayer. In other words, the Lord's Prayer is not a litany, a magic rite, that we are to mindlessly mumble. Instead, the Lord's Prayer is a guide, a road-map, showing us how to pray.
What do we see in this road-map to prayer? The Lord's Prayer has an introduction, a closing, and in-between are six petitions. The first three petitions are "Your" requests and deal with God; the next three are "our" requests and deal with man.
Do you realize that the Lord's Prayer is similar to the Ten Commandments in structure? Both the Lord's Prayer and the Decalogue have two parts. The first part of both deal with God alone. The second part of both deal with earthly matters. In the Law God speaks to us and demands that we love Him. In prayer we speak to God, but we do so because we love Him.
Usually, when we pray we begin by focusing on ourselves – our sins, our blessings, our needs. But notice, in the Lord's Prayer Jesus begins by focusing our attention on God – His name, His kingdom, His will.
I God's Holy Name
A "Hallowed be your name." In teaching us the how of prayer Jesus starts by focusing on God and His name.
What's in a name? Yearly surveys tell us the most popular boy and girl names for the year. But why are some names more popular than others? Because names carry pictures, stereotypes, and associations. Some names express glamour, others express trustworthiness, and still others are associated with beauty. I came across a survey from the middle 80s. According to this survey, people generally think "Vicky" is pretty, "John" is trustworthy, and "Agnes" is old and unattractive. According to this survey, most girls would rather date a "David" than a "Hubert" or an "Elmer." Most guys prefer an "Anne" or a "Ruth" to a "Gertrude." And, a "Dan" is a better hockey player than a "Lyman" or a "Percy."
Became names carry connotations or pictures, many people are unhappy with their name. A scholar may resent a name which makes him sound like a football hero. A man with recently acquired wealth may wish for a name that sounds aristocratic. Ruth has an aunt whose given name was "Minnie"; she hated this name because in her mind it is associated with Mickey and Minnie Mouse.
B God's name also creates a picture. God's name determines how we look at God. But God is too big and too vast and too awesome to be limited to just one name. Which is why the Bible presents all sorts of different names for God. I would like to ask everyone to open The Celebration Hymnal to number 14 (either I read it or read it responsively).
OR READ THE FOLLOWING:
1. God has proper names: El, Yahweh, Adonai, Theos (God), Kurios (Lord).
2. God has personal names: Father, Abba, Son, Jesus, Holy Spirit.
3. God has titles: Creator, Messiah/Christ, Paraclete/ Comforter.
4. God has names of essence: Light, Love, Spirit.
5. God has descriptive names: Rock, Master, Rabboni, Shepherd.
C It is clear from the Bible that every name of God is hallowed or holy. For instance, when God revealed His name to Moses from out of the burning bush, Moses was told to take off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground (Ex 3:1-6). Jacob built an altar at the place where God revealed Himself through the vision of the stairway – to show this was a holy place (Gen 28:12-17).
God considers His name to be so holy that in the Ten Commandments He included a specific command about the use or misuse of His name.
II The Meaning of the Petition
A "Hallowed be your name." Let's begin by acknowledging that we don't and that we can't hallow God's name. Nothing we do or say can add to the glory of God's name. Whether we recognize and confess it or not, God's name is holy and was holy and will always be holy. We cannot take from or add to God's holiness. God's holiness is like the brilliance of the sun – even when you don't see the sun, or when it is dark and cloudy, you know it keeps shining in all its brilliance. We cannot add so much as a candle's light to its flaming brilliance. Likewise, we can add nothing to the glory of God's name. At best, as the moon reflects the sun's brilliance so likewise can we reflect God's brilliance. At worst, as a poor mirror deflects and distorts the sun's brilliance so likewise can we deflect and distort God's brilliance.
"Hallowed be your name." Notice, we are not asking God to let us do something. Rather, we are asking God to do something. For it is God, and only God, Who can hallow His name. Well, then, why pray this petition? Because we are asking God to do something in us and to us.
"Hallowed be your name." Do you realize that of everything in heaven and earth, only man and the fallen angels fail to recognize the holiness of God's name. The angels of heaven, the martyred saints, the redeemed in heaven – they know and acknowledge that God's name is hallowed. When the stars in their courses and the sun in its orbit obediently shine – they know and acknowledge that God's name is hallowed. When the hills and the mountains, the rivers and fountains, and the deeps of the ocean proclaim him divine – they acknowledge His name is hallowed.
B "Hallowed be your name." What are we asking for in this petition? According to the Catechism, we are asking that we come to know and praise God.
Help us to really know you,
to bless, worship, and praise you
for all your works
and for all that shines forth from them:
your almighty power, wisdom, kindness,
justice, mercy, and truth
"Hallowed be your name." "Help us to really know you, to bless, worship, and praise you." Of course, we don't really know God unless we also know Jesus Christ Whom He has sent (Jn 17:3). For, it is in Jesus that we come to see and know the fullness of God. It is in Jesus that we come to know how much God loves us and cares for us. It is in Jesus that we know God's plan for us and for the world. To know God, we must know Jesus as Savior and Lord.
C "Hallowed be your name." "Help us to really know you, to bless, worship, and praise you." This is our prayer. So, what is God's answer?
Too often we are blind. And deaf. We don't see and hear God's answer. Like an ostrich, we stick our head in the sand. Like a horse, we wear blinders over our eyes.
God answers our prayer through the church's worship and ministries. Many people pray this petition but don't bother coming to church.
God answers our prayer through Creation. He displays, for all to see, His eternal power and divine nature (Rom 1:20).
God answers our prayer through the Bible. But in many homes the Bible is merely a piece of decoration on a coffee table or a book-shelf.
God answers our prayer through the Christian School. And Christian colleges and seminaries.
God answers our prayer through Christian homes in which the Bible is read and children are taught to know and fear the Lord.
God answers our prayer through Christian books and magazines. This year, for Christmas, Ruth and I gave each other a Kindle (HOLD IT UP). The last time I flew I was going to be charged $70, one way, because of all the extra weight in books I had with me – a Kindle is much lighter and cheaper. The first thing I did when I got it was download all sorts of free books from Amazon – there are hundreds of them. Then someone told me I can also download books for free from the Tulare County Library. I can even download magazines and newspapers. My Kindle has two versions of the Bible and seven different theological books and a couple of novels. Right now Ruth and I are reading "Religious Affections" by Jonathan Edwards.
"Hallowed be your name." "Help us to really know you, to bless, worship, and praise you." Every day God answers this petition. The question is, do we pay attention?
D "Hallowed be your name." What else does this petition mean? According to the Catechism,
Help us to direct all our living–
what we think, say, and do–
so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us but always honored and praised.
This makes me think of our text from Jeremiah. This time let me read it from the Revised Standard Version:
(Jer (9:23-24) Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; (24) but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the Lord.
"Hallowed be your name" means my glory rests not in me but in God. My glory rests not in wisdom, nor in might, nor in riches, but in God. Everything I think, say, and do is to be directed towards the glory of God.
"Hallowed be your name." As we think about this petition, what is the number one complaint unbelievers make about Christians and the church? That we are hypocrites. That we don't practice what we preach. In other words, that we don't glorify God. Our response? "Hallowed be your name." "Help us to direct all our living–what we think, say, and do–so that your name will never be blasphemed because of us but always honored and praised." As Jesus put it, we want people to see our good deeds and praise our Father in heaven (Mt 5:16).
"Hallowed be your name." We want God's name to be honored and praised because of us. We want people to come and know and praise God because of us. We want to lead people to God in the same way as a fragrance leads a bee to a flower. Listen to how Paul puts this in his second letter to the Corinthians:
(2 Cor 2:15) For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
I would like to end by asking you to open your Psalter Hymnal to Q & A 122 at the back. As our closing prayer, I will read the first line of the answer and together we are to say the rest of the answer ...
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