SERMON: Hallowed Be Thy Name
A Message from Deuteronomy 4.
1 Now, Israel, hear the decrees and laws I am about to teach you. Follow them so that you may live and may go in and take possession of the land the Lord, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. 2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.
6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” 7 What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?
9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.
"What in the World does Hallowed Mean?"
I think that's a good question. In today's world, it's just not an adjective we use all that much. We might call someone cool, awesome, or neato.(Or maybe we don’t and I need to update my hip vocabulary.) Hallowed is just not a word that you hear all that much.
Hallowed means "honor as holy." You might do this at your high school football field. You call it “hallowed grounds” or maybe the University library at night. You are quiet because it is “hallowed.”
Holy holds the idea of clean, pure, apart from sin. In other words, hallowed means to make something, "completely unlike anything you've ever seen or heard."
No wonder we don't use it with each other. We are all like one another. We're sinful. We've heard that before.
So whose name are we praying to be hallowed? It isn't yours. It isn't mine.
It's our Heavenly Father's.
1. What Do I Need to Do to Honor God’s Name as Holy?
In the first five books of the Bible, there's a lot of time spent on the concept of "holiness." The holy LORD wants his Israelite people to be holy. Leviticus 19:2 sums it up. It says, "Be holy because I the LORD your God am holy." This command is in the midst of chapter after chapter of ceremonies, practices, and moral laws that, when kept, would have them treat God’s name as holy.
We could, then, spend time reading those 40 some chapters in order to get a better sense of holiness. But, you probably want to get back to your tasks at hand toady. Thankfully God gave his people (and us) a great summary of these chapters in Deuteronomy 4. He says, "Do not add to what I have commanded you and do not subtract from it. But keep the commands of the LORD, your God, that I have given you."
In other words, keeping God’s name holy involves listening to and doing all that God has to say.
This makes sense.
If you wanted to become a firefighter, you would learn from a firefighter. If you wanted to learn to be a dentist, you would be an intern to a dentist. If you wanted to learn to crochet, you’d learn from your grandma. You’d go to the expert to learn how to do something.
If we want to learn how to be holy and do holy things, we have to go to the expert—God himself.
Then, listening to God and doing what he says is holy. But we need to be careful. There are certain pitfalls to watch out for.
The first is this: Don't add to God's Word.
Teenagers are good at embellishing. They use this special skill especially when it comes to proving that their parents are "awful." One might say, "My dad is so mean that I'm pretty much grounded for life." What dad actually said maybe have been quite different. It may have been more along the lines of, "You can't go to the Justin Bieber concert this weekend."
Why does the teenager change her dad's words in the first place? Because she wants people to think about her dad as this totally unreasonable, wrath filled, tyrant. If she told the facts, she's not sure it would happen. So, she "adds to" her Father's comments in order to make him look much worse than he really is.
This is what God is warning us of first of all. Don't add to my commands. Yet, we do it, because we think that somehow we'll be making God more holy.
This is what the Jewish rabbis had done by the time of Jesus. They followed and preached Old Testament laws to be sure, but they had also developed an entire book of extra laws and practices that “improved upon” those Old Testament laws of God. This book—called the Talmud is still in use to this day.
Of course, Christians aren’t immune to this. A certain church body is great at adding to God’s Word. They tell their pastors not to get married, because they think that this makes them holier. They have their parishioners say prayers a certain number of time after each sin they commit. They encourage people to have religious statues around them while they pray, because these statues will somehow make their prayers holier.
The truth is: God never commands any of that stuff.
Do you ever catch yourself doing that? Do you find yourself thinking that by saying a prayer with your hands folded around a cross with beads on it that you are suddenly making that prayer holier? Do you tell people with pride, “I never ever have an alcoholic beverage!” as if that was a commandment? Do you ever have people look at your office cubicle at work in hopes that they will realize how holy you are because you have a cross as your screen saver, your mouse pad, and in five or six picture frames around your desk? Feeling extra holy from your own added laws?
It is really a crazy concept: Unholy human beings attempting to make God holier. That's like me trying to tell Lebron James how to dribble the basketball between his legs. He's the expert, why does he need my help?
God's the expert on holiness, why does he need our help?
The second thing God warns us of probably a lot more common among us. Back in verse 4 God says, "Do not subtract from my Law."
If you saw a speed limit sign that said, “55 MPH.” What does it mean to you? Make sure you drive 65? Don’t go faster than 70? Go 55 if police are present?
Americans have collectively changed the meaning of speed limit signs. There might be certain areas this isn't true like school zones and whenever Raleigh's finest is present, but in general we've subtracted from these signs. We make them mean less than they do because driving the speed limit can be hard. It requires attention, patience, and focus. Something we don't always have. So, we subtract from this law and make it easier to attain to.
Don't we do the same thing with God's Law? "It says, 'don't lust', but we say, “When I'm looking at those lingerie models, they aren't without any clothing. So it's not really lust. At least, if I keep it under 15 minutes." God says, “Don’t gossip,” but we say, “That's hard. He must have meant 'don't gossip, unless its really juicy, then go ahead.'" God says, “'respect the government,” but we says, “God probably meant that only if I like the government." "God says, "don't hate,” but we say, “that means don't hate people who don't deserve it. Unfortunately, I only know people who deserve it, so I'll go right on hating." And talk about a popular one, God says, “homosexuality is a sin,” we say, “I don’t want to be a bigot, so I’ll just cover it in white out. (All ten plus times it says so.)”
It's like we make God's Word into the Golden Corral. "I'll have some of the "don't murder", sure, but "divorce being a sin," has always left a bad taste in my mouth. I won't get any of that. I think I'll put a smidgen of "love your neighbor" on the corner of my plate, but not too much-- too much makes me sick. I'll wash it down with a glass of "only believers in Jesus go to heaven," but that's too bitter to share with my friends, so I'll make sure and water it down first."
Listen to the LORD again, he says, " Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you."
That means in order to keep God's name holy, we need to listen to everything that he says… all the time.
It’s because you are. And in the present of the All Holy God, how else could we feel?
Yet listen to what our Holy God did to make us holy. He tells us in Ephesians 5:25, “Christ loved the church,” and here church doesn’t refer to a building, but to people. “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Think about that. Christ is God. God is holy. Christ was holy. Yet He gave himself up for us!
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy.”
This is why Jesus died. Because you and I are unholy. Because all of us have added to and subtracted from God’s Word in our thoughts, words, and actions. God, who was holy, died to make us holy, because we could not do this by ourselves!
“Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy washing her with water and the Word.”
This is what Baptism is. It’s God’s eternal promises that in the waters of baptism the Holy Spirit seals us as holy thanks to the work of Jesus Christ our Lord. He washes us of our impurities. He makes us clean. He forgives you all of your sins!
2. Why Honor God’s Name Holy?
If we can’t do it on our own, if we don’t need to do it to earn heaven, why then do we make God’s name holy by our words and actions?
Take a look at the next part of Deuteronomy. Beginning at verse 5, "See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the Lord my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. 6 Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”
In other words, Moses is telling the people to "Live by God's Word so that they you will get noticed by the rest of the world."
This was so true at the time of Israel. The other nations worshipped images of stone. The Israelites worshipped a God they couldn't see. The other nations encouraged sexual immorality as a way to get closer to their gods. The Israelite nation reserved this special act for marriage. The other nations yearned for greed and power. The Israelites offered the first fruits of their harvest to the LORD.
But why did they do this? Was it to draw attention to themselves? Why do we listen to God's Word? Is it to draw attention to ourselves?
That's not the case. Listen to what they have to say about the Israelites, 7 "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him? 8 And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?"
Did you catch that? The Israelites lived the way they did so people would pay attention to them and in turn they would see God!
It's like Coach K. Duke's basketball teams usually play very well. That's a reflection on the players, to a certain extent, but when year after year, player after player, team after team plays as well as Duke does, it reflects on the coach.
When believer after believer, church after church, Christian after Christian follows God's Word, it reflects, not on us, but on God!
This is why we do it. To show people God.
Don't think this is to make ourselves appear better than others. It's not "I'm a great Christian" so much as it is "Christ is great!"
First, we show them God's holiness. As Moses says it, "Is there any nation so great to have such righteous decrees?" When we teach God's holiness as it is taught in the Bible, that becomes clear to people.
Because no one else considers holiness as cut and dry as God. No lust ever. No hate ever. No coveting ever. Don't ever think anything else is more important than God ...ever. Not once. Never.
When people see God's holiness, they learn what we were reminded of early in this message. “We are not holy! Not at all. We need a Savior!”
That’s the second thing we want to show people, that God is merciful.
Moses said, "What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to him?” Think about that. The Israelites were a sinful people. God told them to be holy, but if you open up a page in the Old Testament, chances are you'll come across some sinful things that people did.
Yet, God was with them. He led them across the Red Sea. He protected them in the desert. He heard their every plea. He did it because of his mercy.
God has done it for us as well and the message we have for others is that God did it for them too! In Jesus, with his death on the cross, God was merciful to us. He punished his Son for the sins that they committed. Through faith in him, they too will be saved!
*This is what we mean by "hallowing God's name." We want to teach and act upon all of God’s Word in order to show people God’s holiness and his mercy.
III. How Can We Pull this Off?
Moses told the Israelites, "9 Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live."
How do you stop yourself from forgetting?
Do you remember the order of the presidents of the United States of America?
I did at one point. Got an A+. Now...I just remember that Millard Polks Fillmore. Otherwise, I draw a lot of blanks.
Why? I didn't keep studying it. The same is true with God's Word. If you don't study it, you will forget it. It will leave your heart. Consequently, if you don't forget God's Word, then there is no way you will live it.
This is why God encourages us to read his Bible! Make a plan and get this done immediately. It’s why Bible study exists. Join one! It’s why church happens each week. See you there!
Secondly, we want to teach this to our kids. Moses said just that to the Israelites, "Teach them to your children and to their children after them."
Because, guess what? They need you to tell it to them.
Don't come up with this idea that someday, somehow they'll learn on their own. That's foolish.
Instead, teach them God's Word. Bring them to Sunday School. Review the Sunday School lesson with them during the week. Pick up a devotional. If you need help finding the right one, ask me...I'll be glad to do it!
Finally, you might be realizing that this is all extremely difficult. You'd be right. How can an unholy people begin to understand the holiness of God and then put that into practice in day to day life?
You're going to need help. May I suggest that you call on the expert?
It's what we pray in the Lord's Prayer: "Hallowed be Thy Name." It’s really quite cyclical. We are asking God for help.
Here’s the progression of thought: “O Holy God! We are not holy. We see that when we compare ourselves to you. Yet, in our baptism and because of Jesus, you have made us holy in your sight. Now we ask you to help us make your name holy in the world. Again, we can’t do that on our own. We need you to send your Holy Spirit to work in our hearts a holy understanding, teaching, and acting upon of your Word.”
In other words, “God make your Name Holy!”
May this holy God strengthen you to make his name holy that more might be brought into your holiness. Hallowed be Thy Name O Lord. Hallowed be Thy Name. Amen.