Lord’s Prayer Series – Scandalizing God’s Name

A father is shamed when his son scandalizes the family name thereby bringing the family name into disrepute. But many people who are called by the name of the God of heaven scandalize His name and bring His name into disrepute by their conduct. Unbelievers see Christians with behavior worse than their own. Therefore, the Christian religion has very little force in the world.

Throughout the Bible the number seven has special significance for God. In the Hebrew Bible the very first sentence, Genesis 1:1, has seven words. There are seven Hebrew words in the first commandment of the ten that were handed to Moses on the mount (Exodus 20:3). In the fourth commandment, there are seven commands (Exodus 20:8–10), and in the tenth commandment there are seven things mentioned that we are not to covet (Exodus 20:17). The number seven appears throughout the Bible and in the book of Revelation it is repeated significantly.

It should not be a surprise then that the Lord’s Prayer contains seven petitions. The first of these is the phrase, “Hallowed be Thy name” (Matthew 6:9). This petition comes first because reverence is the very gateway into the divine presence. Reverence is the first step in approaching God because in that way we place ourselves in a proper attitude toward Him.

We place God where He rightly belongs by exalting Him above all earthly things that can claim our loyalty. It is the person who approaches God with reverence who finds God. One cannot find his way into the audience chamber of the Most High with a flippant or irreverent attitude. When Moses was speaking to the Lord, he approached Him with humility. He humbled himself because only the meek and the humble can enter into the secret chamber of the High and Holy God.

The Bible says that Moses was the meekest man on the face of the earth. The book of Isaiah tells us that it is the meek person who is going to find God. “For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15.

When Jesus gave the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, the very first one that He gave was, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Actually, this is a reference to what is written by Isaiah the prophet in Isaiah 66:2: “ ‘For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,’ says the Lord. ‘But on this one will I look: on him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word.’ ”

It is the person who is humble and recognizes that God is Someone to be reverenced, the one who will properly approach God who will be received by Him and gain an audience with Him. We cannot properly approach God unless we recognize His holiness and His holiness is in His name. In the Bible, a person’s name and a person’s character are virtually synonymous. The wise man, Solomon, said, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches.” Proverbs 22:1.

Today when we say that somebody has a good name, we mean that the person has a good character or reputation. When Moses was called up into the mountain he wanted to know God’s name. “And he said, ‘Please, show me Your glory.’ Then He said, ‘I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ ” Exodus 33:18, 19.

And then the Lord said to Moses, “ ‘You cannot see My face: for no man shall see Me and live.’ And the Lord said, ‘… I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see my back part.’ ” Exodus 33:20–23. “Now the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.’ ” Exodus 34:5, 6.

Here the Lord proclaimed His name, “… merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and fourth generation.” Verses 6, 7.

All of these adjectives are descriptions of God. They are part of His name. Therefore they should never be used in a flippant, careless way, making an epithet or trying to make the point to somebody. When Moses heard this, he … “made haste and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshiped.” Verse 8. When the prophet Isaiah predicted when Jesus would come, he said that His name would be called Wonderful (Isaiah 9:6). The Bible contains many names of God to describe His character.

What does the name of God mean to you? We use names to distinguish one person or object from another. The mention of a person’s name always brings to mind the character or the nature of that person and causes a certain character image to be registered in our thoughts. We usually come to dislike the names of those whose characters are distasteful to us.

On the other hand, a noble character always glorifies the estimation of that name of a person who bears it. Our attitude toward any person’s name depends on our knowledge of the character to which that name is attached. God’s name is a revelation of Himself, a manifestation of who and what He really is. It stands for His matchless character. The purpose of the Scriptures is to reveal God’s character to man. This purpose was completed by the incarnation of God in human flesh through Christ.

When Jesus was on earth His disciples sometimes became impatient with Him. The night before He was betrayed, the day before He was crucified Jesus told them that they should not be troubled; He was going to go away but He was going to prepare a place for them. Then He would come back and receive them to Himself. He told them, “Where I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” John 14:4–6. And then Jesus told them that they did not really know Who He was. He said, “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Verse 7.

When He said that, Philip said, “ ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, “Show us the Father?” Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.’ ” Verses 8–11.

Notice, when Jesus came into the world, by His life and also by His death, by His teaching and by His miracles, He revealed the character of the Father to all the inhabitants on this fallen planet. He made the name of God complete. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name.” Philippians 2:9.

The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name,” is inseparably connected with the invocation, the address, because we cannot hallow God’s name unless we are His sons and He is our Father. Holiness in man can only be attained through a union of humanity with divinity. When we understand that and can truly call God our Father, then we begin to understand the unfathomable love of God in making us His sons through the death of His Son. And then we can cry, as the apostle Paul said, “Abba, Father.”

The chief delight of a true son is to honor and magnify His Father’s name that he also bears. The hallowing of the name of God must include the holiness of our own characters.

If we are born again Christians, we are members of His family and we bear His name. So our first desire should be to protect His name by conduct that is appropriate or fitting for a son or daughter of God.

God’s name, His family name, should never be polluted by sin and folly. Just as the delight of an earthly father centers in the character development of his children, so God delights in the character development of His children and He is glorified by His children when they reflect His image. When Jesus was facing the great trial at the end of His life in Gethsemane and Calvary, He said to His Father, “ ‘Father, glorify Your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.’ ” John 12:28.

God’s name was glorified by the life of Christ, by His miracles, and by His teaching and it was going to be glorified again by His death. The love of the deity for a lost world in rebellion was demonstrated, as Paul says, “When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son.” Romans 5:10.

It is not unusual today for the name of God to be mentioned maybe 15 or 20 times in a prayer. But this practice has a tendency to bring the name of God down to the level of common names and should therefore be discarded. The third commandment (Exodus 20:7) forbids the taking of false oaths and common swearing. So, it also forbids our using the name of God in a light and careless manner without regard to its profound significance.

If we mention God’s name thoughtlessly or irreverently in common conversation, or frequently repeat His name, we make Him altogether one like ourselves and God rebukes this kind of behavior. Notice what the Lord said about it in Psalm 50:21. “These things you have done, and I kept silent; you thought that I was altogether like you; but I will rebuke you, and set them in order before your eyes.”

We dishonor Him if we use His name in a light or flippant manner or repeat it many, many times. If we are born again Christians, by virtue of the new birth of the Holy Spirit, we have a right to call God our Father. It is also our privilege to bear His name, His image. If you take upon yourself the name Christian, then you are bearing the name of Christ. This is an exalted privilege. In all respectable families whose members are proud of their family name, they make every possible effort to defend and protect it. The family name of God, His family name, should stand for the character of those who profess to serve Him. A good reputation is taken in vain if one brings a disgrace upon the name of his family by unbecoming conduct.

A professed Christian who is not like Christ, whose conduct is ungodly, takes God’s name in vain and is guilty of breaking the third commandment. The children of Israel were warned about this. “Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.’ And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:2, 12.

The apostle James wrote of rich people who despise and oppress the poor. “Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?” James 2:7. Thus we see that a name has significance only when applied to a person’s character. If your character is out of harmony with your name, your name is a falsehood or a lie.

To hallow God’s name, the person who prays the Lord’s Prayer must be a revelation of His character, a reflection of His image. The Bible describes a people who are alive when the Lord returns. They have God’s name, His character, in their minds. “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father’s name written on their foreheads.” Revelation 14:1.

Only those who reach this standard of character, with their Father’s name, His character, in them, will receive the seal of God. The apostle Paul describes the condition this way. He says, “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from all iniquity.’ ” II Timothy 2:19.

If you have taken the name of Christ and call yourself a Christian, the Bible says you are to depart from all iniquity. Otherwise, your name is deceptive. You are claiming a name that does not really belong to you. What did it mean in ancient times, recorded in II Chronicles 6, when the Lord declared that His name was in the sanctuary?

This has reference to the fact that the Ark of the Covenant containing God’s law was located in the sanctuary. God’s law is a transcript of His character. Therefore, it is a manifestation of His name, a revelation of His nature. A word study in the Bible will find that every characteristic of God that is revealed is also a characteristic of His law.

The Bible says that God is true. It also says that His law is true. God is holy and His law is also holy. God is righteous and His law is righteous. In fact, concerning the law it says it converts the soul. So, the law of God is a description, a transcription of His character.

In the New Covenant, the law of God is written upon the fleshly tables of the heart so that we may do by nature the things contained in the law. (See II Corinthians 3:3; Romans 2:14.)

Those who have this experience will have the Father’s name written in their foreheads. It is evident then that only born-again Christians can call God their Father and truly offer this petition. Only born-again Christians can really say, “Hallowed be Thy name.” God’s name is hallowed when those who are called by His name reveal His character in the world. A person who has an unconsecrated heart has no right to pray this prayer, for it belongs to His sons and daughters. We must join the family of God through a spiritual birth before it becomes our privilege to pray this prayer.

Friend, has your life been changed? Have you received the Holy Spirit? Have you been born again? When you commit your life to Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour, when you acknowledge Him as your Lord and Saviour and choose to follow Him and obey Him in all things, then the promise is that you will receive the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will give you a new heart, a new mind and a new character. (See Romans 8.)

When you pray and say, “Hallowed be Thy name,” you ask that it may be hallowed in this world, hallowed in you, through you. God has acknowledged you before men and angels as His child if you have accepted Jesus as your Lord and Saviour and been born again. We need to pray that we might do no dishonor to the worthy name by which we are called.

God sends His children into the world as His representatives. In every act of life, we are to make manifest the name of God. This petition, this prayer, calls upon Christians to possess His character.

(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church of Free Seventh-day Adventists in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.