We’ve been going through The Lord’s Prayer lately and I got stuck on the first line: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,” (Matthew 6:9). Which means I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea lately and what exactly the idea behind this means.

Alongside the idea of what it means to “fear the Lord” is respecting His name/title. The idea isn’t something brand new to us and how we live. We know there are lines we shouldn’t cross, especially depending on who we’re dealing with and the title/office they may hold. It’s analogous to many of us having employers that we also call friends. We may have a more casual relationship, but there are lines we don’t cross out of respect. For others, it may be similar to relationships with our parents when we get to that friendship point. They still have the authority, title, office of parent that demands honor. For me, I have two close friends who are also my pastors.

“I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” –Exodus 3:14

The name of the Lord. Yahweh. The “I AM”. He defines His name for us: “Then the LORD came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed his name, the LORD. And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.”” (Exodus 34:5-7)

“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” –Exodus 20:7

All of the pontificating about cussing (in part one and part two) aside, taking the Lord’s name in vain is an entirely different issue. Names have power. To call someone by name is to assume a more intimate relationship with them (thus part of my issue with kids calling me by my first name). A name can define one’s character and attributes, who He is and what He is like.

The words still ring in my head: “hallowed be your name.” Treat the name as holy, meaning set apart. Honor it, exalt it. Magnify it. Glorify it. To do anything less is to profane it and we profane so easily. To profane is to take that which is high and trample it underfoot. To trivialize it (like when we swear, especially falsely, by his name, Lev 19:12, Matthew 5:33-37).

We like to hide from the exalted, from thinking too highly of things. It’s easier to be petty and trivial. Long gone are the days when His name was considered so sacred that to write it, the instrument used to write it out was destroyed. Boils down to how casual we are with “high things.” We forget that we enter into dangerous territory when dealing with the wholly other and it points to our loss of reverence. At the same time, we have to balance that fear against the reality of the intimate territory, Him personally concerned with me, that a relationship with Him means.

We are careless and casual with our speech, unaware of what we evoke with our words. I keep saying “we”, but this is more a simple reminder to myself.

I wanted to add this comment I received from my friend, Rob Rolfingsmeyer:

Hallowed be thy name, a Rob perspective:

Remember that the Hebrews in the Older Covenant had a great respect for the Name of G-d. The tetragrammaton was hardly ever used, just in case it was said wrong or said out of place. The equivalant would be to me referring to your wife constantly with the b-word or (God forbid) the c-word. Whereas nowadays, I wouldn’t take much offense to my friends calling me a bitch every once in awhile, I definitely would take it to heart and want to whup some ass if someone called my wife that. The name usually denotes the character of the person referred to. And just like w/ Roman names, if someone of a lower class than you called you by your Praenomen, you would take offense because it is not their place to call you such a thing.

Words have power, then as they do now. Names were the greatest sort of power, just think of Jacob asking for the name of the “angel” who wrestled with him. If the angel had given him his name, then Jacob would have been on an equal footing with the angel or worse, would have had “power” over him. These are just some of the reasons why the Hebrews were so uptight about using the Name of God. Heshem was usually good enough. It’s like referring to someone as “that dude” or “that guy”. You don’t want to offend the person you are talking about by f-ing up their name.

When Jesus is saying that God’s name is hallowed, he is speaking truth. The very name of God holds power in it, and the thing that should be even more frightening is the fact that God is allowing people to be friends with him by revealing his name. Even saying Heshem is a big step. It’s like Abba is a big step. God is your friend and cohort and you can even have his name. But the thing with “hallowed” is that you better not “fraggle” with it. You need to understand that in this relationship there needs to be a healthy respect going on. It is a reminder that he is above everything and before everything and you need to respect that and keep that in the forefront of your brain. Prayer is a conversation so show your respect for who God is to you first and foremost before you move on.

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