“LET YOUR NAME BE KEPT HOLY”
1. Monty said, “You know, it’s kind of an honor to give one of those little ones a name.”
2. It’s a high honor even to speak of the name of the Lord.
a. As with anyone’s name, it is the most personal thing about him.
b. It’s how we know him and relate to him.
c. We are a people who call upon his name (1 Cor. 1:2), and we are called by that honorable name (Js. 2:7). Our own destiny is tied up in whether his name is glorified (2 Thes. 1:12). There is every reason for us to hold his name very dear.
3. The model prayer teaches us to ask first that the our Father’s name be kept holy. But what does that mean? What is his name, and why is its being treated with reverence such a meaningful concern?
1. Two Important Episodes shed light on these questions.
a. Exodus 3:13-15
i. I AM THAT I AM may be the most literal way of translating the name he gave. Other possibilities are I AM WHO I AM, or I AM WHAT I AM, or I WILL BE WHAT I WILL BE.
ii. It’s from a root which means “to be.” It expresses the fact that he always exists, is present everywhere, and is unchanging in his character.
iii. God made it known to emphasize his special relationship to Israel. It was to help them understand that he was present and active in their redemption (Ex. 6:2-9). The covenant he made with them began, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Ex. 20:2).
iv. The four letters of this name– JHVH, or YHWH – are sometimes called “the tetragrammaton.” Jewish tradition has it that when the temple stood, this sacred name of God was forbidden to be spoken except on the day of atonement, the holiest day of the year, by the high priest, the holiest person, in the holy of holies within the temple, the holiest place.
v. So careful were they not to misuse the name that they would not pronounce it. If they came to it in reading the law or in prayer they would say the word “adonai” (Lord) instead. Since Hebrew was a language written only in constants, scribes developed a system of vowel points to aid in pronunciation. In copies of their scriptures, vowel points from the word for “Lord” were added to the four letters so that they were not pronounceable.
vi. English translations have commonly used “the LORD” to give readers a clue that this is the name instead of the word for Lord. The ASV of 1901 used “Jehovah” instead. Some scholars think the four consonants of the name could be vocalized “Yahweh.” We do not know for sure.
vii. When the OT was translated into Greek before 200 BC, the Septuagint, as it was known used the common Greek word for “Lord” (kurios) for the name. That’s the term the NT uses to speak of the Lord our God, and, significantly, the term that also came to be used of Jesus. The I AM of the OT becomes “Our Father in heaven”!
b. Matthew 1:21-23; Luke 1:31-33
i. Both Mary and Joseph were instructed about the name that was to be given to the son who would be born. Matthew 1:21 explains that the name was to be given because of what it means: “the LORD saves.” It meant that in this son the LORD was present and active in the salvation of people.
ii. “’ Iesous”is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua,” which in turn was a shortened form of Jehoshua, “the LORD saves.” The name was just put into Greek letters and given a Greek ending.
iii. “Jesus” is the same letters transliterated into English. If it were actually translated for English speakers, it would not be Joshua or Yehoshua, it would be “the LORD saves.”
iv. Among Palestinian Jews as well as among those who were scattered elsewhere, the name Jesus was fairly common up through the first half of the first century AD. Josephus, the Jewish historian, lists at least nineteen men by this name. That’s why the Jesus we’re interested in was identified as “Jesus of Nazareth.”
v. It’s significant, though, that by the end of the first century, the name Jesus was dropping completely out of common usage. It was too sacred for use as a common name by Christians, and it was abhorrent to Jews!
vi. Among them, “Jehoshua,” or “Yehushuah” as they might have said it, became common again after that.
vii. But the NT was already summarizing meaning of our Jesus with just “the name” (Acts 5:41; 3 Jn. 7). The whole content of the saving truth of the saving truth revealed in Jesus is comprised in his name (1 Cor. 6:11).
2. The Significance of ‘the Name’ - Why is there to be in us such a longing for the Lord’s name to be kept holy?
a. One’s name stands for who he is – his character, his personality, his reputation.
i. The name of God is not the combination of letters but the person who bears it.
ii. Exodus 34:5-7
iii. The name of God is the person he has revealed himself to be. To use his name is to acknowledge who he is and to relate to him accordingly.
b. One’s name refers to what he does – his work and his achievements.
i. In the writings we have from the NT period, the phrase “in the name of” was used for payments made to the account of people.
ii. To have something “in his name,” then, means to have it “upon the basis” of what he has done and is doing.
iii. Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved,” is true not because of how the name is said, but because no one else has done or can do what he has.
c. One’s name especially represents what he says – his authority, his will.
i. To speak “in the name of” would be the same as if the one whose name was being used had spoken it himself.
ii. “In the name of Jesus Christ” is the same as “by the authority of Jesus Christ.” Acts 4:7 and 10 illustrates this point. The rulers asked, “By what power or by what name did you do this?” Peter’s answer was, “Let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by him this man is standing before you well.”
iii. His name was the authority by which the apostles did mighty works (Acts 3:6), and the authority by which they instructed others in the Lord’s way, either by appeal (1 Cor. 1:10) or by command (2 Thes. 3:6).
3. What Matters Most - How is the Lord’s name to be kept holy?
a. What’s important is not so much the derivation or the pronunciation of the name, but what the name means.
i. In the Bible, the unveiling of God’s nature by the giving of his name – that is, who he is, what he has done, and what he wants – is what’s really significant.
ii. No one knows for certain how to vocalize “the four letters.” The word used by Israel is not even found in the NT because, in his providence, the Lord chose to give us the NT in Greek. But the fact that there is One who was, and who is, and who is to come – a living God who is present everywhere and does not change – that is emphasized to the end of Revelation (1:4, 8).
iii. The “good news of a great joy” (cf. Lk. 2:14) is that this God has acted to save us – there is a Savior, “salvation through the LORD.” He has lived among us, without sin, and was offered up for us, and has been raised up from the dead, exalted to the right hand of God. No other person, no other authority, no other work, can offer to us what he can. Salvation is in his name: “the LORD saves.”
iv. Inspired men wrote it in Greek form, “’Iesous.” If one’s native language is Hebrew, he might say it something like “Yehushua.” For those who speak English it is “Jesus.” What it means for all is that “he is the one who saves his people from their sins.”
v. The prayers of the Spanish-speaking brother at Van Buren: he said “Jesus” in a way different than I do but we mean the same thing: the LORD saves!
vi. The important thing is who he is, and what he has done, and what he says.
b. What’s important is not that the name be recited like a formula, but what we mean when we use it.
i. The third commandment prohibited taking the name of the LORD “for unreality” or “in emptiness” (Ex. 20:7).
ii. When we use the name of the Lord, we mean that we believe in his person, we submit to his authority, we rely upon his work.
iii. In the NT, this takes specific forms.
(1) Repenting and being baptized in the name of Jesus Christ – Acts 10:43, 48
(2) Drawing near to the throne of God by prayer in the name of Jesus Christ – Eph. 5:20
(3) Every word or deed in the name of the Lord Jesus – Col. 3:17
(4) Service out of love and respect and devotion to the name of the Lord – Acts 21:13
(5) Safe-keeping in his name – Jn. 17:11; Rev. 22:1-5
The LORD’s name is reverenced by means of these basic actions which rest on who he is, what he has done, and what he says.
1. To be “called by the name of” was to be “under the protection and ownership of” the one whose name was used. It was to be in possession of all the blessings implied by that name.[
2. Proverbs 18:10 – “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs to it and is safe.”
3. Acts 22:16 – “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.”