Our Father, Hallowed Be Thy Name!
The term “Father” in the title above is a reference to the first Person of the Godhead, as He is distinct from the Son and the Holy Spirit. God is often identified in the Bible as Father. In Old Testament scriptures, the Fatherhood of God is spoken of in the sense of originator. The Israelites viewed God as One who brought their nation into existence. The prophet Malachi exclaimed, “Have we not all one father? hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers?” (Malachi 2:10)
When the New Testament speaks of God as Father, the emphasis, however, is placed on relationship. In the gospel accounts, Jesus used the word “Father” to claim that the God of Israel was His Father and affirm a unique personal relationship He had with Him (John 5:17). This claim, parenthetically, aroused intense indignation among the Jews who consequently sought to kill Him (John 5:18). Also, Jesus called God Father eighteen times in the Sermon on the Mount alone, and in fifteen of those instances He said, “your [or thy] Father,” (addition, mine) thus teaching His disciples to look at God as their Father (Matthew 5:1-8:1).
God being a Father means that He cares and provides for the needs of His children, just as an earthly father does. Furthermore, He is available and ready to have with them an intimate relationship which has been made possible through Christ (Ephesians 2:13). With Christ, Christians have been brought closer to God than men could ever imagine (this, I believe, is an illustration of the superiority of the New Covenant to the Old). Practically, this new affectionate relationship motivates us to depend on God to an extent that we worry no more about the necessities of life (Matthew 6:25-34). Spiritually, this new experience brings, among many other blessings, joy (Acts 8:39, 16:34; Philippians 4:4), freedom (John 8:31-32) and peace of mind (Ephesians 2:14) because our sins have been forgiven by God. We can take our petitions up to the throne of God in prayer too!
However, Christians face each day the temptation of taking the closeness that we enjoy with God for granted and deal with our heavenly Father as we would with a human friend, thus paying little attention to His holiness. It is easy to fail to hallow God’s name in a secularized culture in which, generally speaking, respect for those in authority erodes every day further and fear of God, especially, is no longer part of societal value systems. In our day, God’s name is commonly used to express surprise or shock. You must have often heard people around you, or on television, exclaim, “oh my ....” (and they use the name of the Lord in their profane utterance). Even some members of the Lord’s church have sadly fallen in this repellent habit.
It is noteworthy that Jesus told us to honour God’s name. He said in Luke 11:2, when teaching his disciples to pray, “When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (cf. Matthew 6:9). God’s name is to be hallowed! In other words, it ought to be called with reverence and profound respect. God’s name is holy (Psalm 106:47; 111:9). Reverence for it means appreciation for who God is – He is holy (Isaiah 6:3). Vain usage of God’s name, in contrast, is a reflection on His holy character and it says volume about one’s attitude towards God. The account of the moral degeneration of the Gentile world which we read about in Romans 1:21-32 shows the importance of reverence to God, part of which is respect for His name. Paul said, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful” (v. 21). The apostle went on to relate how the Romans descended into the abyss of immorality, plunging headlong into idolatry, then into homosexuality, and then into downright unrighteousness (v. 29). The lesson is that, had their knowledge of God been coupled with reverence for Him, they would have spared their society the moral degradation they suffered.
It is interesting that God was serious about His name under the old covenant as He is under the new. He commanded the Israelites, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Jesus’ teaching on prayer in Matthew and Luke shares the same significance with the injunction God gave in Exodus 20:7 as to reverence for His name, even though one is stipulated positively and the other negatively. Remember, while the Bible portrays the character of God as that of a loving Father, it also makes mention of His severity (Romans 11:22). Jehovah said that He “will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”