Writing a blog through the Sermon On The Mount has had its difficulties for me in even having my best guess on the meanings in it. But it has not been without its “A-ha” moments where I see how truth transcends the biases caused by human experience. Such is how a walk in faith is supposed to be and also not without some mystery.
In teaching the Lord’s Prayer, it was not only a way to pray, but for prayer to be true to the essence of who we pray to. In that sense, it is a theological lynchpin by which much of the gospel of the kingdom unfolds. With that for a spiritual lens we can see He was challenging us to look up indeed but also behind. Jesus, among many things, was the Jewish Messiah and thus the weight of salvation history makes certain things He says pregnant in context of what had happened long before the first century. Case in point:
“Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9).
The verse above could work, so to speak, as the lynchpin of the lynchpin of the prayer. The last blog, we looked at the definition of God the Father from Jesus the ultimate insider. All of the grace shown in God being a familiar, righteous and transcendent father must be completed in the perspective of His name being “hallowed”. But what does it mean, specific to the Bible, to hallow God’s name?
As I looked at scriptures that show God revealing Himself and man reaching up I came away with three principles of God’s values and corresponding actions done by Him or for Him consistent with divine nature. These corresponding sets I will lay out also connect well to keeping God’s name holy, that is, distinct from any other kind of relationship we would perceive. I will attempt to lay out what keeping the name of God holy means and what is causes for those on earth who respond to the call of keeping God’s name holy. CAUSED is the key word.
C is for Covenant In Community
First we must understand that God has a communal context to His name even before there were human participants but yet with a covenant context. “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness” (Genesis 1:26). God in Himself is community we know as the Trinity. When he chose seven days to cap off creation is was in foresight to the number seven being part of “sealing the deal”.
“So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:3).
The covenant is in the seven and God’s name is hallowed in it. “[שָׁבַע]186 verb swear “Probably, so to say, seven oneself, or bind oneself by seven things” (Strong’s Concordance). The number seven and making a covenant has an intentional wordplay through the Hebrew scriptures. The community context is not lost in the Creation story nor is the context of community. When we hallow the name of God, we hallow God who is faithful to covenant and is relational by nature.
As we know, the first parents messed everything up with sin. But God being an initiator of grace and covenant introduces an important element into getting things back on the right path through a Hebrew named Abram in Ur (later Abraham). God is too harmonious in the essence of the Godhead not to lay a pattern down for the road back.
A is for Altar
“He [Abram] journeyed on by stages from the Negev as far as Bethel, to the place where his tent had been at between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first; and there Abram called on the name of the Lord (Genesis 13:3-5).
He found himself in the desert and re-centers himself in a place he had reached out to God before. It says specifically that Abram is between Bethel and Ai. Bethel means House of God. Ai means Heap of Ruins. This reminds me of our emptiness at the conversion point. We may not have figured out where we fit in His house, we don’t like the heap of ruins of our sinful lives so we reach up any way we know how. And God, being love, is too communal in nature not to give us a pattern for redemption as we see in any sacrifice for atonement.
“When they had made a covenant at Beer-sheba, Abimelech, with Phicol the commander of his army, left and returned to the land of the Philistines. Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God” (Genesis 21:32-34). Interesting to note is that in the first papal encyclical of Peter he refers to the redemption of the cross as on a tree. Even here is there a shadow of things to come in the substance of the cross as Abraham calls on God’s redemptive nature.
Beersheba means Well of Seven. Again a pattern of completion and covenant being the nature of God and in that context God is called upon. But also of interesting note in the last time that Abraham calls on the name of the Lord is this sense of longevity in planting a tree and how God outlives them. If these people are sensing the shortness of their lives as they happen, they may be aware of now of God who is above the fray of mortality. This implies God’s covenant to go through the generations and leads well into a timeless element of calling on God in Exodus.
Where shadow is fulfilled in substance…..
“Hallowed be thy name”.