5th Sunday after Pentecost
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Dear friends…. “Peyton Manning,” “Barack Obama,” “Jenna Nitz”…what’s in a name? When you heard those names you thought about more than just a few letters, right? You probably thought about who that person is, what you know about that person, the impression that person has made on you, how you feel about them, etc. So, in a sense, encapsulated in a name is everything you know about, feel about, or have experienced with that person. In a similar way God’s name is everything that we know about Him, everything that He’s revealed to us about Himself in His Word.
Today, in our text we’re going to take a look at how God Himself summarizes everything we need to know about Him in His name. But before we take a look at the text let’s consider this concept of a “name” for a bit. Particularly, how we expect our names to be used is not all that different from what God expects about His name.
Let’s think about it for a bit. Let’s say I go and rob a bank. After the police catch me and are questioning me as to why I did this crime, I then lie to them that I was told to do it by you and all the plans were given to me by you, and I give them your name. Would you appreciate me using your name to lie? Or maybe I just twist around some of your words to imply that you were involved with my crime…would you be happy with me? I’m guessing not. Or a different scenario, let’s say one day you come running up to me in tears yelling, “Call 911!!” And I say, “Now I don’t think that’s exactly what you mean. Because this is coming from you, this could be interpreted in a number of different ways: Maybe when you say, “Call 911” you really mean that I should go to the store for you or that I should lend you 20 bucks, but you really can’t mean that I should call 911.” Now that’s absolutely absurd isn’t it!
In the same way God does not appreciate people using His name to tell lies or false things about what He says in His Word or twisting His Words in order to make it say whatever. He also doesn’t appreciate it when people say that His words can be interpreted in all kinds of different ways and that no one can really ever figure out what God is saying anyway. He not only doesn’t appreciate those things, He hates it when people abuse His name by abusing His Word. And He hates it when we don’t go back to His Word to see if the book we’re reading or what we’re hearing on T.V. is being truthful to His name and truly saying what God says in His Word.
Let’s consider another situation. Let’s say I get a T-shirt and put your name on it front and back and I wear it. Then I go down to the mall on a Saturday afternoon when it’s just packed and I start yelling curse words at the top of my lungs and ripping things off shelves and getting into a couple of fights…would you appreciate me using your name to do that? Ok, well what if I just, just do it once…would you appreciate it? I’m guessing you would hate it and you wouldn’t be too happy with me either. Well, in the same way, as Christians, with God’s name written on us, when we live immorally or are dishonest or whatever, then God doesn’t appreciate it, in fact, He hates it. He hates it when people abuse His name by not acting like His children.
So when we pray “Hallowed be your name” we are praying that we keep God’s name holy. That we keep His name holy by teaching/learning His Word correctly AND that we live upright, honest, and moral lives as His children with His name written on us. This glorifies God’s name. This is how God wants us to use His name.
And this is of course something that we want to do. Why? Because of what His name means to us. Because of how He has revealed Himself to us. Because of what we know about Him. Everything that we know about God can be neatly summarized in the verses of our text, which has been called the John 3:16 of the OT or the Lord’s sermon on His name. Moses has just gone up on a mountain to receive the 10 commandments and he asked God to see His glory; instead of showing him His full glory (which would have killed Moses) God gave Him these words explaining His glorious name: read text.
So what comes to mind when you hear the name “the LORD”? It is this: that the almighty God who exists exalted above all things, in absolute independence, who doesn’t have to please anyone, who isn’t afraid of anyone, out of the unselfishness, goodness, and mercy of His heart generously pours out His love and grace on human beings!
“The LORD, the LORD the compassionate and gracious God”- that’s what the Lord’s name means. The Lord is compassionate. He sees the suffering of His people, He sees their helplessness on their own, His heart goes out to them and He chooses to show compassion on them. He is also gracious. Not only does He have compassion but He also has a heartfelt response to give something to those in need. It’s a word that describes God as one who has something to give the poor and needy who can’t help themselves. He has a gracious gift of grace to give them. And His name is further explained:
“The LORD…slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness”- He is the Lord who is long-suffering, slow in anger, He does not have a short temper or lose His cool easily. He has incredible patience. The Lord is also abounding in love and faithfulness. There is no limit to God’s faithful love. His love will never run out, never be used up, never be exhausted. God will always keep His Word, He will never go back on what He says, His promises are sure and certain. God further explains His name:
“The LORD…maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin”- When you hear the name “LORD” what do you see Him doing? You see Him “maintaining,” literally “guarding” or “keeping” love to thousands, to an unlimited number of people. This is kind of a funny way of speaking, but the love God has for us is guarded by Him and if His love for us is protected by Him there is no way anyone is going to take it away from Him. And what else does He do? He’s forgiving sins. He calms the troubled conscience burdened with guilt, He forgives sins of rebellion, sins of turning one’s back on God’s goodness in order to sin, He forgives sins of weakness, daily sins of being a sinner in a sinful world. That’s what comes to mind when you hear “the LORD,” forgiveness full and complete!
God explains His name with one further phrase “The LORD…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”- that’s what the Lord’s name means? But wait! Didn’t we just get done talking about how merciful, compassionate, and gracious God is?!! Yes, but God’s boundless grace does not mean He’s indifferent towards sin or that He simply overlooks sin. God says there will be no unpunished sinner. So how do we reconcile this? On one hand God says that He’s gracious and compassionate and then on the other that He doesn’t leave the guilty unpunished?
There is only one solution to this contradiction: No guilt, no sin remains. Why? Because JESUS became the one stricken by God, smitten by Him in our place, He was pierced for our unfaithfulness, He was crushed because of our iniquities, while we were headed for destruction He cast all our guilt upon Him, and because He was punished we are healed, we have peace, we are justified. Yes it’s only at the cross of Jesus where God’s name becomes the most clear to us. It is there where the righteous justice of God is satisfied by the same gracious, compassionate, and loving God. It is by the name of Jesus that we are saved.
So what’s in a name? What comes to mind when you hear the name “the LORD”? What do you feel when you hear
“the LORD”? Well, you know: the LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin that is who YOUR God is and will always be! The LORD, that name, we will always hallow, always keep holy! Amen