Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name; worship the LORDin the beauty of holiness. (Psalm 29:2)
Recently, as you know, we lost my 92-yer-old Italian grandfather. In the wake of his passing, I’ve contemplated the honorable name our family bears – Cometti – made more noble by his life of service and of worship.
The very mention of our family name nurtures pride within me. Chances are, you’re equally as proud of your family name.
Could you imagine, then, if I began to use my grandfather’s name flippantly? What if I referred to him disrespectfully instead of with the proper honor? You would be horrified at my words, because I would be treating his name vainly – as though it didn’t mean a thing.
But what if I, instead, denied all the noble actions of his life? For instance, my grandpa assumed the duties of running the family farm at age 15, when his father died. He kept things running smoothly for almost 80 years.
Suppose, however, that I attributed the upkeep of the farm to someone else. How would you react?
Dishonoring another’s name is more far-reaching, and far more serious, than you might have thought.
This morning, as you and I consider the Third Commandment, we first are going to examine the significance of God’s Name; second, we will consider how we hallow (or dishonor) God’s Name; and third, we will explore the consequences of failing to hallow God’s Name.
God’s Name is His very character: you and I, known by the name “Christian,” constantly must ask if we are exalting – or disgracing – His Name in our daily lives.
As we begin our study, you and I first need to consider the significance of God’s holy Name.
For many of us in the (post)modern world, a name is nothing more than a string of letters attached to a person, helpful only to distinguish that person from another human. A name to many people is empty … just another form of the Social Security number.
In biblical thought, however, a person’s name was of much weightier import. A person’s name stood for the person himself: his character, his body of work, his mission in life. For instance, the human name of the Son of God, Jesus, referred to his saving mission (“Jesus” means “the Lord is salvation”). “Abraham” means “father of multitudes.” Naomi, whose name meant “My delight,” requested that her friends call her “Mara” (“bitterness”) after she lost her husband and two sons. Clearly, names were instructive of the person in biblical times.
Granted, you and I know something of the importance of names today. When I utter the name “Michelangelo,” certain thoughts (or, perhaps, images) come to your mind from his astounding body of work. Likewise, the mention of the name “Hitler” also evokes powerful images in your mind. The caustic sound of Hitler’s name is evidence that names still carry some meaning in our world today.
Biblically, to know a person’s name constituted a great privilege. It meant you actually had some true and personal knowledge of the other party. For the Israelites to know the Name of the one, true God ranked, therefore, as the loftiest blessing of all. When the Lord revealed His Name to Moses from the burning bush, He not only declared Himself to be the Source of all life and the covenantal God who would provide for all of Israel’s needs, He also solidified the intimate bond He had with His chosen people.
The Names of God revealed in Scripture each point to a different – yet vital – aspect of His character and nature. The Lord Sabaoth referred to His fighting for His people. Jehovah Jireh had reference to His perfect provision for their needs. As He revealed Himself throughout Israel’s history and ultimately in His Son, Jesus, God showed Himself to be a God of grace and of love to His people.
To follow the Westminster Larger Catechism, God’s Name refers to any means whereby He has revealed Himself – whether in His Word, in His works, in His decrees or in His Son. As Psalm 8 teaches, God’s Name is exalted by the wonder of His handiwork in creation; and as countless other Scriptures reveal, His Name is made great among the nations by His saving work for His people in Jesus. Even the providential ordering of history is by God’s decree and reflects His wisdom, power and goodness. Creation, salvation and the flow of history all reveal God’s Name in some manner.
Perhaps most telling is that in Antioch, believers on Jesus – partakers of his righteousness and indwelt by him – were known as “Christians.” In Revelation we’re told you and I will have the Lord’s Name on our foreheads as we are completely identified with the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God’s Name is not a bare collection of letters. Indeed, it represents His gracious self-disclosure as the God of all power and wisdom who has adopted you and me in His Son Jesus Christ, whose Name is above every name. God’s Name reflects who He is, and therefore His name is to be feared above all.
Secondly, what does it mean to hallow God’s Name (or, conversely, to not take His Name in vain)?
Regrettably, many people – and you might be in this number – traditionally have equated not taking God’s Name in vain with not uttering a curse that includes His Name. They don’t take the Third Commandment any further.
True enough, this commandment strictly forbids the flippant and crude use of God’s Name in any way.
But it demands so much more.
Hallowing (setting apart as holy) God’s Name, and not taking His Name in vain (as though it were meaningless), requires that you and I defend the honor of our Lord and exalt His person and character at all times and in all places. The Third Commandment requires you to give God all the glory at every moment of your life, and anything short of this goal is unacceptable.
Psalm 29 calls on you to give the Lord the glory due His Name. Our second lesson, from The Acts 5, described the disciples as “rejoicing … that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for (Christ’s) Name.” Heartfelt and biblically centered worship of the one, true God; obedience to His commands; reverent references to Him; following where He leads – all of these actions are ways in which you hallow God’s Name and treat Him with reverence rather than with contempt.
To be sure, when you utter the awful phrase “Oh, God,” you are treating God’s Name as though it were worthless. But did you ever consider that when you treat food, drink or money as god instead of worshipping the one, true God, you are violating the Third Commandment as you essentially call the Lord an idol? Or when you attribute the work of creation not to God but to “blind forces of nature?” Or when you complain about the weather or about your work? Or when you attend church only to go through the bare ritual of worship? Or when you eat the bread of Holy Communion – yet compete with, or despise, or harbor secret hatred for the person next to you, who partakes of the same Bread of Life? Or when you take a vow in church – as an officer, as a new member, as a member pledging to help raise a baptized infant in the Lord – and don’t follow through?
You and I are known by Christ’s Name. Like the faithful in ancient Israel, we have both the privilege and the responsibility to proclaim the greatness of God in His world to those living in darkness. If our actions cause His Name to be maligned among the nations (cf. Romans 2), we have failed in being salt and light.
Treating God’s Name with the reverence He deserves involves not only your mouth but, indeed, your whole person and life.
Third, reverencing God’s is vital because the Lord will not hold the person guiltless who commits this heinous sin.
But, you ask, what about the Gospel? Can’t I be forgiven all my sins through the blood of Christ?
Certainly you are forgiven in Christ as you truly repent of your sin and look to him alone for salvation. The only “unpardonable sin,” as it has come to be known, is the blaspheming of the Holy Spirit – which amounts to rejecting Him and the Savior whom He makes known. If you reject Christ and His Spirit, you will not be cleansed of your sin.
Yet you must understand that God takes the reverence of His Name with the utmost seriousness, and He doesn’t consider the flippant, untruthful or dishonorable use of His Name to be a light offense. The Lord’s reputation is at stake when it comes to His Word, works, providential orderings and ways by which He makes Himself known. No name compares to His: no other has created all things, no other sustains all things, no other redeemed the elect. The triune God alone deserves all glory, and you and I must defend His honor and give Him the glory due His Name.
Reverencing the one, true God is the most-important calling you have!
As I claim the name “Cometti” for myself, I do so with great pride for what that name represents. Reading Pa’s obituary and learning of all the things he did for his family caused my heart to swell. My grandfather’s character, life and work made us proud, and it is important we carry on that name with self-sacrificial, attendant and genuine love – just as he did.
Names still mean something, but the most-important Name of all means everything.
God’s Name – which reflects His very character – means life, protection, deliverance, provision, grace and salvation for you and for me, the faithful in Christ Jesus. Defending the honor of His Name surely requires that you not utter His Name flippantly or crudely.
But it also means that you reverence Him at work. And when the storms come. And when you sit down to eat. And when you discuss creation and this life and the life to come. It means you long for His glory – even if it costs you your very life.
Let us, then, be earnest and understanding when we utter those familiar words: “Hallowed be thy Name.” And may the Lord’s matchless Name truly be made great in, and by, each of our lives.