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Friday, April 17, 2015

The Lords Prayer Part 4 - "Hallowed Be Thy Name"

In this part of the study, we are going to be starting off with a word study, in particular a study of names.  I am sure that many have read the passages in Scripture with those long genealogies - so-and-so "begat" this one, who "begat" that one, etc.  Two striking areas where we see these are in Matthew 1, and I Chronicles 1-9.  Many people look at these passages, often on the verge of pulling their hair out after reading only a few verses of them, and in their exasperation ask "Why on earth is THIS in Scripture???"  We seem to be perfectly fine with the Parables of Jesus in the Gospels, or even the vivid eschatological/prophetic imagery of Daniel and Revelation, but oh, those long genealogies!!   However, we must remember that "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV).  And, that of course even includes genealogies!  Lest one thinks otherwise, I came across something in some research that illustrates this well.  One day, I was reading a book on the present phenomenon of UFO's, and how they are demonic deceptions, by an Evangelical author by the name of Chuck Missler.  Missler's book has in its 11th chapter a sort of evangelistic approach to those who are into all this UFO stuff, and one thing he expounds upon is the "hidden message in the family tree," which focuses on those "begat" passages and genealogies in Scripture, and what he writes blew my mind.  Missler focuses on the first ten generations of mankind, and notes that there is a significance to the meaning of their names.  Here is the synopsis in the following table below:

HEBREW NAME                                                                 ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Adam                                                                                      "Man"

Seth                                                                                         "Appointed"

Enosh                                                                                      "Mortal"

Kenan                                                                                      "Sorrow"

Mahalel                                                                                   "The Blessed God"

Jared                                                                                       "Shall Come Down"

Enoch                                                                                      "Teaching"

Methuselah                                                                              "His Death Shall Bring"

Lamech                                                                                    "The Despairing"

Noah                                                                                        "Rest, Comfort"

When all of that is put together, and some English grammatical mechanics are applied, it composes the following message: "Man (is) appointed mortal sorrow; (but) the blessed God shall come down teaching (that) his death shall bring (the) despairing comfort" (Chuck Missler, Alien Encounters {Coir d'Alene, Idaho:  Koinonia House, 1997} p. 220).  In Hebraic tradition, which is the context that all of Scripture basically is written from the perspective of, the name bears a special meaning to its bearer, and therefore these are what are called by Benedict XVI, in his excellent study Jesus of Nazareth - the Infancy Narratives (New York:  Image, 2012) "words in waiting," that may not be recognizable to their "owner" or to his audience at the time, but they later have their fulfillment (p. 17).  A lot of Messianic prophecies in the OT have that relationship with the NT.  Therefore, even hidden in those tedious genealogies can be profound spiritual truth.

Likewise, the name of God, which is the opening invocation of the Lord's Prayer, has significance.  The petition "hallowed be Thy name" as noted by Guardini in his text, is concerned with the name of God, a word.  A word is of course something formed by sound, a vibration of the lips and throat, and is in that respect an external aspect.  However words have multi-layered significance in Scripture.  First, each word has a "mind" of its own - it has a meaning carried by the sound that comes from the mouth of the person uttering it. But, it also has a "soul" - the response the word strikes in the heart.  Therefore, every word, by this union of "soul" and "mind," contains a general meaning of universal application, something special which is more closely restricted to the speaker and the object to which the word is spoken and directed to, and final, ultimate refinement of meaning that makes it the property of one individual only - this individual may not necessarily be the person saying the word, or the person hearing it, but rather the object of reference.  Words, therefore, are living symbols in and of themselves - we form them, and they form us.  We don't just speak words, but we also think in them.  The analogy Guradini uses in his text on the Lord's Prayer (on which these lessons are based) is that of a railroad - the words are the "rails" upon which our lives run.  And as such, they carry a power of their own.

The interesting thing about all languages of mankind is that they each have a word that designates a "Supreme Being" of some sort, from which all things come, and to whom all things refer back.  Of course, false religious systems over the course of human history have corrupted that, but it is still inherent to the nature of man nonetheless.  To see where that comes from, all we have to do is look at the fact that all human language, like all human origins, come from one source.  That source is referred to in Genesis 11:1 - "Now the whole earth had one language and one speech."  However, as the post-diluvian settlement of Noah's descendants took place in one location - the Plain of Shinar in Mesopotamia, near where the ancient city of Babylon would rise - they began to have an inflated sense of self-importance, and therefore God had to scatter them, as we read later in verses 7-8 of the same chapter.  With this scattering the nations of the earth, and their languages, had their origin.  Also, with that, many vestigial elements of the origins of mankind went with each culture, and in the course of time they were re-interpreted and corrupted.  One of those things was the concept of God - it came with man from the Garden of Eden and was integrated into his speech.  And, the word God has special significance, as we will now see.

There are some facts to note here.  First, God called upon man and revealed Himself.  In doing so, he also made a covenant with man - man was able to take possession of the word God and utilize it when referring to the Supreme Being, the Creator.  God however is not what the proper name of God really is - God rather denotes nature (what He is) rather than His person (who He is).  Therefore,  "name" in the original sense embodies the essential nature of the person bearing the name - the name stands for its bearer.  Therefore, although God's name is not God in all reality and probability, He allows man to use this name God, and therefore by doing so God Himself has entered into the name. That simply means then that He dwells in its power, and by man's own inherent nature it stands in the midst of human history, even when some segments of our race as humanity seek to remove it (problem is, they can't!).  Therefore, when man enters into a covenant with God, the name enters man and works within, even down to the roots of one's individual being.

However, God's own commandments order that this name God should not be used in vain.  It is not something that we can flippantly throw around, nor is it to be used as a projectile of our own violence and hatred.  Remember those little things called the Ten Commandments?  Well, in Exodus 20:7, we see that this command not to take the Lord's name in vain is the third and pivotal commandment of the Decalogue - judgment is promised for those who defy the commandment too.  The Jews invested such awe into God's name that to this day many devout Jews refuse to even write it out - in many Jewish texts, you see the name written as G-d, which is their expression of keeping this command. Other words though are used for God's name, one being YHWH, which simply translates as "I AM."  Another name from old is the plural Elohim, which literally translates as "Lords" although we tend to contextualize the singular "Lord"  The latter is based on some places in the account of Creation in Genesis where you hear God dialoguing as He engages in the act of creation by saying "Let us..." This is an early affirmation of the fact that God is triune - three persons, yet one nature - and although many Jews don't accept that fact, it forms an important cornerstone for orthodox Christian theology for us.

There are reasons we reverence the name of God, and those are included in the attributes of His name.  First, the name of God is transient, meaning that it is at the mercy of the fluctuation of existence (bearing on humanity's endowed free will, in other words).   Second, it is mighty, meaning it is to be held in honor.  However, the propensity to misuse it is also a reality, as it can be desecrated in this context as an object of cursing.  Third, it is to be addressed by prayer and adoration.  However, at times, it is also spoken thoughtlessly, blasphemously, in doubt, and destructively, even if unintentional.  At the risk of sounding politically-incorrect and judgmental here, I want to include a personal observation about regarding certain groups.  In the US, the large African-American population is often marked in its speech by religious jargon, so much so that at times it can lose its meaning.  I know there are many fine African-American Christians, and like all Christians they are brethren and I know many of them well and highly respect them - what I am about to say doesn't apply to them in any way or fashion.  However ,I have noted among many African-American people this tendency to drop religious jargon, including a "thank ya Jezuz!" into practically everything - in many cases, it is sometimes used flippantly, and in inappropriate context.  I would challenge the church leadership of this community to address and educate these people about the holiness of the name of God, and to be more careful about how it is used as well as the context, because a great risk is entailed with not taking seriously the name of God  - it is in a sense taking the name of the Lord in vain, which as we see does carry consequences.  Therefore, the name should be used in reverence, and not blasphemously either - it is a cliche statement, but very true, that "God's last name is not damn."  Also, the name of God should be "hallowed."  "Hallow" is an Old English word that simply means "holy," and unlike the humorous story of the young boy from Sunday School who ran home to his mother, "Hallow" is not a proper name.  In that amusing little story, the boy runs home excited and tells his dad, "Daddy, we learned God's first name today!"  The father replies "Really Timmy?  What did you learn."  Timmy replies, "The pastor kept praying 'Our Father who are in heaven, Howard be thy name!"  As cute as that little tale is, it illustrates unfortunately an ignorance in our society today - we have moved so far away from God and his commands that we don't even realize what a simple prayer says.  The name of God is holy - it can only be felt, consented to, drank from, or if hostile to it, resisted.   It stands for a special quality of his living being, all that is proper to him alone.  Therefore, we are inwardly to embrace the name of God, which can permeate and transform us.  And, we can do it in a more profound way, which I will discuss in closing.

John 1:1 tells us in the original Greek that Jesus was "the Word from the beginning, and that from the beginning the Word was with God and the Word Was God."  The word here is Logos, and what it denotes is a "word of authority."  This "Word" has a name, and it is Y'shua, meaning "YHWH (I AM) the salvation."  Jesus is the name of God that we are inwardly to embrace by allowing Him to enter into us, both through a personal confession and through the sacramental life of the Church, and as we do so, He will permeate and transform us.  Therefore, we understand then that the ultimate Word of God is Himself now a person - Jesus Christ - and as a person He indwells us and restores the true meaning of the fact that all refers back to Him, and all comes from Him - He is, therefore the "Alpha and Omega," (Revelation 1;7 NKJV) as well as being the "Author and finisher of our faith" (Hebrews 12:12 NKJV).   And, Jesus, being fully God and fully man, is holy, and is due the reverence we pray in the petition "Hallowed be Thy name."  God bless each of you until next time.