“Hallowed be Your name.” Matthew 6:9
In this post, I want to talk about the Old English version of this petition in the Lord’s Prayer before I look at the Aramaic translation. Hallowed means “to be separated from profane things”…to be said or held in high regard. Let’s look at some of the ways we say God’s name:
Oh, my God! Someone took my sermon notes!
Oh, my God! Look at how cute that little baby is!
Oh, my God! I can’t believe I got an “A” on my math test!
Oh, my God! You didn’t really say that to her, did you?
OMG – a short way of writing it on Facebook or texting it on a cell phone.
Many of us are guilty of using the name of God in such a way even though there is a commandment against saying God’s name like this. In fact, it’s one of the BIG TEN! Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. And many people do it like it’s no big deal.
According to the writer of Exodus, it’s a serious offense. It carries a severe punishment with it. Exodus 20:7 says “the Lord will not hold the person guiltless” – as in, “You’re going to pay for this!” – and Leviticus 24:16 says, One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death.
This is a commandment we break easily, and we don’t even say “I repent” after we do it. Is blaspheming and speaking God’s name in vain the same? The short answer is “Yes.”
The long answer is that the Hebrew word for “blaspheme” can mean two different things. It can mean “to pierce,” or “to perforate,” as in – to put lots of holes in it – so it’s kind of like a sieve. I guess that’s a literal way of thinking of a holey God…a God we have pierced many times. And humanity did pierce God literally, with nails in his hands and in his feet, and pierced his side with a sword. We continue to pierce him with our tongues when we speak the Name without due respect.
The second meaning of the Hebrew word blaspheme is “to call by name.” You might have heard that the Jews believed it was a sin to speak the name of God. The reason was because you couldn’t speak such an important name with the reverence and awe it deserved. To merely speak the name of God was to blaspheme His name. You’ve just read the punishment for the crime. And many Christians think the one or two Muslim countries who put people to death for blaspheming Allah are living in the dark ages. They happen to be following the Torah more faithfully (i.e., literally) than most Christians do. Just saying. One has to ask, “What kind of insecurity does a deity have who orders the death of his subjects because the Name isn’t spoken with reverence?” But that’s off the real point of this post.
Sometimes people say, “Jesus Christ!” and they don’t mean it in the way that puts them on their knees in awe, and worship, and praise. How easily we abuse and pierce the name that is above all names. “The name which every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, [the name that ] every tongue should confess … to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).
To blaspheme and to take the name of the Lord your God in vain are both about using God’s name in a way that gives it an emptiness of meaning. The penalty is death. Not physical death, but the death that comes to us when we talk of God so flippantly is a spiritual death. Spiritual death is the loss of consciousness of God’s awe and majesty. To speak the Name in a way that is not “hallowed” is to cast it like pearls to swine.
Maybe we need to pray this petition more intently, and to consider the majesty and splendor and wisdom and goodness and beauty of our unfathomable Creator God until we are able to give true honor and glory to the Name.