What do you get the guy who has everything? Around Father’s Day, children everywhere are asking that question and businesses everywhere are hoping to answer it for them. They suggest everything from a new tablet to a new lawnmower to a rack of ribs. And even though it’s a shame that like every other holiday, Father’s Day has been swallowed up by consumerism, it is good to think about all the things our fathers have done and continue to do for us. What are the most important things your father taught or gave you? I hope you don’t have to think about #1. The most important thing any father can do for his children is to teach them to know and love God’s Word and to trust Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and salvation. If a father fails to take the leading role in this, nothing else they do really matters. But fathers do more than that. They provide food, shelter, clothing and open wallets. They teach their children how to ride a bike and drive a car and ask a girl out on a date. A good father is equally willing to give a smack on the butt when it’s deserved as he is to offer a shoulder to cry on when it’s needed. So that’s kind of a tough question, what do you get the man who has done so much for you?
A far tougher question is: what do you get the One who created and owns everything in the universe? What do you get the Creator who has given you life and breath, who provides food, clothing and shelter, who has blessed us with jobs and health and families? How do you thank the only Father in the universe who is willing and able to protect you both from the dangers you can see and the ones you can’t? How do you show your appreciation to the Father who sacrificed his perfect Son for your salvation? Fortunately for us, this doesn’t have to remain a mystery. Jesus teaches us that what our heavenly Father wants most isn’t a new grill or set of golf clubs, but our attention and our prayers. And, rather than giving God a gift, Jesus teaches that God wants us to ask him for something, to pray: hallowed by your name. Today, we show our appreciation for our heavenly Father by asking him to reveal the holiness of his name to us and through us.
The first question is: what is God’s name? A person’s name is more than what he is called or the titles he is given. God’s name is more than Jehovah or Elohim. God’s name is everything he has revealed to us about himself in his Word. We could even say that the Bible is God’s name because in it he reveals who he is and what he’s done – in other words, His reputation. The world recognizes the value of a good reputation. King Solomon declared that a good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. (Proverbs 22:1) A person’s reputation determines what friends he will have and what schools will accept him and what employer will hire him. Sadly, as difficult as it is to build a good reputation, it’s very easy to lose one. Shameful posts and pictures on the internet have destroyed many reputations and lives. All it takes is one bad decision and some bad press for a business to lose thousands of customers and millions of dollars. A name, a reputation is a precious and fragile thing.
And no reputation is more precious or holy than God’s. In fact, when Satan declared war on God and his people in the Garden of Eden, he didn’t storm the gates of heaven to try to tear God out of his dwelling place or set the world on fire to destroy God’s perfect creation – he aimed his arrows at God’s name, his reputation as holy, just and loving. Satan led Eve to doubt that God would really punish eating from the forbidden tree with death, he led her to question God’s goodness and love, he deceived her into thinking that God was holding out on her. Properly understood, we could say that sin entered the world not when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit, but the moment they doubted God’s Word and holy reputation.
And slandering God’s good name remains one of Satan’s favorite ways to lead people into sin and eternal death. Satan has led the world into blaming God for allowing a terrorist to shoot up a night club and for allowing an alligator to drag a child to his death. Satan has convinced most of the world that the one, true God of the Bible is no different than the god of the Koran or the god of your imagination – and that it doesn’t really matter how you live what you believe, as long as you believe something. Satan has been more successful than any gossip magazine or sleazy website in ruining God’s good name in the eyes of the world.
But Satan reserves his most devious and slanderous attacks against God’s holy name for believers like us. He does it by planting doubts and deceptions in our hearts. When you read the OT does he lead you to question how a holy God could command his people to exterminate every man, woman, and child from the Holy Land? Do you, like so many, have a hard time believing that the same God who loved the world enough to send his Son to die for it will condemn those have turned their back on Jesus to eternal death in hell? Does your faith in God’s goodness and love waver when you face difficulties in life? Just like one bad review can destroy a business or reputation, Satan plants these doubts in our hearts to try to destroy God’s name and our faith. And when he succeeds, the results are disastrous. When Adam and Eve bought into Satan’s lies they traded eternal life in a perfect world for the pain of childbirth, thorns and thistles and death.
Jesus knows just how hard it is for us to trust that God is good when there is so much evil in our world and lives. That’s precisely why he urges us to pray: hallowed be your name. Hallowed, now there’s a word you don’t use every day. To hallow something means to set it apart as holy. In this petition we pray that God’s name, everything he has revealed about himself in his Word, would be set apart as the one perfect and trustworthy thing in this imperfect world. How does this happen? Well in one sense, it just is. God told Moses that I am who I am. (Exodus 3:14) Grass is green, the sky is blue and God is holy. That is his very essence. He cannot make a mistake, he has never lied, and he has nothing to do with evil. It is who he is and what he does – and every page of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, stands as a living witness to the holiness of God’s name. And so, in one way, God’s name is holy no matter what anyone else does or says about it.
And yet, at the same time, humans can do real serious damage to God’s reputation on earth. When false prophets teach things that distort or contradict God’s written Word, they are blaspheming God’s holy name. When churches claim that their own decrees and doctrines are equal to (or even superior to) God’s, they are dragging God’s name through the mud. When someone stands before you and says that God isn’t really serious about people living according to his 10 commandments or that he expects us to do something to earn our way into heaven – the purity of God’s Law and Gospel is destroyed. And so whenever you pray this petition, keep in mind that you are praying for those who teach and preach in God’s name. You are praying that false prophets would be revealed and silenced and that your pastor would always faithfully represent the holiness of God’s name and what he has done to save us.
But this petition isn’t only for preachers and teachers. When we pray hallowed be your name, we are also asking God to show the holiness of his reputation through our lives. Just as our words and actions can reflect positively or negatively on our fathers and families, our words and actions as Christians on earth reflect on our Father in heaven. And so we have to ask ourselves, just what kind of reputation have we given God by our words and actions? Have we done more to preserve God’s holy name or drag it through the mud? What do our coworkers think about the God who expects his children to love [their] neighbors as [themselves] (Mark 12:31) when we are quick to lose our tempers and are hard to work with? What does it tell the world about our heavenly Father when as fathers we make sure our children are cared for physically and financially but neglect them spiritually? We would like to see more people join our church, but why should anyone want to worship a God that his own children don’t regularly worship? As we consider how our lives have reflected on God’s holy name we must confess: “God, I have not kept your name holy in my life. I have dragged your name through the mud and damaged your reputation by my words and actions. I don’t deserve to be called your child or to call you my Father. You would be justified in treating me as your enemy and condemning me to hell for my sins. Father, forgive me.”
Thankfully, our place as God’s children and our position in his paradise doesn’t depend on us. It depends on Jesus. He is the only One who never slandered God’s name or damaged his reputation by his behavior. And the good news is that Jesus didn’t just come to teach us this petition, he came to answer this petition. Whereas we are often ashamed to openly share God’s Law and Gospel with friends and coworkers, Jesus never failed to perfectly represent his Father’s will even before those who hated him. Because we have often hid our faith when it might harm us socially or financially, Jesus let his name to be trashed and his life to be taken as payment for our sins. As he contemplated the price it would cost to save us Jesus prayed: now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” (John 12:27-28) In the end, God vindicated, he sanctified his reputation (both his threats and promises) by crucifying his Son on the cross for our sins. And so, this petition is fully and finally answered not in our lives, but in the life and death of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of Christ crucified for sinners is the holiest part of God’s name – because it alone can save sinners from hell. For that reason, the gospel is also the main target of Satan’s most vicious lies and attacks. Satan continually tries to convince us that free salvation by grace through faith is too good to be true. He continues to smear God’s name by persuading us that we must do something to be saved. And because we face those attacks on a daily basis, let us pray all the more faithfully: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. In this petition we pray that God would continue to provide teachers who faithfully represent God according to His Word. We pray that God would plant his gospel of grace so deep in our hearts that no one, not even Satan, can make us doubt his goodness and love. We pray that God would lead us to look to Jesus and him alone for forgiveness and salvation. And until then, we pray that God would continue to reveal his holy name through our words and lives.
What do you get the guy who has everything? Most dads are satisfied when their children live and behave in ways that honor their father’s name and reputation. What do you get the Creator of the Universe? Jesus tells us that the Father wants us to pray: hallowed be your name. So let us thank God by boldly asking Him to continue to reveal the holiness of his saving name to us and through us, with the confidence that in Jesus, it has already been done. Amen.