By J.R. Miller
There is great need of the lesson of reverence. Men do not seem aware of God. Even in the holiest places of earth, there appears to be in most of us lack of consciousness of the presence and majesty of God. Almost nobody takes off his shoes, before the burning bush. "Nobody fears God nowadays," said one distinguished English clergyman to another, with deep pain in his heart. We all need to learn anew the lesson of reverence. This is on of the teachings of this prayer, "Hallowed be your name."
What are we to understand by the name of God? Among the ancient Jews there was one divine name which had peculiar sacredness. It was so holy that they never pronounced it in public. When they came to it in reading, they would pass over it in reverent silence, not daring to take it upon their lips. The Mohammedans, also, have a great reverence for the divine name. They will not tread upon a piece of paper, even the smallest torn fragment which they see lying upon the ground--but will reverently pick it up, saying, "It may contain the name of God." In this there may be little more than superstition in the outward honor shown to the diving name. Ofttimes men with wicked heart will treat the written or spoken name of God with seeming reverence, bowing at its every mention, while in their own life they have no true regard for God. It is very evident that more than this is meant, in this petition for the hallowing of God's name. We must honor it in our heart and in our life.
In the Bible, a name stands for the whole of the character of the person. Many scripture names have meanings in which are enshrined the qualities which belonged to the man. Even among us, a name comes to stand for all there is in the person's life and character. A little child is born without a name, and when a name is given to it, it means nothing as yet, for the child has no biography, no character, no personality, has done nothing to individualize itself. But as the days and years go on, and the child grows into manhood, everything he does and all that he is are gathered into his name--until by and by the name has a meaning wherever the man is known. The person's name becomes, as it were, a composite photograph made up of all the phases and aspects of his life. Any man's name when spoken in the ears of his friends conveys to them a conception of his personality, his character, his disposition, his whole story; all that he is--is enshrined in his name. There are certain names in every community that by reason of the noble life which the people live, or the great or good things they have done, mean a great deal: standing for honor, for patriotism, for heroism, for philanthropy, for beneficence, for religion.
So the name of God includes all that God is and all that he has done; that is, all the revelations which have been made to us of him. When we speak his name, there arises before our mind a vision which gathers in itself all that we know about God--all our thoughts of him, our impressions of him, our experiences of his goodness, his mercy, his help. When we mention the name of Jesus Christ, the whole story of his life is suggested to us--his condescension, his beautiful character, his gentleness, his works of power, his teaching--above all, his atoning death, and then his resurrection and ascension. Thus the name of God stands for God himself--all that God is. In this petition we pray, therefore, not merely for the formal honoring of a name--but for the honoring of God himself in the revelations of him which have been made in the world.
Of course we cannot add a particle to the essential glory of God's name. Nothing we could do, would make his character any more glorious. We cannot add to the sun's brightness, by lighting candles and lamps on the earth; nor can we, by anything we may say or do--make God any more glorious than he is in his essential character.
What then is meant by the hallowing of God's name? In what sense can we honor God? What is implied in this petition? It is a prayer that God himself shall hallow his name; also, that he would make its real glory appear before men, and that he would enable us to hallow it in our life. There are several ways in which we may do this.
We may add to the honor in which we hold God's name in our own heart. Some people live year after year, and give little serious thought to the divine character, not studying the Scriptures to discover its glory and its beauty. The more we know about God--the more will we revere and honor his name. Every new revealing of him shows us something more that is wonderful in him.
Everything in this world has in it, for a devout mind--some suggestion of God. Every flower that blooms, every cloud that flits across the sky, every star that shines, every human face--suggests something about God, the Creator; reveals some feature of his power, his wisdom, his goodness. In the Bible there is not a chapter, scarcely a verse, in which the child of God may not find something which speaks to him of his Father. In every true Christian life and character, also, there are revealings of God, qualities in which something of him is reflected. As we thus learn about God, the honor in which we hold him in our heart, becomes greater and greater. Every new glimpse of him, makes him appear greater and more glorious to our thought and love.
This is a prayer that God would make himself known to us in new ways. "Show me your glory," was the prayer of Moses, as he pleaded for some visible manifestation. Our prayer here is not, however, for a theophany--but for deeper knowledge of God as our Father, for new experiences of his love, his goodness, his mercy, his faithfulness; for new revealings of his character. "Those who know your name--shall put their trust in you," was the testimony of a devout psalmist. The deeper cry of our heart--should be to know God better, for then we shall love him more, and serve him more devotedly.
We ask in this prayer, also, that God's name may become better known among men. As dear as God may be to us, his children, and as highly as we may honor him in our own heart--he is not worthily reverenced in the world about us. Men do not know him, and do not honor him as he ought to be honored. We say of a good man, that he needs only to be known--in order to be loved. If we can get men to know God--they will love him. We should pray, therefore, that his name may become better known, that those who pay him no reverence now shall thus be brought to trust him. What joy it would give to thousands of weary sufferers in this world today--if they knew God!
This is one of those prayers that is not finished when we have breathed its words, however sincerely and earnestly, into the ear of our Father. When we ask God to make his name known among men, he says to us, "I have put my name into your keeping--for you make it known. I have given you a knowledge of me--go and tell the people everywhere of my love, my mercy, my holiness, my grace. I have gone to the cross to reveal there the divine heart--you must show now in your life, the meaning of the cross, interpreting it not merely in words--but in life, in service, in deeds of self-denial and sacrifice." It is ours to make known to men, who God is.
We ask in this petition that we may be enabled to do our part in spreading the knowledge of God in the world. There are many ways in which we may do this. We may scatter the printed Word of God, and its pages will be as the leaves of the tree of life for the healing of the nations. We may speak to men everywhere of what God is, what he has done; especially of what he is to us--and what he has done for us!
Another way in which we may hallow God's name among men, is in our own life. If a child does well and lives worthily, he honors his parents before the world. If he lives unworthily, he brings reproach, shame, and grief upon them. We, as God's children, by our life bring either honor or dishonor upon the name of our Father.
One has said, "Christians are the world's Bible." The world does not read the written book--but it does read the life of those who profess to be God's children. If our life is to be the interpretation of God's Word to the world, we should write nothing in it which would in any way misrepresent of misinterpret God. If we live carelessly, dishonestly, speaking lies, acting deceitfully, doing unloving things--we are dishonoring God. It is important that all those who stand for God in this world, shall live in all their common days--so that all who see them shall learn something more about God's grace and the beauty of holiness.
Wherever we go--our life itself should declare God. It should not be necessary for us to tell people that we are Christians; there should be something in the very temper and spirit and atmosphere of our life--that would say to everyone, that we belong to Christ and have been with him.
It is related of a great artist that he was once wandering in the mountains of Switzerland, when some officials met him and demanded his passport. "I do not have it with me," he replied, "but my name is Dore." "Prove it, if you are," replied the officers, knowing Dore was a famous artist--but not believing that this was he. Taking a piece of paper the artist hastily sketched a group of peasants who were standing near, and did it with such grace and skill that the officials exclaimed, "Enough! you are Dore."
The world cares little for a mere profession. We say we are Christians, and the challenge is, "Prove it!" If we are of Christ--we must be able to do the works of Christ, to live the life of Christ, to show the spirit of Christ. The artist's skillful drawing proved his identity. We must prove that we are the followers of our Master--by the love, the grace, the beauty, the holiness of our life.
True religion is not merely a matter of creed and profession, or of church-going and public worship; it is far more a matter of daily life. It is not how we behave on Sundays, nor the kind of creed we hold, nor the devoutness of our worship; it is the way we act at home, in school, in business, in society, in our associations with men. It is vitally important, that all who profess to belong to Christ--shall manifest Christ's beauty in life and character. It is not enough to witness for Christ in our words; we are to be witnesses to Christ and for him in ourselves. It is not enough to preach to gospel in sermon or exhortation; the gospel that honors Christ truly is the gospel men read in our daily life.
Let us so live that in all our life we shall, indeed, not only with our voice, but in our life--give honor and praise to him whose name should be hallowed above all other names!