The Lord’s Prayer 3 - Hallowed be Thy Name
Sermon by Pastor Eric Chang, November 21, 1976
Today we need to come to these important words: “Hallowed be thy name”. We have already studied the richness of God’s Word in the meaning, when we studied what it means, of “Our Father.” What does it mean when the week before we saw “which art in heaven” [Mt. 6:9-KJV]? We saw that heaven is not some kind of a geographical location but a spiritual state of being. And we saw what difference it makes to our whole spiritual outlook, what difference it makes to our prayer life, when we accurately understand the Word of God, that God is not far away that we have to reach Him by some kind of rocket-propelled prayers, but that God is always near, that right across the border of the material and the spiritual, the spiritual is, as it were, right beside, just switching, you might say, the spiritual or even the material frequency. And you find that you have entered in a new and different state of existence, which is where God is. God is Spirit and He is not near or far in some way that we can measure in terms of geographical distance.
Now, I know that many of you may not appreciate the importance of this. You virtually have to be a theologian to understand the depth of what we are talking about. But in due time, the meaning of it will gradually, I hope, percolate like coffee right down from your mind into your heart. And then it comes and dawns upon you as to what it really means, that God is as near as your own breath, as near as your own spirit. He is never far from you. That is the whole Scriptural teaching. If He is far away, it is because you are far from Him. You are far from Him because of sin. But never is He far away from you in terms of distance. He is always near.
And so, how do we draw near to God? It is quite simply by drawing near to Him, by repenting of our sins. And James tells us, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” [Jam. 4:8] It depends on you. It is funny how some people often say to me, “You seem to always put the responsibility on us. You keep emphasizing what we have to do.” But that is what Scripture says, not what I say. God is always ready to do His part. The only question is whether we are ready to do ours. Therefore, Scripture itself emphasizes our responsibility and it never leaves us in doubt that God is ever ready to respond to our prayer. “Ask” - that is our responsibility - “then you shall receive.” “Seek” - that is our responsibility - “then you shall find.” And James says, “Draw near to God; He will draw near to you.” You do your part; He will do His. The question only is we have to know what is our part. We do not have to know what is God’s part. He will do His part. You need not worry about that. Thus, here in Scripture, the emphasis, not as my emphasis, it is the Scriptural emphasis, always lays the responsibility on us because God has done everything there is to do. Now it is up to us. “Draw near to God; He will draw near to you.”
What Does “Hallow His Name” Mean?
Today we come then to these words, “Hallowed be thy name”. In Chinese, “ 願祢的名被尊為聖 yuan ni de ming bei zun wei sheng”. Whatever does this mean? It is so easy to pray the Lord’s Prayer. Those who have been to Catholic school, as I have been, the first thing we ever learned in Catholic school was the Lord’s Prayer. And we kept going over and over it without having a clue what it means. I do not know how many times in Catholic school, as a little boy, I must have prayed, “Hallowed be thy name”, [but] nobody ever told me what it means. Has anybody ever told you what it means? Do you know what it means?
What then does this mean? We have to approach this question with a number of other questions. We have to ask: What does ‘hallowed’ mean? What does ‘hallowing His name’ mean? We have to ask: How is His name going to be ‘hallowed’? How is all this going to be accomplished? Where is this going to be accomplished? Why is it necessary that it should be accomplished? Now we have a lot of questions to ask. I hope that when you come to the Bible, you come with many questions, not with a blank mind. You ask no questions, you get no answers. Sometimes you can ask the questions and still do not get the answers right away, but at least you have got something to work on. In English there is a saying that if you ask the right question, that is half the answer. The problem is to ask the right question.
Thus, in coming to the Word of God, you must come with a spiritual and an active mind, asking questions. Sometimes we dare not ask questions because we are not sure we could ever get any answers. But if we are willing to search, if we are willing to seek, we shall find. Kipling has a very useful saying which I think as Christians we should learn, when it comes to working at the Word of God. It is this: “I kept six honest serving men. They taught me all I knew. Their names are: What, Why, When, Where, How and Who.” This is a very useful thing to learn, that Kipling worked out. We need to bear this in mind. When we come to the Word of God, let us not just stare at the words, or just sigh and say, “I don’t know what this says.” Start asking questions and start finding the answers. This is the way you are going to move forward if you are going to move forward at all in the Word of God.
What does ‘hallowed’ mean? Well, first, the translators do indeed put a lot of problems before us. ‘Hallowed’, of course, is not a word that is used in the English language for the last 300 years. So if you do not know what ‘hallowed’ means, I do not greatly blame you. Whatever does ‘hallowed’ mean? According to the English experts, this word has been out of circulation for no less than 300 years, and perhaps was almost out of circulation even by King James’ time. By ‘out of circulation’ it means that it is a word not used anymore in current language. But because it had been part of English traditional language, it has always been part of the Lord’s Prayer. Therefore the translators did not feel free even in a new translation to change the word, so that even in the New English Bible, we have the same thing, that “Your name be hallowed”, as though anybody knows precisely what exactly that means. The Chinese, having no tradition to keep to, is freer here and is able to translate “願祢的名被尊為聖 yuan ni de ming bei zun wei sheng “. That is close to the meaning. Let Your name be regarded - be revered, be respected - as holy. May Your name be respected as holy! The problem is that even when we have got the right translation, we are not so sure what that means.
To Be Holy Means to Be Different, to Be Separate from the World
What does it mean to say, “Let His name be respected as holy”? What does ‘holy’ mean? Now what exactly is the word ‘holy’ supposed to mean? We can think of saints who are holy because some Pope canonized him. Presumably that meant that he was put in a cannon and shot out, or something like this. But it does not mean that. It just means that the Pope decided that he was to be raised to the level of a saint, as though it was up to the Pope or anyone else to decide who is a saint. This kind of erroneous notion of what is holy still persists. What is the Biblical meaning of ‘holy’? What does ‘holiness’ mean in the Bible? The basic meaning of ‘holy’ in the Bible, in fact, as always, is very simple. It basically means to be set apart, to be different from, to be distinct from everything and everyone else. God is holy in the sense that He is different from anything and anyone else. He is unique. The ‘only Son’, the ‘unique Son’ is that He is the holy Son. He is unique; there is nothing and no one like Him. Therefore He is apart, a category of His own. That is part of the basic meaning of ‘holy’. That is why we are holy. The word ‘saints’ simply means holy ones. And you know that Paul addresses Christian as saints. We are all saints. We do not have to wait for any Pope to canonize us.
The Bible tells us that every true Christian is a saint. What does that mean? That means basically this: that he is now different from the people in the world. He has been chosen out of the world. He has been set apart for God. He is separate from the world because he belongs to God. A saint is somebody who simply belongs to God. Whatever belongs to God is set apart for God, and therefore, it is holy. It is for this reason that [what] you see here is called “The Holy Bible”. Now that is not wrong to use it in this way because the Bible belongs to God. The Word is the Word of God. Therefore, as you call it “The Holy Bible”, it is quite correctly called the ‘holy’ Bible. It is God’s Word. It belongs to Him. It is not like any human word. It is set apart from anything that man has to say. In the same way, in the Old Testament the priests were holy. They were set apart for God. They only lived for God. They only served God. They had no inheritance in the world. They were different from all the people. They were ‘wholly’ unto the Lord, that is, you can actually use the word ‘holy’ by spelling it with a ‘w’ at the beginning - completely the Lord’s. ‘Holy’ unto the Lord can be spelled equally well as “w-h-o-l-l-y” - wholly unto the Lord. Anything that is completely and utterly the Lord’s is wholly the Lord’s. And it is holy in God’s eyes. It is separated unto Him. Therefore I said that if you are a true Christian, you are holy because you are wholly God’s.
Now you can understand why I have constantly shown you that the teaching of Scripture knows of only one kind of commitment and that is a whole commitment, a total commitment. That is why the Bible speaks of saints. It is because all these people are wholly belonging to God. As Paul time and again wants us to understand clearly why, as he put it in the words in 2 Corinthians: “Christ died for us that we no more live for ourselves but for Him.” [2 Cor. 5:14-15]
So holiness on God’s side shows His utter difference from anything in the world. How is He different? He is different in these ways: the world is corrupt but He is pure. The world is full of hatred and He is full of love. The world is merciless, but He is full of mercy and lovingkindness. God in His character is utterly different from anything that is in the world and from anyone that is in the world. It is this ‘other-ness’, this complete difference of God, that the Bible describes as holy. That is holiness in God’s aspect. His character is completely different from anything you can find in the world. You cannot - and this is the error of philosophy - you cannot reason from the world to God because God is completely different from people. He is completely different. You cannot say, “Well, people are like this; therefore, God is like that.” You cannot reason like this because God is completely different from people. He is completely different from even the best of people. His love is of a different quality.
Human love is selfish, as we have come to realize. A boy loves you because he wants to possess you. You love the boy because you want to possess him. All human love is like this. And if that love breaks down, it produces tension. It produces distress because it is so possessive that when it breaks, it produces tremendous stress. Like mental fatigue, when it breaks, the pressure is enormous. But God’s love is nothing like human love at all. It does not seek to take; it only seeks to give. And in that kind of love, you do not find the same stresses. The direction is different. It is not making this my own. Many mothers love children, but their children is their private property. I have seen so many parents behave in this way. God helps us that when we raise our children, we do not behave in this way: that our children is ‘my’ property. They are there for me to possess, or to dispossess, as I please. In fact, I have known mothers who have dispossessed their children because they maintained that everything their children have is theirs. This kind of so-called love in the world is utterly different from God’s love. God’s love is nothing like this. Therefore you cannot reason from human love to God’s love. It does not work like this at all. The Bible says, “’A mother may even forget her sucking child, but I will never forget you,’ says the Lord.” [Is. 49:15] The love of God is completely different even from the greatest, the finest of human love. That is what holiness means: an utter distinction, the separateness, the difference, the uniqueness of God. Now we must bear this very clearly in mind if we want to understand what we are speaking about here, when we pray to God that He will hallow His name.
This brings us then, as we see, to the next point. To be separated out means not only that we have a different name but that our lives are different. Too many Christians have only one distinction from the non-Christian. It is this: that they have the label of being a Christian. Now let me tell you, in the Bible, that makes no difference at all. A person simply with a Christian label is not a Christian on the Biblical definition. He must be different in his whole attitude and his whole thinking - his whole way of life. This is the Biblical teaching. This is the whole meaning, as I have stressed before, of being born again. Being born again means that you have become different. If being born again leaves you exactly the same as before you were born again, then what is the point of being born again? The whole point of being born again seems to be utterly an academic exercise. The point of being born again is that you become different.
To Hallow God’s Name is to Reveal Him as Holy
Let us pursue this question further. Let us notice this, that this prayer is being addressed to God, that He may hallow His name. So, first, it is something that God must do. We are asking Him to hallow His name. Now what does this mean? We are asking Him to sanctify His name. We are asking Him to make His name to be holy. Now, He is already holy, is He not? So what is there for Him to do? He is already holy! What are we asking Him to do in such a prayer when we say, “Hallowed be thy name”? “Let Your name - make Your name - to be holy”. What is that prayer, seeing that God’s name is already holy, seeing that God in Himself is already holy?
This brings us to the next point. We have to understand what ‘name’ means? What does the ‘name’ mean? Well, in Scripture the name refers to the person, just as in everyday life. If you say, “I am speaking about somebody.” I do not know who that somebody is until you say the name. You say, “So and so”. I say, “Ah! Now I know who you are talking about.” The name represents that person. But in English, too, ‘name’ has [the meaning of] reputation, just as in the Bible. “My good name” means my good reputation. If you “destroy my name”, it means you are destroying my reputation. And so in Scripture, ‘name’ means God as He chooses to reveal Himself.
So now, when we understand this, we are seeing what we are asking God to do. We are saying, “May You, O God, do such a work that Your name, Your reputation, Your character is revealed in the eyes of the people as holy.” There is not any question whether God Himself is holy. The question is only whether people know that He is holy. And of course, this implies that people do not know that He is holy and that the world does not know God. Therefore, the prayer is: “Let the world know, O God, who You are.” That is what the prayer is: “Let Your mighty power be revealed, that the whole world may know that You are God, that Your name be exalted.” By this we begin to see that “hallow Your name” is very close to “glorify Your name”. The prayer really is “glorify Your name” in a particular way, that Your name may be so glorified that people may realize that You, O God, are holy, that is, utterly different from anything that is in the world.
The Gods of This World Are Simply Supermen
Now the world does not know that. If you go out, you will find that people think of God in the most strange ways. The Greeks thought about gods as simply supermen. They behaved just as human beings did. They did the most strange things. You have a god called Bacchus, the god of the feast, who makes other people drunk and gets drunk himself. He is a riotous kind of a character. You have “god of war”. Even in Chinese we have Guan Gong 關公, you see - god of war. In other words, the gods, notice, are not holy. These gods of the world are simply super human beings. They do all the bad things that human beings do, with some few exceptions, because they represent human virtues. But they only represent human virtues. Notice, the gods of this world, there are none of them who are holy. They are simply human beings who have been stepped up to a higher level.
So, any of you familiar with Greek mythology will realize that the Greek gods, for example, or the Roman gods for that matter, were vindictive; were hateful; were narrow-minded; were petty; were squabbling; were fighting with each other; were getting drunk; were hurting each other. The gods behave exactly like human beings. Why? It is because all the gods of this world are simply human beings who have been magnified. Now that shows you the difference between God in the Bible and the gods of this world. The God in the Bible is immediately different in that He is in no way like a human being. That is why I said right at the beginning, you cannot reason from human virtue, whether it be the virtue of warriors, of fighting, from which we get the gods of war like Mars in the West or Guan Gong 關公 in China. These are simply heroes which have been stepped up. Guan Gong 關公, of course, was a hero in Chinese history who was then raised - deified - to the level of a god, which just proves exactly this: that the gods of this world are simply supermen. And we still have that today. Human beings are still creating their gods. We have “Bionic Man” and “Bionic Woman” today. [For] six million dollars or something, you have got a superman. He runs a little faster than you do and he has more strength in twisting this and that thing. His mind does not seem to work a lot faster, but anyway, that part maybe can be improved later on when they add another one or two million dollars. In the meantime, with six million dollars down, he can do the sort of things that most bulldozers could do. He is a very expensive bulldozer. Anyway, you see, this is typical of gods of this world. They are simply human beings promoted to a higher level.
Thus, we must understand that the prayer here is: “O Lord, may the world know that You are different, that You are not like the gods [of this world].” “Reveal Yourself”, in other words. This is the prayer: “Reveal Yourself to the world. Let the world know that You are God.” Just as in the Old Testament, in Ezekiel, so many times [it says], “then the nations will know that I am God when I do this and do that.” We are going to see in a moment what He does.
God’s Holiness Will Be Revealed Through His People
Here we need to go on and pursue the question further by asking the next question. Seeing then that we are praying that God may glorify His name by showing it to be holy, by revealing His character to be holy and utterly different from what is in this world, that He may make His entrance into this world in revelation and in power, but how is it going to be done? What exactly are we praying for? Or do we know what we are praying for? Well, the next step we realize is that God is going to do this thing and how He is going to do it, as the Scripture shows to us, is that He is going to do it in us. Now this is the point that we must see very clearly and very importantly. When we are asking God to do this, how is His name or where is His name going to be [hallowed]? That is, by what means is His name going to be hallowed? Is it going to be hallowed in the houses of Montreal? Is God’s name going to be seen to be holy by looking at the houses? By looking at the trees? By looking at the flowers? By looking at what? At the cars? Of course not! It must be [by] looking at people. God is going to reveal His name as holy - where? In His people! Now that is the next point we must understand.
God’s holiness is going to be revealed in us. That is the Scriptural teaching. Let me read to you in this context a very important verse, and that is in Ezekiel, which sums up in fact the whole of this teaching very clearly. In Ezek. 36:23, let me read to you this verse and you will see how close this verse is to the verse we are studying now. Here we read these words:
And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations will know that I am the LORD, says the Lord GOD, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.
You can notice just how close these words are to the words in the Lord’s Prayer. What is he saying here? What is Ezekiel saying? “I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations,” - by you! “You, Israel!” And the words unfortunately apply just as much to the church today. “You have profaned My name. You have dishonored My name in the world.” The church has brought little or no glory to God, but a great deal of dishonor by its bickerings, its squabblings, its sectarianism, its partisanship, its church differences and disputes. “You have dishonored, disgraced My name.” ‘Profane’ is the exact opposite of ‘making holy’. It is to make secular. It is to dishonor, to degrade. “’You have profaned My name among the nations. The nations will know - when I have revealed My holiness and vindicated My holiness -that I am the Lord,’ says the Lord your God, ‘through you, you, the very people through whom My name was profaned and dishonored.’ I am going to do a work in such a way that it is going to be through you that I will vindicate My holiness before their eyes, the eyes of the world.”
Now you can see when you have read this verse carefully that this is exactly the same thing that Jesus has in His mind. God is going to hallow His name. God is going to glorify His name as holy and He is going to cause all the nations of the world to see it. But it is going to be through you. That is the way He is going to work. The same people who dishonored His name, He is going to do a work in them that they are going to glorify His name. Now this is exactly what I am praying for, what we must be praying for in this generation. The church has been a disgrace. We all know it. There is no use arguing about it. There is no use defending it. It is a truth that everybody knows. But I have hope that if we pray and call upon the name of the Lord, God is going to vindicate His name through the same people who profane His name, through us, through the church. He is going to do a great and amazing work.
How then is God going to do this? How is God going to reveal His holiness in the midst of the very same people and through the very same people who caused His name to be blasphemed, as Paul says in Romans Chapter 2, among the Gentiles. Well, if we read on in Ezekiel, the answer is there. We do not have to read on very far. As we read on in Ezekiel, we find that Ezekiel tells us how it is going to be done. He says it is going to be done like this: that He, God, is going to put a new spirit and a new heart within man. He is going to change the Israelites. He is going to transform them. That is how God’s power is going to work. He is going to come into the Israelites and take hold of them and change them and make new people out of them. And so, we read a few verses further on, in Ezekiel Chapter 36, from the next verse, v24f.
For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone (the dead heart) and give you a heart of flesh (a living heart).
How many times in this church we have already emphasized this: what it means to become a true Christian, and that is, that God calls us out. As it says in v24, “I will take you from the nations.” He gathers us to Himself. That is the first step: separating them out from the nations, where they have been mixed into. So the first step of being sanctified, of becoming holy, is that God calls us out to be separate, to be different, as Paul uses exactly that quotation in 2 Corinthians Chapter 6, “Come out from among them. Be separate.” [v17] We have to come out, not physically out of the world, but out from the world in the way they behave themselves and the way they conduct themselves. And when we respond to God’s call, then what does God do? God puts a new spirit within us, a new heart within us, and so He makes us to become clean, to become holy. So we now see what God is doing. We see that God is going to answer this prayer by changing us
We Need to Be Transformed If His Name Is to Be Made Holy through Us
But this leads us to another very important point regarding prayer. Consider this: that if you are asking and you know what you are asking for, can you see what you are praying for? When we pray, “O God, let Your name be glorified in such a way that the world will know that You are holy”, we are saying, “Let Your name be holy and sanctified in us and through us.” We are saying, “Lord, change me!” We cannot sincerely be asking God to glorify His name if we do not mean, “Glorify Your name in me.” Never pray the Lord’s Prayer again if you do not intend that God will change you and separate you out of the world. And do not repeat the Lord’s Prayer. That prayer is not for you. This prayer is only for those people who are willing to follow Jesus all the way. It is only for people who are willing to take up the cross and follow Jesus, who are wholly committed to Jesus, who are saying, “Lord, let Your name be glorified as holy throughout the world through me.” That is a basic principle in prayer. That whatever you pray for, either you do not mean it, or if you mean it, God is going to ask you to do your part. For example, there is a brother and sister in need financially, what do I do? I say, “Lord, supply his need or her need.” Good! And what is your responsibility? “Nothing! I asked in my prayer. I have prayed and so that is the end of my responsibility.” Wrong! You either do not pray that prayer, or if you pray that prayer, God is going to say, “OK, now you start with you. You do something about it.” If you do not intend to do something about it, do not pray. You can see that prayer and life are inseparable. You cannot separate prayer and life. If you do not intend to do something about it, do not pray for it because God is going to tell you to be the first one to do something about it. If I pray for a brother or a sister in need, and say, “Lord, supply his need”, and I do not take out some money to give to them, am I not a hypocrite? What kind of hypocrite am I? What do I mean praying for that person when I do not care to do anything on my part?
What is the use of saying, “Pray for China. Lord, grant the Gospel to get into China”? Do you mean it? What is your part? What is the use of praying, “Lord, bring the Gospel into China”, when you have not the slightest intention to do anything on your part for it? In every respect, if we are praying for the church, or praying for a person in need, or praying for the outreach of the Gospel in China, or praying for any particular work, there is no point praying for anything if you do not intend to do something about it. That is, if you can do something about it. Of course, if I am penniless myself, I can still pray for somebody in need, even though I have nothing to give that person. That is a different situation. But where I can do something, I must do something.
From all this, then, we see the important principles that come out from what seems to be a very simple prayer. [It] brings out a mass of important teachings of the Word of God. What mass of teachings? We see that God is holy, utterly different, that becoming a Christian means to become utterly different as well, that when people look at you, they say, “Wow, he is different.” And we are not afraid to be different. [Some] Christians are afraid to be different. We are not afraid to be different, if by being different, we are truly holy. It is not ‘different’ by the sense that we wear out-of-date clothing, wear all kinds of odd garments and behave in strange ways. I do not mean ‘different’ by being queer, but ‘different’ by being holy, that people can say, “Wow, here is a man who you know is righteous, is fair, is kind, is loving.” All these things you can say of this man. He stands out from the crowd as different. If you have listened to this prayer and if you pray this prayer, then the burdens upon you through the coming weeks to go out to your home, to your college, to your office, and there let people say, “Wow, this man is different. There is something different about this man. He stands out from the crowd.” And I do not mean ‘different’ because you talk more than anybody else - that is not a very good thing to be different [about] - but to be different because of the quality of your life, not because you just wave a big Bible around. Everybody can do that, but the question is whether your life stands out as different.
Thus, we see that here is something exceedingly important. We see that it brings in the principles of regeneration [and] the basic principles of prayer: that we can pray for nothing and we have not the right to pray for it, unless we on our part are prepared to say what is my part in doing this that God wants me to do.
If We Do Not Live a Holy Life, We Do Not Fulfill Our High Calling
It, however, leads us to one final and exceedingly important point, which is this: What happens then if we do not live this holy, this sanctified life? Does it matter whether we are sanctified, whether we are holy? Let me tell you the Bible’s words are explicit on this point: that without holiness, nobody shall see God. It is not a question that: it is good for a Christian to be holy; it is rather nice to be holy; it is rather nice that he is kind and different from other people. It is essential for him because without holiness you are not a Christian. Without holiness, you will not see God. In this respect, our calling, our whole purpose, our whole meaning of life in this world is to be holy. In the book of Leviticus, four times God said to the people of Israel, “Be holy as I am holy.” Not once, not twice, but four times! [Lev. 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7] He ordered - He commanded - the people of Israel to be holy. We must be different if we are going to fulfill our function, our purpose in the world as Christians. And this we must bear in mind: we have not become Christians just to save our own necks and save our own skins. We have been saved in order to fulfill a task and that task is to point the world to God. You either are a true Christian and you are fulfilling that function, or you are not a Christian. Either you are always pointing people to God by the kind of life you live, or else you are not a Christian, i.e., God is not is being sanctified in your life. Do not become a Christian just because you want to run away from hell. Because if that is the only reason, and that is the only reason why you are still a Christian now, you will not go very far down the road. When you become a Christian, God has given you a task and that is to sanctify His name in the world. And I beg of you to clearly remember it.
But what if you do not fulfill that responsibility? Let me tell you that there are various stages of fulfilling that responsibility. I am going to point you to the example of Moses. The example of Moses rather chills and frightens me and keeps me exceedingly humble. I understand now why Paul said, “work out your... salvation with fear and trembling”. [Phil. 2:12] Nothing is so disastrous as a self-complacent Christian. Have you ever wondered why Paul said in Philippians, “work out your... salvation with fear and trembling”? It is because God is a holy God also in this: if you do not honor His name as holy in your life, He is going to disown you because you do not properly represent Him.
Moses Did Not Hallow God’s name — was not allow to enter the Promise Land
Let me give you the example of Moses. In Num. 20:12, I will tell you the incident which is already quite well known. Moses was a mighty man of God, of which it was said of him that He, God, spoke to Moses face to face as with no other man. Moses was God’s chosen and holy instrument, totally set apart for God. He led the people out of Egypt. He led the Israelites through the wilderness towards the Promised Land. But Moses himself never entered the Promised Land. Do you know why? Even though he was a man of God of a stature that nobody else, no prophet could compare with him - as God said, “I never speak with any prophet as I speak to Moses. I speak with him face to face, as friend with friend” [Ex. 33:11] - yet Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Do you know why? It is because for one instance, in one incident, he did not sanctify God’s name. Now the charge brought against Moses is exactly that which we have in the Lord’s Prayer, except that it is the reverse. He did not hallow God’s name in his life in one incident. And because of that one incident, God said, “You shall not enter the Promised Land”.
We look at these words in Numbers, in Num. 20:12: “And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not believe... me’,” - notice these words - “’to sanctify me’” - to hallow My name; that is exactly the same word in the original - “’in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.’” “You did not honor My name as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not enter the Land of Promise.” The same thing is repeated once more in Deuteronomy with the same word referring to “hallowing God’s name” in Deut. 32:51: “’because you broke faith with me’” - God is speaking to Moses - “’in the midst of the people of Israel at the waters of Meribath-kadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because you did not revere me as holy in the midst of the people of Israel.’” “You did not revere Me as holy. You did not sanctify My name. You did not hallow My name in the midst of the people of Israel. Therefore, you shall not enter the Land of Promise.”
You know, the complacency with which there are those people who sit back and say and talk about their being saved and saved forever really frightens me. When I reconsider the account of Moses, it really makes perspiration come up on my brow. Here was a man flawless in all his life, a man of utter and absolute consecration and dedication to God, a man whose meekness was said to be incomparable, that is, there was nobody who can compare with him in all of Israel in holiness and meekness. But in one incident, he did not - he did not - hallow God’s name in his life, and God said, “You shall not take the people into the Promised Land.” The very purpose for which Moses was raised up out of Egypt, the very purpose for which Moses led the people out of Egypt, was to bring them to the Promised Land, but he could not fulfill that promise because he did not hallow God’s name.
I would like you, therefore, to see the importance of these words: “Hallowed be Thy name in us.” “Hallowed be thy name” because, I tell you this, no matter how holy your life is, how holy my life might be, if we fail, we may fail of God’s promises, too. Remember God is holy. We are dealing with a holy God. It does not mean that Moses was lost. It does not mean that Moses perished spiritually. No, no! We thank God he did not perish. We know that at the Transfiguration, he appeared with Elijah. Moses and Elijah appeared at the Transfiguration. He was still with Christ. It does not mean he is lost, but he lost the blessing. He lost the blessing and the privilege of leading his people into the Promised Land.
Let me warn you, then, and let us take warning of this: that if we are careless in not sanctifying God’s name in our lives, and fulfilling the responsibility of our high calling [we have to answer before the Lord]. What is our high calling? Our high calling is to hallow His name in this world, that the whole world may say, “Wow, God is like that, because look at him, that is a Christian. And when I look at him, I can see what God is like.” That is our responsibility. Don’t shirk your responsibility! God does not let you get away with it to say, “Well, we are all full of faults, you know” and make a few excuses for yourself. God knows we are full of faults; that is why He gave us the Holy Spirit to enable us to live the life. Notice the word ‘Holy’ Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to be holy; without Him we cannot do it. We cannot live it. Nobody suggested we can live the Christian life in our own strength. Only by His power can this be done. And therefore, because His power can accomplish it in us, because as Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” [Phil. 4:13], we are without excuse. There is no use saying on that Day in the Judgment, “Lord, you see, we are all human only. We are only human”, as though that is some information that God did not discover before.
Consider then again the instance of Moses: this mighty man of God was deprived of the blessing, after all the toil of enduring the Israelites for so many years, of entering the Promised Land. What was his crime? What was his sin? Only this: there was no water at that time and Moses was ordered to bring water to the muttering, complaining people of Israel. He was ordered to do two things: first, speak to the rock and command the rock to bring forth water; and second, when you have commanded it, strike the rock with your rod, the same rod that you struck the waters of the Red Sea with. Moses did only the one, not the other. He did the second thing but not the first. He did only one of the two things. He did not speak to the rock; he only smote it in his anger. And he said the wrong thing. He said, “Shall we bring forth water out of this rock for you, stiff-necked rebellious people?” “Shall we”? Who is ‘we’? Only God brings water, not Moses, not anybody else. “Who is the ‘we’? And why did [Moses] not fulfill the entire commandment?
You see, God was going to do a tremendous and amazing work in front of all the people, that His name would be hallowed in the eyes of the people. What work? The people were thirsty; they were parched; they were dry. God was going to do a mighty work that would hallow His name, that would sanctify His name in the eyes of the people. What work? Moses would stand up before this great multitude upon the rock and he would speak to this rock in God’s name, and say, “Bring forth water out of this rock.” Everybody knows no water comes out of a rock. But he was going to speak to this rock in God’s name. Having said so, with that stick that parted the Red Sea - the stick of authority, of God’s authority - he would just smite the rock and the water would gush out. He did not do that. He did not speak to the rock. In his anger and annoyance with the people, he had forgotten everything about the word of sanctifying God’s name. He just took the stick and bashed the stick upon the rock. The water came out all right, but he had not fulfilled the purpose of glorifying God in the eyes of the people. The people would have fallen down before God if he had just spoken to that rock. Just touch that rock, water would come out, and wow, the people would have [hallowed God’s name]. But no! In his fury, all that the people could see was his anger, and everything else - the whole message - was lost. It was all lost because of his anger.
Now you might say that was a rather small sin, really very small, and in part, perhaps the people would not have been stumbled or disturbed by this. I mean, he was rightly angry, in a way. He was really heavily provoked. In the eyes of men, Moses did not commit any kind of a serious crime. But in the eyes of God, he had failed to [hallow God’s name]. It is not what he did; it is what he did not do. That is what the charge brought against him is. What he did not do was that he did not hallow God’s name in the eyes of the people.
The Lesson from Moses: It Is Not What He Did, But What He Did Not Do
Here is the lesson for us, brothers and sisters. The question is not whether you have committed any grievous sin or not. Moses did not commit anything. I do not think the people of Israel would have raised any brows about the fact that he was a little bit angry. The Bible did not say his face turned red like Guan Gong 關公 or anything like this. It is just that he was rather angry and he struck the rock. That is all. He struck it twice. The Scripture did not say he was not allowed to strike it twice. It did not matter very much. That was not the point. The point is that he should have just spoken as God’s representative, having died to himself and been a new man. But the point is not what he did; it is what he did not do. This is the point you must get clearly. It is that he did not hallow God’s name. So the point we must remember is this: it is not whether you did not do anything bad, whether you did not live a life that is radically different from the non-Christian. The point is this: that you did not hallow His name in the eyes of the people, that when people saw you, they did not say, “Wow, that is a Christian!” They did not say, “Wow, God is wonderful. If that is a Christian, I want to be a Christian.” That is our function in the world.
I became a Christian when I saw the Christians in China. I looked at them, and I said, “If that is a Christian, then I want to be a Christian.” But those Christians before in the missionary schools, of those I said, “If that’s a Christian, I don’t want to be a Christian”. God’s name was not hallowed in my eyes through them. But through the Chinese Christians, God’s name was hallowed in my heart. I said, “That’s a true Christian.” Those are Christians! God’s name was exalted. Now that is your responsibility. Do not go out here, and say, “Well, I didn’t commit any sins.” That is not the point. Or [you say], “Maybe I committed some small sins”; that is not the point either. It is not whether Moses committed any great or small sins; that is not the point. The point was he failed to do something. He failed to hallow God’s name in the eyes of the people.
It is Our Responsibility to Hallow God’s Name in our Lives
Thus, brothers and sisters, that is our responsibility. On that Day, when you and I stand before God, He is going to ask you the question, “Did you hallow My name in the eyes of the people? In your office, in your college, in your family, was My name hallowed in your life? Were the people able to say, “Wow! These Christians, they are something. They are really different. Look at that! They stand out from the crowd. They are utterly different.” The trouble with us is that we are not holy because we are so much like the world. We behave like non-Christians. We think like non-Christians.
Think back through even recent history. What kind of name stands out for you? It is always the same names: the people who hallowed God’s name in their lives. They always stand out in your memory, don’t they? For me, the people like Yang Tze Jie, the people like Henry Choy, people like John Sung - these people they stand out from the crowd. They were different from the crowd because God’s name was hallowed in their life. That is our high calling. May God speak to each one of us that we may really understand these words when we pray, “Hallowed be thy name”! When you pray that, remember your responsibility, or do not dare to pray it. But even if you do not pray it, it only proves you are not a Christian because every true Christian will pray this prayer. So, may God speak then to us out of His living Word and show us the things which are so important that we may see what kind of heavy responsibility is laid upon us.
So, in conclusion, let us see what this prayer then means: “Our Father, which art in heaven, may Your name be glorified as holy in my life” - that is the prayer - “so that the multitudes of the people may be drawn to You.” What is my motive for glorifying God? It is because He loves me so. What is my motive for glorifying God? It is because the people in the world cannot know God except through me. Are these not sufficient motives? How are the people out there going to know God if they do not know God through me? How are they going to know God if they do not know God through you? Is the Bible going to drop out of the sky into their laps? How can they hear the message of eternal life if it does not come through you? But remember this: that the message comes most eloquently through the life you live than through the multitude of words. We are mostly better at talking than at doing. So, fall back upon the power of the Holy Spirit. Never try to live God’s life in your strength. You will never make it. But if you say, “Lord, this is my prayer.” And you remember this is a prayer to God that He will do it in me, then mean it and He will do it. Let God come into your life in the fullness of His power and He will do it. He will change you and make you utterly different, that wherever you go, people will say, “Wow, this man is different.” And they will ask you, “Why are you a Christian?” Then you can tell them and many will be then drawn to God because you have hallowed His name. You have sanctified His name in your life.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church