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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:When you rightly know God, his Name will be hallowed in your prayers and in your life
Text:LD 47 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Prayer
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-07-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 5

Psalm 19:1-3

Psalm 8

Hymn 1

Psalm 136:1-3, 12-13

Scripture readings:  Job 40 and Job 42:1-6

Catechism lesson:  Lord's Day 47

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

What would it look like for you to be as impressed with God as you should be?  If you really understood the majesty and greatness of God the way you should, what would be different?  We could approach this in another way.  Think of being impressed with God as degrees of temperature on a thermometer.  You currently have a certain degree of awe for God.  What would it look like if it your awe for God went up, say, three degrees?

The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer is about this.  “Hallowed be your name” is about praying for us to be more impressed with God so that he would be honoured and praised.  The word “hallowed” is not an every-day word.  We would seldom use that word outside of speaking about God and his Name.   To “hallow” means to regard as holy, to regard as set-apart, to treat as special and honoured.  The opposite of “hallowing” something or someone would be to profane them, to treat them as ordinary and unimpressive. 

In the first petition, our Lord Jesus teaches us to pray for God’s name to be hallowed.  Here too we need to be clear about our definitions.  What does Scripture mean when it speaks of “God’s name”?   God’s Name is not just the letters that make up his personal name Yahweh, or the words that we use to refer to him like God or Lord.  God’s Name is far more than letters or words.  In Scripture, God’s Name refers to everything about him.  God’s Name refers to his titles, his qualities, and his works or deeds.  God’s Name refers to God himself.  So when we pray, “Hallowed be your Name,” we are really praying that God would be recognized as holy (sanctified), glorified, and praised by us and through us. 

That begins with rightly knowing God.  As the Catechism says, we pray that we may rightly know him, but then we also have to strive to rightly know him.  It’s not as if you can pray and then the right knowledge of God will just fall into your lap.  No, we pray for this and then we also seek to use the means that God gives us to make it happen.  The two must go together.  So this afternoon, we’ll see how when you rightly know God, his Name will be hallowed in your prayers and in your life

We’ll learn about:

  1. Where our knowledge of God comes from
  2. What our knowledge of God includes

Our Catechism says that we pray to rightly know God in all his works.  When we speak about knowing God, we normally think especially of two of his works.  There are two works in which God reveals himself to us, in which he conveys some knowledge of himself to us.  Let’s turn for a moment to article 2 of the Belgic Confession, page 499 in the Book of Praise [read].  We know God first from his works of creation, preservation and government of the universe.  Second, he makes himself more clearly and fully known from his Word.  Let’s look closer at each of these.

A moment ago we sang from Psalm 19.  This Psalm speaks first of how God reveals himself in the world around us.  “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  On a clear, dark night you can look up into the night sky and see the stars, planets, and galaxies.  In all their vast grandeur, they’re proclaiming a message to us here on earth:  God our Creator is glorious!

We read from the book of Job.  You know the story of Job, how everything was stripped away from this godly man.  He entered into horrible suffering.  His friends come along and try to offer some comfort, but their words don’t help matters.  For some 34 chapters, Job and his friends talk back and forth.  Through it all, Job asks questions of God and his purposes.  Numerous times he asks, “Why?”  Finally, in chapter 38, Yahweh comes to Job and answers him.  God’s answer is basically this:  who do you think you are, Job?  There are all these rhetorical questions in chapters 38 and 39 – they’re rhetorical questions, that means that they’re questions where the answer is obvious.  Questions like the one in 39:19, “Do you give the horse his might?”  The answer is obvious.  Of course, Job doesn’t give strength to horses.  That’s something God does.  Then we get to chapter 40 and Job promises to keep quiet and just listen to what God has to say to him.   What does God say? 

Again, God points to the world around us.  In chapter 40, he points to one creature in particular:  Behemoth.  The identity of this creature is not 100% certain, though it’s probably a hippopotamus.  God points to this creature and says, “Look at this work of mine.  Look at how strong and powerful this creature is.  Now remember I made him.  If he is strong and powerful, then how much more strong and powerful is his Creator.”  Then in chapter 41, God follows up with another of his works: Leviathan.  Again, the identity of this creature is debated.  It could be a crocodile.  Regardless of its exact identity, it too points to the power, majesty, and glory of God.  These two examples prompt Job’s confession and repentance in the beginning of chapter 42.  God points Job to his works and this brings Job to his knees.

The world around us and its creation, preservation and government do bring us a right knowledge of God.  However, we have to understand that this right knowledge from the universe is limited.  It can and does tell us true things about God, but only some true things.  The Belgic Confession quotes from Romans 1:20 and reminds us that the universe declares to us “God’s invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature.”  From observing the universe, we learn that there is a God, he is powerful, and he is majestic.  These are important and recognizing these things does lead us to hallow God’s Name.  We ought to pray that we would walk through life with our eyes open to the world around us and the way it reveals God’s eternal power and divine nature.  May we never be among those who suppress these truths in unrighteousness!

But again, God’s works in the universe only reveal some true things about him.  To rightly know God in a clearer and fuller way, we need something more.  We need his holy and divine Word.  The 66 books of the Bible are where we encounter God’s fullest revelation of himself.  If we are going to rightly know God so that we can hallow his Name, we need God’s Word.  In Scripture, we find God’s works shining forth in the most spectacular and clear fashion.  There are some things that follow from this. 

One thing that follows is that the Bible is always first and foremost as the source of our knowledge of God.  We view the world around us rightly when we view it through the lens of Scripture.  John Calvin and others have described the Bible as being the glasses that we need to put on to see everything clearly.  Without the Bible and it’s revelation of God, our vision is blurry.  But once we begin reading and understanding the Bible, our vision becomes focussed and we can see clearly.  The priority always goes to Scripture. 

The second thing follows directly from that.  If you are to rightly know God so that his Name is hallowed, you must pray to become a better student of his Word.  We ought to pray that God would give us a love for his Word, so that we would be constantly busy with it.  Think about this:  how can you know God rightly if you’re neglecting his Word?  That begins with the attitudes that exist in our hearts.  Do we love the Word of God?  Is it our desire to read and study it?  If your love and desire are weak, then you need to pray about that.  Be honest with your Father and tell him that you recognize that your love for his Word is not where it should be, but you want it to change.  You want it to change so that you can have a right knowledge of him – a knowledge that leads to his name being honoured and praised in your whole life.                                   

That brings us to learn about what the knowledge of God involves and includes.  From the start, it should be clear that when we speak about knowing God, we’re not just speaking about knowing about God.  This is not merely about filling your head with facts about God.  No, when the Catechism speaks about knowing God rightly, it’s speaking in the biblical fashion.  The biblical understanding of knowing God rightly refers to a relationship with God.   Think about this in human terms for a moment.  In human terms, you can’t really know someone apart from a relationship with them.  You can know some facts about them:  that their hair is brown, their eyes are blue, they speak English, etc.  But to really know someone you need to have a relationship.  In a relationship, you learn to know one another most deeply.  It’s the same when we’re speaking about rightly knowing God.  That doesn’t happen apart from a relationship with him.   It needs to be a certain type of relationship – a friendly relationship, one of fellowship, one where he is your Father and you are his child.  You can only have that relationship through Jesus Christ.  With him as your Saviour, you can be in a relationship with God where you can rightly know him through all his works.

Having said that, knowing God rightly is necessarily going to involve knowing things about him.   When you’re in a relationship, you can’t know someone properly without knowing stuff about them.  In fact, a healthy relationship is reflected in what you know about the other person.  If I asked you about your spouse and what he or she is like and you couldn’t think of anything to say, I’d probably wonder about your relationship.  Similarly, if you can’t say anything about what God is like, we could probably say that it reflects on your relationship with him.  It’s also going to reflect on how his Name will be honoured and praised in your prayers and in your life.

So what does our knowledge of God include about him?  Our Catechism mentions several of God’s qualities or attributes.  Let’s go through each of these.  Let’s look at each one and then let each one lead us to again consider how impressive our God is.  Let’s aim to rightly know God better, so that his name is increasingly hallowed by us and through us.

The first quality is God’s almighty power.  You could also say his omnipotence.  God is all powerful.  No one has greater power than our Father.  We already saw from Job that the universe proclaims this.  God’s mighty creatures like Behemoth and Leviathan announce that there is an even more powerful Creator.  Read Genesis 1.  God just speaks and the universe comes into existence.  That’s almighty power, very impressive.  God has almighty power in preserving what he has made too.  In Hebrews 1:3, we read that the Lord “upholds the universe by the word of his power.”  God has almighty power in judgment too.  Think of the Flood in the days of Noah.  With his almighty power, God sent vast flood waters upon the whole earth to judge the wickedness of mankind.  Or think of the Egyptian armies being drowned in the Red Sea.  God used his almighty power to judge the Egyptians and save his people.  Loved ones, all that was done by our Father.  No one is stronger.  If God is on our side, against us shall be none.  Let us pray that his name would be hallowed through us seeing and honouring his almighty power!

Wisdom is mentioned next in our Catechism.  What does it mean that God is wise?  Wisdom is all about goals and how those goals are reached.  Wisdom is about knowing what the best goals are and how to best reach those goals.  God has the fullness of wisdom.  Isaiah 28:29 says that “he is wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom.”  He knows the best goals for everyone and everything and he also knows how to best accomplish those goals.  Moreover, God’s wisdom never fails.  The goals are always reached – because he also has almighty power, God’s wisdom can never be frustrated or defeated.  God’s goal is always first of all his own glory and honour.  And tied to that is our good and blessing as his beloved children.  The wisdom of our Father means that we can be sure that we’re in good hands.  Brothers and sisters, we should pray this name would be honoured by us as we recognize his wisdom and benefit from it every day. 

Then there is God’s goodness.  That speaks of his moral perfection.  As 1 John 1:5 says, “God is light and in him is no darkness at all.”  And Psalm 119:68 says that God is good and he does good.  Goodness completely pervades his being.   In fact, in his essence God himself defines what is good.  All he does is good and all he says is good.  This is why the child of God says with Psalm 23, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”  A child of God says that, because the LORD is their shepherd, he’s the One who brings us into his house and family.  Loved ones, especially in our Saviour Jesus we have tasted and seen that the LORD is good.  We experience goodness because our Father is infinitely good and always good.  So how does that connect with our prayer life?  Each day, we should recognize his goodness in our prayers, praise him, and thank him for it.  Then we should pray too that as we see his perfection in greater measures, we would honour and praise him all the more in our lives.

God’s righteousness is closely connected to his goodness.  Psalm 11:7 says, “For the LORD is righteous; he loves righteous deeds…”  God is right and blameless.  No one will ever point a finger at God and be justified in saying that God has done something wrong.  His person and works are all immaculately upstanding.  That is true of the Triune God, and therefore also true of each person.  We can think here especially of our Saviour.  He was not only righteous by virtue of his divine nature, but also came to earth, took on a human nature, and lived a perfectly righteous life in our place.  No one could ever rightly accuse Jesus of having done wrong.  Of course, people did accuse him, but they weren’t justified in doing it.  Those were false accusations.  The truth is that our Saviour displays the embodiment of immaculate righteousness.  “Hallowed be your Name” means that in our prayers we recognize the righteousness of God and, we pray, that our lives would be so directed that we honour him and praise him for this.

Mercy is the second last of the attributes mentioned in the Catechism.  Mercy is revealed in the presence of sin.  Sin deserves immediate eternal punishment.  But God is compassionate and patient, he shows loving kindness.  He calls the sinner to repentance and offers a way of salvation in Jesus Christ.  God’s mercy is described in Scripture as great, plenteous, tender, and everlasting.  Brothers and sisters, do you see that we have a merciful and tender-hearted Father in heaven?  As we pray each day, we may and must appeal to his mercy towards us in our Saviour.  As we pray, let’s also ask our Father to help us honour him and praise him for his mercy with the way we live.

Finally, there is God’s truth.  He is truth through and through.  In our Father, there is not an ounce of falsehood.  Because he is characterized by truth, he is always faithful to his promises.  You can depend on him.  Moreover, his Word is truth.  The Bible is truth from Genesis to Revelation, infallible and inerrant truth that’s fully reliable.  Each day we’re bombarded with lies from a broken world in rebellion against God.  The leftovers of our own sinful nature tell us lies about sin and about ourselves.  But God is true.  His Word is true.  In the midst of all this shifting ground and quicksand around us and even in us, we still have a solid foundation with our Father and his Word to us.  He is a rock for his children.  Loved ones, for this we can be thankful and praise God.  We need to pray that his truthfulness would be increasingly recognized by us, so that we live in his truth, living to his praise and honour.

This is who our Father is:  he is omnipotent, wise, good, righteous, merciful, and truthful.  He is all these things like no one else.  He reveals these things about himself to us so that we would know him and honour him, both with our prayers and with our lives.  Brothers and sisters, nothing is more important for us as Christians than to know God rightly.  This is why our Saviour put this at the front of his model prayer.  He wants us to pray for the right knowledge of God, so that we would live for the reason we were designed to live:  for the honour and praise of our majestic Father.  This is how we are taught to pray in Scripture.  This is also how we’re to teach our children to pray.  When they were baptized, we promised that we would teach.  Because God has put his claim on them in the covenant of grace, we’re called to make sure that they rightly know God and hallow his Name in their prayers and lives too – that they look to him in faith and call upon him.  May he graciously help us all in that calling.  AMEN.

Prayer:

Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed be your name.  We desire that your Name be always be honoured and praise in us and through us.  Please help us to have our eyes open to the universe around us and the way we see your eternal power and divine nature in it.  But more, Father, please help us to be good students of your Holy Word.  Help us to know you rightly from the Scriptures.  Please give us a love for your Word and a desire to learn from it.  Sometimes our love and desire for your Word is not that strong.  Where that love and desire are weak, we pray that you would strengthen it.  This afternoon, we’ve been learning about who you are.  You are omnipotent, wise, good, righteous, merciful, and full of truth.  We praise you for these qualities, we lift up your Name and exalt you.  Help us, Father, to always hallow your Name, recognizing how worthy you are of our adoration, both in our prayers and in our lives.  With your Spirit, help us to always sanctify, glorify, and praise you in all your works!                               

                                      




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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