You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God. – Exodus 20:7 (NIV)
When my son and his friends were in high school and a part of our church’s youth group, they’d really get into the worship music.
One song especially seemed to be a favorite: “Blessed Be the Name of the Lord.” When we’d come to the part where we sang the words of Proverbs 18:10 – “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” – they’d have the entire church doing the motions with the words: flexing triceps for “strong”; forming a tower with two arms raised above the head, hands together at the fingertips; running in place (“run into it”); and, of course, a baseball umpire’s motion when a player is safe.
The motions reinforce the words and make them easier to remember. And quite a number of folks, especially those with too much on their minds or those whose years are creeping up on them – and I fall into both categories – need some help remembering things, especially names.
God’s name isn’t hard to remember, though. I hear it around me everyday, often in ways that give no honor to the name the Jews considered so holy, they wouldn’t even pronounce it or write it out entirely: YHWH. The first line of the Lord’s Prayer reinforces the holiness of God’s name: “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). The word “hallowed” means “to make or consider holy or sacred; to honor as holy or sacred.”
Little, if anything, in our society today is even considered holy, let alone God’s name. The word itself conjures up visions of pious saints, perfect in all they said and did. This, of course, is false. Only one Person who ever walked this unholy ground we call earth was ever perfect – Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity. The rest of us struggle with our human nature.
God’s holiness is something we humans cannot fathom. When the prophet Isaiah saw the vision of God seated on His throne (Isaiah 6:1–7), and angels surrounding Him, calling, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty,” he immediately felt his sinfulness.
“Woe is me!” Isaiah cried. “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”
Centuries later, the apostle Peter, after a night of fruitless fishing, obeyed Jesus and let down his nets one more time – for the catch of a lifetime. Falling at Jesus’ feet, Peter cried, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”
Both Moses and Joshua, when approaching the Holy, were told to “take off your sandals, for place where you are standing is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15).
Job’s reaction, after God responded to his complaints about unfairness of his troubles, after catching a glimpse of the Holy, cried, “Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. . . . My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore, I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:3,5–6).
How do we react today when we are given glimpses into God’s holiness? Like Job, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, and Peter, are we made painfully aware of our sinfulness, of our unworthiness? Or do we walk away, allowing the glow of the Holy in our hearts and lives to fade when we go out into a world where nothing is truly holy?
“Let those who love Your name be joyful in You.” – Psalm 5:11
Too many times, O LORD, I hear Your holy name used flippantly. Forgive me when I, too, take Your name, and all it means, lightly. Teach me what “holy” means. Amen.
(c) 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.