Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. David Fagrey, Pastor of Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD
122. What is the first petition?
“Hallowed be Your name”; that is, grant us, first, rightly to know You, and to sanctify, magnify, and praise You in all Your works, in which Your power, goodness, justice, mercy, and truth shine forth; and further, that we so order our whole life, our thoughts, words, and deeds, that Your name may not be blasphemed, but honored and praised on our account.
“Hallowed by thy name, is placed first in order, because it comprehends the end and design of all the rest, inasmuch as the glory of God should be the end of all our affairs, actions, and prayers [1 Cor. 10:31]” (Ursinus, 629).
God’s primary name is Jehovah or Yahweh–the equivalent of I AM–translated LORD in our English Bibles. “I am the LORD, that is My name” (Isaiah 42:8). “The LORD is His name” (Ex. 15:3). God’s name is a revelation of who He is: “You shall worship no other god, for the LORD whose name is Jealous, is a Jealous God” (Ex. 34:14). “In Scripture, God calls Himself by various descriptive names and titles such as ‘Lord,’ ‘God,’ ‘Almighty,’ ‘Father,’ ‘Son,’ ‘Jesus,’ ‘Christ,’ ‘Holy Spirit,’ and many more… Thus, God’s name stands for Himself and all that He does as He reveals Himself in His Word and in His works [Psalm 19]” (Jones, Study Helps, 311). To hallow God’s name is the opposite of taking His name in vain.
The word hallow is the same word as sanctify. To sanctify means either to make someone holy that is not holy, or to treat someone holy who is already holy. God “is holiness itself” (Ursinus, 630). Therefore, to sanctify God is to know and praise Him as He truly is: “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:3). “We must know and think concerning His essence, will, works, omnipotence, goodness, wisdom, and all His other attributes, what He commands us in His Word to know and think respecting them [John 17:3]” (Ursinus, 630). Therefore, we must diligently study God’s Word, and pray for the Spirit’s enlightenment, so that we might praise and magnify all God’s attributes, as the biblical writers teach us in many places. “Great and marvelous are Your works, LORD God Almighty” (Rev. 15:3). “Praise the LORD, O give thanks to the LORD; for He is good” (Ps. 106:1). “His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice” (Deut. 32:4). “You, LORD, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Ps. 86:5); “bless His name. For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations” (Ps. 100:4-5).
Our whole life, thoughts, words, and deeds, must praise and honor God. We are God’s adopted children, and His image is being restored in us. “Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children” (Eph. 5:1). “Be holy for I AM holy” (1 Pet. 1:16). “Just as it is shame and disgrace to an earthly father to have a bad, unruly child, so God is dishonored if we who are called by His name and enjoy His manifold blessings fail to speak and live as godly children” (Martin Luther). God told adulterous King David: “by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme [ridicule]” His name (2 Sam. 12:14; cf. Rom. 2:24; 1 Tim. 5:14; Titus 3:5).
“But we cannot by ourselves sanctify the name of God. Therefore, we must pray to God to grant to us the strength by which we may hallow the name of God; yea, that He Himself would hallow His holy name in us [1 Pet. 3:15]” (Ursinus, 632).