“Hallowed Be Thy Name”
Names in the Bible often have a special significance. They are not mere labels parents attach to their children for their identification. Biblical names frequently express the character of the person named, or the purpose for which he was destined, or the faith and hopes of the parents who named their child.
The first man, Adam, (from the Hebrew “Adamah”—earth), was so called by his Creator, because he was taken from the earth. Eve, (in Hebrew “Hava”—to live), describes the first woman as “the mother of all living men.”
Jacob – Israel
The patriarch Jacob—later called Israel—underlines the divergent aspects of his character as well as of his descendents, and incidentally of all humanity. “Jacob” is derived from the verb “Akav”—to grasp, to reach or to supplant. This name describes one side of Jacob’s character, the human, the earthy, the strongly competitive streak in him.
On the other hand “Israel” means a man who wrestles with God, the overcomer, the prince with God. Thus in the dual personality of Jacob – Israel, we have the very essence of the Jewish people, and also of all humanity. Acquisitiveness and self-seeking on the one hand—and a deep yearning for God and for His Presence is the other aspect of “Jacob-Israel.”
When God revealed Himself to Moses, it was a Jehovah – or Yahve – from the verb “Haia” to be. This signifies that He is the fountain and the core of all that truly is – “The Eternal Being.” And God said unto Moses “I AM THAT I AM.” (In Hebrew “Ehye – Asher – Ehye.” (Exodus 3:14).
The Hallowing and Profaning of God’s Name
God’s name was to be kept in holy awe, and never abused or profaned. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. (Exodus 20:7)
To this day the Jews have a deeply ingrained fear of taking God’s name in vain, and frequently refer to Him as “The Name,” or by some other circumlocution. One of the greatest sins which a Jew can commit is to profane the name of God. This is called “hillul ha-shem”—”the profanation of the Name.”
Speaking to the prophet Ezekiel concerning the Jews in Babylonian Exile, God said that He would restore His people to their land, in spite of the fact that wherever they went in to live among the nations, “they profaned my holy name,” (Ezekiel 36:20).
“The Kaddish” And The Lord’s Prayer
One of the most solemn Jewish prayers recited daily, but especially at the funeral of a parent or a near relative, is the so-called “Kaddish.” It begins with the words “Yisgadal ve-yiskaddash shemai Rabba,”—”May the name of the Lord be magnified and hallowed, may His kingdom come speedily.”
When the Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples to pray, He began with the words: “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come.” The basic similarity of the two prayers is obvious. To hallow God’s name means so to love, and if needs be, so to die, as to reflect glory and honor upon God.
Conversely, every manner of life or conduct which is unbecoming to a believer as a child of God, profanes His name.
To the disciples of our Lord Jesus, His name was truly holy. It was the name which God Himself has chosen for Him: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus,” (in Hebrew YESHUA from the root, which means ‘to save’), “for He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:23).
Unfortunately, in our English translation we are apt to lose the connection between the name “Jesus” and “Salvation,” but it is completely obvious in Hebrew or Aramaic.
To the disciples of Jesus, His name was, and still is today precious:
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer’s ear,
It soothes his sorrows,
Heals his wounds,
And drives away his fears.
In the name of Jesus they proclaimed forgiveness of sins and salvation.
In His name they performed miracles and healed the sick.
To the lame man Peter said: “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” (Acts 3:6:)
And when the High Priest and his companions had Peter arrested and inquired of him: “By what power and by what name have ye done this?” Peter boldly professed, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus of Nazareth . . . even by him, doth this man stand here before you whole” . . . and then Peter added these memorable words:
“Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:5-12
Desecrating The Name Of Jesus
When the Lord Jesus was rejected by His kinsmen as the Messiah of Israel, there soon developed a trend to ridicule and to belittle His person and to desecrate His very name.
Some Gospel incidents were distorted in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 103a, Berachoth 17b, Sanhedrin 43a) to create a completely unhistorical and contemptuous image of Jesus and of His name. Instead of His original name “Jesus” (in Hebrew YESHUAH, a shorter form of Jehoshua —Jehova is Salvation), he was called “Yeshu.”
In the medieval satire `Toldoth Yeshu,’ (8th Century A.D.), which purported to tell the story of Jesus, the name Yeshu was explained as being an acronym which spells “Yemach shemo ve-zichro”—”May his name and memory be blotted out.” On the contrary, with each passing generation, His name has become more and more significant and meaningful to millions of men, while the name of His detractors were completely forgotten and became extinct.
Nevertheless, the abusive `Yeshu’ has become a part of Jewish folklore and legend. Even today it is still being perpetuated in official documents in Israel and recorded by respectable Hebrew dictionaries where the name “Jesus” is rendered in Hebrew as “Yeshu.”
This came to light recently in the famous trial of the mentally deranged Denis Rohan, who last August set on fire the mosque of El Aksa. Thus a Christian witness, Arthur Jones, testified in English in the Jerusalem District Court how he (Jones) tried to influence him, speaking to the accused Rohan: “I kept going back and speaking (to Denis Rohan) about Christ’s love for man.”
The official court interpreter translated the above into Hebrew: “I kept going back and speaking about the love of `Yeshu’ for man.”
Now Mr. Jones has never in his life heard about anyone by the name of “Yeshu,” which, for the Christian has such a base and demeaning background. The references to “Yeshu” appear a number of times in the official court records. To this very day all the leading Hebrew dictionaries translate the name “Jesus” as “Yeshu”—short for “may his name and memory be blotted out.”
Recently we received a fully documented petition by a Jewish resident of Jerusalem requesting the District Court of Jerusalem to correct this grievous historical error, and to call Jesus by His historical Hebrew name “Yeshua” and not “Yeshu,” which is an insult to the founder of the great world religion, and to the hundreds of millions of people who believe in Him.
The petitioner pointed out that the founders of other world religions like Buddha, Zoroaster and Mohammed are called by their right names, and not by some debased and insulting nickname. The petitioner went on to declare, “Considering the story of the name, I do not think that even a mangy dog scavenging garbage cans for a living would appreciate being called “Yeshu.”
This petition to the District Court of Jerusalem received no attention, and the scurrilous name “Yeshu” is still in use in official court proceedings and in private use.
At a time when Israel desperately seeks to win the sympathy and the good-will of the so-called Christian world, the least that can be expected of Israel is to cease insulting the name of Jesus by the use of the scurrilous medieval “Yeshu”.
I doubt whether the majority of the Jewish people are aware of the shabby origin of the nickname, or that it is being used by them with malice aforethought. Nevertheless, it is certain that a considerable number of Jews who possess even a moderate education in Jewish history know what the acronym “Yeshu” stands for. We submit, that as a gesture of goodwill towards their Christian neighbors, and out of a well understood national interest, the authorities of Israel should be requested to do away with the offensive nickname “Yeshu,” which is such an unnecessary stumbling block in the path of mutual goodwill and improved relations between Jews and non-Jews.
After all, goodwill and fair play are not a one-way street, but must be observed by all men of goodwill.
So-Called Christians Also Profane His Name
However, lest we wax hot with righteous indignation, let us remember that perverting the name of the Lord is not the only way of profaning it. Millions of people, many of whom call themselves “Christians,” habitually profane the name of Jesus, using it as a cuss word or as an expletive. There are even worse ways in which one may be guilty of profaning His holy name. Every time we, who are Christians, conduct ourselves as pagans or godless people, we profane and dishonor the name of our Lord.
You and I have, on occasion, heard that foolish statement: “If so and so is a Christian, then I don’t want to be one.” Of course, this is a foolish saying. Our eyes ought always to be riveted upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Who alone reflects in fulness the image of His Father, and not upon failings and always disappointing human beings. Nevertheless, when we hear that saying which we have just quoted, we may be fairly certain that someone has grievously failed another human being, and also His Lord. Whether we realize it or not, we all are “living epistles” read by all people, from which they often form their ideas about our Lord.
On the other hand, many of us know that behind many, if not most of the conversions to our wonderful Savior, there have frequently been radiant lives which gloriously reflected the beauty of their Lord.
Do We Hallow His Name?
What about you and me? Are we hallowing The Name, which is above every name, with our lives, or are we profaning it? Are we reflecting the light and the glory of Him who loved us and purchased us with His own precious blood? I do earnestly pray that this may be true of you and of me.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
And lest someone think that we preach a gospel of good works, we would like to bring to your memory the words and the warning of our Lord: “Without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5). To hallow the name which is above every other name, Christ Jesus must live in us.