How To Hallow God's Name

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Puritan Board Sophomore

"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain"
Exodus 20:7.

This passage of scripture is not unfamiliar at all to the Christian church. It is memorized, recited, and published on coffee mugs. It is one of those choice passages of scripture that are taught almost universally to children not only in broad evangelicalism, but also outside of orthodoxy. It rolls off the tongue; it is easily brought back to memory. It is known vaguely by many, even non-Christians, as one of the Ten Commandments.

It is also deeply misunderstood and though widely known it is not truly known. It is not as easily kept as it is recited like most laws of Christ it is privy to being abandoned or neglected through the sinful flesh of man. But as neglected as the law may be, it must not be forgotten or set aside. It is God's law. Jesus teaches us plainly about God's law in Matthew 5:17, 18: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." When a young lawyer came to ask Jesus how he could obtain eternal life Christ responds "How do you interpret the law?" (Luke 10:25-26). Our Lord Jesus Christ declares plainly that God's law has more permanence than the heavens and the earth (Luke 16:17), he equates God's law with His own words (Matthew 5:18, 24:35, 21:33).

In both testaments God's law is called delightful (Ps 119:92, Rom 7:22). It is called the way of life for the righteous (John 14:21, 1 John 2:3, Re 14:12). As we have seen and proved from scripture Christ does not deny the law's importance or scarcely communicate an abrogation of it. On the contrary he confirms God's law and calls it everlasting. He warns those who would depart from his moral law, or abolish a vowel (jot or tittle) out of it (Matt 5:19). Christ curses those who do not bear forth the fruit of the Spirit which is adherence to God's law. He says he will cut them off (compare Lev 26:14-39, De 28 with John 15:1-6, Heb 6:8, 2 Peter 3:10). So then the summary of Godliness in God's Ten Commandments does stand.

Donald Macleod writes in his book Beholding God. "It is impossible to honor God as we ought, unless we know him as he is." Many people boast of knowing God. Some claim to know him by mystical means. Their incantations, their invocations give them a sense of spiritual depth. Some look for God beneath every rock, and blade of grass, but we would do well to not follow such blind guides. As God's creatures we are made with a sense of God built right into us (Rom 1:18-20), and every where we look the glory of God is proclaimed (Ps 19:1). But as his creatures we are held accountable not merely to our innate sense, or the general glory of God communicated in his creation, but also to his revealed will.

God has revealed his will to us through his law, prophets, and the apostles. He has communicated to those same authors in visions and in dreams. He has given prophecies and knowledge. He inspired the writers of scripture to provide God breathed volumes (2 Tim 3:15-17) for his covenant people to abide by and obey (De 4:2, Luke 11:28, Ps 119:67). It is through this rich treasure of words that we have God's sufficient and inerrant revelation. It is the book of the covenant. It expresses God's redemptive plan to us and it is in these words that we have the revelation of God to man. In the texts we have God revealing what he has chosen to reveal of himself. The first place to go to know him and apprehend who he is and how we must approach him experientially is through his Holy Word.

If we are truly God-fearers we will be men and women dedicated to princely practice of devoting time to prayer and study. And we will try to worship and seek him according to what the scriptures teach us about him, we will bow to his righteous witness. Seriously and eagerly we will find ourselves devoted to the practice of knowing him biblically. This means that we must keep his commandments. And that means that we must look closely at what the Third Commandment means.

Looking at the Ten Commandments, the only moral commands of God written by his hand, I will attempt to show what the command states, what it excludes, what it requires, and what it threatens. I will draw help principally from scripture..

1stly what the command states is addressed to a particular people. It is addressed to the people of Israel, those in covenant with God. Moses says amidst the terror of the Israelites in Ex 20:20 that the Lord came to "test you that the fear of him may be before you that you may not sin". These words were not spoken the Egyptians, nor the Hittites, though they all certainly knew to do these things as well (Rom 2:14-15). These words are addressed to a covenant people, as seen clearly in the words God "Do not take the name of the LORD YOUR GOD". It is the name of the Lord your God, that we are said then to adhere to in a particular way. This is covenantal talk, if we are not in covenant with the Lord he is not our God. He is our enemy. He is Our Judge.

The main article of the commandment is to treat the name of Our Lord a certain way. We must not take it in vain. We, the covenant people, are not to use the name of the Lord God any and every way that our poor finite and sinful minds can imagine. We are commanded to strictly not take the Lord's name in vain. From the first to the third commandment the fear of the Lord is upheld. His name is to be used as he proscribes. We are to order our life to his code. And his code here in Ex 20:7 is to not take his name in vain.

The name that is here sanctified cannot be only the four letters YHWH, or Yahweh, or Elohim. It cannot be only Christ. It cannot be only Adonoi, or Lord, as the educated John Calvin wrote," as if God's majesty were confined to letters or syllables". The name here is all titles or names that refer to him. His names are Almighty God, God Most High, The Holy One, The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit, Abba Father, Jehovah, Yeshua, Jesus, Prince of Peace, King of Kings. He is called by all of the things and more, so it is both wise and prudent of us to keep all titles by which we refer to God as holy in the manner prescribed by scripture. Some have argued unsuccessfully that we must use particular syllables to call upon God's name as if God could not discern the hearts to know what being was being referred to by his servants. God is neither deaf, nor dumb. Whether we use the term Yah, or Jehovah, if our meaning is the same then what does it matter what language or abbreviation or variation we use. The substance and essence that is being described is greater than the gallons of ink expended in explaining it. No scratch of ink or roll of the tongue can contain the truth that we speak of.

Now as to what this precept excludes it is clear that all forms of vanity are to have no place in the usage of God's name. Vanity is the key word used to describe here what God does not allow in the usage of his titles. Without being to boring I'd like to look at the words origins. It is found in Middle English, as well as in Old French, it originated from the Latin word Vanus. Vanus meant empty. Daniel Webster's Dictionary defined the word as empty; worthless; fruitless; ineffectual; idle; unreal; shadowy; showy; ostentatious; light; inconstant; deceitful; delusive; unimportant; trifling. The Hebrew word is chinnam which means the very same thing. Vanity in relation to God's name can be seen in three ways. By making God's name nothing more than an ornament in religious speech unaccompanied by a godly heart. We should not use God's name hypocritically, invoking his glory with vain worship (Matt 15:9). All religious worship is to be true and spiritual. No amount of hypocrisy or false appearances are tolerated or acceptable in the eyes of God who is all seeing.

We are not to profane the third commandment by using God's name in an oath or curse lightly (Heb 6:16,17; James 5:12, Matthew 5:33-37). Though it is somewhat uncommon in my culture to swear or make oaths, the practice is not extinct. Men do say "I swear to God." And they do assault the third commandment by doing so.

Lastly, we are excluded from the vanity of using God's name idly and purposelessly or blasphemously. This is improper and wicked. God's name is to be hallowed, made sacred not lopped around like a common phrase. It is to be reserved for serious godly speech. There are many humorous things to say, God's name is not a joke to use irreverently. It is the name above all names. Many, many Christians fail at this particular aspect of the law unrepentantly. I have heard men claiming to be sons of God stoop so low as to use it as nothing more than a curse, and I have also been convicted myself of all these vanities so I speak as one soiled sheep among many. I am clean by grace which comes through faith and by the atonement of Christ. But just because I have been given grace does not give me warrant to do as I please. Christ's name is to be honored not used so sloppily so that the hearer of our speech wonders if the fearsomeness of God even crossed our minds. There is a popular phrase today that many use as an exclamation, it is God. We, Christians in name at least, throw his name around like "cool" or "wow" or "awesome". God is not an adjective. He is a king. Jesus is God Almighty, not our homeboy. He is to be feared and worshipped properly. May God have saving mercies on our guilty souls. This brings me to the positive implications of the command and the conclusion of these meditations.

The third commandment requires us to sanctify the Lord's name in our hearts. If we were to turn the definition of vain and turn it on its head we would have a command that looks something like this: Take care to use the name of the Lord purposefully, carefully, ascribing all glory to it that it deserves. We must strive to honor this name. We must pray with Christ to God the Father "hallowed be thy name"! Obedience to God's law is often made synonymous with fearing the Lord's name (De 28:58). We are to give God the glory due to his name worshipping him in the beauty of holiness (Ps 29:2), we strive to have God's name honored because of his people and also to see his name worshipped all over the earth as the church expands and triumphs (1 Peter 2:12, Jer 4:2, Ps 22:27-31, Ez 26: 31-33). We worship him this way (Rev 15:3). This is the duty of the church, a duty of glorifying and expanding the song of the church to the vast and ineffable majesty of God's name.

The last thing to consider about this commandment is its threatening. Let us procede with caution and trembling here. God is not to be mocked; he is not to be treated with irreverence, but with awe. He is not to be made light of or ignored. He is not to be blasphemed by his creatures. If we would hope to keep this commandment we must attend to the very serious warning that accompanies it. God says in his word that those who do not observe this commandment will not be held guiltless. That is to say they are not innocent. No dismissal is made; the depth of the sin committed is deep. God does not sweep it under the carpet. He does not let bygones be bygones the wages of sin is death. "Especially because he will be so far from acquitting and sparing the transgressors of this commandment, as that he will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment" says the Westminster divines. He promises to look unfavorably upon the Israelites in Deut. 28:58-59 if they would abandon the laws given them on Sinai. He promises a curse on all men who profane his name (Zech. 5:2-4). If we find ourselves guilty of these things we should be afraid of God. We cannot hide behind the words of loving Christ while unrepentant sin abides in our hearts. Instead, we must repent of our sins and believe on Jesus Christ as the Son of God and a sacrifice for sinners like ourselves. We are all guilty of these things. Not one of us is without sin. Maybe we cursed his name intentionally; maybe we used his name in a way that was foolish and disrespectful. Or perhaps we addressed him without a shred of decent fear or honor in our hearts for his holy being. Whatever the sin, whatever the crime committed, there is a God who can justly forgive sins. Christ died on a cross to satisfy God's wrath towards sinners so that all who would believe on him, and repent of their sins would be saved. God gave his son that whoever believes in his Son would not get the punishment of death they deserve. Instead they would enter into his kingdom of righteousness. If you have committed this sin, and you have not repented of it, turn from it today. Confess your sins to God (1 John 1:8-10).


This is a short essay I wrote on the third commandment. What do you think?


Puritan Board Professor
So often people think that taking God's name in vain only occurs during the common vulgar usage. I look forward to reading your thoughts about it, probably on the train ride home.

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Iain, I'm glad you posted the article. I have been trying to pray through the Lord's prayer lately, and I am always a little stumped when I get to "Hallowed be thy name." The article helps me to understand more what I am praying for in this petition; specifically:
1. That I & other believers would so know God that we would reverence Him properly,
2. That this would be a testimony to the unbelieving world of the honor of God's name,
3. That they would come to know Him and reverence His name, as well.

Are there other things involved in this petition that I could be mindful of when praying it?

Also, were you going to submit the article anywhere? If so, would you like grammatical/punctuation feedback?


Puritan Board Sophomore
Well this was more for personal use. I know a lot of young christians who don't understand this principle as I did not for some time. I hope to be able to distribute this to some friends as the issue comes up I suppose. This was my peaceful way of dealing with a sometimes soul grieving habit of a lot of people I know.

I'd welcome any editorial criticism that you could provide! What you said about the Lord's prayer sounds spot on to me. That's what comes to my mind when I pray hallowed be your name, but maybe some of the more educated guys know more about this?

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
How did the Jews of history pronounce or say Gods name? Do we 'hallow' it in the same manner;rightly. Did they know or interpret something in scripture that we may have missed?

Here's something I found. Food for thought.

The Name of God
Level: Basic

Please note: This page contains the Name of God. If you print it out, please treat it with appropriate respect.
The Significance of Names
In Jewish thought, a name is not merely an arbitrary designation, a random combination of sounds. The name conveys the nature and essence of the thing named. It represents the history and reputation of the being named.

This is not as strange or unfamiliar a concept as it may seem at first glance. In English, we often refer to a person's reputation as his "good name." When a company is sold, one thing that may be sold is the company's "good will," that is, the right to use the company's name. The Hebrew concept of a name is very similar to these ideas.

An example of this usage occurs in Ex. 3:13-22: Moses asks God what His "name" is. Moses is not asking "what should I call you;" rather, he is asking "who are you; what are you like; what have you done." That is clear from God's response. God replies that He is eternal, that He is the God of our ancestors, that He has seen our affliction and will redeem us from bondage.

Another example of this usage is the concepts of chillul Ha-Shem and kiddush Ha-Shem. An act that causes God or Judaism to come into disrespect or a commandment to be disobeyed is often referred to as "chillul Ha-Shem," profanation of The Name. Clearly, we are not talking about a harm done to a word; we are talking about harm to a reputation. Likewise, any deed that increases the respect accorded to God or Judaism is referred to as "kiddush Ha-Shem," sanctification of The Name.

Because a name represents the reputation of the thing named, a name should be treated with the same respect as the thing's reputation. For this reason, God's Names, in all of their forms, are treated with enormous respect and reverence in Judaism.

The Names of God
I have often heard people refer to the Judeo-Christian God as "the nameless God" to contrast our God with the ancient pagan gods. I always found this odd, because Judaism clearly recognizes the existence of a Name for God; in fact, we have many Names for God.

The most important of God's Names is the four-letter Name represented by the Hebrew letters Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh (YHVH). It is often referred to as the Ineffable Name, the Unutterable Name or the Distinctive Name. Linguistically, it is related to the Hebrew root Heh-Yod-Heh (to be), and reflects the fact that God's existence is eternal. In scripture, this Name is used when discussing God's relation with human beings, and when emphasizing his qualities of lovingkindness and mercy. It is frequently shortened to Yah (Yod-Heh), Yahu or Yeho (Yod-Heh-Vav), especially when used in combination with names or phrases, as in Yehoshua (Joshua, meaning "the Lord is my Salvation"), Eliyahu (Elijah, meaning "my God is the Lord"), and Halleluyah ("praise the Lord").

The first Name used for God in scripture is Elohim. In form, the word is a masculine plural of a word that looks feminine in the singular (Eloha). The same word (or, according to Rambam, a homonym of it) is used to refer to princes, judges, other gods, and other powerful beings. This Name is used in scripture when emphasizing God's might, His creative power, and his attributes of justice and rulership. Variations on this name include El, Eloha, Elohai (my God) and Elohaynu (our God).

God is also known as El Shaddai. This Name is usually translated as "God Almighty," however, the derivation of the word "Shaddai" is not known. According to some views, it is derived from the root meaning "to heap benefits." According a Midrash, it means, "The One who said 'dai'" ("dai" meaning enough or sufficient) and comes from the fact that when God created the universe, it expanded until He said "DAI!" (perhaps the first recorded theory of an expanding universe?). The name Shaddai is the one written on the mezuzah scroll. Some note that Shaddai is an acronym of Shomer Daltot Yisrael, Guardian of the Doors of Israel.

Another significant Name of God is YHVH Tzva'ot. This Name is normally translated as "Lord of Hosts." The word "tzva'ot" means "hosts" in the sense of a military grouping or an organized array. The Name refers to God's leadership and sovereignty. Interestingly, this Name is rarely used in scripture. It never appears in the Torah (i.e., the first five books). It appears primarily in the prophetic books of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, as well as many times in the Psalms.

Writing the Name of God
Jews do not casually write any Name of God. This practice does not come from the commandment not to take the Lord's Name in vain, as many suppose. In Jewish thought, that commandment refers solely to oath-taking, and is a prohibition against swearing by God's Name falsely or frivolously (the word normally translated as "in vain" literally means "for falsehood").

Judaism does not prohibit writing the Name of God per se; it prohibits only erasing or defacing a Name of God. However, observant Jews avoid writing any Name of God casually because of the risk that the written Name might later be defaced, obliterated or destroyed accidentally or by one who does not know better.

The commandment not to erase or deface the name of God comes from Deut. 12:3. In that passage, the people are commanded that when they take over the promised land, they should destroy all things related to the idolatrous religions of that region, and should utterly destroy the names of the local deities. Immediately afterwards, we are commanded not to do the same to our God. From this, the rabbis inferred that we are commanded not to destroy any holy thing, and not to erase or deface a Name of God.

It is worth noting that this prohibition against erasing or defacing Names of God applies only to Names that are written in some kind of permanent form, and recent rabbinical decisions have held that writing on a computer is not a permanent form, thus it is not a violation to type God's Name into a computer and then backspace over it or cut and paste it, or copy and delete files with God's Name in them. However, once you print the document out, it becomes a permanent form. That is why observant Jews avoid writing a Name of God on web sites like this one or in newsgroup messages: because there is a risk that someone else will print it out and deface it.

Normally, we avoid writing the Name by substituting letters or syllables, for example, writing "G-d" instead of "God." In addition, the number 15, which would ordinarily be written in Hebrew as Yod-Heh (10-5), is normally written as Tet-Vav (9-6), because Yod-Heh is a Name. See Hebrew Alphabet for more information about using letters as numerals.

Pronouncing the Name of God
Nothing in the Torah prohibits a person from pronouncing the Name of God. Indeed, it is evident from scripture that God's Name was pronounced routinely. Many common Hebrew names contain "Yah" or "Yahu," part of God's four-letter Name. The Name was pronounced as part of daily services in the Temple.

The Mishnah confirms that there was no prohibition against pronouncing The Name in ancient times. In fact, the Mishnah recommends using God's Name as a routine greeting to a fellow Jew. Berakhot 9:5. However, by the time of the Talmud, it was the custom to use substitute Names for God. Some rabbis asserted that a person who pronounces YHVH according to its letters (instead of using a substitute) has no place in the World to Come, and should be put to death. Instead of pronouncing the four-letter Name, we usually substitute the Name "Adonai," or simply say "Ha-Shem" (lit. The Name).

Although the prohibition on pronunciation applies only to the four-letter Name, Jews customarily do not pronounce any of God's many Names except in prayer or study. The usual practice is to substitute letters or syllables, so that Adonai becomes Adoshem or Ha-Shem, Elohaynu and Elohim become Elokaynu and Elokim, etc.

With the Temple destroyed and the prohibition on pronouncing The Name outside of the Temple, pronunciation of the Name fell into disuse. Scholars passed down knowledge of the correct pronunciation of YHVH for many generations, but eventually the correct pronunciation was lost, and we no longer know it with any certainty. We do not know what vowels were used, or even whether the Vav in the Name was a vowel or a consonant. See Hebrew Alphabet for more information about the difficulties in pronouncing Hebrew. Some religious scholars suggest that the Name was pronounced "Yahweh," but others do not find this pronunciation particularly persuasive.

Some people render the four-letter Name as "Jehovah," but this pronunciation is particularly unlikely. The word "Jehovah" comes from the fact that ancient Jewish texts used to put the vowels of the Name "Adonai" (the usual substitute for YHVH) under the consonants of YHVH to remind people not to pronounce YHVH as written. A sixteenth century German Christian scribe, while transliterating the Bible into Latin for the Pope, wrote the Name out as it appeared in his texts, with the consonants of YHVH and the vowels of Adonai, and came up with the word JeHoVaH, and the name stuck.

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Iain, I added my slight "editorial" suggestions to your document in red using MS Word, and emailed it to you in an attachment, since your email is posted...

a mere housewife

Not your cup of tea
Scott, I just read the article you posted, and found it really interesting. My dad told me once that the scribes who transcribed the OT would wash their hands before writing any name of God.

The most interesting part of the article was where it associated God's name with certain attributes: especially as when we pray for God's name to be hallowed, we are praying for all of those attributes to be made known in our lives, and in all the world's affairs.

This has been a very helpful thread to me: thanks for posting the articles.


Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks for posting the article Scott. What are your feelings on the content?

I don't know if anyone on the PB knows this but when I first started leaving the Pentecostal tradition I began studying Church History. My desire was to simply find a tradition that was rooted in scripture even if it was unpopular. The Messianic movement seemed very attractive to me because of its ties to Jewish culture and Jesus was a Jew yadayadayada. I assumed that this meant the Messianics would be the most closely biblical representation of a Christian church. I now think I was mislead thought I still honor the scholarship and cultural understanding that some Christian Jews have been able to contribute.

This tradition of revering God's name is a fine one I think. I wish that Christians would hold God's name and titles with the same fear and respect. Though I'm not sure about everyone of these legal fences that one might put up. I don't think we should add to scripture in this area, but I think that the thinking behind these traditions is quite good.

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Ian, MHW,
I am a Born again Jew. I grew up in a split household. Many Jewish things can be counted as traditional. I do however, believe they have a firmer hold on certain OT ideas that the NT believer does not, for instance, the covenant. Much that has been discussed on neigboring threads in this regard, has been emphasized by me. We need to try and think along the same lines as the Jew when we interpret certain ideas of scripture, especially the covenant (and how the covenant see's our children and the children of non believing Gentiles).

As far as their documents, i.e. the Tanak, the Talmud, etc.; I believe these are profitable reads for us believers. The HS will lead us into all truth; that which is traditional will show itself.

Think about this this way. If we read documents that were primarily Egyptian, could we rignhtfully interpret them. Some of it possibly. Could we rationalize it along an Egyptian mindsewt; no. Not without knowing something about how Egyptians think.

Question: Have you ever asked a Latino to transliterate a certain phrase or word they use into English. There are times when they really struggle trying to find a transliteration. There like, "well, it's like....., it means this, but not really." One needs to really understand their culture as well as the language to get the full emphasis.

So, food for thought. Let us think like the Jew when we try and understand the extent and depth of the words of Christ when he says Gods name is to be "hallowed".

[Edited on 7-3-2004 by Scott Bushey]


Puritan Board Sophomore
Scott I agree completely. The Talmud has been helpful to me at times. I used to consider myself a Messianic Jew. I really do think that discussion between Jewish cultural experts and Christian theology is important. There is so much in your Jewish heritage that sheds light on key biblical terms like "binding and loosing" or "atonement".
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