Last Thursday morning our Thursday Theology group was studying the holiness of God (we’ve been in the incommunicable attributes of God and were just starting the communicable attributes). Toward the end of class we spoke about the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name’” (Matthew 6:9).
The petition verb “hallowed” (αγιασθήτω) means to “make holy.” In the case of the Father’s name (note that the Son commands and teaches us to call Him “Father,” not the tetragrammaton), it is a request to exalt His name as unique and glorious above all things. In our discussion, we noted that the first petition of the prayer the Son commands and teaches us to pray concerns the Father’s absolute holiness; the Father is always manifesting His holiness, so the prayer is to re-orient ourselves to Him rather than to change His mind/actions. But then we noticed something amazing about this: the first petition has two seemingly contradictory ideas: He is Father and He is holy. How can these two exist together, and do so sinners' petition to Him?
Remember Isaiah’s extreme unraveling when made aware of the holiness of God: “In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts’” (Isaiah 6:1-5). Isaiah received faithful and righteousness (and fiery) cleansing from the Lord for this accurate confession of his own sinfulness before the holiness of God. The prophet did not call “the King, the LORD of hosts” Father when made aware of His holiness!
Intimacy is impossible between the sinner and the Holy One. Impossible. O, but sinner, God does the impossible – even the most impossible! “When the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, ‘Then who can be saved?’ And looking at them Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’” (Matthew 19:25,26).
How does God accomplish this impossibility? How is it that Jesus can possible command and teach us to pray God exalts His own holiness even as we sinners call on Him intimately as “Father”?
In this first petition we should be immediately made aware, as sinners before this Holy One Who is our Father, that we must have a Mediator. Someone must bear God’s righteous and just wrath against our sin for Him to be Father to us. Someone must lift us up and shroud us in an impossible holiness for us to call the Holy One “our Father.”
The first petition reminds us we must have Jesus the Son as Mediator between us sinful children and our Father Who is in heaven.
Someone must bear God’s righteous and just wrath against our sin for Him to be Father to us...and the petition is answered: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:8-10).
Someone must lift us up and shroud us in an impossible holiness for us to call the Holy One “our Father”...and the prayer is answered: “But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, Who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification [αγιασμός, the being-made-holy], and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD’” (1 Corinthians 1:30,31).
As you pray as commanded and taught by the Son, asking Your Father in heaven that He exalt His own name as holy, may you be drawn closer to exalt the Mediator and praise Him above all things for what He has done – the impossible – to bring you to His Father and your Father:
- “Christ Jesus is He Who died, yes, rather Who was raised, Who is at the right hand of God, Who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).
- “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...” (1 Timothy 2:5).
- “Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens...” (Hebrews 7:25,26).