Why We Must Know God’s Name
“EVERYONE who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” (Romans 10:13) With these words the apostle Paul stressed how vital it is for us to know God’s name. His statement brings us back to our original question: Why did Jesus put the ‘hallowing,’ or ‘sanctifying,’ of God’s name at the very beginning of his Model Prayer, ahead of so many other important matters? To understand this, we need to grasp a little better the meanings of two key words.
First, what does the word ‘hallow,’ or ‘sanctify,’ really mean? Literally it means: “to make holy.” But is not God’s name already holy? Of course it is. When we sanctify God’s name, we do not make it more holy than it is. Rather we recognize it as holy, set it apart, hold it in the highest esteem. When we pray for God’s name to be sanctified, we are looking forward to the time when all creation will respect it as holy.
Second, exactly what is the implication of the word “name”? We have seen that God has a name, Jehovah, and that his name appears thousands of times in the Bible. We have discussed, too, the importance of restoring that name to its rightful place in the Bible text. If the name is not there, how can the psalmist’s words be fulfilled: “Those knowing your name will trust in you, for you will certainly not leave those looking for you, O Jehovah.”—Psalm 9:10.
But does ‘knowing God’s name’ involve merely an intellectual knowledge that God’s name in Hebrew is YHWH, or in English, Jehovah? No, it means more than that. When Moses was in Mount Sinai, “Jehovah proceeded to come down in the cloud and station himself with [Moses] there and declare the name of Jehovah.” What did this declaring of the name of Jehovah entail? A description of his qualities: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in loving-kindness and truth.” (Exodus 34:5, 6) Again, shortly before his death, Moses said to the Israelites: “I shall declare the name of Jehovah.” What followed? Mention of some of His grand attributes, and then a review of what God had accomplished toward Israel for the sake of His name. (Deuteronomy 32:3-43) Hence, knowing God’s name means learning what that name represents and worshiping the God who possesses it.
Since Jehovah has linked his name with his qualities, purposes and acts, we can see why the Bible says that God’s name is holy. (Leviticus 22:32) It is majestic, great, fear-inspiring and unreachably high. (Psalm 8:1; 99:3; 148:13) Yes, God’s name is more than a mere label. It represents him as a person. It was not merely a temporary name to be used for a time and then to be superseded by a title such as “Lord.” Jehovah himself said to Moses: “‘Jehovah . . .’ This is my name to time indefinite, and this is the memorial of me to generation after generation.”—Exodus 3:15.
Try as he will, man will never eliminate God’s name from the earth. “‘From the sun’s rising even to its setting my name will be great among the nations, and in every place sacrificial smoke will be made, a presentation will be made to my name, even a clean gift; because my name will be great among the nations,’ Jehovah of armies has said.”—Malachi 1:11; Exodus 9:16; Ezekiel 36:23.
Hence, the sanctification of God’s name is far more important than any other issue. All of God’s purposes are linked to his name. Mankind’s problems began when Satan first profaned Jehovah’s name by calling Him, in effect, a liar and unfit to rule the human race. (Genesis 3:1-6; John 8:44) Only when God’s name is properly vindicated will mankind enjoy complete relief from the disastrous effects of Satan’s lie. That is why Christians pray so fervently for the sanctification of God’s name. But there are things that they can do, also, to sanctify it.
How Can We Sanctify God’s Name?
One way is to talk to others about Jehovah and point to his Kingdom by Christ Jesus as mankind’s only hope. (Revelation 12:10) Many are doing this, in a modern fulfillment of these words of Isaiah’s prophecy: “In that day you will certainly say: ‘Give thanks to Jehovah, you people! Call upon his name. Make known among the peoples his dealings. Make mention that his name is put on high. Make melody to Jehovah, for he has done surpassingly. This is made known in all the earth.’”—Isaiah 12:4, 5.
Another way is to obey God’s laws and commands. Jehovah told the nation of Israel: “You must keep my commandments and do them. I am Jehovah. And you must not profane my holy name, and I must be sanctified in the midst of the sons of Israel. I am Jehovah who is sanctifying you.”—Leviticus 22:31, 32.
How did the Israelites’ keeping of Jehovah’s Law sanctify his name? The Law was given to the Israelites on the basis of his name. (Exodus 20:2-17) Hence, when they kept the Law, they were showing proper honor and esteem for that name. Furthermore, Jehovah’s name was on the Israelites as a nation. (Deuteronomy 28:10; 2 Chronicles 7:14) When they acted properly, this brought praise to him, just as a child who acts in a proper manner brings honor to his father.
On the other hand, when the Israelites failed to keep God’s Law, they profaned his name. Thus, sins such as sacrificing to idols, swearing to a lie, oppressing the poor and committing fornication are described in the Bible as ‘profaning God’s name.’—Leviticus 18:21; 19:12; Jeremiah 34:16; Ezekiel 43:7.
Similarly, Christians have been given commands in God’s name. (John 8:28) And they, too, are associated with ‘a people for Jehovah’s name.’ (Acts 15:14) Hence, a Christian who sincerely prays, “Hallowed be your name” will sanctify that name in his own life by obeying all of God’s commands. (1 John 5:3) This would include also obeying the commands given by God’s Son, Jesus, who always glorified his Father.—John 13:31, 34; Matthew 24:14; 28:19, 20.
The night before his execution, Jesus highlighted the importance of God’s name to Christians. After saying to his Father: “I have made your name known to them and will make it known,” he goes on to explain, “in order that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in union with them.” (John 17:26) The disciples’ learning the name of God involved their personally coming to know the love of God. Jesus had made it possible for them to become acquainted with God as their loving Father.—John 17:3.
How It Affects You
At a first-century meeting of the Christian apostles and older men in Jerusalem, the disciple James said: “Symeon has related thoroughly how God for the first time turned his attention to the nations to take out of them a people for his name.” Could you be identified with those whom God takes out to be a “people for his name” if you fail to use or bear that name?—Acts 15:14.
Although many are reluctant to use the name Jehovah, and many Bible translators leave it out of their translations, millions of people around the world have gladly accepted the privilege of bearing God’s name, of using it not only in worship but in everyday speech, and of declaring it to others. If somebody spoke to you about the God of the Bible and used the name Jehovah, with which religious group would you associate him? There is but one group in the world that uses God’s name regularly in their worship, just as his worshipers of ancient times did. They are Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Bible-based name Jehovah’s Witnesses identifies these Christians as a ‘people for God’s name.’ They are proud to bear that name, for it is one that Jehovah God himself gave to true worshipers. At Isaiah 43:10, we read: “‘You are my witnesses,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘even my servant whom I have chosen.’” Who was God discussing here? Consider some of the preceding verses.
In Isa 43 verses 5 to 7 of the same chapter, Isaiah says: “Do not be afraid, for I am with you. From the sunrising I shall bring your seed, and from the sunset I shall collect you together. I shall say to the north, ‘Give up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not keep back. Bring my sons from far off, and my daughters from the extremity of the earth, everyone that is called by my name and that I have created for my own glory, that I have formed, yes, that I have made.’” In our day, those verses refer to God’s own people that he has collected from all nations to praise him and to be his witnesses. Thus God’s name not only identifies him but also helps to identify his true servants on earth today.
The Blessings From Knowing God’s Name
Jehovah protects those who love his name. The psalmist said: “Because on me he has set his affection, I shall also provide him with escape. I shall protect him because he has come to know my name.” (Psalm 91:14) He also remembers them: “At that time those in fear of Jehovah spoke with one another, each one with his companion, and Jehovah kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name.”—Malachi 3:16.
Thus, the benefits from knowing and loving God’s name are not limited to this life only. To obedient mankind Jehovah has promised everlasting life in happiness on a Paradise earth. David was inspired to write: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”—Psalm 37:9, 11.
How will this be possible? Jesus gave the answer. In the same Model Prayer where he taught us to pray, “Let your name be sanctified,” he added: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:9, 10) Yes, God’s Kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ will sanctify God’s name and also bring good conditions to this earth. It will eliminate wickedness and take away war, crime, famine, sickness and death.—Psalm 46:8, 9; Isaiah 11:9; 25:6; 33:24; Revelation 21:3, 4.
You can enjoy everlasting life under that Kingdom. How? By coming to know God. “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) Jehovah’s Witnesses will be delighted to help you take in that life-giving knowledge.—Acts 8:29-31.
It is hoped that the information in this brochure has convinced you that the Creator has a personal name that is very precious to him. It should be very precious to you too. May you realize the importance of knowing and using that name, especially in worship.
And may you be determined to say as the prophet Micah boldly said many centuries ago: “All the peoples, for their part, will walk each one in the name of its god; but we, for our part, shall walk in the name of Jehovah our God to time indefinite, even forever.”—Micah 4:5.
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‘Knowing God’s name’ means more than merely having head knowledge of the fact that his name is Jehovah
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Jehovah’s name is ‘majestic, great, fear-inspiring and unreachably high.’ All of God’s purposes are linked to his name
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In an article in the Anglican Theological Review (October 1959), Dr. Walter Lowrie highlighted the need to know God’s name. He wrote: “In human relationships it is highly important to know the proper name, the personal name, of one we love, to whom we are speaking, or even about whom we speak. Precisely so it is in man’s relation to God. A man who does not know God by name does not really know him as a person, has no speaking acquaintance with him (which is what is meant by prayer), and he cannot love him, if he knows him only as an impersonal force.”