Honoring God’s Holy Name

The Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”

- Isaiah 8:13

In forbidding the vain use of God’s name, the third commandment does not merely ban irreverent, worthless, and empty speech and actions about the Lord, His titles, and His character. Like the other commandments, it also implicitly calls us to do the opposite of what it forbids. In this case, as question and answer 99 of the Heidelberg Catechism explain, the statute calls us to “use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe.”

Dr. R.C. Sproul has often reminded us of the importance of regarding our Creator as holy. Today’s passage is just one of many places in Scripture where the people of God are called to honor His holiness. The immediate context of this passage concerns King Ahaz of Judah and his refusal to trust the Lord. Threatened by the Assyrian Empire, Israel and Syria had formed an alliance and mounted a siege of Jerusalem to force Judah to join them against Assyria. Instead of trusting God for protection against Israel and Syria, Ahaz turned to Assyria for help, and Isaiah revealed that the Assyrians would eventually turn on Judah (Isa. 7:1–8:10).

Our Creator always preserves a remnant, however, and the Lord told Isaiah to trust and revere Him as holy. God would be a sanctuary to Isaiah and the prophet’s contemporaries but a stumbling block to those who looked to Assyria (8:11–15). Second Kings 16 helps us understand how to honor the Lord as holy, as this chapter concerns Ahaz’s actions at that time. To show his submission to the Assyrian Empire, Ahaz built a new altar in Jerusalem modeled after the one the Assyrians used in pagan worship (2 Kings 16:5–16). He also changed other elements of the worship God had ordained for the temple (vv. 17–19). Among other reasons, the author of 2 Kings describes Ahaz’s actions to show the people of God what not to do when they are in trouble and how not to honor their covenant Lord (vv. 1–4).

Honoring our Creator as holy entails doing the opposite of what Ahaz did. It means trusting Him and Him alone when faced with the prospect of death and destruction—He is our fear and dread (Isa. 8:13). It also means preserving His worship, and we should strive to do everything according to His will and for the sake of His glory (1 Cor. 10:31; 1 Peter 3:13–16).

Coram Deo

Fundamentally, revering God as holy means trusting His promises and obeying His commandments. In other words, we must recognize first that He is holy and that we are unholy, and we must rest only in His Son, Christ Jesus, in order to be rescued from our unholiness. Consequently, we must take all aspects of His holy worship seriously, seeking to please Him in our corporate praise and going forth to declare His glorious holiness to the nations.

Passages for Further Study

Proverbs 13:13
Isaiah 31
Ezekiel 20:39
Hebrews 5:7

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