Knowing the Lord

Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD” (v. 24).

- Jeremiah 9:23–24

Since the Lord’s Prayer is the model prayer that our Lord and Savior has given us, we should pray for the kinds of things mentioned in the prayer. Furthermore, the order of the petitions is also significant, so the first petition is the most important thing we should be concerned about in our prayers and in all of life. Therefore, because the very first thing we should ask is for God’s name to be “hallowed” (Luke 11:2), we understand that our prayers—indeed, our entire lives—should be God-centered.

In praying for the Lord’s name to be hallowed, we do not ask first and foremost for our own needs, though setting apart our Creator as holy is essential to meeting our need for a relationship of peace with God. Instead, we pray for all creation to recognize and worship the Almighty. To hallow the Lord is to regard Him as holy—to set Him apart from this world’s finitude and fallenness, and exalt Him for His transcendent majesty.

Scripture has revealed that God is holy and that the only proper response from creatures is to revere His holiness. One of God’s names is the “Holy One of Israel” (Ps. 71:22; Isa. 43:3; Hos. 11:12). He cannot tolerate unholiness in His presence (Deut. 23:14). His Spirit is the “Holy Spirit” (1 Thess. 4:8; Heb. 2:4). We do not know the Lord rightly if we do not know His purity and worship Him “in the splendor of holiness” (Ps. 96:9).

Today’s passage, which is one of the proof texts for question and answer 122 of the Heidelberg Catechism, emphasizes the importance of knowing God and His holiness. As Jeremiah states, the only thing we can rightly boast in is that we know the Lord—that He has sovereignly awakened our hearts and minds to the reality of His love, justice, and righteousness. This is another way of saying that the highest goal of life is to know our Creator in His holiness, as John Calvin comments: “By saying that [God] doeth justice, [Jeremiah] intimates that these things ought to dispose our hearts to fear and reverence. At the same time, when God declares that he doeth justice, he supplies us with a reason for confidence; for he thus promises to be the guardian of our salvation.” There is a right reverence and fear that the Lord’s holiness inspires—God should never be approached flippantly. At the same time, however, knowing the Lord’s holiness helps us know His love and faithfulness. For since He is holy, He cannot break His promise to redeem His people. A broken promise would make Him a liar and, thus, unholy.

Coram Deo

Many people today want to set holiness, love, and mercy in opposition to one another, especially when they speak of the character of God. Yet, it is only because the Lord is holy that we can be confident that He will be merciful to those who repent and believe. Our holy God has promised this, and He cannot break this promise, for if He were to break His Word, He would violate His own holiness. Those who rightly know God’s holiness also know His mercy.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 15:11
Isaiah 5:16
Mark 1:21–28
1 Peter 3:14–17

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