Opening Prayer: Almighty God, so often we think we already know what you have said or what we’re supposed to do. We ask that you would empower your word now so that we might see new things in your word, and that you would give us strength, courage and joy to take up old things and be faithful in them. Through Jesus our King, Amen!
The first commandments are centered on the worship of God. Christians must worship the true God, and they must worship him the way that he asks us to. The worship of God is also to be in the Name of God.
The Name of God is put in a particular place in the Promised Land which consequently prohibits the worship of God in other places (Dt. 12:5, 11). The name of God is concerned with the location of worship. There is also a focus on the relationship between the central sanctuary and the practices at home (Dt. 12:15-16, 21-24). This establishes the principle that worship flows out into all of life. Finally, honoring God’s Name means honoring his Word (Dt. 12:28). We are not to add to or take away from it (Dt. 12:32).
God begins the pattern of naming in Genesis 1. God’s word is the name of individual creations (Gen. 1). But as redemptive history goes on, it is clear that God’s name is what he does. Yahweh is the God who sees and provides (Gen. 16:13, 22:14). Yahweh is the God who wrestles with his chosen ones (Gen. 32:27-30). Yahweh is God Almighty who makes covenant promises, and he is the I Am who fulfills his promises and delivers his people from bondage (Ex. 3:14-15, 6:3). Yahweh is a man of war and banner over his people (Ex. 15:3, 17:15). Yahweh later declares his name to Moses when his glory passes by (Ex. 33:17-34:7). To name is to reveal, to promise, to tell a story. And therefore to honor God’s name is to honor his words, his works, and his story. This makes sense of the many Psalms which ascribe praise, honor, and power to the name of God.
We Believe in One God
Leviticus also insists that the way God’s name is profaned/honored has a lot to do with worship. People who worship false gods profane God’s name (Lev. 20:3). Aaron and his sons have to keep themselves holy because they offer the holy things of God and may not profane God’s name (Lev. 21:6, 22:2). Every week we confess our faith in the Trinity. We begin and end many aspects of our worship and prayer in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is not merely an affirmation that these things are true. Rather, we are confessing also that we can only believe them and affirm them from within the fellowship of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To worship in the Name of the Trinity, is to join the communion of the Trinity. This is fundamentally true because that is the name that all Christians are baptized into (Mt. 28:19). It is to confess that all worship takes place within the Godhead. This means that faith is always a gift. To confess faith is to confess that we are already in the fellowship of this God we are affirming.
Where is the Name?
We saw in Dt. 12 that God was concerned that proper attention be given to the place where he put his name. The people of Israel were told in Exodus that the Angel of Yahweh had the Name of Yahweh in Him, and therefore he was to be feared and obeyed (Ex. 23:21). Thus we assume that when the sanctuary came to rest, the Angel of Yahweh took of residence in that place. We do not have a central sanctuary in the New Covenant, and that is because God has begun a New Creation. When God begins naming/re-naming things, we know that he is creating/re-creating the world. The first act of the New Creation was the incarnation where God the Son became man and was named Emmanuel, God With Us (Mt. 1:23). He was also called “wonderful, counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace.” All of these and all of the names of God (all of his acts) came together in the name Jesus which means savior (Mt. 1:21). In the incarnation God took upon himself the form of a servant even though he had every right to demand equality with God. And instead of grasping for that greatness, he waited for it to be given to him. And therefore God has exalted him and given him the Name that is above every Name (Phil. 2:9).
Conclusion & Applications
The gospel is that God has kept his promise to Abraham to make his name great and to bless the nations of the world through him. He has made Abraham’s name great by exalting one of his descendents, even Jesus, to the glory of the Father. And in his infinite kindness and wisdom, He has put his Name on individual believers and promised to be present where two or three are gathered in His Name. This was true in the Old Covenant (Num. 6:24-27), but we have been given an even better name. We gather as those named with his Name, and his name is the location of where we gather together. This is what it means to worship in Spirit and in the Truth (Jn. 4:24).
The Glory of Duty
We have been brainwashed into believing that doing our duty is in someway less than glorious. Of course there is a way to perform one’s duty with bitterness, but there is glory in obedience, there is glory in doing what you’re supposed to do. Modern culture glorifies spontaneity because it worships the self. This is why we are taught that it is evil to teach obedience and we need to just let people ‘express themselves’ or ‘be authentic’. But if Jesus has been raised from the dead, then he is king, and we are bound to serve him with thanksgiving. This begins with worship in the Name of God, in the name of Jesus.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
Closing Prayer: Almighty and merciful God, teach us to be faithful servants of Jesus. Give us hearts that are grateful to obey, and teach us to hate all idolatry and foolishness. Give us wisdom and grace to teach this to our children. And we plead with you to do this for the glory of your name; for your name is a strong tower and flee to you for refuge and strength.