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The Upside-Down Kingdom

Our Father In Heaven

Rev. Philip Miller | April 24, 2022

Scripture Reference: Leviticus 10:3, Leviticus 22:31—33, Numbers 20:12, Isaiah 6:5, Isaiah 8:12—13, Matthew 6:9—13, Luke 11:1—4, John 1:12, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 4:4—7, Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 2:4—7, Hebrews 4:14—16, 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9, 1 John 3:1, Revelation 5:9—10

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Scripture Reference: Leviticus 10:3, Leviticus 22:31—33, Numbers 20:12, Isaiah 6:5, Isaiah 8:12—13, Matthew 6:9—13, Luke 11:1—4, John 1:12, Romans 5:8, Romans 8:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:26, Galatians 4:4—7, Ephesians 1:5, Ephesians 2:4—7, Hebrews 4:14—16, 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9, 1 John 3:1, Revelation 5:9—10

Selected highlights from this sermon

For many of us, prayer raises more questions than answers. Does it even work? Am I doing it right? Am I using the right words? How can I know God is even listening?

Jesus’ early followers had similar questions, but they also saw something different in Jesus—He prayed with a mesmerizing confidence, closeness, and comfort.

In The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gave His disciples a prayer that turns the world upside down, and it might turn our lives upside down too...if only we will let it.

In this message, Pastor Miller focuses on the first sentence, which contains three key phrases—Our Father…in heaven…hallowed be your name—and what they teach us about prayer and the One to whom we are praying.

For many of us, prayer raises more questions than answers. Does it even work? Am I doing it right? Am I using the right words? How can I know that God is listening to me? Jesus’ disciples had many similar questions about prayer, but they saw something in Jesus. They saw that Jesus prayed with a confidence, a closeness, a comfort that they absolutely found mesmerizing, and so they asked Jesus, “Would you teach us how to pray?” They wanted to know what He knew.

And so in Luke, chapter 11, and in Matthew, chapter 6, the passage we’re looking at today, Jesus gives His disciples what we now call The Lord’s Prayer. It’s really, in many ways, “The Disciples’ Prayer,” not “The Lord’s Prayer.” It’s the prayer that the Lord gave the disciples to pray, and it is this prayer that will ultimately turn the world upside down. It can turn our lives upside down, as well, if we’ll let it.

And so let’s open our Bibles to Matthew 6:9–13 and look at this prayer that sweeps the world. This is on page 811 in your pew Bible there if you want to pull that out. And actually since this prayer is one that I think a lot of us know, let’s say it together. Can we? Let’s do that.

This is how Jesus introduces it. Matthew 6:9: “Pray then like this.” Here we go:

“Our Father in heaven,

hallowed be your name.

Your kingdom come,

your will be done,

    on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our debts,

    as we also have forgiven our debtors.

And lead us not into temptation,

    But deliver us from evil.

[For yours is the kingdom and the power

and the glory, forever, Amen.]” Amen.


Let’s pray as we turn to God’s Word.

Heavenly Father, we pray right now that you would open our hearts to all that Jesus has done in order to give us access to you, that we might call you our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. We pray this in Jesus’ beautiful name, Amen. Amen.

This morning we’re going to zero in on that first sentence of The Lord’s Prayer which contains three key phrases:

  • Our Father
  • In Heaven
  • Hallowed be Your Name

Those are the three phrases. I want to just look at those this morning in turn. That’s our outline: Our Father, In Heaven, Hallowed be Your Name. Okay?

So first of all: Our Father.

Did you know that Jesus is the very first person to pray to God as Father? Did you know that? In all the Old Testament, while God was understood as Father, Father of Israel, Father of all creation, God and Father of all, the Jewish people never addressed Him in prayer as Father. They used other titles of address: Oh Sovereign Lord, Lord God, Almighty, Lord, Master, Righteous One, the Holy One of Israel, names like this, but never “Father.”

And then when it comes to Jesus on the other hand, “Father” is His favorite title when it comes to God. Over 165 times in the New Testament He addresses God as Father, the only way that Jesus addresses God in prayer. All of His prayers He prays to God as Father, except for one. Jesus relates to God in a way that no other person had ever previously dared to relate to God.

This is a breakthrough moment. It is radically unprecedented what Jesus is doing here. He’s blazing new theological terrain in addressing God as His Father.

Now, in Jesus’ day, almost everyone was multilingual. And the reason I bring that up is because the spoken language of Jesus’ day was Aramaic. The written language was Greek for most common writing, and then if you had a legal document or an official proclamation, they would use Latin, the official language of the Roman Empire. And so the reason why I bring all of that up is that while the word that we have here in our text for Father is Pater, which is the Greek word for Father, Jesus, almost certainly, when He verbalized this prayer, would have been speaking in Aramaic. And He would have used the Aramaic word for “Father” which is “Abba,” which is preserved for us, if you go look at Galatians 4, or Romans 5:8. In both places Paul preserves this Aramaic word.

Now in most cultures, the first two words that most children learn are the words for mommy and daddy, right? And in Aramaic, “mommy” is “Imma.” Can you say that? Imma. And “father” is “Abba.” Can you say that? Abba. This is an infant child’s word for daddy. Daddy, Abba. It is full of innocence, connection, childlike trust.

When Jude was little (my five-year-old now), but when he was very little, just a couple years old, and I would come home in the evenings from work, he would toddle over with his pudgy little arms outstretched and go, “A-da! A-da! A-da!” because he wanted to be close, he wanted to be near, he wanted to be together. That’s the picture of this word, abba, daddy.

Just think of how different this prayer would have read if Jesus had introduced it in another way. He could have said, “Our Master, who art in heaven.” He could have said, “Our Lord, Our King, our Creator, our Judge, our Friend, all of which are true. God is all of those things to us, but He chooses the word Abba to address God as His Father, His Daddy, like a little child running into her daddy’s arms crying out, “Abba! Abba!” This is quite an astounding picture, isn’t it? It’s astounding.

Now I can understand how Jesus gets to pray to God this way, as Abba. He’s the second member of the Trinity, after all. He’s the firstborn of all creation. He’s the Son of God. When He was baptized (when Jesus was baptized) the Father said (the voice from heaven says), “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

It makes all the sense in the world that Jesus would get to pray to God like this, “Abba, Father.” So then Jesus says, “You pray like this. You pray like this, ‘Our Father, Abba, in heaven.’”

Are you kidding me? Do you realize what He’s saying? Jesus is saying, “You come to God the same way I come to God. You come to God the same way I come to God. You come as a beloved son, a beloved daughter. You come like a little child running into her daddy’s arms crying out, ‘Abba, Abba, Father!’ You crawl up into His lap. You snuggle in close. And you come just like I come to my Father, “Abba, Father.”

This is staggering, mild-blowing, utterly amazing! Because, friends, in Jesus, orphans become children. In Jesus, orphans become children. This is the only way this works if we are children of God. And that’s who we are.

John 1:12, “But to all who did receive him (Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right (the right, the authority) to become children of God.”

Ephesians 1:5, “He (God the Father) predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ.” And all you ladies, don’t let this turn you off that it just says sons. This includes you too, okay?

Galatians 3:26, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

First John 3:1, “See what kind of love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!”

Galatians 4:4–7, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ so you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then [you] are an heir through God (an inheritor).”

Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!”

Friends, here is the Gospel reality: If Jesus died for our sin and our shame, if He was raised to make us right forever with God, and if we have believed on Him as our only sufficient Savior and Lord, then Christ is “in us” and we are “in Christ,” which means that when we stand before God we stand in Christ alone, fully and completely covered with His perfect righteousness, which means that the Word that God the Father spoke over the Son as He rose out of the waters of baptism now applies fully to us by grace. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”

Those are the three things every child needs to hear from their father: I love you, I’m proud of you, and I’m endorsing you.

It is all true, friends, of you in Christ. These words apply to you. And Jesus is teaching us: In me, in my kingdom, you are children of God. And so pray like it: “Abba, our Abba, Father.” Friends, if it wasn’t for Jesus, we wouldn’t have a prayer. But thank God, in Jesus, we do. Our Father.

Second phrase: In the Heavens. In the Heavens. You’ll notice I put this in the plural, In the Heavens, because it’s plural in the text. The Jews conceived of heaven as having like three spheres, three levels. There was the atmospheric heavens, okay? This is the wind, the air. This is where birds fly. Birds fly in the heavens. Right? So there’s the atmosphere. There’s the cosmos. So this is the realm of the stars, stars in the heavens, the galaxies, the heavens. And then there’s the spiritual abode of God. God dwells in the heavens, in the spiritual realms.

Now, the word here is plural, our God who is in the heavens, which I take to mean that all three levels are in view here. Our Father, in the heavens, that He is closer than the very air we breathe, that He is boundless, the universally omnipotent, omnipresent (He is everywhere equal at once) and that He is enthroned in the spiritual realms.

This phrase, “In the heavens” speaks both to God’s transcendence, that He is high and exalted and other, but it also speaks to His immanence, His immanence that is pervasive and close. That’s immanence with an “A,” not an “I.” Imminent is forthcoming and impending. Immanence is pervasive and close.

So our God who is in the heavens means that God is categorically unlike us. He is set apart entirely. Our God is in the heavens; we are of the earth. God is Spirit; we are dust. Our God abides in the sacred realms; we are bound to these terrestrial shores.

The heavens are where God resides, where angels serve, where the saints adore Him. But earthly, unclean sinners like us, we belong down here, and we dare not venture into the heavenlies, you know.

Remember Isaiah, his response when he saw God enthroned in His temple in the heavens? Do you remember this? Isaiah, chapter 6, verse 5? He said, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” And Isaiah knew that sinful humanity cannot rightfully stand in the heavenly presence of a Holy God.

Friends, we are frail, earthly, tainted, sinful, unclean. One does not simply walk into the heavens. And yet, Jesus is saying we have access to “Our Father who is in the heavens.” Just right here, right now. We have access. We just speak and He hears us. It’s as if we’re in the throne room itself. How is this possible? Well, friends, in Jesus, sinners become saints. In Jesus, sinners become saints. The only reason we can go into the heavenlies is because we have been cleansed and clothed with the righteousness of Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:21, “[For our sake] God made him (Jesus) who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God,” clothed in His righteousness forever.

Ephesians 2:4–7, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places (interesting phrase) in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

If you are in Christ, friends, you are exactly where Jesus is, seated at the right hand of God, the Father. You are in Christ with all the access to the throne room of heaven. You are seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. This is amazing.

Hebrews 4:14–16, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Friends, here’s the Gospel reality: If Jesus is your Savior and your Lord, if He is your great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, you are raised up in Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly places, and you now have the very same access that Jesus has to the throne room of heaven. Jesus is teaching us that “In Me,” in Him, in His kingdom, we are saints, seated in the heavenly places, so pray like it. “Our Father in the heavens.” Friends, if it wasn’t for Jesus, we wouldn’t have a prayer, but thank God, in Jesus, we do.

“Our Father, in the heavens, hallowed be your name.” Third phrase: Hallowed be your name. Hallowed. Now that’s not a word you hear everyday. Hallowed, to hallow means to sanctify. It means to treat something as holy, as sacred, as set apart. You can hallow a name, just like you can smear a name. Right? If you smear a name, you’re discrediting a person. You are bringing their name into disrepute. To hallow a name is just the opposite, isn’t it? It is to esteem someone’s honor. It is to uphold the credit that is due their name.

Let me illustrate this with four passages from the Old Testament where this word, hallowed, is actually used.

The first one is in Numbers. The context is the people of Israel are in the desert. They don’t have water. They’re grumbling at Moses. Moses, who gets bitter strikes the rock, which he’s not supposed to do, but he strikes the rock in anger. This is what God says. Numbers 20:12: “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy (There’s our word hallow) in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

So there’s a parallel here. You did not believe in me. That is, you did not uphold me as hallowed (holy) in the eyes of the people. So to disbelieve God is to fail to hallow His name, and flip that around, to hallow is to believe Him. To believe God is to hallow Him.

The second passage is in Leviticus 22:31–33. This is what it says there. “So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD. And you shall not profane my holy name, that I may be sanctified (There’s our word “hallowed,” that I may be hallowed) among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who sanctifies you (hallows you), who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the LORD.”

So, in this passage, to hallow is the opposite of profaning. To hallow, is to treat with honor and dignity. To profane is to dishonor, treat as common. And you notice the logic of this passage. “I am the Lord who sanctifies you. I’ve hallowed you. I brought you out of Egypt. I set you apart for myself, and so now you are to obey. You’re to do what I command you.” And that idea, doing what I command you, is parallel with treating God’s name as hallowed. So to hallow is to obey. So to hallow is to believe, to hallow is to obey.

The third passage is in Isaiah, Isaiah 8. Isaiah was called to be a minister to Israel. He was called to a ministry that would ultimately be rejected because the people feared their enemies more than they feared God.

This is what God says to Isaiah in Isaiah 8:12–13: “ not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him shall you honor as holy (The word is hallow). Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”

So how do you hallow God according to Isaiah, chapter 8? Well, you fear God more than you fear men. You put God first. You let His opinion matter most. You let Him be the heavy weight in your life. To hallow is to fear.

Leviticus 10:3, is the last passage, and this is what it says: “Among those who are near me I will be sanctified (hallowed), and before all the people I will be glorified.” Notice the parallels again. “I will be hallowed” is parallel with “I will be glorified (exalted, lifted up, magnified).” So to hallow is to glorify.

Put it all together. When we pray, “Hallowed be your name,” we are praying that God would be believed, that He would be obeyed, that He would be feared and glorified by everyone everywhere in a way that He rightfully deserves. That’s our prayer. Hallowed be your name, that God would be believed, obeyed, feared, and glorified in me and in all the earth. I mean this is not some disengaged wishful thinking like, “Oh God, I sure hope somehow your name would be hallowed some way.” No, we’re getting in on the action. Don’t you see that? This is my desire. It’s my ambition. It’s my pursuit, that your name, Father, might be hallowed in all creation. And I’m going to do my part to make sure that it happens.

Now, think with me for just one moment. Whose job was it in Israel to ensure that God’s name was hallowed, that it was treated as holy, sacred, revered? This job, well, it’s kind of everybody’s job, right? But particularly it was the job of the priests, the Levites. They were charged with the worship, the stewardship of the holiness of God, weren’t they? They were the ones who lifted God’s name up in worship. They were the ones who offered sacrifices in the temple. They were the ones charged with hallowing the name of God before all the people.

Commoners, like us, couldn’t go into the holy temple, right? Only the priests could enter there. Hallowing the name of God was the priestly prerogative, which is amazing because now Jesus says it’s our job too. How is that possible? In Jesus, friends, commoners become priests. In Jesus, commoners, like us, become priests. Something’s changed. Who we are has changed in Jesus.

First Peter 2, verse 5, “You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

First Peter 2:9, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Or Revelation 5:9–10, “Worthy are you (this is the praise song rising up in heaven) Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Friends, here’s the Gospel reality. If Jesus is your Lamb that was slain, you are a priest in the kingdom of God. You are sanctified. You are set apart. You are holy unto Him, and you are to hallow the name of God. You are to act and live in such a way that our Father in the heavens might be believed, and obeyed, and feared, and glorified by everyone everywhere which is what He rightfully deserves.

Hallowed be your name, and it all starts with us. “Father, hallow your name in me, in my life, in my heart, in my soul, in my body. Hallowed be your name in me, and through me, and all around me.” Jesus is teaching us, friends, that in Him, in His kingdom, we are priests who are stewards of the holiness of God.

“Our Father in the heavens hallowed be your name.” Pray like it. Friends, if it wasn’t for Jesus we wouldn’t have a prayer. But thank God, in Jesus, we do.

Now here’s what’s amazing. If you fell asleep this is the time to wake up. Okay? Here’s what’s amazing. None of this would be possible if it weren’t for Jesus. None of this.

Do you realize on the cross Jesus, the rightful Son of God, cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It’s the only time He didn’t pray and address God as His Father. Why? Why? Because on the cross Jesus lost His Father, so that we might have a forever Father as sons and daughters of God.

On the cross, Jesus, the rightful heir of heaven’s throne, was condemned as a sinner. Why? So that sinners like us might become saints and have access to the throne room of heaven forever. Friends, on the cross Jesus, the rightful Priest who perfectly hallowed the name of God fully and completely every day of His life, died like a common thief, so that commoners like us might become priests, stewarding the holiness of God in and through our lives.

Friends, Jesus is teaching us: “In Me, in My kingdom, through My life, through all that I’ve come to do on your behalf, you are sons and daughters. You are heavenly saints. You are holy priests, so pray like it.”

“Our Father, who is in the heavens, hallowed be your name.” Friends, if it wasn’t for Jesus we wouldn’t have a prayer. But thank God, in Jesus, we do. Amen? Amen!

So here’s the takeaway, the bottom line. Thank you for that smattering of applause there. (laughter) (loud applause and laughter) No, no, no, no! (more applause) (Pastor Philip laughs.) Oh, you’re the best!

Okay, bottom line, takeaway: Friends, your Father delights in hearing your voice. Do you believe that? Your Father delights in hearing your voice.

Has it ever occurred to you that God actually wants to hear from you, that you’re never a nuisance? You never bother Him. He longs for you. He loves you. He delights in you. He’s a good Father.

Look at everything He did to open up these lines of communication with you—from an orphan to a son or a daughter, from a sinner to a saint, from a commoner to a priest. Do you realize God changed us so we could be with Him, so we can draw near, so we can get close and be with Him now and forever? Abba, Father!

I’m so convicted at how often I neglect to pray, and the tragedy is I think God misses us when we don’t pray. He moved heaven and Earth to be near to us. Why would we not call home? Right?

Friends, if it wasn’t for Jesus, we wouldn’t have a prayer. But thank God, in Jesus, we do.

Would you pray with me?

Our Father who is in the heavens, hallowed be your name.

May your kingdom come, and your will be done, on Earth as it is in heaven. Would you give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors?

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever and ever.

And all of God’s people said, Amen. Amen.

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