The Third Commandment: Honoring the Name of God
November 30, 2008
Introduction: You and I have names we did not choose. My wife and I chose the names of our sons. Each has a purpose, but when push comes to shove the names themselves are usually treated as labels. I wanted my sons to have family names that were traditional and rugged. I didn’t really dwell on the initials - although, that can be a problem (e.g., Henry Beauregard Oesterwind would lead to the initials HBO; he’ll be thankful we chose his grandfather’s name James). My wife seemed to care a lot how the name flowed. She also enjoyed writing the name repeatedly. Apart from honoring those we love and challenging our sons with their namesake, a name is just a name in our western culture.
The Importance of a Name in Scripture
However, when it comes to the name of our God, nobody chose it for Him. No one could. He simply revealed it:
“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ Moreover God said to Moses, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations.’”
The third commandment indicates just how important the name of God is: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who take His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).
A name may be a label for us, but for the Hebrew mindset a name was closely tied to the person. It identified what a person was on the inside. When we use the name of God, we are referring to the very essence of who He is. His name stands for His self-existence and self-sufficiency. It calls to mind His character and the righteous and good things that issue forth from Him.
Taking His Name in Vain
Since God’s name is identified with His character, He commands that men take it not in vain. How do we improperly use Gods name?
- Oaths - swearing by God’s name falsely (See Lev 19.12); people often are tempted to swear by God’s name to give authority to what they say. Often, they commit perjury on a witness stand after doing so.
- Profanity - what we often think of as swearing; cursing; minced oaths (‘gee,’ ‘geez,’ ‘gosh,’ ‘the Man Upstairs,’ and other irreverent expressions)
- Calling down divine damnation on a hammer that hits the wrong nail or a kid who won’t get to bed on time.
- Using the name of Jesus Christ as an exclamation point.
- Minced oaths - “OMG”; “Gosh darn it!”; “What the heck is that?” “Good Lord, are you at it again?” “I swear to God if you do that again I’m telling mom.”
Rob Schenck quoted in Ryken, 585
Some years ago, after a long speaking itinerary in the midwest, I boarded a late-night flight to return home. I was tired and looking forward to a rest. Sitting behind me in the airplane were two salesmen whose conversation was peppered with profanity. I had finally had it when they began running the Lord’s name into the gutter. I raised myself up from my seat and turned around so that I was looking down on them from my perch. Then I asked, “Are either of you in the ministry?”
The one in the aisle seat raised his eyebrows incredulously and said, “What the …would ever make you think that?”
“Well, I am in the ministry,” I said with a smile. “And I am amazed at your communication skills. You just said God, damn, hell, and Jesus Christ in one sentence. I can’t get all of that into a whole sermon!” They both blushed, and I didn’t hear another word from them for the remainder of the flight!
- Vain Expressions - empty talk which dishonors God; flippant claim to be a Christian despite a wicked lifestyle; like politicians and Hollywood actors.
- Christians violate this when they frivolously throw God’s name around to pursue their own agendas.
- “The Lord told me to do this” or worse, “The Lord told me to tell you to do this”
- Twisting Scripture to suit our purposes
- “Praise the LORD!” and don’t mean it
- Singing with no heart in it
- Casual approaches to worshipping God
God will not hold guiltless the man who takes His name in vain. God takes it very seriously and we should too. Leviticus 24:10-16 shows how seriously God takes the misuse of His name.
Acts 19:11-20 “Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that even handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, ‘We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.’ Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?’ Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.”
- These seven sons misused the name of God by using it for personal power - God did not hold them guiltless.
- Note too that fear fell on everyone when the story became known and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.
- Many people believed and the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
Use of God’s Name
Matthew 6:9 “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.” To hallow the name of God is to let it be declared holy in our lives and actions. The use of God’s name isn’t the problem. We should sing it, preach it, and adore it.
Psalm 29:2 “Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
Psalm 66:2 “Sing out the honor of His name; make His praise glorious.”
Psalm 72:19 “Blessed be His glorious name forever! And let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen.”
Psalm 103:1 “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name!”
Colossians 3:17 “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
The antithesis of using God’s name in vain is doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus. It is the wise use of God’s name.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
Philippians 2:9-11 “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
483 - O How I Love Jesus