The first question we need to ask about the third commandment is “What does it mean?” Does this include swearing, as we know it today, when people use toilet words and other television words that are offensive? This issue is discussed in Eph 5: 4 but is not really considered here.
We are told that we must not use the Name or the reputation of the Lord for no purpose or for vanity. If that happens there will be a punishment. The Israelis of Old Testament times were vary careful how the used the Lord’s Name. The special covenant name, “Yahweh”, was never to be spoken and they always used another word when they were reading the Scriptures. When we see terms like “King of Kings”, or “the Lord from Heaven” and so on, these are Names for God but demonstrate the fact that they were careful not to use the Name in a bad way.
- This commandment deals with the way we worship our God; we are to take our worship seriously. We shouldn’t come to worship as though we are going to a party or a picnic but to come with respect for our God. How would we react if we were going to visit the prime minster? When we come to God we must come with respect. However, respect is an activity that is based on a proper attitude. If we have got the second commandment right in our minds then we will understand that God is the ruler of the Universe and completely holy.
- If people belong to the Lord then they should talk about Him frequently and this discussion should always be done with respect.
- If we say that we belong to the Lord but our lives don’t show that we honour Him then we are hypocrites and we are taking His Name in vain.
- Sometimes people use the Lord’s Name to make a promise or a contract and if they do this and break the contract they have not been serious in the way that they have used His Name.
- There are a lot of people today who say things like “Oh God” in their conversation and this is using the name without proper respect. Sometimes people call on God to witness what they are saying is true but if they are making lies then they are taking the Lord’s Name in vain.
- Some people use the Lord’s Name to elevate themselves. They have already broken the second commandment by reducing God in their minds but when that happens they begin to think highly of themselves (see Rom 12: 1-3) they are breaking the second commandment. The philosophy of feeling good about ourselves has invaded the church in a serious way in the last fifty years. The Lord Jesus said that if any person wants to follow Him they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him (Matt 16: 24). However we are told today that we cannot do anything unless we feel good about ourselves first.
- When Moses was speaking to Israel just before he died and they went into the Promised Land he told them about their experiences in the wilderness (see Deut 8). The Lord told them that they spent the time in the wilderness for three reason: firstly so that He might humble them; then, so that He might test them to see what was in their hearts and to know if they would keep His commandments; and, to do good to them in the end.
- If we look at the second reason first we can see that God is not working in their lives to make them fail but to give them an opportunity to succeed. God never tests to see if we will fail but He always tests us to strengthen us. In Luke 22: 31, 32 the Lord spoke to Peter about the fact that Satan wanted to sift him like wheat but the Lord prayed that Peter wouldn’t fail. It is interesting to note that Satan had to ask permission before he could test Peter and the Lord was willing to allow him to be tested so that he would succeed and then be able to strengthen his Christian brothers. God has given us the ability to choose as a special gift of His grace. If we are allowed to choose something and then we get what we choose we will enjoy it much more. God has made us so that we can enjoy His love but He allows us to choose to enjoy His love so that we will enjoy His love much more. However, God is consistent and has perfect integrity. If He gives people the ability to choose then He gives us what we choose otherwise He would lose His integrity. If people choose not to enjoy God’s love then He gives them what they choose as well but He takes His time before making them get the full effects of their choice. He starts by allowing them to experience a bit of what they have chosen and then a bit more until eventually, if they keep refusing His love, they will be cut off from God completely, without any opportunity to repent (Prov 29: 1).
- The first reason that God gave was so that He might humble them. In our culture, based on the “Self is good” lie it is bad to be humble. Humble people feel bad about themselves and everyone else despises them as well. However, in God’s way a person who is humble is humble so that they can feel good about God. Self and God can’t have room together. The Lord said that He would not give His glory to another (Is 42: 8; 48: 11). What does God mean when He says that He will not give His glory to another. It means that God is the best and there isn’t enough room in the universe to have two people who are the best.
- The second and third commandments are like two sides of a door; they swing together. If you are humble before the Lord then you will respect Him as Lord and God but if you don’t respect Him as Lord and God then you will not be so humble. Our focus must always be on our God and we must always treat Him with respect.
- When a person elevates self above God then they can expect to experience consequences. Rom 1 tells us about the consequences of not honouring God as God or giving Him the thanks that he deserves. If we put self above God then we become fools but we think that we are wise. God will give us over to the evil desires of our hearts. History has shown that eventually every society will decay and that is what we can expect. We can expect our morality to decline and eventually we will lose all sense of what is right and wrong. There will not longer be any acceptable standard but people will decide what they think is good or bad.
- This is very much the issue that was discussed in the Lord’s letter to the church at Ephesus (see Rev 2). They had abandoned their first love. There are only two real options you love God wholeheartedly or you don’t. The one thing that stops us from this kind of love for God is self-love. When Satan tempted Eve he told her that she would be like God. She was tempted by self-love rather than God love.
The Christian will always face the competition between self-love and self denial but the way to overcome self is through first love. We mentioned the fact earlier that all of the heroes of faith had a vision of the Lord’s greatness. If we want to overcome our self-love then we have to get this vision of the Lord’s majesty.