The Third Commandment
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”
- Deuteronomy 5:11. ESV
Our names were given to us by our parents. In the USA, we normally have three names—-those three names marks us and identifies us for life Over time, as people get to know us, they identify our name with our face and our personality. Some of us have nick-names—often an intimate name only used by those that know us well and love us very much. I have a nickname, one my father and uncle used and later, only my closest of friends. It was a secret name, if you will—-something that still reminds me of that special bond I had with some my family members and best friends.
This morning think of someone whom you love deeply—your child, grandchild, parent, friend, or spouse. And now think of the name of that person and what happens in your soul when you hear that name. I would give anything I own, to hear one more time, my mother or father utter my nickname and tell me that they loved me. Their confidence, protection and approval of me was conveyed most profoundly when they whispered my special name to me. When someone says the name Tyler, Tommy, Tate or Greg something stirs within my heart. A flood of emotions, experiences, comes to me at the sight or sound of those four names.
Names are precious, which is why we don’t like the names of those we love to be ridiculed, twisted, or made fun of. But how much more should we hold the name of our God to be precious. How much more defensive and offended should we be of those who misuse His name! Everywhere in Scripture people who know and love Him exalted His name in the highest possible terms. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Ps. 8:1). “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name” (Ps. 29:2). The first petition of the Lord’s Prayer is “Hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9). The apostles proclaimed that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Paul assured the Romans that “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). And at the end of human histroy “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11).
So you see, His name in unspeakably important and to be referred. Respect for the name of God is one of the Ten Commandments. Again, Jesus reminds us of the importance of “the name” when He taught the disciples the ideal prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name”.
Okay, so the third of the Ten Commandments seems simple: we are not to take God’s name in vain or use it improperly. That would appear to mean, “don’t cuss using God’s name.” But the more you think about it, the deeper your understanding will become on what it means to honor God and cherish His name above all else. The commandment reads:You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” In the Hebrew the word “vain” means worthless, empty, or of no value . Simply spoken, we are not to treat God’s name flippantly, i.e. we are not to regard it as having little consequence.
God’s name is holy, precious and Almighty. He is the “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). His name is his identity; it describes His character. In the ancient world, names were not merely labels that a parent made up. In fact, a child was often not named until after he displaced his own character or personality. The names were descriptive of what they had did and what they were. Notice that Jesus changed two brothers names to “sons of thunder” and Cephas’ name to “rock”. God’s name is not to be taken for granted or invoked lightly. He has over 100 names in the Bible and each addresses a part of His superlative nature. His name is not to be something that one utters carelessly. Just as we should never address a judge or the President or a royal figure derisively, so we must show reverence for the name of God by upholding it and honoring it.
So let me suggest three things very briefly:
- Don’t speak flippantly when you use God’s name. “God” is technically not even a name, YHWH is the name of God, we honor the being of God when we are careful with how we refer to him as God or Lord or Father—they all refer to the Almighty, Eternal Being.
- Do not speak foolishly about God. This refers to how we use the term. We show little respect for God when we refer to Him as the “boss” or ‘the big guy upstairs.’ He deserves respect for goodness sakes! Try referring to a judge in a court of law foolishly or with a nickname and see where you spend the night.
- Don’t make an oaths or promises with God’s name attached unless you are betting your life to keep the oath. Many of uutter the phrase “I swear to God” when we want to convince people we are telling the truth. Oaths before God are a serious thing—Jesus said that it’s better to just say “yes” or ‘no”. When we swear, we are testifying before God and calling Him to be a witness. This is not something you slap on the end of a sentence to assure people that this time your real mean it! The third commandment forbids empty or false oaths: “You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:12; cf. Hos. 10:4a). When you make a declaration, swearing by God’s name, it must not be a false promise or one you do not intend to keep. Did you hear that? “I swear to God…” is a dangerous oath to take.
Friends, as childcare the most precious name we know is our own—-we liked to hear our name called out. But as we came to know Jesus our affection changed—we learned to love the name Jesus and we called out to Abba, our Father—just as He did. If we are drawn closer to Him, we will be more offended and burdened by those that use the name of Jesus or God Almightly in a flippant, silly manner or “vain” way.
And did you know that God has a special name for you and me that we don’t even know yet? “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, to him I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows but he who receives it.’ Revelation 2:17.(NIV)
“To them I will give in My house and within My walls a memorial,
And a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name which will not be cut off.’ Isaiah 56:5. (NIV)
If you are still using God’s name in vain, there’s one of at least four reasons:
1. You can’t control your tongue—-that’s dangerous.
2. You have a very limited vocabulary—that’s sad
3. You’re not trustworthy so you attach “swear to God” to what you say to convince someone you are not lying this time—-that’s your fault
4. You don’t know Him and therefore don’t love Him—that’s your loss
YHWH, the Hebrew Name for God.