Here is Commandment #3 in my Ten Commandments sermon series. Again, I am making no apologies for formatting or abbreviations in the sermon, but am posting content.
- The TC are a foundation…in 2 classes: 1) Love God and 2) Love People
- Jesus echoed these commands in his teaching as well
- The TC are still relevant today…they teach us of God’s character and our nature, as well as act as a fence wherein we can find life
- We talked last week about how the TC were a covenant between God and His people—and this covenant was written like other covenants of its day—and covenants are agreements between people who have a relationship.
- And in light of this relationship, last week, we talked about C #1 and #2—
- #1—you shall have no other gods before me
- God is not saying there is such a thing as gods—what He is saying is that we have a tendency to make things into gods (hobbies, money, job, possessions)
- What makes a god a god is when we place it as more important than God
- God is reminding us, through this 1st C, that He is powerful and supreme.
- #2—you shall not make for yourself an idol
- It’s not so common to see today, in this country, little statues or carvings or anything handcrafted that people worship. This is what God was prohibiting, because it was very common in the days of Moses that people would make something that represented their god…and then they would worship that thing.
- God doesn’t want this to happen because He doesn’t want to be reduced…which is what you do when you try to take our HUGE God and turn Him into a painting or carving that you worship. After all, didn’t God create colors, so He can’t be captured by them? And didn’t God make all the wood, so you can’t carve Him into wood?
- God will not be reduced.
And that brings us to C #3…
Exodus 20:2-17 (TNIV)
2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before [a] me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. 8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy. 12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Verse 7—“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
The 3rd C…
Most of us know this commandment better in the language of the old KJV—“you shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
I think it was Shakespeare who asked the question, “What is in a name?” He goes onto say, “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”
Well—that sounds romantic and all, but Shakespeare doesn’t get it quite right. There is a lot that is in a name…
Keri and I, when we were first pregnant with Eden, knew exactly the name we wanted for the baby, no matter if it was a boy or girl. Then, when we were pregnant with Jerah, choosing a name got to be a little tougher. And with Simeon, just born 2 weeks ago, we had a very difficult time, not really deciding on a name until a few weeks before he was born.
Why was it so hard for us? Well, first of all…they have a lame last name. Smith is boring—so we wanted something that would be unique for a first name. Secondly, we wanted to find a name that had meaning. We wanted a name that had significance.
Because, contrary to what Shakespeare says, there is a lot in a name.
Today, a lot of people get their names because the parents just like how the name sounds…there is less meaning that in the Bible days. Consider some of these names of famous folks in the Bible:
- The name Joshua in the OT is the same name as Jesus in the NT—and that name literally means “Salvation of the Lord.” Fitting don’t you think, not only for the OT leader Joshua, who led the Israelites into the Promised Land, but also for Jesus, who leads us today into the Promised Land.
- Abram’s name meant “exalted father.” Then God changed his name to Abraham, which means “father of many.” Remember, Abraham then went on to be the father of the nation of Israel.
- Simon in the NT, one of Jesus’ disciples, would later become known as Peter. Peter means “the Rock” and Jesus gave him this name after Peter confessed Jesus as the Lord. Thus, Jesus gave Simon the name Peter to signify that Peter, understanding Jesus is the Messiah, would be as strong as a rock and would become the foundation of the soon-to-be-established church.
- The famous twins, Esau and Jacob. Esau was born first, and when he was born, he was very hairy with red hair. The name Esau, that he was given, literally means “hairy.” His brother Jacob was born right after, and Jacob was born hanging onto Esau’s heel. He was given the name Jacob, which literally means, “he grasps the heel.”
Names, especially in Bible days, really meant something—in fact, they embodied their character. Their name would be a mark of who they really were. And that is why folks in the Bible days wanted to have a good name, because it marked good character.
And the same is true with God’s name—it marks His character—it is who He is.
We have somewhat lost this idea—that God has a name, in our culture today. I wish we could recapture it…I will try to help us understand God’s name and what it means.
In these days, all the gods were given names. They didn’t already have them…they received them. God, however, revealed His name Himself. Nobody gave it to Him…instead, He revealed it.
Exodus 3:13-14 (TNIV)
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. [c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ “
He revealed His own name…I am.
In the culture of the Hebrews, they had such reverence for God’s name that they wouldn’t even pronounce it. They wouldn’t write it…still to this day, Orthodox Jews won’t write G-O-D. They will write G- – -D.
When scribes, who were writing the Scriptures out, when they got to God’s name, would get up and cleanse themselves so they would be pure to write it. Then, when they did, they would get up again and re-cleanse themselves.
I heard once about a rabbi who was teaching some disciples about God. One of the disciples of this rabbi flippantly said God’s full name…and the rabbi ran out of the room and disappeared for several days. When he returned, people asked him where he had gone. He said that he had heard God’s full name—and he wasn’t not worthy to do so—so he disappeared from sight for several days to fast and pray and cleanse himself, because he did not feel worthy to have heard God’s name spoken.
Now, we are NT Christians…we can speak God’s name. We can approach Him with confidence. We don’t have to follow some of these rules.
BUT—we cannot take His name, which reveals who He is…and misuse it.
And this 3rd C says, “Don’t misuse my name.” Don’t take it in vain.
A lot of people think this means don’t swear. People tend to think this is a commandment against using bad language. And that is partly true—but there is so much more to it than that. I am going to show you…
The word ‘vanity’ when used in the OT…as in, ‘Don’t use the Lord’s name in vain,’ means to empty His name, to make it valueless, or to make it nothing. To use the name of the Lord in vain means to empty it of it’s significance and make it irrelevant.
The word ‘vanity’ actually is derived from a word meaning ‘wind.’ What is the wind? Well, it’s nothing. And that is what vanity is…nothing. To use God’s name in vanity is to make God’s name mean nothing.
And from what we just talked about, the significance of our names…to make a name mean nothing is bad. And God says, ‘it’s a sin.’
I want to look at ways, this morning, that we can de-value God’s name…how we can make God’s name mean nothing…or how our Bibles tell us we misuse God’s name.
Profanity comes from the word profane…and something that is profane is something that is, by definition, not sacred.
Taking God’s name, which is sacred, and using it in a profane way is to take His name and make it not sacred. And, as we have seen, we can’t mess with God’s name, because it is who God is.
When you hit your thumb with your hammer and your response is Oh My God or God Dammit or Jesus Christ or whatever…that is taking His holy name and using it in an unholy manner…profanity. Misusing His name.
It’s hard to live in our culture of media, especially, and not be affected by some sort of profane use of God’s name. It’s very prevalent in our culture. Col. Sanders, of KFC fame, once said that when he became a Christian he lost half of his vocabulary. I read an article not too long ago, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the movie Gone With the Wind…and one of the most famous phrases from that movie was when Rhett told Scarlett–“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” What an uproar that caused…today, we barely bat an eye.
The speech that we hear in our world with our ears, we must not let that be proclaimed in a profane or unholy way with our mouths. Listen to the words of the Psalmist:
Psalm 19:14 (TNIV)
14 May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.
The words we speak with our mouths must be pleasing to God…
And this goes true for Jesus’ name—for Christ’s sake, Jesus Christ, or just Jesus.
John 10:30 (TNIV)
“I and the Father are one.”
Many times, God’s name is invoked in order to make our lies sound less like lies. Does this phrase sound familiar…”I swear to God it’s true.” “I swear that I will do that for you.” “With God as my witness…”—
It’s no surprise that cheating and lying are definite problems for us as humans…and lots of us are good and making sure we don’t say BIG lies, but a lot of us tell little white lies to save face…seemingly insignificant lies. (I’m not going to go too much into this, because we have a command about this a little later!) BUT…cheating and lying sure does happen.
Psalm 101:7 (TNIV)
7 No one who practices deceit
will dwell in my house;
no one who speaks falsely
will stand in my presence.
Proverbs 12:22 (TNIV)
22 The LORD detests lying lips,
but he delights in people who are trustworthy.
The Pharisees of Jesus’ time developed a very elaborate set of rules for oath-taking. They knew it was against the Law to lie, so they created fancy ways of skirting the Law, justifying themselves saying they weren’t actually breaking the Law.
They insisted that their oaths made “to the Lord” must be kept, but they welcomed the loophole saying that if they avoided the specific name of the Lord, then they wouldn’t be binding. Clever in their speech, they would then swear by heaven, or by the earth, or by the mountains…making sure they didn’t swear by the name of God.
These promises were impressive, but they clearly had no intention of keeping them. They would say, “Yes, you did hear me make that oath…but you didn’t hear me correctly. I swore by heaven, not by God, therefore, my oath is not binding.”
That’s why Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said these words:
Matthew 5:33-37 (TNIV)
33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes,’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.
These oaths simply became lies…and oftentimes God’s name was used in these lies. Jesus said this can’t be so…and God said, don’t misuse my name for your lies.
Living the life
If you want to look at the 3rd C closely, it can be translated “carry.” The KJV says “you shall not TAKE the Lord’s name in vain.” Don’t take it…don’t carry it in vain.
Remember, vanity is emptying God’s name of its value. So…the Bible says “don’t carry God’s name in a way that will empty it of its value.”
That means…perhaps we break the 3rd C when we live in a way that empties God’s name of its value.
For example…history is full of events like torture, murder, rape, and plundering—and all that has been done in the name of God. Think of the Crusades…the Crusades occurred in God’s name, but it didn’t represent God very well.
Or when a Christian kills an abortion doctor in the name of God.
Or when there are prejudices passed down in the name of God.
We can break this 3rd C by living in a way that does not bring honor to God’s name. If we profess to be Christians, we are wearing the name of Christ. But if our lives don’t reflect the name of Christ, we are misusing it.
And suddenly this becomes much harder than just making sure we don’t say Jesus Christ whenever we are mad.
We must not take breaking this command lightly.
When you read this command, do you see something in it that you don’t see in the others?
Exodus 20:7 (TNIV)
7 You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
The Lord lays out the warning about using His name in an unworthy manner. He says He will not ignore it…
In other words, God is super-serious about this commandment. He is serious about all of them…they are not the 10 Suggestions, but rather the TC—but this one He lays out a warning. He says, ‘I do not want my name maligned, because when you malign my name, you malign me.’
He takes this very seriously…consider this story found in the OT.
Leviticus 24:10-16 (TNIV)
10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them. 13 Then the LORD said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15 Say to the Israelites: ‘Anyone who curses their God will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them. Whether foreigner or native-born, when they blaspheme the Name they are to be put to death.
Because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross, we no longer have to fear stoning in the assembly when we misuse the name of the Lord—but we can learn a final thought.
By obeying this command, we show God the respect that is His.
By using God’s name properly, you show Him respect. Think about it…when someone does something you don’t like, you call them bad names, “you idiot…you fool…etc”—but when you want to show respect, you say something like “Mr. President…Doctor Howser…Mr. Speaker of the House.”
Jesus tells us when we pray to address God as…our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Hallowed…praised…set apart as holy…hallowed.
God’s name is like no other name…and we shall not misuse it. We shall not empty it of its meaning.
Reminding of the power of His name…Jesus’ name is powerful and given for our salvation.
Acts 4:12 (TNIV)
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.”