2011 11 27

Thankful for the Name

Reverend Anthony R. Locke

November 27th, 2011  www.FirstPresTucker.org

at the First Presbyterian Church of Tucker

Ten Commandments Sermon Series 05

Exodus 20:7 — English Standard Version

7    “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.[1]

If the Lord is with you then He will incline your heart to obey His commandments.

And the more we obey God’s commands, He fills our soul and life with His glory, just like the Temple was filled with the glory of the promised Messiah.

If the Lord is with you then He will incline your heart to obey His commandments.

And the more we obey God’s commands, He fills our soul and life with His glory, just like the Temple was filled with the glory of the promised Messiah. 

In the Third Commandment God said that He will not hold us guiltless if we take His name in vain. That is not a veiled threat. There is nothing veiled about those words.

In the first two commandments God lights the path toward His blessings by telling us how to live and worship. But this commandment includes a personal warning. It’s a little ominous. There is a warning for those who do not take this commandment to heart.

And let’s be careful to understand God’s words. God isn’t warning us that something bad might happen. Like – Don’t use a hair dryer while taking a bath, or don’t drive on icy roads, or don’t play with fire. No. God is saying something more real than speaking about possibilities.

God’s warning is absolute. Don’t test it.

Taking God’s name in vain isn’t like playing with fire. Maybe you will get hurt, maybe not.

This is more like the law of gravity. You would never say, “Don’t jump out of an airplane because you might get hurt.” There is more than a possibility or even a probability that you will get hurt. The trouble you invite into your life is absolute.

And using God’s name in vain is like falling from an airplane. You might think, “So far so good.” But eventually you stand before God and go splat.

God promises that in the next life there will be a hurricane waiting for you. God Himself will label you guilty. God Himself will deal with people who take His name in vain. Ouch.

The Jews have a saying that “When God gave the third commandment, the whole world trembled.” The Jews believe there is no forgiveness for transgressing this third commandment. Christians do believe there is forgiveness, but we also need to pay closer attention so as not to break this commandment.

So the all important question, what does it mean to take the name of God in vain?

Before we give a more detailed answer, let’s all admit that we hope it is something more egregious than our slang.  Most American Christians have adopted unbecoming expressions from our secular culture. We might call it G rated profanity, but it still isn’t praiseworthy.

  • Maybe we don’t say GOD!  when shocked or surprised, but we say gosh!
  • Maybe we don’t say Great God Almighty! But we say great gosh omolly.
  • We don’t say JESUS CHRIST! We say Jeeze and Crackers.

We should hope and pray that the profane slang that we all let slip from our lips isn’t the breaking of the third commandment, because if it is, then most religious people within the last few generations have broken this commandment clean off.

We should also hope and pray that the commandment isn’t being broken when we play a DVD that includes all sorts of blasphemy and cursing.

A funny story. When I was a youngster I hated going to the movies with my dad. I remember going to see Top Gun with my whole family when it was originally in the theaters. There were a few low ranking curse words early on. My dad didn’t budge. But during the bar scene, just before Tom Cruise sings You Lost that Lovin’ Feelin’, there was some profanity that made my dad do his predictable routine.

He would lean forward and look down the aisle. He would then motion for us all to stand up and we would quietly leave the theater. Then we had to wait in the lobby while he asked to see the manager and negotiate a refund.

I always respected my dad for his principles and I love him for his godly leadership.

Most of us are not as careful as my dad. Most of us are in great peril of being found guilty for breaking this commandment over and over and over again.

What does it mean to take the name of God in vain?

First, if we ascribe the authority of God’s name for our purposes, and not His, then we are profaning His name. Don’t say, “God told me to tell you . . .” Don’t act like the preachers on television who say  “God says that if you send in this much money then you will be blessed.”

One of my sons said to a sibling, “Daddy said you have to . . . ” Problem is that daddy didn’t say that.

The Crusades come to mind. Mormon Polygamy comes to mind. Southern slavery in colonial America comes to mind.

If we ascribe the authority of God’s name for our purposes then we damage His reputation and character through false claims. As church folk we need to be very careful not to do this.

Second, Jesus said Matthew 5:34-37 Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Let’s say a friend doesn’t always keep his promises. And you both want to go to a concert. And it falls to you to buy the tickets. So you ask him if he will reimburse you for purchasing tickets for the concert. And he says, “I swear to God I’ll pay you if you buy me those tickets!”

That’s about the strongest words a Jew could utter. Everyone would believe the intentions of the heart were honest if such words were used.

But, Jesus says that to swear by God’s name flows out of evil. Evil is the mother of that careless use of God’s name. We are not allowed to do this no matter our good intentions.

Third, we should never use the Lord’s name, or slang for his name, as a curse word. We mentioned that a moment ago in the introduction. This misuse isn’t the deep theological meaning of the commandment, but it still isn’t right.

What is the deeper theological meaning of the commandment?

God’s nature and attributes, the totality of His being, and especially His glory are reflected in His name. Psalm 8:1 O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.

Psalm 111:9 tells us He sent redemption to his people; he has commanded his covenant forever. Holy and awesome is his name!

The Lord’s prayer begins by addressing God with the phrase hallowed be your name Matthew 6:9. We must treat His name equal with it’s holiness, majesty, power and glory.

We must never misuse God’s name in an empty way. That’s the meaning of the word vain. We must always use His name with seriousness and reverence in our voice and tone.

When we use the name of God we are invoking His character.

Let me detail that.

The entire Bible reveals God’s mind, character, attributes, offices, power, His will, promises, plan and relationship with us.

In Bible thought, His name is equal with His identity.

Jacob means “Supplanter.” Esau said, Is he not rightly named Jacob? For he has supplanted me these two times. He took away my birthright, and now look, he has taken away my blessing! (Genesis 27:36).

When Abigail pleads for Nabal before David (a name which means “Fool”), she pleads, Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. (I Samuel 25:25).

The character of the person and the person’s name are connected.

God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Hadassah to Esther, Sarai to Sarah, Simon to Peter, Silas to Peter and Saul to Paul to signal the change in their character.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

Isaiah 62:2 The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will give.

God will give all of us a new name too that is according to our new nature that is being refashioned according to the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

And our new name will be identified with the glory of God within us.

When we use the name of God we are invoking His character and glory into our speech.  It is the same when we pray “in the name of Jesus Christ.” We petition His authority, not ours, to buttress our request. The use of His name invokes the power of His name and glory.

Therefore, we can never use God’s name in a flippant or casual way and expect to be innocent of breaking the command.

This is the deeper theological meaning of the commandment.

Finally, those who name the name of Christ, who pray in His name, and who take His name as part of their identity, but who deliberately and continually disobey His commands, are taking His name in vain.

I would think that this is obvious by now and a natural application of the text.

Jesus Christ has been given the name above all names, at which every knee shall bow (Philippians 2:9-10), and when God calls us by His name, we must live in the glory of that name or be found guilty of misusing the name.

If we profess to be Christians, but act, think, and speak in a worldly or profane manner, we take His name in vain. Meaning, we treat the name as though it was empty of glory and honor.

When we misrepresent the glory and righteousness of Christ, either intentionally or through ignorance, we diminish the right understanding of the use of God’s name.

When we say we love God, but we do not do what He commands (Luke 6:46), we take His name in vain and are in danger of hearing Him say to us, I never knew you. Away from me on the day of judgment (Matthew 7:21-23).

What is the right use of God’s name?

John 17:3, 6, 11, 26 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. . . . I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. . . . Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are. . . . And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.

We have eternal life through the name of Jesus Christ as He connects us to the Father. And by the name of Jesus we connect the world back to the Father.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

There Is Strength In The Name Of The Lord, There Is Power In The Name Of The Lord, There Is Hope In The Name Of The Lord, Blessed Is He Who Comes In The Name Of The Lord.

And as we observe all that was commanded we live in His name. His glory fills our life as we obey His commands.

What do our lives declare about God? If we who bear His name fail to live up to that name’s reputation, then we break the third commandment and profane the name of God.

May we be blessed to praise God with King David who exclaimed, Psalm 34:1-3 I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the LORD ; the humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

May we also make our boast in the name of the Lord as we celebrate His Advent this Christmas season.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

I want to buy him

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