“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” (Exodus 20:7)
This is the third sermon in a series on the Ten Commandments, as
revealed in Deuteronomy Chapter 5 and Exodus Chapter 20. The verse in
Exodus for today is also seen in Deuteronomy 5:11. God gave these
commands to humanity through the nation Israel, and considering they are
the Lord’s will for the people of this world, we should study them. Our
lives depend on our response to Almighty God.
Instead of looking to God, we tend to copy each other. Whatever
region of the world we are in, subconsciously we listen carefully to the
dialects around us, and if we stay there for any period of time, we will
begin speaking like everyone else in that area. Whether we are men or
women, boys or girls, we want to wear the latest fashions. Casual might
be “in” right now, but if “significant” people, like movie stars and
famous musicians change the “look” to formal, we will change, too. As to language,
certain phrases catch on and then are used everywhere. A current phrase
is “Oh my God!” said in a certain way to register excitement or
surprise. It is understood that the person who utters that phrase is not
addressing God – it’s just the slang of the moment.
People use His Name, but no worship is intended. They do not express
faith in Him, there is no prayer, no reverence, no respect. His Name is
merely another word to be used as a way of expressing a feeling, which
has no relation at all to the reality that He is the God of all
creation. We should note once again the Third Commandment, which
concludes with the very serious words: “the Lord will
not hold him (or her) guiltless who takes
His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Displeasing God is dangerous.
When I was 12-years old, my father corrected me. Actually he
corrected me on many occasions for numerous reasons, but this one had to
do with our sermon for today. I was talking and he interrupted me with
the words, “Don’t say that!” I didn’t know what he meant and asked him
to explain. He continued, “Don’t say, ‘God, and don’t say, Jeez!’” two
of the common expressions used by me and by many classmates in school.
And they were two of the words in the sentence I had uttered right
before he interrupted me. “God” for me was simply a reflection of the
slang of that time, as it so often has been in history, and I sort of
knew that “Jeez” was short for Jesus, but I didn’t let my Dad know that
I knew. My father didn’t attend church and seemingly never read the
Bible, so his response surprised me. Not only we did not attend church, but I had no knowledge whatsoever that God actually
existed, so the words to me meant nothing, which is the way it is for
most people. But God views things differently. We are responsible in His
sight for not only our actions, but our words are also very important.
The Name of God is important, far more so than our names mean
something. God is holy, just and true. He is our Creator and the
Lord of our lives. God the Father sent His Son to die for our sins. When
we use His Name “in vain,” we take that which is holy and precious and
drag it through the mud. We reduce the Name of God to the level of
profanity. I don’t know about you, but most people are insulted when
someone debases their name. Most people want to be respected, and their
name is part of it. If you feel insulted when someone treats you in a
disrespectful manner, how should God respond when His Name is treated as
though it were profanity. We all need to go back and read again, “the Lord will not hold him guiltless who
takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).
God revealed Himself openly to the nation Israel,
giving them His
Name, a sign of His grace to an entire nation. His Name is
indeed a gift, especially to those who, like Abraham, place their faith in the
Lord. God said to him, “I will establish my covenant between Me and you
and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting
covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” And much
later in time, it was revealed that more are included than Israel alone: “If you are Christ’s then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs
according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29). His Name is a
treasure given to those who place their faith in Him.
Almighty God is indeed inviting us to relationship, astonishingly to
friendship, and He is interested in revealing much about Himself to us
all, as friends tend to do. But it’s important, crucial actually, to
recognize that He is not something like our “Big Buddy in the sky.” He
is not some big-name acquaintance and we are not name-droppers who can
casually include His Name in conversations. He is God.
In order to fully understand what God’s name means, we have to see
who He is. How better to do so than to listen to someone who has
actually seen Him. During the time Isaiah the prophet was still shocked
by the death of his cousin, King Uzziah, he was given a vision of the
Here’s what he reported: "In the year of King
Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted,
with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him,
each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he
covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another
and said, 'Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is
full of His glory.' And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at
the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with
smoke. Then I said, 'Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of
unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes
have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.' Then one of the seraphim flew to
me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar
with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, 'Behold, this has
touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is
forgiven'" (Isaiah 6:1-7).
Isaiah quoted the Lord in another place, "'Come
now, and let us reason together,' says the Lord, 'Though your sins are
as scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are red like
crimson, they will be like wool'" (Isaiah 1:18). His Name is more
than just words. It’s all about who He is. It’s about His authority, His
power, His ability, as Isaiah learned, to utterly forgive us for what we
have thought and done. He is the One who created the Ten Commandments we
are studying. We are condemned by them for we cannot keep them, and yet
He has the power, the grace and the love to forgive you and me. “Though your sins are as scarlet,” He will make you “white as snow.” Clean, inside and out.
The ground, the authority of that forgiveness is found in the Name of
Jesus Christ. As Peter said, “Repent and let
every one of you be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ for the
remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,
for the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar
off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38).
He is calling you. He has the authority, the power and the love, to
legislate, to condemn and to forgive. Listen to Isaiah, who saw Him in
His glory. Listen to Peter who tells us to repent in the Name of Jesus
Christ. You have an everlasting deposit of eternal life in the bank of
heaven. Listen to your heart, for you are being drawn to Him right now.
Lord, forgive me. I give my heart and life to You. I am Yours.
In Jesus Name. Amen.