Names generally are generally speaking significant.
We named our first child Amelie because my wife and I both love that name.
Our second child, Jacob Johan (Jake) is named after our fathers.
Our third child came as a big surprise so we named him Nathan, which means “gift of God”.
Names have significance and meaning. Names can demonstrate family heritage or my values.
When we refer to someone’s name: it’s more that to just a word. We think of the person and who they are and what they are like.
This is even more true for the name of God.
We don’t like it if our name is slandered, misused or associated with something we don’t like.
We don’t like it if our name is associated with (or tagged on Social Media) something we don’t agree with.
This is even more true for the name of God.
God’s name refers to his person: who he is and what is like.
God’s name should never be tagged to that which is un-God-like.
Exodus 20:7 says,
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain (don’t use it in empty, worthless way), for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”Exodus 20:7
1. What does this commandment teach us about God?
The third Commandment teaches us that that the One True God is infinitely worthy of our worship, reverence and honour.
God has a name.
At the beginning of the book of Exodus in the Bible, the Israelites find themselves slaves in Egypt. They were hard-pressed and suffering.
God saw and God determined to rescue the Israelites through Moses.
God appeared to Moses in a bush a burning-non- burning bush and told Moses deliver His message of rescue to Pharaoh and the Israelites.
Moses asked God: “When people ask me, who should I say sent me?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” (God’s name) And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”Exodus 3:14
God has a name: I AM WHO I AM.
That phrase in Hebrew has four consonants and is usually pronounced as JEHOVAH or YAHWEH.
It’s normally written in English Bibles as LORD with ALL CAPITAL letters.
In Jewish tradition that word “Jehovah” is so sacred they don’t read the word – they simply say the generic, “Lord”.
10 Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp, 11 and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. 12 And they put him in custody, till the will of the Lord should be clear to them.
13 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. 15 And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.Leviticus 24:10-16
God says: don’t use my great name in a worthless, empty way.
God will not allow his name to be blasphemed and slandered.
We don’t kill ppl for blasphemy, like ISIS, because we are no longer living in a theocracy like Israel in the Old Testament.
The Kingdom of God is now an international kingdom and Christians believe in Freedom of Religion and Expression.
However, one-day God will hold all those accountable who have blasphemed and slandered his name or treated his name as worthless, because God is infinitely worthy of our worship and reverence.
I get annoyed if someone on Social Media tags me to something I don’t like or they misrepresent me in some way. How much more must the holy, good, One True God value and cherish his Great Name?
2. What does this commandment teach us about the human condition?
This commandment teaches us that we, as human beings, are prone to think, speak and live in a way that dishonours God’s name.
We do not give God the glory due his name in our thoughts, words and actions.
By default, from birth, we are like the person who walks into the Louvre in Paris, sees all the wonderful artwork and thinks to themselves: how great human beings are – not how great our Creator must be.
By default, from birth, we are like Frank Sinatra who sang I DID IT MY WAY, or like Limp Bizkit who sang, ITS MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY!
Or factory default setting is not to honour who we should honour – God himself.
The Bible says (we see it for ourselves everywhere in the world) that human beings by default fall short of the glory of God.
Even as God’s people who know the truth the temptation is to forget the greatness of God and not give God his due.
Even as God’s people the temptation is to dishonour God by our thoughts, words and deeds.*
However, God will not allow his name to be profaned forever.
3. How does this commandment instruct us in honouring God?
You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.Leviticus 19:12
One profanes God’s name, not only by using it as a swear word, but also by attaching God’s name to an untruth.
When an Israelite, one of God’s people in Old Testament times, bore false witness they profaned God’s name – the name they bore as God’s people.
God’s people today are called “Christians” – literally “those who belong to Christ”.
We bear Christ’s name!
Our neighbours, colleagues and friends may never go to church and may never read the Bible – but they see us.
Therefore, when a professing Christian bears false witness, speaks untruths, falsifies documents, misleads others, or commits fraud – they profane God’s name – they treat God’s name as worthless.
You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.Leviticus 18:21
Molech was one of the false God’s of the surrounding nations. Devotees sacrificed small babies to Molech as worship.
To sacrifice a child to Molech was to profane and slander God’s name.
Each and every child (and therefore person) is created in the image of God and worthy of dignity, respect and protection.
Not only is every child created in the image of God, but they are a gift from God.
When children were sacrificed to a false god it profoundly profanes God’s name
When people, especially professing Christians, kill their unborn children in abortion (by sacrificing them to the god of career, or the god of convenience or the god of my current culture) it is treating God’s name as worthless.
When people, especially professing Christians, consume pornography and thereby support child (and human) trafficking it profoundly insults God’s name.
When people, especially professing Christians, act to slander, hurt, oppress, or slay another human being, it profoundly dishonours God’s name.
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron (first high priest) and his sons so that they abstain from the holy things of the people of Israel, which they dedicate to me, so that they do not profane my holy name: I am the Lord.Leviticus 22:1-2
The priests in Old Testament times were to take special care not to cause the people’s offerings to be made unclean.
The priests, as God’s appointed spiritual leaders over God’s people, were to do their jobs diligently and carefully.
How many so-called religious leaders today do not take enough care and are reckless with God’s people? How many religious leaders do not fulfill their role’s diligently?
God’s name is being profane by many so-called ministers, teachers, prophets, apostles, bishops and small group leaders who are unfaithful shepherds over the flock of God under their care.
The Lord will not hold him (o her) guiltless who takes his name in vain.
“The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”Romans 2:24
Israel failed to keep God’s law and were taken into exile by their enemies. God said his name was thus blasphemed or bought into disrepute.
The same was happening in New Testament times. Jewish people were not living God’s way and thus God’s name was being bought into disrepute among the nations.
The principle remains valid.
Do we realize that when we as professing Christians disobey and flout God’s Word, we bring God’s name into disrepute among our friends and colleagues?
When we live in flagrant disregard for God’s word, violate his commands, flout his precepts, take on board the culture of the day, take advantage of others, laugh at racist jokes, drink too much at the braai, act unjustly and treat sin as a small thing, we blaspheme the name of God.
4. How does this commandment drive us to Jesus?
Truth be told, we’ve all profaned God’s name in one way or the other.
We deserve God’s judgement.
However, the astounding news of the Bible, is that out of great love, God sent Jesus into the world for us. Jesus never took God’s name in vain by his thoughts, words or actions.
Jesus always honoured God with the appropriate respect and reverence
When Jesus died he took God’s punishment for our sin; including the sin of taking God’s name in vain.
God judged his Son so we can be forgiven and saved from God’s just, rightful judgment.
As Christians, we now seek to honour Christ and never take his name in vain by our thoughts, words and deeds.*
Jesus perfectly obeyed the third commandment and if we are in Jesus, we can obey it to.
In fact, by rejecting or ignoring Jesus, we disobey the third commandment.
As Christians, we want to honour Jesus’ name knowing that God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that 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. (Philippians 2:9-11)
As Christians, we don’t take God’s name in vain, but rather we aim to worship and hallow God’s name.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven – Hallowed be your name.”
I don’t like my name tagged to something I dislike; neither does God.
*Note the helpful prayer in the REACH-SA Prayer Book:
General Confession (said by the whole congregation)
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, we confess that we have sinned against you, in our thoughts, words, deeds and in what we have left undone. Lord have mercy on us, forgive us our sins and help us that we may serve you better and please you more through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.