The third Commandment. It is often said a man’s most precious asset is his good name. People are very quick to clear their name from slander, liable or injustice. Even those who are guilty of crimes will protest vigorously in order to protect their name. If it’s important for a man to maintain his name, how much more is it important for God to maintain His name?
The third Commandment is not to misuse His name.
1. What does it mean?
2. In what ways do we break this commandment?
3. What are the consequences?
- What is this Commandment telling us?
It is clear how much importance God places upon His name. He has given us His names to represent His character to us. In the Bible, names are not just means of identifying someone; names in the Bible express something of the character and personality of the person concerned. For example, Genesis 25:25-26 we read of Esau, who was given his name because he is reddish in colour and hairy. And that is what the name Esau means. The second twin, Jacob, means ‘heel catcher’ and denotes how he came out of the womb holding Esau’s foot. Names are a statement of the person, their character.
And so it is that God’s names reveal His character, much more than titles, more than what He has told us to call Him. El Shaddai means the strong one, Elohim refers to the most high, Eloham is the everlasting God and Jehovah Jireh the God who provides. In all His majesty, splendour, holiness and authority of His works, God’s name is inseparable from His very being. God’s name is holy as He is holy. Psalm 145:21
To misuse God’s name is to denigrate His character, to treat Him without the respect rightly due to Him. To dishonour God is such a terrible sin. We are called to praise Him. In abusing His name we dishonour Him. Psalm 103:1
When we use the name of God we must always do so with reverence and with humble respect. We must always speak of God and to God with the utmost reverence and deepest respect, as we realise who He is. If we pay honour and respect to earthly kings and queens who we call ‘your majesty’ how much more we should honour and pay homage to God? We do homage to the Almighty, to the glorious exalted Lord, the one who is altogether holy. We must address Him as such.
- In what ways do we break this Commandment?
There are three general ways:
(a) profanity and flippancy. For many today, the name of the Lord is nothing more than a swear word. The Lord’s name is shouted in drunken revelry. Many do it thoughtlessly, following the model of others. Instead of God’s name being praised, it is blasphemed. Men scoff and ridicule God’s name in jokes. Today, even Christians use the Lord’s name flippantly, even telling jokes about the Lord Almighty from the pulpit, or addressing God in a casual flippancy. It is not acceptable to refer to Him as ‘Daddy.’ It is wrong for Christians to speak of God in an overly familiar way, as if He was our best friend. Praise God He has drawn us graciously into close communion with Him, blessed us beyond all measure with a great privilege. But that should not lead us to speak of Him as we would speak of a friend. We must never, ever treat God lightly.
If you are guilty of profaning the name of the Lord, may I plead with you to stop? If you use the name of the Lord, let it be only to praise Him, and not as some profanity. Endeavour never to get used to hearing the Lord’s name used in vain, blasphemed. Don’t become accustomed to it so you tune it out. Rather, wince whenever you hear the Lord’s name taken in vain. May it be like a dagger to your heart, something that pains you.
(b). Broken through oaths and lies. Leviticus 19:12. The Bible does not so much deny swearing an oath in God’s name, but it does call for the death of anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord (Leviticus 24:16). Perjury is still recognised as a serious crime in our age of dishonesty. If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, anything that does not come to pass, they are guilty of using God’s name in a blasphemous way (Deuteronomy 18:14-22). Anyone who says’ Thus says the Lord,’ but gives his own words, has linked the name of the righteous God of heaven to a lie and God says he must die. The best way to avoid misusing God’s name is only to tell the truth. Unfortunately, today some make claims in the name of prophecy, blatantly false prophecy. The individuals probably don’t realise they are breaking the third Commandment.
(c) With a fearful hesitancy, I even mention hypocrisy. We are not to misuse God’s name in our speech but also in our lives. In many ways, the professing Christian is guilty of breaking this Commandment than the non-believer. There is no greater misuse of God’s name than praying His name with our lips but living our lives without Him. Titus 1:16. Some claim they are Christian when they are not truly born-again. When we sing together great hymns and songs, we are taken the glorious name of God on our lips, but our thoughts may be far from Him. Therefore, we do not show the reverence God deserves. In our daily lives we claim His name but then do we live our everyday lives as everyone else does, and break this Commandment? We bear the name of Christ.
- What are the consequences?
‘For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain’ (Exodus 20:7b). God will never let anyone escape punishment for misusing His name (Leviticus 10). Everyone here this morning deserves to be consumed by the same fire as consumed Nadab and Abihu. But God, in His mercy, has saved us. For the fire that should have consumed me fell upon another, who in every thought, word and deed honoured His Father. In His perfect life He brought only praise and honour to God. He kept the third Commandment but died for me. He paid the price to every blasphemy of my life. In my place, condemned He stood. Hallelujah! What a Saviour! And we cry out to people today, friends and family, turn to the Saviour. We want them to come to the Saviour, that’s the only safe place to be. He died for me and offered Himself up to the fire of God’s wrath in my place. May the Lord help us to go and sin no more. We will never be sinless in this life, but our desire is to honour His name and His sacrifice.