Exodus 20:7 ~ 20110724 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
07/24 Exodus 20:7 Word #3 For the Sake of His Name
We are studying God's ten words, the household rules for his children. God starts with himself, because everything is all about him. This universe is God-centered. He starts by reminding us of how he acted to save us. He is our rescuer, our redeemer, our deliverer. His action is the foundation of our relationship. Now that he has set us free from slavery, free to worship and serve him, this is what life should look like. First, we are to know him. We are in relationship with the one true God. We must know who he is so that we can worship him as he is. We must know him as Father, Son and Spirit; the one true God. God is to be alone at the center of our lives. He is not satisfied to be even the first among a list of persons or things we live for. He will tolerate no other gods in our lives. Second, we must not try to dumb him down and make him manageable and understandable. We must not imagine him to be something he is not. We must not imagine him to be less than he is, less that what he has told us about himself. We are not free to think of him as we like. We are not to model our idea of the creator after any part of his creation. We must know and worship him as he really is, as he reveals himself to us in his word. Anything less is idolatry, or spiritual adultery. He is jealous God will tolerate no competitors for our affection and devotion.
Today we will look at word # 3:
God's household rule #3 has to do with how we use his name. We will look at what is prohibited, why it is prohibited, and what the consequences are for disobedience, and we will look at what a life looks like that keeps this command.
What is Prohibited?
First, what is prohibited. “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.” When I was a kid, I thought this was the no cussing commandment. No foul language. No obscenity. No profanity. There is some truth to this. The very word 'profanity' highlights the distinction between what is sacred or set apart or holy, and what is profane or common or outside. We are not to take what is sacred or holy and treat it as if it were profane. But this command specifically deals with the name of God. We are not to treat God's name as common or ordinary. We are not to trivialize God. There are plenty of other scriptures that deal very clearly with what kind of things come out of our mouths, like Ephesians 4:29 and Matthew 12:36 and 15:18 and 2 Corinthians 12:20 and James 3. What comes out is evidence of what is in our hearts, and that is the root of the issue. This command deals specifically with how we handle God's name. The language is that of the courtroom. For instance, we are not to use God's name in an oath to give weight to what we are saying, and then lie. Taking an oath is a serious matter. When we take an oath in God's name, we are appealing to a higher authority, one who has the right and the ability to destroy us if we are not honest in our speech. God does not allow his name to be taken lightly, used casually, or thrown around. Jeremiah (14 & 29) addresses prophets who prophesy in the name of the LORD when the LORD did not speak to them. God has some severe things to say to those who misuse his name and misrepresent him in this way. To take God's name on our lips and then treat it as if it means nothing to us is the essence of what is forbidden here.
Why is this prohibited?
Why is this such a big deal? Why is God so concerned with how we treat his name? First of all, God is God. He is the supreme one, the sovereign one, the self-existent one. He has the right to take himself seriously, and he has the right to demand that we do the same. God says in Jeremiah:
And in Isaiah:
YHWH is our Maker, our Redeemer, the God of the whole earth, and he does not share his glory.
God's name is a gift to us. He says in the prologue to the ten words, “I am YHWH your God.” When Moses asked the voice from the burning bush to identify himself, God said:
God gave his name to his people. He entered into a covenant relationship with them. He gave himself to them to be their God. Knowing God's name is important. Some people you only know by their official title. Some people you know as acquaintances. But other people you know on a first-name basis. You can call them your friend, and you can call them in the middle of the night if you are in trouble and need their help. God gives himself to his people as it were on a first-name basis and says 'I will be your God – you can call me any time.' But it would be inappropriate to scribble his name and number on the bathroom wall.
God's name stands for his character. When we talk about his name, we are not talking about proper spelling and pronunciation. We are talking about the person behind the name. When Moses asked God to show him his glory, God answered this way:
Moses asked to see God's glory. God responded by proclaiming his name and describing his character.
So to take God's name in a vain or to treat it as worthless is to disregard his authority and trample his gift and undermine his character.
God's Purpose for his Name
This third command ties into one of God's purposes in the Exodus:
God's intention in his victory over rebellious Pharaoh was the global proclamation of his name or character. God is putting his reputation on display to win the nations.
In fact, in Psalm 138 we are told that God exalts his name and his word above all things.
In Ezekiel 36, God says that Israel defiled the promised land by their ways and their deeds, and it says he poured out his wrath on them because of their idolatry and scattered them among the nations:
God acts to vindicate the holiness of his great name. His priority is to clear his reputation in the sight of the nations so that they can put their trust in him. He acts for the sake of his holy name. He jealously defends the honor of his name which his people have profaned.
The Consequences for Disobedience
This is why the consequences are severe.
Causing the reputation of God to be questioned is the most serious of offenses. The consequences are not specified, but the punishment is certain. The LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. To trivialize God in the eyes of people is not a trivial offense.
What it means to keep this commandment
Inside this prohibition is a positive command. What would not taking the name of the LORD your God in vain look like in a person's life? This is the first thing Jesus told us to pray for.
May God's name be reverenced, respected, treated with awe. May the third commandment be kept on earth as it is in heaven. Day and night they never cease to say, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8; cf. Isaiah 6:3).
The Psalms give us some great examples of what it looks like to treat God's name rightly
We are to magnify, exalt, ascribe glory to, bring renown to, praise the name of the Lord. But that is not the only way to treat God's name rightly. The Psalms also teach us to ask:
We honor God's name by calling on his name, asking him for pardon, rescue, preservation, deliverance. By calling on him for help, we honor him as rich in mercy toward sinners, full of grace, steadfast love, righteousness, the giver of all good things. The prophet Joel promises:
Peter in Acts 2 and Paul in Romans 10 take this up and apply it to Jesus.
Peter goes on to specify what name we are to call upon to be saved:
We honor his great name by calling on Jesus for salvation and forgiveness of sins. This is the good news.
We must not take the name of Christ lightly. We who are called 'Christian' must live in such a way that we honor his name among the nations. We must bow the knee and confess Jesus as Lord to the glory of God the Father.