A Certain Trumpet — Third Commandment: How Do You Treat His Name?comment (0)
March 13, 2014
By Teman Knight
"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” (Ex. 20:7).
Names are important to us. We love to be called by our name. When someone calls us by our name, we feel connected and included. Likewise when someone mispronounces or misspells our name, we feel disrespected, unimportant and unwanted. Having a unique first name, I have experienced this most of my life. Once my name was listed as the minister performing the funeral service for three different obituaries appearing on the same page of the local paper. Each of the three obits had my name spelled a different way. You would think the proofreader would catch that mistake.
The Hebrews believed that someone’s name revealed something of his or her character. We study the different names of God, the truths they teach us about His character and attributes. The Psalmist was correct when he proclaimed, “O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth” (Ps. 8:1). Our Lord’s name is majestic. His name is “the name that is above every other name” (Phil. 2:9) and “the only name by which we may be saved” (Acts 4:12). Who would want to mistreat and disrespect such a wonderful name and such an awesome God?
The Hebrew word shav translated “in vain” means “empty or meaningless.” We treat God’s name in vain when we act as if He is not really there (empty) or not important (meaningless). In other words, we take God’s name in vain anytime we deny or doubt His presence and power in our lives. We misuse or mistreat His name in at least three of the following ways.
4Profane His Name. Many people focus on this commandment as a prohibition against using God’s name in profanity. Throughout history, people have often used our Creator’s name to express their thoughts and emotions. The prevalence of profanity in his day led George Washington to say, “The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.” This problem is only magnified in our society where TV, media and music bombard us with profane and inappropriate uses of God’s name.
4Perjure His Name. Another misuse of God’s name is when we lie after swearing to tell the truth. Jesus addressed this in the Sermon on the Mount when He said that we should not swear by heaven. “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one” (Matt. 5:37). We mistreat God’s name when we do not speak truthfully.
We also perjure God’s name when we claim to speak for Him when we are simply arguing for our own causes. How many times have you heard something attributed to God when there is no biblical basis for it? His name is just added to a weak argument to give it some credibility or to push one’s own preferences. We need to be careful to speak God’s Word, not add His name to our words.
4Dishonor His Name. The most serious violation of this commandment may be behavior that brings dishonor to His name. Being named after my father, I grew up keenly aware that my behavior reflected upon him and our entire family. The same is true for Christians. The world attributes our behavior to be a reflection of God.
A soldier found guilty of misconduct was once brought before Alexander the Great. As he was passing judgment he asked the offender, “What is your name soldier?” The soldier mumbled, “Alexander.” The Emperor said again, “Soldier, I asked you, what is your name?” “My name is Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great stood up and said to him, “Soldier, you either change your behavior or change your name.” If we are going to call ourselves Christians we need to act like Christ. If not, we need to change our name.
We are not to treat the name of the Lord as if it were worthless but honor it by treating it and Him with respect. The Bible speaks many times about how the name of the Lord should be treated. Here are just three of the ways we should treat God’s name.
1. Glorify His Name. The opposite of treating someone or something as “worthless or light” is to treat them as “heavy or weighty.” This is reflected in the use of the Hebrew word kabod (heavy), which we often translate as “glory.” The Psalmist declares, “I will praise You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and I will glorify (make heavy) your name forevermore” (Ps. 86:12). The Hebrew word gadol “to be made great” also is sometimes translated as “to glorify.” Psalm 34:3 states, “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt His name together.” We are to do everything we can to make His name great.
2. Bless His Name. The Psalmist declares, “Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore” (Ps. 113:2), and “Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name” (Ps. 103:1). We bless the name of the Lord when we praise Him for the wonderful things He has done for us, things that we could not do for ourselves. Instead of cursing the name of the Lord we should praise Him and bless His holy name.
3. Honor His Name. When Jesus taught us to pray, He began by saying, “In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name ... ” (Matt. 6:9). As believers each day we should pray, “Father, in my life, in everything I do, in everything I say, in every action I take, may Your name be honored.” We honor His name when we live our lives to honor God and make Him known in the world around us.
Teman Knight is pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, Montgomery. He also serves as director of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary extension center in Montgomery and as adjunct professor of Old Testament and Hebrew for New Orleans Seminary.