Moments in the life of a Pastor

Walking with God

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15. Take the Name but not in Vain – Part 1

Exodus 20:7

“You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God. The Lord will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.

 As we continue in our series “Relationship not Rules” we come to the third commandment, You must not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” Sadly, today the reason for the misuse often has to do with the misunderstanding of this command. When it comes to misusing the name of the Lord our God we tend to focus on our words. But this commandment not only encompasses our words but also our walk. It has to do with our reverence which is at the very heart of worship. What we revere we not only respect, but we will reflect. We are not just called to be worshippers of God but a witness to God. This means that honoring the Lord has to do with our lifestyles not just our lips. My prayer as we look at our call to be authentic worshippers not just on the weekend but throughout the week is that our lips and our lives will be a witness for Jesus to a lost and dying world. The third command starts with an:

  1. Admonition

To respect and revere God’s name. So, let me ask you how important are names? Most often when people see my name Giles they think it’s a g not a j sound. I tell people not to worry if they get my name wrong because it happens all the time. But regardless of whether or not people butcher your name when they pronounce it our hope is that when they hear it good things come to mind. That’s why it hurts so much when someone drags your name through the mud or attributes things to you that you’ve never said or done. I’m reminded of Proverbs 22:1: “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” The converse is also true according to 1 Samuel 25:25: “May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name – his name is Fool, and folly goes with him.” Your name is tied to your reputation, but don’t get too wrapped up in your reputation instead you need to be more concerned with your character. Why because as John Wooden said, “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”All you need to do is hear the name Judas Iscariot or Hitler and strong negative images come to your mind. On the flip side what kind of images are created when we hear names like: Washington, Lincoln, or Martin Luther King Jr.Some names are so well-known that they’ve become synonymous with a product. For instance, most of us don’t reach for a “tissue,” we reach for a “Kleenex.” “Band-Aids” and “Scotch Tape” are example of this as well. Companies know the importance of their name, even putting trademarks on it so no one can use it wrongly. What you call God is a big deal to Him because His name reflects His character and nature. We could say that its copyright protected, and we show respect for Him when we handle His name with care. This command like many commands has both a negative and a positive side. Here the positive side is implied, that we revere and give honor to His name. Where the negative is stated, don’t dishonor and misuse the name of GOD. As we look a little more in depth at this command, we see the first phrase

  • “You shall not take” –The word “take” means, “to lift up, to carry, to bear. We can do this when we lift up our hand in taking an oath, to lift up our eyes as in love or desire of men or of God, to lift up our voice in worship or worry.
  • “The name of the Lord your God” – In the Bible, a name was not only identification but an actual identity. It represented their nature. To know someone’s name is the first step in beginning a relationship with them. When we meet people one of the first things, we do is tell them our name. As we look back at verse 2 we see God declaring who He is: “I am the Lord your God” and in verse 5: “…For I, the Lord your God…” The first name in verse 7 is Yahweh and means “I am who I am.” It is often translated Lord and is used over 6,500 times in the Scriptures. It’s the name God told Moses to call Him when He commissioned Moses at the burning bush. God invites us to call Him by name and we can find safety and shelter in His name as Proverbs 18:10 states: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” While many Orthodox Jews today don’t write out or say out loud the name God, we are invited throughout the Bible to call Him by name. God does not forbid the use of His name but its misuse.
  • “In vain” – The word “vain” means “empty and useless, wasted. We take God’s name in vain when we use it in a casual and careless way. When we do, we are saying “Your name is weightless and therefore worth nothing to me.
  • “For the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” – This phrase refers to “being laid bare.” It’s a command that comes with a consequence. It’s the story of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6. When King David told the men to bring the Ark of God, which incidentally “is called by the Name, “the name of the Lord Almighty” back to Jerusalem, they carelessly put it on a cart, which was a clear violation. The Levites were to carry the Ark using two poles that went through rings on the sides. When the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out to steady it and was immediately struck dead. In verse 7: “The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.”Taking the Lord’s name lightly can result in severe and swift divine retribution as Ananias and Sapphira also discovered in Acts 5. So, let me ask you how are you handling God’s holy name? Are you treasuring or trashing God’s name? Because how you care for God’s name will determine not only how you carry His name but also how you communicate His name to a watching world.