This article is our Third in our series on the Ten Commandments and has been abbreviated for posting. Be sure to read and study all the scriptures quoted.
In the last two articles of this series, we showed that the First Commandment forbids making a god out of anything—putting it in place of the true and living God. The Second Commandment governs how to worship the true and living God. God is the great Educator—He demands that we worship Him in the manner He chooses. God lovingly shows us what dangers to avoid in worship. Men must never make a graven image—any aid, picture or physical object—to worship God or to represent God. God wants to be worshiped directly “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). A truly converted person does not need a physical aid to worship God.
The Third Commandment shows us how to properly use God’s great name. Let us continue our study of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. God personally spoke to His people a third time from Mount Sinai. He said, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).
People may not realize it, but the abuse of God’s name is commonplace in our modern world. Look at our entertainment industry. Each night on television and in movies, God’s name is used in a flippant manner continuously. It seems as if the writers of such entertainment look for every possible way to make the use of God’s name into a punch line. Decades ago, this current custom was known for exactly what it is—profanity! Use of profanity on television and in movies was not permitted. Look at how far we have degenerated in our language and conversation. Even little children are accustomed to using God’s name as an expletive.
This is considered a very serious sin to God. God warned Israel, “I will set my face against that man, and will cut him off from among his people; because he hath given of his seed unto Molech, to defile my sanctuary, and to profane my holy name” (Leviticus 20:3). This verse speaks of the first three commandments directly. God will not stand for our frivolous use of His name much longer. In fact, as stated in Leviticus, God is going to deal personally with our disobedience of the Third Commandment.
It is also a common custom to use God’s name in connection with damning someone. This is not using God’s name truthfully. Why? It is not God’s intention to damn any human being. To believe that it is in God’s nature or character to damn men is heresy and a lie! God desires to save all men. Jesus Christ told His disciples, “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:56). To call on God to damn someone is to ask God to do something He never desires to do. It is true that some men will eventually suffer the punishment of the lake of fire. However, the fault will be with the lack of their repentance — not with God’s intention.
It is a violation of the Third Commandment to make light of the name of God in jokes or stories. This robs God of the deep veneration and respect that His high office as Creator, Ruler and Sustainer of the universe deserves.
Some try to avoid the misuse of God’s name by substituting another seemingly more acceptable word, called a euphemism, in place of God’s name. Using such words is still a violation of the Third Commandment. We must rid such expressions from our conversations. Never forget Jesus Christ’s instruction in the model prayer: We are to always hallow—or venerate—God’s name (Matthew 6:9).
Making the proper use of His name one of the Ten Commandments shows that God places great weight on this issue. To disrespect God’s name is a sin and carries the penalty of death (Romans 6:23). Why is that? What is in a name?
In the Bible, personal names carry significant meaning. Names often indicate the character and nature, or the attributes, of an individual. The Bible states that Adam named his wife Eve because she was the “mother of all living” (Genesis 3:20). The Hebrew word for Eve is Chavvah, meaning life-giver. At times, God renamed individuals in the Bible indicating the identification of an office, position of authority or change in character. God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “a father of many nations,” because that was his God-ordained destiny (Genesis 17:5). When the patriarch Jacob wrestled with God all night, God changed his name to Israel (Genesis 32:28). The name Jacob in the Hebrew means heel-catcher or supplanter. It carries a negative overtone—implies a devious nature. Jacob did scheme with his mother against his aged, blind father to steal his brother’s birthright. He supplanted, or unseated, Esau from receiving Isaac’s blessing. His new name, Israel, in the Hebrew means to rule or prevail as God. The name change implies that by tests and trials God transformed Jacob’s character to that of godly righteousness.
This Hebrew tradition of name-giving, certainly applies to God’s name. Why? God is the originator of the tradition! God’s name reveals His high rank, authority, interests, deeds and—most important of all—His righteous character. In fact, the Bible shows that God has many names. Why? No one name can adequately express God’s fullness. Each name carries important meaning.
God wants all people to know Him and He tells us who He is through His Names. Open up your Bible and search this matter out.
God brought Moses into His presence through the miracle of the burning bush. He introduced Himself; “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Moses actually never saw God here—just the flames. At this divinely initiated meeting, God commissioned Moses to return to Egypt and bring His people out of slavery. Moses was reluctant to accept God’s commission. He looked for ways to get out of the job. Before the conversation ended, Moses wanted to know God’s name. He said, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, what is his name? What shall I say unto them?” (Verse 13). God then identified Himself as “I AM THAT I AM [YHVH]” (verse 14). God told Moses that He is the Eternal, Ever Living or Self-Existent One. This is God’s name forever (verse 15).
When Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites leave Egypt, God revealed another name to Moses to encourage him. God told Moses, “I am the Lord: And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name Jehovah [YHVH] was I not known to them” (Exodus 6:2-3). The name God Almighty comes from the Hebrew words El Shaddai, meaning strength, mighty and power. God showed Moses that he could rely on His almighty power—for God is the source of all power in heaven and in the universe.
The other names of God listed in the Bible are Most High God (El Elyown), Lord (Adonai), Everlasting God (El Owlam), Lord of Hosts (Jehovah Sabaoth), God our Healer (YHVH-Rapha), and the most important of all, God (Elohim). Any good Bible lexicon will give the meanings of these names. Throughout the Bible, God’s name is connected with His actions, His mercy, His faithfulness, His wisdom and His love. In the first several verses of Psalm 91, four of God’s names are used: “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust” (verses 1-2). What a powerful Psalm by one who knew God so intimately as to invoke four of His names in prayer.
Those of us who are called by the Name of God must also seek a more intimate knowledge of God and live so as not to bring shame upon the name of God but rather Glorify His name in our lives. (Matthew 5:16)
Obey The Word!