HOW TO HALLOW GOD'S NAME "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" Exodus 20:7. This passage of scripture is not unfamiliar at all to the Christian church. It is memorized, recited, and published on coffee mugs. It is one of those choice passages of scripture that are taught almost universally to children not only in broad evangelicalism, but also outside of orthodoxy. It rolls off the tongue; it is easily brought back to memory. It is known vaguely by many, even non-Christians, as one of the Ten Commandments. It is also deeply misunderstood and though widely known it is not truly known. It is not as easily kept as it is recited like most laws of Christ it is privy to being abandoned or neglected through the sinful flesh of man. But as neglected as the law may be, it must not be forgotten or set aside. It is God's law. Jesus teaches us plainly about God's law in Matthew 5:17, 18: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled." When a young lawyer came to ask Jesus how he could obtain eternal life Christ responds "How do you interpret the law?" (Luke 10:25-26). Our Lord Jesus Christ declares plainly that God's law has more permanence than the heavens and the earth (Luke 16:17), he equates God's law with His own words (Matthew 5:18, 24:35, 21:33). In both testaments God's law is called delightful (Ps 119:92, Rom 7:22). It is called the way of life for the righteous (John 14:21, 1 John 2:3, Re 14:12). As we have seen and proved from scripture Christ does not deny the law's importance or scarcely communicate an abrogation of it. On the contrary he confirms God's law and calls it everlasting. He warns those who would depart from his moral law, or abolish a vowel (jot or tittle) out of it (Matt 5:19). Christ curses those who do not bear forth the fruit of the Spirit which is adherence to God's law. He says he will cut them off (compare Lev 26:14-39, De 28 with John 15:1-6, Heb 6:8, 2 Peter 3:10). So then the summary of Godliness in God's Ten Commandments does stand. Donald Macleod writes in his book Beholding God. "It is impossible to honor God as we ought, unless we know him as he is." Many people boast of knowing God. Some claim to know him by mystical means. Their incantations, their invocations give them a sense of spiritual depth. Some look for God beneath every rock, and blade of grass, but we would do well to not follow such blind guides. As God's creatures we are made with a sense of God built right into us (Rom 1:18-20), and every where we look the glory of God is proclaimed (Ps 19:1). But as his creatures we are held accountable not merely to our innate sense, or the general glory of God communicated in his creation, but also to his revealed will. God has revealed his will to us through his law, prophets, and the apostles. He has communicated to those same authors in visions and in dreams. He has given prophecies and knowledge. He inspired the writers of scripture to provide God breathed volumes (2 Tim 3:15-17) for his covenant people to abide by and obey (De 4:2, Luke 11:28, Ps 119:67). It is through this rich treasure of words that we have God's sufficient and inerrant revelation. It is the book of the covenant. It expresses God's redemptive plan to us and it is in these words that we have the revelation of God to man. In the texts we have God revealing what he has chosen to reveal of himself. The first place to go to know him and apprehend who he is and how we must approach him experientially is through his Holy Word. If we are truly God-fearers we will be men and women dedicated to princely practice of devoting time to prayer and study. And we will try to worship and seek him according to what the scriptures teach us about him, we will bow to his righteous witness. Seriously and eagerly we will find ourselves devoted to the practice of knowing him biblically. This means that we must keep his commandments. And that means that we must look closely at what the Third Commandment means. Looking at the Ten Commandments, the only moral commands of God written by his hand, I will attempt to show what the command states, what it excludes, what it requires, and what it threatens. I will draw help principally from scripture.. 1stly what the command states is addressed to a particular people. It is addressed to the people of Israel, those in covenant with God. Moses says amidst the terror of the Israelites in Ex 20:20 that the Lord came to "test you that the fear of him may be before you that you may not sin". These words were not spoken the Egyptians, nor the Hittites, though they all certainly knew to do these things as well (Rom 2:14-15). These words are addressed to a covenant people, as seen clearly in the words God "Do not take the name of the LORD YOUR GOD". It is the name of the Lord your God, that we are said then to adhere to in a particular way. This is covenantal talk, if we are not in covenant with the Lord he is not our God. He is our enemy. He is Our Judge. The main article of the commandment is to treat the name of Our Lord a certain way. We must not take it in vain. We, the covenant people, are not to use the name of the Lord God any and every way that our poor finite and sinful minds can imagine. We are commanded to strictly not take the Lord's name in vain. From the first to the third commandment the fear of the Lord is upheld. His name is to be used as he proscribes. We are to order our life to his code. And his code here in Ex 20:7 is to not take his name in vain. The name that is here sanctified cannot be only the four letters YHWH, or Yahweh, or Elohim. It cannot be only Christ. It cannot be only Adonoi, or Lord, as the educated John Calvin wrote," as if God's majesty were confined to letters or syllables". The name here is all titles or names that refer to him. His names are Almighty God, God Most High, The Holy One, The Father, The Son, The Holy Spirit, Abba Father, Jehovah, Yeshua, Jesus, Prince of Peace, King of Kings. He is called by all of the things and more, so it is both wise and prudent of us to keep all titles by which we refer to God as holy in the manner prescribed by scripture. Some have argued unsuccessfully that we must use particular syllables to call upon God's name as if God could not discern the hearts to know what being was being referred to by his servants. God is neither deaf, nor dumb. Whether we use the term Yah, or Jehovah, if our meaning is the same then what does it matter what language or abbreviation or variation we use. The substance and essence that is being described is greater than the gallons of ink expended in explaining it. No scratch of ink or roll of the tongue can contain the truth that we speak of. Now as to what this precept excludes it is clear that all forms of vanity are to have no place in the usage of God's name. Vanity is the key word used to describe here what God does not allow in the usage of his titles. Without being to boring I'd like to look at the words origins. It is found in Middle English, as well as in Old French, it originated from the Latin word Vanus. Vanus meant empty. Daniel Webster's Dictionary defined the word as empty; worthless; fruitless; ineffectual; idle; unreal; shadowy; showy; ostentatious; light; inconstant; deceitful; delusive; unimportant; trifling. The Hebrew word is chinnam which means the very same thing. Vanity in relation to God's name can be seen in three ways. By making God's name nothing more than an ornament in religious speech unaccompanied by a godly heart. We should not use God's name hypocritically, invoking his glory with vain worship (Matt 15:9). All religious worship is to be true and spiritual. No amount of hypocrisy or false appearances are tolerated or acceptable in the eyes of God who is all seeing. We are not to profane the third commandment by using God's name in an oath or curse lightly (Heb 6:16,17; James 5:12, Matthew 5:33-37). Though it is somewhat uncommon in my culture to swear or make oaths, the practice is not extinct. Men do say "I swear to God." And they do assault the third commandment by doing so. Lastly, we are excluded from the vanity of using God's name idly and purposelessly or blasphemously. This is improper and wicked. God's name is to be hallowed, made sacred not lopped around like a common phrase. It is to be reserved for serious godly speech. There are many humorous things to say, God's name is not a joke to use irreverently. It is the name above all names. Many, many Christians fail at this particular aspect of the law unrepentantly. I have heard men claiming to be sons of God stoop so low as to use it as nothing more than a curse, and I have also been convicted myself of all these vanities so I speak as one soiled sheep among many. I am clean by grace which comes through faith and by the atonement of Christ. But just because I have been given grace does not give me warrant to do as I please. Christ's name is to be honored not used so sloppily so that the hearer of our speech wonders if the fearsomeness of God even crossed our minds. There is a popular phrase today that many use as an exclamation, it is God. We, Christians in name at least, throw his name around like "cool" or "wow" or "awesome". God is not an adjective. He is a king. Jesus is God Almighty, not our homeboy. He is to be feared and worshipped properly. May God have saving mercies on our guilty souls. This brings me to the positive implications of the command and the conclusion of these meditations. The third commandment requires us to sanctify the Lord's name in our hearts. If we were to turn the definition of vain and turn it on its head we would have a command that looks something like this: Take care to use the name of the Lord purposefully, carefully, ascribing all glory to it that it deserves. We must strive to honor this name. We must pray with Christ to God the Father "hallowed be thy name"! Obedience to God's law is often made synonymous with fearing the Lord's name (De 28:58). We are to give God the glory due to his name worshipping him in the beauty of holiness (Ps 29:2), we strive to have God's name honored because of his people and also to see his name worshipped all over the earth as the church expands and triumphs (1 Peter 2:12, Jer 4:2, Ps 22:27-31, Ez 26: 31-33). We worship him this way (Rev 15:3). This is the duty of the church, a duty of glorifying and expanding the song of the church to the vast and ineffable majesty of God's name. The last thing to consider about this commandment is its threatening. Let us procede with caution and trembling here. God is not to be mocked; he is not to be treated with irreverence, but with awe. He is not to be made light of or ignored. He is not to be blasphemed by his creatures. If we would hope to keep this commandment we must attend to the very serious warning that accompanies it. God says in his word that those who do not observe this commandment will not be held guiltless. That is to say they are not innocent. No dismissal is made; the depth of the sin committed is deep. God does not sweep it under the carpet. He does not let bygones be bygones the wages of sin is death. "Especially because he will be so far from acquitting and sparing the transgressors of this commandment, as that he will not suffer them to escape his righteous judgment" says the Westminster divines. He promises to look unfavorably upon the Israelites in Deut. 28:58-59 if they would abandon the laws given them on Sinai. He promises a curse on all men who profane his name (Zech. 5:2-4). If we find ourselves guilty of these things we should be afraid of God. We cannot hide behind the words of loving Christ while unrepentant sin abides in our hearts. Instead, we must repent of our sins and believe on Jesus Christ as the Son of God and a sacrifice for sinners like ourselves. We are all guilty of these things. Not one of us is without sin. Maybe we cursed his name intentionally; maybe we used his name in a way that was foolish and disrespectful. Or perhaps we addressed him without a shred of decent fear or honor in our hearts for his holy being. Whatever the sin, whatever the crime committed, there is a God who can justly forgive sins. Christ died on a cross to satisfy God's wrath towards sinners so that all who would believe on him, and repent of their sins would be saved. God gave his son that whoever believes in his Son would not get the punishment of death they deserve. Instead they would enter into his kingdom of righteousness. If you have committed this sin, and you have not repented of it, turn from it today. Confess your sins to God (1 John 1:8-10). ------------------------------------------------------------ This is a short essay I wrote on the third commandment. What do you think?