EXODUS 20:7 APRIL 24, 2016
“BE CAREFUL WITH HIS NAME!”
I have come to realize that I am a romantic. I love the old movies where honor and honesty were seen as a virtue. I especially like the John Wayne movies where “a man’s word was his bond”. I found this quote from the Code of the West. “Honesty is absolute- your word is your bond, a handshake is more binding than a contract.”
Why has honesty and integrity become lost in our culture? It is admired but so few seek, to be honest at all times. Why do we say things we don’t mean? Years ago when I first came to the church I used to have several older women ask for my opinion. One woman asked what I thought of her outfit. I knew I was in trouble as I thought her blouse was hideous. So I said to the effect that her blouse did not flatter her. It soon got around “don’t ask Alan what he thinks of your appearance”. We should not tell little “white lies” in order to escape from speaking the truth.
In the same way, why do we make promises we don’t intend to keep? If we don’t want to attend some function to which we have been invited we should not indicate that we will attend, and then at the last moment come up with an excuse for not attending. In the parable of the great banquet in Luke 14, Jesus told of a master who had invited many guests and yet when the time came the invited guests gave excuses for not coming. Should not we who claim to be believers be known for keeping our word, our promises?
Why is it that in our society today so many people invoke the name of God either as a curse or as an indication that they are telling the truth, in spite of the fact that they are lying? We know that the reason why so many fails in speaking the truth and in keeping their word are that we are a sinful people. We don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings so we end up not keeping our word!
God made a covenant with Israel to be their God and he gave them the commandments to protect this special relationship. Exodus 20:7 (NIV) 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” It may sound more familiar in the ESV of Exodus 20:7(ESV) “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.”The name of God, YAHWEH, as indicated by all capitals the LORD, was only to be used by those who had a special relationship with the LORD God. The LORD’S name was not to be used in an irreverent manner, but in a respectful way by those who are in a covenantal relationship. We have access to the LORD by calling on his name. This is why we should always be careful in the manner we use the name of God. From the Westminster Confession of Faith in the larger catechism: “Because he is the LORD and our God, his name must never be treated as unholy or misused by us in any way.” (Question 114)
Our society uses the name of God in an irreverent manner. We often hear the name of God used as a sign of dismay or when surprised. Why do we think we need to even use the phrase “Oh God” or “Oh Christ”? I understand that most people do not mean anything negative or to be offensive. Yet, this type of language is inappropriate for every believer. The Muslims take great offense whenever “Allah” is used in ways they do not approve. So why do we shrug our shoulders and think nothing of how God’s name is used in a derogatory manner? Matthew 12:33-37 (NIV) 33 “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36 But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. 37 For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” The words we use in everyday speech reveals our heart. What is your heart telling you?
Also in our society many people, including some Christians, use God’s name as a curse. Our anger often gets us into trouble. James 1:19-20 (NIV) “19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”God’s name is to be used in worship and in prayer and when we talk of our special relationship that we have with our Father. James 3:9-10 (NIV) “9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.”
There is yet a third way we fail to keep this commandment. Leviticus 19:12 (NIV) 12 “‘Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.” We must keep our promises that we make to God! When we join the church we make two promises to God:
- Do you know resolve and promise, in humble reliance upon the grace of the Holy Spirit, that you will endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?
- Do you promise to serve Christ in His Church by supporting and participating with this congregation in its service of God and its ministry to others to the best of your ability?
We also make vows to God when we get married and when we vow to speak the truth in court. Too often we make promises without counting the cost of obedience.
I have a pastor friend who got married young. His wife has a number of personality quirks that make married life difficult. At one point in his marriage, many of his Christian friends urged him to get a divorce. He chose to stick with the marriage. He shared with me that he had made a vow before God and he intended to keep it. His marriage did get better but it was still a struggle. We should be careful to avoid making rash promises we know we can’t keep. God does forgive us for our faults, but it does not change the fact there are consequences. Exodus 20:7 (NIV) 7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
As we contemplate the third commandment I want us to reflect on the Lord’s Prayer. Matthew 6:9 (NIV) 9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” God’s name is holy and it is a privilege to be able to call upon God, our Father. May we give praise, glory, and thanks unto God! May we honor him by honoring His Name! Little things do matter!
Let us pray.