You Shall Not Misuse the Name

of the LORD Your God

20: 7

    REFLECT: Do I use God’s name in contexts other than prayer, worship, teaching or evangelism? Has the LORD's name become separated from His person in my everyday life?

    You shall not misuse the name of ADONAI your God, for ADONAI will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name (Exodus 20:7).

    This, then, is how you should pray. “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).

    What’s in a name? Plenty! God’s name is comprised of the four Hebrew letters that in English are YHWH. It was this name that was explained to Moses at the burning bush (3:13-22). The Jewish scribes would take extraordinary precautions when writing His name. They would never dip their pen in the ink in the middle of writing His name. If even the king spoke to them while writing the name of YHWH, the scribe would ignore him. In fact, the Jews took this commandment so seriously that they refused to pronounce God’s name so they wouldn’t accidentally misuse the name of YHWH. For that very reason, the exact pronunciation of God’s name has been lost. Even today, many Jews make no attempt to use or even pronounce the name, referring to the LORD simply as ADONAI, Hebrew for the name.368

    Some view this third commandment as merely a prohibition against using God’s name as a cuss word. The Israelites themselves took it as such. Leviticus 19:12 says: Do not swear falsely by My name and so profane the name of your God. I am ADONAI. But there is a lot more to this commandment than that. The word profane comes from the Latin word pro, which means in front of, and fane, which means the temple. Those who profane the name of God have taken the holy out of the temple and permitted their hearts, minds and mouths to be put in the gutter out in front of it. Do you know anyone who loves God and is close to Him that thinks His last name is damn? Of course not. It is not the unforgiveable sin, but unless repented of, God will hold us responsible if we profanely use His name.

    On another level, this third commandment is a ban against dishonesty of speech, perjury, false promises and the breaking of our word. Early in human history people came to lie so often that no one could trust a person’s common word. In order to be believed one had to call upon god to witness to the truth. We think the cover-ups and evasions going on today in the political arena and elsewhere are modern phenomena, but the problem is really as old as civilization. The idea also surfaced that if you didn’t swear by God, then you didn’t have to tell the truth. But slowly people became such liars that even that didn’t help. People felt that unless they took a certain elaborate oath they were not required to tell the truth.

    By the time Jesus was born the situation was much worse. People used many different kinds of oaths but still lied. It became impossible to tell if they were telling the truth or not, even though they used God’s name in an oath. That’s why Jesus said: Do not swear at all, simply let your “Yes” be “Yes” and your “No” be “No” (Matthew 5:34 and 37). His point was that we shouldn’t have to use God’s name to be believed. As believers, our lives should be our witness. We are united in Christ (Ephesians Chapter 1), meaning we belong to Him. We take His name as our name and we should never profane it by breaking our word, or using His name for selfish or evil purposes (Psalm 139:20; Deuteronomy 5:11).369 Not that we are perfect, but that should be the desire of our hearts.

    This third commandment has an even deeper meaning. It also warns us against the misuse of God’s power. In both the TaNaKh and the B'rit Chadashah a person’s name was thought to be an extension of their character. Similarly, throughout the Bible ADONAI’s name represents the nature and character of God Himself. So to speak for ADONAI is to speak in His name (Deuteronomy 18:19-20). To praise God is to praise His name (Psalm 96:2, 100:4). To worship God is to call upon the name of ADONAI (Genesis 4:26; Isaiah 84:7). To serve God is to love His name (Psalm 5:11). The Temple of God was the place ADONAI chose . . . to put His Name (Deuteronomy 12:5). The Bible teaches that those who know ADONAI’S name will trust in Him (Psalm 9:10). Therefore, to know the name of ADONAI is in some way to know the power of God.

    Acts 4:7 tells how the religious leaders questioned Peter and John about their healing of a lame man, asking: By what power or what name did you do this? And Peter answered: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth . . . (Acts 4:10). Eventually the high court angrily let them go, warning the apostles not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18). You see, God’s name includes His character, His will, and His power. That’s why we are to pray in the name of Christ and why God’s name has special power and meaning for us. It is as if the third commandment is saying, “Be very careful. Don’t use the name of God for your own selfish ends. Don’t attempt to use God’s power for your own will and your own ways. Don’t try to cosign God’s name to a lot of things in your life that are totally unworthy of His name.370

    In this age of grace, the believer is encouraged not to swear by any oath. Echoing what Yeshua had said earlier, His half-brother James said: Above all, my brothers, do not swear, not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No” be no, or you will be condemned (James 5:12). We need to exhibit truth on all occasions and should not need the name of God to verify our life style of telling the truth.371

    What’s in a name? Everything. Does you life profane His name or honor His name? Can God cosign His name to your body? How about your money? Does ADONAI cosign His holy name to your checkbook? What about your home, your habits, your mood, your manners, your work, your disposition? Can God cosign His name to your life? If so, you are keeping the third commandment.372

 

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