July 5, 2013

Respect for God’s Name

The third commandment says we are not to take the name of the Lord in vain. This is not just cursing, but includes any careless use, including that omg thing that is now a trademark and the title of a production. Many Christians wince every time they hear it.

Yet right off, I have no claim to be above anyone else. God says those who break one of His commands is guilty of all. That is, His laws are considered as one command; to love Him with all our heart, soul and strength. When we ignore Him or shake our fists in His face, He sees the attitude of our hearts. Any breach of any commandment carries the same designation; it is sin and the Word of God is clear: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

As for taking the name of God in vain, it happens because He is not valued. Most of humanity puts some value in a name. It identifies who we are. We want our name cleared when accused, and spelled correctly when put in writing. In the Old Testament, names designated character and the hopes parents had for their children when they were first named. Any old name will not do for someone we value.

The name of God also identifies who He is, and because He has many names, this indicates His multi-faceted character. The Bible says that He does many things for His name’s sake. One of them is saving people from sin.

Yet he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make known his mighty power. (Psalm 106:8)

This is one reason that those who are saved must declare their faith, particularly in a manner that makes known God’s power. That power isn’t making nice people nicer, but takes sinners from the depth of our sin and rebellion against Him and changes our hearts. Instead of shaking my fist at Him, I can now lift my hands in praise, and often in pleading. He alone can do for me what I cannot do for myself.

When I hear people curse, it tells me the condition of their heart. They hate God and refuse to give Him respect and honor. When I hear people carelessly say His name as part of their casual conversation, they reveal that they know nothing of His saving power and holiness. Note again, God saved me for His name’s sake, meaning my life should display His power, not be lived for my own glory.

That said, we who belong to God can also treat the name of God lightly. This commandment was given to us, issued right after God rescued Israel from bondage in Egypt. Yet they still resisted Him (and so do we).

But the house of Israel rebelled against me in the wilderness. They did not walk in my statutes but rejected my rules, by which, if a person does them, he shall live; and my Sabbaths they greatly profaned. Then I said I would pour out my wrath upon them in the wilderness, to make a full end of them.

Like me, they deserved the wrath of God. They were not thankful, never mind obedient. God had no reason not to destroy them, except the mercy motivated by His name.

But I acted for the sake of my name, that it should not be profaned in the sight of the nations, in whose sight I had brought them out. Moreover, I swore to them in the wilderness that I would not bring them into the land that I had given them, a land flowing with milk and honey, the most glorious of all lands, because they rejected my rules and did not walk in my statutes, and profaned my Sabbaths; for their heart went after their idols. Nevertheless, my eye spared them, and I did not destroy them or make a full end of them in the wilderness. (Ezekiel 20:13–17)

These rebels never entered the fullness of life in the promised land (which represents Spirit-filled living, not heaven) because they had no respect for His name. Whether I curse God or carelessly say something like omg, I would also show no respect for Him, revealing that my heart is not right. Such sin and carelessness calls for confession and repentance. His name is powerful. I wouldn’t lightly toss around a stick of dynamite or play with a bolt of lightning. How much more should I respect His powerful Name.

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