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Monday, 12 January 2015

The Ten Words (3)

The third commandment is simple and straightforward: "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." (Ex 20:7).

The most obvious - and, sadly, frequent - way in which this commandment is broken by so many is in the use of the title 'God' as an expletive, or swear-word.  Of course, there is a tendency at the present time, to think that one is getting around that by using initials.  So I notice, on many social media pages the letters "OMG".  Indeed, I recently noticed those same letters as part of the name of a shop!  I doubt that any reader of this post needs me to 'translate'.

A more recent translation renders this commandment as: “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses His name.” (NRSV).  Such a translation emphasises that such thoughtless use of 'God' is unacceptable.  Of course, for the disciple of Jesus, who believes that He is God the Son, it is just as unacceptable to use His name or, indeed, His title (the Christ) in an irreverent manner.

It's all to do with respect!  One modern commentator on these words writes: "If God is the greatest Being in the universe, then His name is the greatest name, and must be honoured (respected)." (Warren Wiersbe).  Respect is the cornerstone of good relationships. The quality of our relationship with God depends on both the love and regard we have for Him; and on the way we express respect for Him in the presence of others. We are expected always to honour Who and What He is. Conversely, the use of God's name in a flippant, degrading or in any way disrespectful manner expresses an attitude of disdaining the relationship we are supposed to have with Him.

Then again, one's name is not only that which is written on one's birth certificate.  We also use the expression to refer to a person's character.  Thus, it may be said of a particular man that "He's got a bad name".  This is not suggesting that John, or Harry, or Timothy, or whatever, is somehow inherently bad.  It is stating that the person in question has a bad reputation.  It is a warning that the person is one who is not to be trusted.  When we use the name of any of the Personae in the Godhead, in an unworthy manner we are, in effect, impugning His character - making Him out to be less than He is!

In the end, it is not enough just to avoid misusing God's name. He wants us to love and respect Him in every way.  Such honouring of Him begins in our thoughts. We must know Who and What He is. We must know what He requires of us and why. We should admire His attributes - His wisdom, love, fairness, and justice. We need to stand in awe of His power and recognise that our very existence depends on His goodness. We should talk with Him in prayer every day, giving Him thanks and praise; openly expressing our appreciation for all that He gives us. We should read His word as a means of getting to know Him better.  We should acknowledge His greatness. We should ask Him to create in us His way of thinking and character. We should request the power of His Spirit to enable us to obey and serve Him "with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matt 22:37)

We honour God most of all by loving Him so much that we desire above all things to be like Him and to accurately represent Him to everyone who sees or knows us. If we have that mind in us, then even the thought of ever misrepresenting or disgracing His name will be repulsive to us. It will then be our strongest resolve to never, but never, take His name in vain!

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