Whatís in a name? In Shakespeareís "Romeo and Juliet," Romeo asks that very question: "Whatís in a name? A rose by any other name still smells just as sweet." Romeo would have us believe that names are just arbitrary ways of saying who we are. †

But names are far more important than Romeo would have us believe. Names often reflect a personís character and personality. Just ask Frank Zappaís children "Moon Unit" and "Dwezel" about the power of names. Those names tell you more about Frank Zappaís weirdness than anything else. Or think of names like Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolf Hitler, or Saddam Hussein. These names conjure up all kinds of feelings, memories, and experiences. Yes, names are much more than arbitrary words.

Weíve been in a series through the Ten Commandments called LANDMARKS FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM. So far weíve looked at the prologue to the 10 commandments, as well as the first and second commandments. In the first commandment we learned that thereís nothing more important than having the right God in the right place in our lives, and in the second commandment we saw that God is passionate for us to worship him accurately and on his terms. Today weíre going to look at the third commandment, that commandment against taking Godís name in vain. Today weíre going to discover why God reveals his name to us, ways we tend to misuse that name, and ways we can honor that name.

1. God Reveals His Name

Letís begin by reading the third commandment: "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name" (Deuteronomy 5:11 NIV).

Now letís make some basic observations about this passage. This third commandment reads differently than the first two. In the first and second commandments God speaks in the first person singular: "You shall have no other god before Me" and "You shall not make an image because I the Lord am a jealous God." But here we find a shift from the first person to the third person. Instead of, "You shall not misuse My name," we find, "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God." The reason for this subtle shift is to call our attention to the word "Lord." The Hebrew word translated "Lord" here is the Hebrew name Yahweh, and weíll talk more about this name in a minute.

Now to "misuse" Godís name is to "take" the name in an "empty" manner. In fact, this command literally reads in the Hebrew, "You shall not take the name of Yahweh in an empty way." The word "take" means to "lift up, carry or raise high" (NIDOTTE 3:162). So the emphasis of this commandment isnít so much on saying the name, but on carrying the name.

Orthodox Judaism teaches that this means no one should ever pronounce this name, that itís so holy, so awesome, so incredible, that to even pronounce the name Yahweh is to misuse it. But the prohibition here isnít against saying the name, but lifting it up or carrying it in the wrong way.

So the text means: "You shall not carry the name