Summary: Take up the name of the Lord, and then bear that name proudly. Honor that name by what you SAY and DO.
Several years ago (1997), a 14-year-old student, Nathan Zohner, circulated a petition to ban the use of dihydrogen monoxide. According to Zohner, dihydrogen monoxide “may cause severe burns, accelerates the corrosion and rusting of many metals, and has been found in the excised tumors of terminal cancer patients.” In addition to these risks, Zohner noted that this nefarious chemical is often used “as an industrial solvent and coolant, in the production of Styrofoam, and as a fire retardant.”
As it turned out, the petition was a hoax perpetrated as part of a high school science fair. You see, dihydrogen monoxide is the technical name for H2O, also known as water. (Sam O'Neal, “What the Bible Says About God,” Building Small Groups newsletter)
It’s amazing how someone can take a perfectly good name and make it sound so bad. And if we’re not careful, you can do the same thing with God’s name. By the things you say or do, as God’s people, you can give God a “bad” name, or give people the wrong idea about God. And that would be very tragic, especially if some of them reject the Lord, simply because you misrepresented Him.
Instead, as people who love the Lord, you want others to think about how wonderful He is when they hear His name. You want people to think of His loving nature, His power, His holiness, His righteousness, and His willingness to forgive. You want people to be drawn to the Lord when they hear His name.
The question is: How? How can you bring honor to God’s name? How can you cause people to think good things about God when they hear His name? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Exodus 20, Exodus 20, where the third commandment shows you how.
Exodus 20:7 “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. (ESV)
Literally, you shall not take up the name of the Lord Your God in a worthless (or false) way, for God will not leave unpunished anyone who takes up his name in a worthless (or false) way.
This is serious stuff with the LORD. He does not want any one of us misrepresenting His good name. No! If you’re going to take up His Name, you better represent it well.
On the little island community where my wife Sandy and I used to live (Washington Island, Wisconsin), there is a local resort on the water, called the Holiday Inn. It is not affiliated with the national chain.
However, several years ago, lawyers from the national chain threatened the island’s little Holiday Inn with a lawsuit. Their claim was that the island’s Holiday Inn had stolen the name from the national chain, and the chain did not want any local establishment misrepresenting their good name.
That’s because the name Holiday Inn represents a certain level of quality; and if another hotel uses that name without maintaining Holiday Inn’s standards, it could cause people to think that all Holiday Inns are substandard. It would ruin the Holiday Inn name.
The national Holiday Inn chain, though, had a problem. The island’s Holiday Inn had the name first, long before the national Holiday Inn existed. Furthermore, the island’s Holiday Inn standards are far superior to many of the Holiday Inns across the country. As a result, the national Holiday Inn chain dropped its lawsuit when it discovered that they could be sued for stealing the island’s Holiday Inn name.