Summary: Becuase God's name represents the essnce of who God is, we can determine the wrong and right uses of His name.
“Law & order: SPU – Naming and Claiming”
Ex. 20:7; Mt. 5:33-37; Col. 3:17
One Sunday a pastor preached a sermon on honesty. Monday morning he took the bus took get to his office. He paid the fare, and the bus driver gave him back too much change. During the rest of the journey the pastor was rationalizing how God had provided him with some extra money he needed for the week. But he just could not live with himself so before he got off the bus he proceeded to give back the extra money and said to the driver, “You have made a mistake. You’ve given me too much change.” The driver smiled and said, “There was no mistake. I was at your church yesterday and heard you preach on honesty. So I decided to put you to a test this morning.”
We call that integrity. It’s what God calls for in this 3rd commandment: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God…” It’s also translated “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain….” God is addressing our habit of naming and claiming Him in so many different ways.
To get a handle on the commandment’s meaning we begin by examining THE SIGNIFICANCE OF NAMING. Names communicate. For example, what do you think of when I say ‘LeBron?’ ‘Michael?’ Benedict Arnold? Bill Gates? Abraham Lincoln? Hillary? Barak Obama? Each name communicated something to you. NAMES REFER TO OR REPRESENT THE ESSENCE OF A PERSON.
This was particularly true in Biblical times. Names were both symbolic and doorways to personality. Isaac, for example, meant ‘laughter’ because his mother – 99 year old Sara – laughed when she heard she was pregnant. Esau meant ‘hairy’ – because he was harrier than his twin brother and his hair was instrumental in his deception of his father. Samuel meant ‘asked of God’ because he was born in answer to sincere prayer. God changed Abram’s name to ‘Abraham’ because he would be the father of many nations. Jesus was named ‘Savior’ because He would die on the cross to save His people. Jesus gave Peter his name because he would be the rock upon which Jesus would build His church. Names were living and potent symbols of the persons who bore those names. The name was inseparable from the person. So God is claiming that misusing His name has something to do with misrepresenting the essence of God.
NAMES ALSO LINK A PERSON TO WHAT IS SAID OR DONE in their name. If you say, “Bill told me to…” Bill is immediately associated with what you say next – whether or not it’s true. Dave Stone refers to the fellow who spent $100.00 to have his family tree looked up – then spent $1,000.00 to have it hushed up! He didn’t want his name associated with what he discovered. He didn’t want that as his identity. Similarly God does not want to be associated with anything that misrepresents his essence. Some people desire to, and in fact do, change their name – for a variety of reasons they no longer like or want to bear the name they were given. But God named Himself to perfectly represent who he is. Gary North put it beautifully: “One way for a modern American to begin to understand this commandment is to treat God’s name as a trademarked property. In order to gain widespread distribution for His copyrighted repair manual – the Bible - and also to capture greater market share for His authorized franchise – the Church – God has graciously licensed the use of His name to anyone who will use it according to His written instructions. It needs to be understood, however, that God’s name has not been released into the public domain. God retains legal control over His name and threatens serious penalties against the unauthorized misuse of this supremely valuable property. All trademark violations will be prosecuted to the full limits of the law. The prosecutor, judge, jury, and enforcer is God.” God does not want to be linked to things He does not approve or would not say or do.
NAMES ALSO CONTAIN POWER. If you want to sell your basketball you could have me sign it first. Do you think the value of the ball has just increased? ... Of course not! But if you can get LeBron James to sign your basketball, what do you think will happen to its value and price? Right – it will increase dramatically. Names have power.
Similarly God is present in His name. Claiming His name raises the stakes. Therefore to use His name is to call God as an active witness in what we are saying or doing. To name God is to claim God’s participation, power, and approval. The same is true for Jesus’ name. Remember the day Peter and John were headed to the Temple and walked past a beggar. In response Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” And the man was healed. To name His name is to claim His power. That’s why our call to worship this morning came from Philippians 2: God gave Jesus the “Name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on e earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Paul taught that “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” To claim His name is to call forth His power. As Joy Davidman put it, His name is like a high voltage wire – it contains dynamic life-giving and life-destroying power. The 3rd commandment states that God’s name has significance – be careful how you use it.