Summary: Through his name God reveals his heart.
Do you have a name that people often mispronounce? Habben, rhymes with “robin” but those reading it for the first time often pronounce it like “happen” or “hay bin.” I realize that not everyone knows how to pronounce a German name but I still feel a prick of annoyance whenever someone messes it up.
Does God feel the same way about his name? Is that why the very second decree of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God”? Perhaps it has puzzled you why such a command should be listed before the directive against murder. I mean I don’t like it when someone butchers my name but I’d rather have that than someone stick a knife into my heart! But this is what we do when we misuse God’s name: we mess with God’s heart. I say this because with his name God reveals his heart to us. It’s no wonder he wants to protect his name. In fact he’s so serious about this that he adds the threat: “...the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7b). This is the only commandment to which God attaches such a warning. As we continue our sermon series on the Ten Commandments we want to learn why we should take the Second Commandment more seriously than we perhaps do.
Let’s begin by defining what the Bible means by God’s “name.” His names are not just labels but are handles we can wrap our puny fingers around to draw the infinite God down to our level so that we can examine him. “Almighty,” for example, tells us that God can do anything. “Lord” reminds us that he has the right to do anything. “Savior” informs us that God has a heart of love – not an “I love ice cream” kind of love but a robust, active love that is willing to sacrifice himself to save us sinners – an act that ought to be as enticing as picking up someone else’s soggy ice cream cone off the sidewalk!
If we were to list all the names God is given in the Bible, it would take five, double-columned pages to do so, as it did in one article I read on the Second Commandment! And if we were to explain what each name means, it would take a book the size of…well, a Bible. Indeed that’s what the Bible is: a book that explains God’s name and therefore reveals his heart. To put it in modern terms: reading the Bible is like browsing God’s Facebook pages. Only God doesn’t hold back very much while most people are careful not to put too much personal information on Facebook. Listing birth dates and phone numbers is not advisable. Posting bank account info and pin numbers is just dumb. But in the Bible God freely reveals information that opens the door to his mansion and unlocks the treasures of his grace for sinners like us to plunder. He posts revealing word pictures like “Lamb of God” that show his willing descent into the debauchery of humanity to be publicly humiliated on our behalf. And God does all this on purpose! He said to Moses after the giving of the Ten Commandments: “Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you” (Exodus 20:24b).
God seeks to protect his name with the Second Commandment because he wants to bless us with it. It’s the same reason parents will make sure that their children have memorized well their home phone number. Never would a parent say to their child, “Hey you were just one digit off. Our phone number ends in a 9, not a 6 but whatever. Those numbers look so much alike you’ll probably never be able to keep them straight. Don’t worry about it.” Don’t worry about it? Even if she’s only one digit off, your child is not going to be able to get hold of you in an emergency! No, you’ll keep drilling the phone number until the child gets it right.
Likewise, there is only one name that opens the door to heaven: Jesus. Are you drilling this truth home with your children and in this way obeying the Second Commandment? Now I’m not saying that the name “Jesus” is some sort of password as in “Just say ‘Jesus!’ on Judgment Day and you’ll be fine.” Jesus himself warned that many will call out to him by name on Judgment Day and even identify him as “Lord,” but he will say to many of those people: “Away from me you evildoers. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:21-23). Why? Because Jesus isn’t some sort of “Easy” button you can punch come Judgment Day. He is more like a lifejacket that we need to wear at all times, confessing that without him we would sink to hell like a bag of bricks tossed into the ocean because sin continually clings to us and weighs us down.