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Summary: The third commandment challenges us to use the name of the Lord correctly.

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AG: One of the first duties of parents is to name their children.

This can be a difficult task. The parents make lists. They read baby name books and field suggestions from family members. They try various combinations and say them out loud to see how they sound. They consider all the possible nicknames, and then they check to see what the initials spell. Even after all this, they may still end up at the hospital not having reached agreement about what to call the child!

The one thing that is certain in all of this is that the parents will do the naming. Human beings do not name themselves. Our full names are given, not chosen, which shows that naming is an act of authority.

I remember holding my newborn children in my arms, calling them by name, and telling them that I was their daddy. Naming a child is the first way that parents exercise their God-given authority.

By contrast, one of the remarkable things about God is that no one ever named him. Admittedly, from time to time people have come up with various false names for God. But God’s true name is chosen and revealed by God himself.

Revealed to Moses:

The name that God revealed was his personal name Yahweh, sometimes called the tetragrammaton because in Hebrew it consists of four letters: YHWH. Literally God’s name means “I am who I am” or “I will be who I will be.” It speaks of God’s self-existence, self-sufficiency, and supreme sovereignty. As the events of the exodus unfolded, it also testified to his saving power. The Israelites learned from their deliverance that the God who revealed his name to Moses is a God who saves.

TS: The command given here is to not take the Lord’s name in vain. Like many comands it has both a negative side and a positive side. Here the positive is implied.

a. Negative: Don’t dishonour/misuse the name of GOD

b. Positive: Revere and give honor to His name.

RS: We do not tell God who he is; he tells us. God has his own naming rights, and this is a sign of his sovereign authority. God’s name comes before all other names.

Exodus 20:7 NKJV

“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.

To give a more literal translation, “You shall not lift up the name of the Lord your God for nothingness.”

This term had a fairly technical meaning. It was used in legal situations to refer to the taking of an oath.

When witnesses needed to confirm their testimony, instead of swearing on a Bible, they lifted a hand and swore by God’s name.

However, the term was also used more broadly for other situations when people took God’s name on their lips. His name was “lifted up” in worship and whenever else people talked about him.

The command doesn’t forbid using His name (as the Jews came to believe)

It does forbid misuse of it.

To be specific, we are not to use it in a vain or empty way.

The specific misuse that God has in mind is speaking about him carelessly, thoughtlessly, or even flippantly, as if he didn’t matter or really didn’t exist at all.


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