Summary: The third commandment challenges us to use the name of the Lord correctly.
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.
God’s name has deep spiritual significance. So to treat it like something worthless is profanity in the truest sense of the word: It is to treat something holy and sacred as common and secular.
The reason God will condemn us is because misusing his name is a very great sin.
It is a direct attack on his honor and glory, and anyone who makes such an attack deserves to be condemned. When people break the third or any other commandment, they are guilty before God, and ultimately they will be judged for their sins.
There are many examples in the Bible. Perhaps the most shocking occurs in Leviticus 24.
A dispute broke out between two Israelites, one of whom was part Egyptian. As they fought, the man of mixed descent blurted out a curse against God. T
he Scripture says that he “blasphemed the Name, and cursed” (Leviticus 24:11a). The bystanders were appalled at what the man said; so they seized him and brought him to stand trial before Moses. The Lord did not hold the man guiltless but said,
Leviticus 24:13–16 NKJV
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.
“Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death.