Summary: This sermon covers the Second Commandment from Exodus 20:7 to not take the name of the Lord in vain.
THE PRECIOUS NAME OF THE LORD
The use of the name of God played an important role in Israel’s life. Listen to the scriptures that refer to the name of the Lord:
The “name of the Lord” is used 98 times in Psalms. “Name” is used in the Old Testament 750 times! Names were obviously very important.
Likewise, they were forbidden to misuse the name of the Lord. They were not to:
God’s name was associated with God’s being and character. God’s name often went unspoken and unwritten because it was considered so holy. When they saw “Yahweh” written, they would substitute it with Adonai or My Lord. Yahweh, the word that is translated as Lord, was considered so sacred that when the scribes would come to it in their recording, they would wash, put on new clothes, use a new quill, write the name and throw away the quill. This was serious business!
We might loosely compare God’s name to something like trade names that are used in business. They cannot be repeated. Everything around it is associated with that trade name. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus instructed us to say, “Hallowed be your name.”
A young soldier was causing problems among the other soldiers and was brought before Alexander the Great. Alexander the Great asked the soldier, “What’s your name?” The young soldier replied, “Alexander.” Alexander the Great then said, “Either change your name or change your conduct.” In the scriptures, when someone’s character changed, so did their name. So it’s no longer Abram, but Abraham. It’s not longer Sarai, but Sarah. It’s no longer Saul, it’s Paul. It’s no longer Simon, it’s Peter.
The exact meaning of the commandment and original translation would be something like, “You shall not use God’s name in an empty or groundless way.” “Vain” can mean empty, idle, insincere, phony, frivolous, lacking in reality or truth. For instance, to use God’s name in the same breath as a falsehood, such as saying, “I swear to God,” when God’s truth is furthest from the statement. Perjury is one of the concerns.
The way this commandment can fail to be followed can take several forms. As John Wesley put it, “If we make promises to God, and perform not to the Lord our vows, we take his name in vain.” Perhaps not keeping our church membership vows, vows that pastor’s make or even marriage vows.