The Ten – A Name That’s Worthy
In my lifetime I have had the opportunity to visit 27 different states and I have even lived in 8 states. Every state and ever area in different, with it’s own uniqueness and quirks. When we moved here we began to notice the uniqueness of Texas and all of the wonderful things that this area had to offer. What is hugely interesting to me, is the amount of pride that Texans have in Texas. While I call Alabama the Great State, it is amazing to me the amount of pride that exists here in Texas. There is pride in everything from your technological advancements to something as simple as a little ice cream restaurant, after all DQ, That’s what I like about Texas.
In our house I have a little sheet that I was given when we moved here that was supposed to help with my indoctrination …. I mean introduction to Texas. It’s a list of 50 things that are better about Texas, and number 8 on the list is a little drink that is purely Texas. In 1885, at the soda counter of Morrison’s Old Corner Drug Store, in Waco Dr. Pepper was born.
Now this morning I have a bottle of Dr Pepper and while the label and logo have changed over the last 130 years, we all know what is important is the name. If you look good enough at the bottle you will see a little TM after the name, which stands for Trademark. While the logo and label have changed and Dr Pepper is bottled by both Coke and Pepsi depending on the area of the country you live in, the Dr Pepper company is very protective of their name.
Now what do you think would happen if I took a cup of water, added some caramel coloring to it and some sugar and then slapped a Dr. Pepper label on it and tried to sell it to the public? They would sue me, because they know their name stands for everything they are as a company. There are imitation’s out there, but they don’t dare use the name. HEB even has their own knock off version, they call it a Dr.B. The difference was so eloquently stated this week by a 3 or 4 year old little girl. Her mom told her she could have a drink, and was trying to talk her into getting the HEB brand when the little girl said very loudly, it’s not the same.
There are some names that are so popular that they become synonymous for a product. If you go to a restaurant and ask for a coke, that could be a Coke, a Dr. Pepper, or even a Sprite. Most of us don’t reach for a tissue, we reach for a Kleenex. We need a Band-Aid, or Scotch Tape. Companies know how important their name is to their business and they get upset when someone uses that name in an inappropriate way.
Now if we can understand that about a soft drink, then how sacred is the name of something really important? Jehovah is so holy and awesome that even His name is sacred. The Jews took this command so strictly that they avoided pronouncing God's name altogether. They were so afraid of using it in carelessly that they only pronounced it once a year. And the only one who could use God’s name was the high priest on the Day of Atonement.
When we were in Nashville I made friends with a Rabbi at a local Reformed Jewish Synagogue. He told me the story about a class of students who were studying Hebrew under an orthodox Jewish rabbi. One of the rules of the class was that when you came to the name of God you were not to pronounce what was in the text. You were to change the name to “Adnonai” which is Hebrew for Lord. One day the students were reading the Hebrew text out loud and one of the students inadvertently pronounced the name of God. When the rabbi heard it, he put his hands over his ears and ran from the classroom. No one saw him for several days. When he finally surfaced again he told them that he had spent that last several days in prayer asking for forgiveness because he was unworthy of hearing the name of God. Now, I think we would all agree that that seems just a little bit extreme. But God’s name is a BIG deal.
The King James Version translates our text this morning, Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. That was the verse I memorized as a little boy. But some other translations make this command a little clearer: The Contemporary English Version says: Do not misuse my name. I am the LORD your God, and I will punish anyone who misuses my name; and the New Century Version says You must not use the name of the LORD your God thoughtlessly; the LORD will punish anyone who misuses his name.
The first thing I notice about this text is how seriously God is about the third commandment. It is easy to understand that God is serious about the first commandment. The Children of Israel were coming into a relationship that they had never experienced before. God was not saying that He wanted to be their favorite god or their most important god. Jehovah was saying that if He is not the only God in your life then there is no room for Him in your life at all.
When God established the second commandment, He was saying that there is no way we can fully understand or comprehend Him. When we try to shrink God down to a size we can manage we are no longer serving the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior of the world. God is to big for us to try to get Him to a manageable size. If we can understand Him or manipulate Him then He is not the all powerful God that invited us into a relationship with him.
So now we get to the third commandment and God says that we are to keep His name pure. I find it interesting that there are only two commandments that carry a warning; the second commandment against idolatry and the third commandment about keeping His name sacred. God is intent that we keep His name pure to the point that He promises that He will punish anyone that misuses His name.
I believe the reason that God is so sensitive about His name is because He knows our name represents three things:
Reputation – When you hear someone’s name you automatically think of their reputation. The name Jezebel carries a reputation of deceit and ruthlessness. While the name Mary carries the reputation of love and compassion. What is God’s reputation? I guess to be clear we need to ask what is God’s reputation among the broken who stayed home today instead of gathering with other broken people to worship. God’s reputation is often based on those of us who wear His name.
Character – People who know you, know your character or how you act when no one is looking. In the scriptures, the significance of a person's name defined their life. A name wasn't just a label. It stood for the person, revealed his character and identified his role.
Achan’s name meant trouble. When twins were born to Isaac and Rebekah they were given names that described who they were. The name Esau means red or hairy and Jacob means heal grabber or deceiver, which is very fitting for his whole life. Often times when a person’s character changed, God changed their name. After a wrestling match with God, the Lord gave Jacob a new name; Israel, which means one who struggles with God. And that name eventually became the way of identifying the entire Hebrew nation, they were a people that struggled with God.
Authority – You name carries the weight of your knowledge, power, and understanding. For example, if Trista were to get a note saying that for the rest of the year all kindergarten classes will release at noon on Fridays and it was signed by Port Neches Mayor Glenn Johnson they are working right through noon. But if she get’s an email from Mark Pottier those babies are packing up to go home because names carry authority.
James Emery White comments, It’s important to learn what to take seriously, and who. Nothing should be taken more seriously than God, and giving God His proper respect starts with His name, because His name represents who He is.
God doesn’t want His name misused because when it’s mentioned He wants people to immediately think of all that He is, He wants people to think of His loving nature, His power, His holiness, righteousness, and His willingness to forgive. God doesn’t want people to hear His name and immediately think bad things about Him. God doesn’t want people to get the idea from us that He’s in the condemning business when He’s in the saving business. God especially doesn’t want people rejecting Him because others have given Him a bad name.
That’s why we have to be careful how we use God’s name and make sure that we are not misusing it. Let me suggest two different areas in which the name of God can be used in vain.
We can misuse God’s name through our speech
One of the things God was concerned about was the use of His name in the taking of vows. In Leviticus 19, God said, And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.
God is telling us to never use His name in any oath you don’t plan to keep. Don't ever claim to tell the truth or make a promise on the basis of my name, and then fail to fulfill that promise! My name is too holy to be attached to anything empty or untruthful. God’s point is that when you use His name to take an oath and then you neglect to do what you said you smear the name and reputation of God. You’ve misused God’s name because you don’t take Him seriously.
Another way that we can use the name of God is the way we talk. In Isaiah 52:5 God is mourning the plight of His people. As He lists the evils of that day, He says, "My name is blasphemed continually every day." Does that sound familiar? We hear it in movies, on television, at work or at school. We’ve all known folks who get angry or frustrated and use God’s name to condemn whoever they see as the source of their problem. What in the world could be more unholy than condemning someone or something in the name of the God who desires for all men to be saved?
When we take the name of God and misuse it, we reveal something about ourselves, either we misunderstand the nature of God, or we just don't care about Him. God and Jesus have become adjectives, and that’s the heart of the problem. The point God is making with the third commandment is that we shouldn't utter His name unless we mean something by it, because His name means something. And we ought to have respect for that which is holy. God is not just background noise in our lives. He is the reason for our lives.
We can misuse God’s name through our lifestyle.
When God established His covenant with the Jews, the nation of Israel carried the responsibility of bearing God’s name. The Jews became God’s people. That meant that they bore the responsibility for carrying God’s name to the rest of the nations of the world. When others looked at Israel, they saw God’s people. They got an idea of what God was like. They carried God’s reputation with them just like every bottle of Dr. Pepper carries the reputation of its parent company.
My mom would tell me every time I left the house to remember who I was. She knew that how I acted reflected on the whole family. In the same way, the actions of Israel reflected on God and God’s name because they were God’s people. They had a responsibility to live up to their role as the bearers of God’s name.
Listen to what Paul says in Romans 2:21-24: “As you teach others, are you failing to teach yourself? As you preach against stealing, are you stealing? As you tell others not to commit adultery, are you committing adultery? As you treat idols with disgust, are you robbing temples? As you brag about the laws in Moses’ Teachings, are you dishonoring God by ignoring those laws? As Scripture says, “God’s name is slandered among the nations because of you
Paul was a firm believer that God’s name was slandered because of the way they were living. They were teaching all the right things, but they weren’t living it. And as a result, God’s name was taken in vain. You understand that the world says the church is full of hypocrites because it is. If we are going to wear the name of Christ then we must make sure that our life is demonstrating what we are claiming. It doesn’t do me any good to get upset when someone calls me a hypocrite when my life is slandering the name of God.
Anyone can talk about God. You can come here and sing, Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow. When someone sneezes, you can say God bless you as quickly as the next person. But faith isn’t just talking about God. Christianity isn’t about words; it’s about a relationship. The bedrock of this command is our sincerity to God in terms of using His name with reverence. God is holy. He deserves our reverence and our worship, not just our words, but our genuine, sincere faith and worship. When we talk about God, we need to mean what we say.
This commandment is calling us to authentic faith. God doesn’t want you to merely say that He’s number one; He actually wants to be number one. When it comes to God, we need to practice what we preach. If you’ve given your life to Jesus, then you bear His name. When you call yourself a Christian, you’re saying that you are His representative. Your actions are a reflection on His reputation. We cannot call ourselves a Christian and act like the world. If we are to bear Christ's name, then our lives must have a quality about them that reflects the meaning of His name.
As Christians, we carry around the name of Christ wherever we go. We are the people of God. Wherever we go and whatever we do reflects back on God and how the world thinks of Him. Using God’s name in vain is more than a ban against cussing, it’s a call to holy living.
Ultimately, the question we need to answer for ourselves is this: How much respect do I have for God and His name? Does my life and my language bring honor to the name of God? God’s name is important because as we read in Acts 4:12, There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.