Taking the Lord's name in vain

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Exodus 20:7; Romans 2:17-24

Protestors will often march carrying placards: “Not in my name.”  They are incensed that their government would act in ways completely at odds with their own outlook.

At Mount Sinai, the Father is similarly concerned.

“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.”  (Exodus 20:7)

More literally you could translate it, “You will not lift the name of the LORD your God up to worthlessness.”  It’s about lifting up / bearing / carrying the name of the LORD.

And religious people are constantly lifting it up to ridicule – using the LORD’s name like a rubber stamp on whatever they want to do.  The third commandment is an Almighty “Not in my name!”

It’s not telling us to refrain from speaking the divine name (as some orthodox Jews take it).

And it’s not really about swearing.

– Jumping Jehoshaphat!
– Now, Mary-Beth-Lou-Ellen, don’t take the Lord’s name in vain.

It has implications for swearing.  But you can break the third commandment without ever uttering a word.

A couple of times in the Bible the Lord complains to His people like this:

“For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.”  (Romans 2:24).

Notice who is to blame for the blasphemy?  Not the cussing heathens – the hypocritical “believers.”  When non-Christians think nothing of the Name of Jesus, who is to blame?  It’s us – the people of God. We have lifted the LORD’s name up to worthlessness.  That’s the problem.

And it affects every area, not just our speaking but our whole lives.  We either commend Jesus – lifting up His name to honour; or we disgrace Jesus – lifting up His name to shame.

Either way, note this, we bear His name.  We cannot choose not to bear His name.  If we belong to the LORD we will carry His name, for good or ill.

In the same way, my wife now carries my name – for better or for worse.  She could do things to drag the Scrivener name through the mud (though she’s several generations too late for that).  Or she could (and does!) lift up the name to honour.

And so with us.  Let us begin with the incredible truth that we do bear the LORD’s name.  We are, after all, the bride of Christ.  We have come to Him as sinful and bankrupt and in His marriage covenant He has taken our sins and debts at the cross and given us His righteousness and riches.  We have been drawn into His family relations and now bear His name.

Today let’s not use it as a rubber stamp.  Let’s wear it as our crown.

Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father by him.  (Colossians 3:17)

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