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Exodus chapter 20. Let's have a word of prayer. Our Heavenly Father, part of our worship is to listen attentively as your word is being spoken, and so we give you our minds, our very hearts. And these bodies we present as living sacrifices to you, holy and acceptable. It's our reasonable service.
We pray that during the next several minutes as we're gathered attentively here, you would talk to us about issues in our lives through this commandment, the third commandment. In Jesus' name, amen.
Paul Dickinson is a fella who collects unusual names. He keeps a running list of all of the unusual names he can find, and I hear he's even published a book. Some of the names, according to Paul Dickinson, are names that turn out to be prophetic. For instance a guy named Joe Bunt became a baseball coach. It fits perfectly. Joe bunt.
Then the Druff family, D-R-U-F-F, named their son Daniel. And he turned out to be a barber. So it sounds kind of odd, but going to a barber named Dan Druff. Now I know it sounds like a corny joke I would make up, but I didn't. It's real.
He even points out in his writings that there's two men by the name of Mr. Goforth and Mr. Ketchum spelled with a K, who became police officers. And in fact, they became partners on the same police force. So you can imagine how that would sound in the station. Who do we send? Send Goforth and Ketchum.
And he points out in his writings another couple of guys who sell church equipment, and they're partners, named Mr. O'Neill and the second, Mr. Pray, P-R-A-Y. O'Neill and Pray. Very convenient if you're selling church equipment like kneelers.
Then there's a guy named Crumble, William Crumble, who is a plaster contractor. And I don't know how I'd feel about buying my plaster contracting from Will Crumble.
Today we're going to study the name of God, or that is how our speech, our very mouths, can use and misuse the name of God. You know a snail, though it's very small and very slow, is a very interesting creature, because it's tough. It has a tongue that can saw through just about anything.
Scientists say that the tongue of a snail can roll up like a ribbon and roll out pretty far. And there's teeth on the tongue. One scientists counted 300 sharp teeth on the tongue of a single snail that can saw through stems and leaves. So that tongue is a weapon.
Well, what snails can do the stems and leaves, people can do to God's name with their tongue, with their speech. We're looking today at verse 7 in Exodus chapter 20. It's the third commandment. And if the first commandment says worship the right God, and if the second commandment says worship the right God in the right way, then the third commandment says worship the right God the right way, even down to the use and the mention of His name. Even His very name is to be honored.
Well, you'll notice that the commandment is a single verse. It's not like the previous commandments that have other verses that supplement and complement and explain just a single verse.
It begins with a negative command and then a reason to keep the command. Verse 7, "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."
Now I'm going to read some other translations of that verse to just right at the beginning and get the flavor and the meaning of this. The Know Translation, which is from the Latin Vulgate, puts it this way, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God lightly on your lips." The Amplified Bible, "You will not take the name of the Lord lightly, frivolously, in false affirmations, or profanely." And the Jerusalem Bible, "You will not utter the name of Yahweh your God to misuse it."
Now the phrase in vain, or vain, in the Bible means "empty" or "emptiness." You know Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, which means "emptiness" or "meaninglessness." So to use God's name in vain is to empty that name of its value, its content, its meaning. So basically the name of God should never be used, uttered, written, sung, in any kind of empty frivolous or insincere way.
Now the Ten Commandments, look at them this way. They're like manufacturer's instructions. It's God saying, I as the creator of all life know how life ought to be lived the best. Here's the best possible life. And here's the basic building blocks here's the foundations. Here's my top 10.
And most societies will agree with the Ten Commandments. Most thinking people will agree, yeah, these commandments make sense for a good, full happy life. Life works best when you don't murder people. Life works best when you don't commit adultery. Life works best when you honor your parents. Life works best when you don't steal.
But this third commandment some will have trouble with. What's such a big deal about getting the name right and honoring that name? Well, I'll tell you, it's very important. In fact, let's broaden it out. What we say, our speech, is very important. Because Jesus put it this way, "From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." "From the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."
In other words, your mouth is a barometer of your heart. So then this command has to do with careless speech that comes from an unguarded heart. Careless speech that comes from an unguarded heart.
And the command touches three areas, and they're in your outline this morning. Names, words, and promises. Those are the three major areas that this commandment has to deal with. Names, especially the name of God. Names are sacred, words are sacred, promises are sacred, and I want to explain all those to you.
Well, let's consider the name, since it says, "You will not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." We understand something from names in the Bible, that people considered names to be somewhat sacred, And certainly the name of God.
Now some people say, what's in a name? Why is God so hung up on, Get my name right. Don't misuse my name. Is it because God's saying, look I'm bigger than you. I'm God. Don't banter my name around? You mess with my name and you've had it.
Is God like the Cisco corporation that sued Apple over the name iPhone because they said, we came up with it first. We're taking you to court over the name. Or like Puff Daddy, the rapper who changed his name to P. Diddy and was sued by some record music engineer in England because he said, you took my name. I had the name Diddy first, and he took them to court over it.
No that's not God. Here's the idea behind the name. In biblical usage, name is equivalent to reputation, character, and authority. Reputation, character, and authority. And the ancient Hebrews always saw a vital connection between a person's name and a person's nature. And names do make a difference, by the way. One psychologist studied 15,000 names of juvenile delinquents, and he said those with odd or embarrassing names were in trouble four times as much as others.
And I've heard some odd names real names the Turners name their baby girl Page, Page Turner. The Arm family, A-R-M, true story, called their son Carl. Carl Arm. Or how about this one? The Bacons called their son Christopher, middle initial B, so it's Chris B. Bacon. Well, I didn't make those up, once again.
Now in the Bible you'll notice that names that are given to children, boys or girls, often reflect the desire that the parents have for that child to grow into. So the name Judah means "praise." May this son grow to praise the Lord. Or Samuel, from shmuel, "the Lord hears." May the Lord hear your prayers and be attentive to your cry.
Now when you come to the name of God, you ask, well, which one? Because the Bible has over 300 different names or titles for God, each one revealing yet a different aspect of His character. Sort of like a diamond with 300 facets. You turn it, and you understand something different of its beauty. Each name revealing another characteristic of God.
The name Elohim, most often used in the Old Testament, used about 2,000 times, which generally means God, but it speaks of the mighty God, the faithful God, the creator God. Or the term Adonai, which is the Lord. Speaks of the master and the relationship the servant has toward his master.
Then there's the sacred name, Yahweh, where God introduced himself to Moses, "I am that I am." And honestly, as I've said, we don't know how it's pronounced. It's the tetragrammaton, the ineffable name of God, the unpronounceable name of God. It's so sacred that Orthodox Jews to this day don't even write it. They write capital G dash d, as if to imply God, so as to revere his name.
So God's name, the name or the names of God, principally Yahweh, isn't just a name or a title, but it speaks of character, reputation, and authority. So think back to David and Goliath.
Think back to David going to the battlefield, and there's Goliath facing off with him, this huge giant, but David says to him, hey, you come to me with a sword, and a spear, and a shield, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of Hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.
I'm coming in the character, reputation, and authority of God. The name of God. So to use His name in a way that's not true to His character, reputation, or authority is to take His name in vain.
If you were to slur the name of Buddha-- oh, and by the way you notice that doesn't happen. When is the last time you heard somebody get really mad and go, oh Buddha? But if you were to slur the name Buddha publicly, you probably have the ACLU after you. You'd get in trouble.
If you were to defame the name of Moses, you might have the Anti-Defamation League after you. If you were to take the name Martin Luther King Jr. And mock that name publicly, you'd have the NAACP after you. If you misuse the name Muhammad in some parts of the world, they'll kill you.
And yet, how many movies and television shows will say, oh God, or oh Christ, or oh Jesus Christ, and not a flattering or way of praise but in the defaming way? Nobody thinks anything about it.
Or what about those who name the name of Christ but use His name lightly? I've heard people tell me, you know God told me such and such. I don't deny that God can speak, I know He can speak, but I cringe when I hear that.
Because there's a lot of times I don't know if God spoke to me or not. I don't know if it's an impression I got or if I got a principle from reading the word. But to use that word lightly and say God spoke to me suddenly puts you in a high class, like, well, who's going to argue with you? God speaks to you.
But what if God didn't speak to you let's just suppose God didn't. What if it was a late-night burrito you had, then you just took the name of God in vain. It is not to be taken lightly on your lips. So names are sacred. We're not to misuse them.
But then words. Words are sacred, and this commandment takes that into consideration that words themselves, especially when you bring into those words the name of God, are very sacred, whether they're spoken, or e-mailed, or sung.
Jesus said this, "I say to you that for every idle word that men may speak, they will give an account in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
So here is a question. How do people today take the name of the Lord in vain with their words? Two ways. One is pretty obvious, one may not be so obvious. The first is profanity. Profanity is where you degrade God's name, you use it in a coarse manner, you ask God to damn something, or doom basically. That's what it means, to doom to destruction, which is not His heart.
So let's say you are working on a project in the garage or out back, guys, and you're using a hammer and nails and you hit the nail on the head, you hit the second one on the head, but the third time you slip, and the head of the hammer doesn't hit the head of the nail but it hits the nail of your thumb really hard. And so you let out that horrible word, asking God to damn it, to doom that to destruction.
First of all, how utterly stupid. Here you are, you've worked hours on a project, now you're asking God, invoking God to doom to destruction what you've just made. Lame, dumb, stupid. Or even worse, when somebody asks God to damn a person.
Now that does not represent God's character, God's reputation, or God's authority. God isn't about condemning people. God is all about saving people. Peter said the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. That would be taking his name in vain.
Jesus said, "God did not send His Son into the world to damn or condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." Go back to 1946 in your mind. Some of you can't do it because you weren't alive then. I wasn't alive then.
But a movie came out during that time that has been rerun and I bet you've seen it, because it's on the air every Christmas. It's called It's a Wonderful Life, with Jimmy Stewart. How many of you have ever seen the movie It's a Wonderful Life? OK, see you don't show your age because of the reruns.
In 1946, when that movie first came out, the original script was censored by a committee that censors these things saying it's unsuitable for audiences to hear certain words. And here's the words that were taken out as unsuitable. Jerk, lousy, God, dang, impotent, and garlic-eaters. They were censored from the original script, deemed unacceptable.
Well that was then. What about now? Well in one year presently of prime-time television there will be 23,566 uses of profanity far worse than jerk or lousy.
In fact, in many of those instances that are played in your television sets and in your living rooms every night, the name of God or Jesus is used in a very demeaning way. And you hear it over and over and over again.
And here's the problem. What happens when you hear it over and over and over and over and over and over and over again? You become desensitized to it. And people in hearing that become desensitized to the greatness of that name, the splendor of that name, the uniqueness of that name, because of the way it's been misused.
So some are going to hear this message and say, well then, Skip, what am I going to say if I hit my thumb with a hammer? You're going to say, bless the Lord that it was only my thumb! Especially if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, Colossians tells us, "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you might know how you want to answer every man."
You see, children of the King ought to have the language of the court, exalted language, not demeaning language. So profanity is one way where people abuse words with God's name of it. Here's the second way. Hypocrisy. Not just profanity, hypocrisy. That is where people take the name of God to themselves I am a Christian, I'm a follower of God, but it's a profession without a practice. It's words without a walk.
Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter 7, "Many will say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and done many wonders in your name?' And I will declare to them, 'I never knew you. Depart from me you who practice lawlessness.'"
You see, they took the name of Jesus to themselves. They said I am a representative of Christ. But their actions speak louder than their words. Their actions cancel out their words.
Now you know there are names that are trademark names. There are trademark names, but we use them for general terms. For instance, the term Kleenex, you say get me a Kleenex. You may not really mean a Kleenex, which is a certain brand by a certain company. You may just mean, get me a tissue.
Or the name Band-Aid. Yeah, there's adhesive medical strips, but then there's a Band-Aid. But we use the term generally. Or the term Xerox. That's a corporation. We usually mean any kind of copy as Xerox.
But I found out something that companies like this and others have a legal department, and they have field representatives. They go out into the world different corporations read the literature read the web sites listen to different advertisements to make sure that the name of their company is not taken in vain, not misused, not overused, not misrepresented. Because they want to protect the reputation of the company.
OK, we've taken to ourselves the name, the name above all names, the name at which every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess the name of Jesus. I wonder if it wouldn't be a bad idea if we didn't have field representatives just to ensure that those who name the name of Christ are making sure that they're all about the character and the reputation and the authority of Jesus Christ, that it's used properly.
You know it's interesting. I used to hear the terms, and I still do, I even say them at the end of every prayer, "In Jesus' name." It's how Jesus taught us to pray. In Jesus' name. But I sometimes think that people view that as almost that's when the magic happens. It's like you can say anything you want up to that point, you can ask for anything, name anything, just as long as you end by saying in Jesus' name, then bada bing, bada boom, heaven will respond and you'll get it.
No. Jesus said. "When you pray you ought to say, 'Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.'" In other words, when you're first forming your words for prayer, the first concern that you have and that I have is for the character and the reputation and the authority of God.
So look at it this way. Here you are praying for something. Filter it through this thought. If God answers my prayer and I get this thing, will this further the character of God? Will this honor more the reputation of God? Will this speak and be compatible with the authority of God? Because that's the idea of the name.
So names are sacred, especially God's name. Words are sacred. And third, promises are sacred and we shouldn't diffuse them. Now I'll tell you where I'm going with this. Many Bible scholars, commentators, will say that this third commandment principally has to deal with making covenants or pledges or oaths.
For instance, William Barclay says, quote, "This commandment is primarily a prohibition against using God's name in vain in a pledge." In other words, making a promise to somebody with no intention of keeping that promise, or breaking that promise just because it's inconvenient.
And the reason they say that is because this isn't the only time we find this wording in the Bible, "you will not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." There are other passages that are commentaries on this. I'll read one of them. This is Leviticus chapter 19 verse 12. "Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God."
Now this is how it worked. 2,000, 3,000 years ago when the children of Israel were entering into an agreement, a covenant, a contract, they didn't have credit ratings at that time. So they would enter into a covenant by making an oath, and they would usually begin by saying, "as the Lord lives, I promise to do such and such." Or, "May God do to me this and more if I don't fulfill my promise in such and such."
They would invoke the name of God and make a promise. But too often, they would make a pledge and then break it, and in effect empty God's name of its real value and meaning. So that by the time we get to Jeremiah chapter 5, the Lord says, "And though they say, 'as the Lord lives,'" that's their oath, "surely they swear falsely." In other words, they make promises all day long, they break them, and they are taking my name in vain.
Now I want you to see something, because you're familiar with this. I want you to turn with me to Matthew 5. Go to your New Testament, Matthew 5. Very familiar, the Sermon on the Mount. And we find that here by the New Testament times people figured out a way to get out of this oath-taking business and even break their oath.
Matthew 5 verse 33. I hear those pages turning. You there? Matthew 5:33. "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'you shall not swear falsely but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.'" Why? Because promises are sacred.
"But I say to you, do not swear at all, neither by heaven, for that is God's throne, nor by Earth, for it's His footstool, nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black." of course this was spoken a long time ago, right? This is way before Clairol was invented. "But let your yes be yes, and your no, no. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one."
So you see what's happening. By the New Testament times, people were making oaths not by saying "as the Lord lives" or "may the Lord do so to me and more." But they were saying. I pledge by my life, or by my head, or by the hair on your head, or by Jerusalem, or by the Earth.
Now before you say, well, that's stupid, that's silly. We did it is kids. Cross your heart, hope to die. Cross your heart twice, hope to die twice. You know all those little silly things we did to ensure that the promise would not be broken.
Now by the New Testament times, and this is what the Lord is referring to, people have compartmentalized promises into two classes. Absolute binding, not absolute binding. If you invoke the name of God, as the Lord lives, now God is your partner, it's binding. You have to do it. But if you use another name-- my head, your head, the hairs of your head, Jerusalem, heaven, Earth-- it's a non-binding oath.
And you know what they did? They actually quoted Leviticus 19:12, which we just quoted to you, "You shall not swear by my name falsely," and they interpreted that to mean you could swear falsely by another name, but not God's name. So traditions developed for people making promises and it allowed them to tell lies.
It's like the four boys who ditched class. And they came to the school the next day and told the teacher of the class, well, we had a flat tire. We went out for lunch and we had a flat tire, and that's why we didn't make it to class. The teacher said, well, you happened to miss the test, but I'll let you take it today.
So the teacher said, I want you to sit in all four corners of the classroom. It's a written test. Question number one, which tire was flat? That first question would answer a lot, wouldn't it? That would really be the pass or fail, wouldn't it?
So words are sacred, names are sacred, and promises are sacred. Now let me end with this. Let me give you four areas where promises are sacred. Number one, just a normal promise, for a believer, is to be seen as sacred. Your word ought to be your bond. Jesus said let your yes be yes and your no be no.
How many remember the movie Mary Poppins? And you may remember in Mary Poppins that scene when the two girls, I think it was the first day that Mary was with them, two girls said, oh, Mary Poppins, promise never to leave us. Promise to stay with us forever. We promise to always be good. And Mary Poppins said, well, that's just a pie crust promise-- easily made, easily broken.
Far too many believers make pie crust promises-- make them easily, break them easily. How many of you have ever been in a courtroom, been to court? Raise your hand. Really? That many of you? You've seen this, then, Bible placed out there-- I think they still use these-- hand placed on the Bible, "I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God." and then people will perjure themselves using the name of God. That's a pie crust promise. They said the name, they made it easily, and they broke it easily. A normal promise is sacred.
Number two, an occupational promise is sacred. When an employee enters into a contract with an employer, the employee basically says, I promise to work this many hours a week, working, doing this task, for this much money. That's the agreement. The paycheck is given. Is the work being done?
Now correct me if I'm wrong, but-- I know I'm not wrong because it's biblical-- a Christian employee ought to be the very best worker in the company, because he's working ultimately for God. He's taking to himself and bringing in with him the name of Christ.
And Colossians tells us, "Obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, not as menpleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God." Normal promises, occupational promises, here's the third. What about relational promises?
What about the promise where a young man and a young woman come before a man of God, before the Lord Himself, and before the people of God, and make that vow-- for better for worse for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part? Not debt do us part, death do us part. So many have been pie crust promises, easily made, easily broken, and quickly.
Promises made to children in a home, broken. Somebody once said if your Christianity doesn't work at home, it doesn't work.
Normal promises, occupational promises, relational promises, and here's a fourth. I'll close with this. Eternal promises. Eternal promises. If you're a believer, this morning there was some point in your life where you received Christ, we say, gave your life to Him.
You said, I receive your forgiveness, your mercy, your grace, and Lord, I pledge my loyalty to you as my King, my Savior, and my Lord. I turn from my sin and I turn to you. Now that implies a promise that is followed up by a walk, because you've taken His name. I'm a Christian. I've taken His name, the name of Christ.
So here's the closing question. Are you walking with Him? Or could it be said you're walking away from Him? You've got the name. What are you doing with it? Let's pray together. Our Heavenly Father, your name, and not just the titles, not just the 300 different tags that are used to describe your character, but your name itself, your nature, your character, your reputation, your authority, we reverence, we hallow, we esteem.
So much so that our lives, our prayers, our speech, ought to all be filtered through the reverencing of your holy name. We pray that profanity would not mark our lips. We pray, Father, that also hypocrisy would be far from us. We pray that every time we sing the name of God, the name of Jesus, it would be done thoughtfully, not thoughtlessly. We would be more concerned about not the volume of the music or the beat of the song, but the position of our heart.
And we pray, Father, that promises that we make we would hold very sacred. Because we want your character, and reputation, and authority, to be paramount and highly esteemed. And so we pray all these things in the name of your son, Jesus Christ, amen.