Third Commandment: Do Not Take Name in Vain

In my first two articles of this series, “To Keep the Ten Commandments or Not? Part 1” and “Part 2” I discussed whether or not we should keep the Ten Commandments. Are they for us today? Or are they something done away with and under the old law? Then I began addressing the commandments themselves. The first commandment dealt with having no other gods before Yahweh, giving examples of what that meant.

In part 1 of Make No Image, the second commandment, we talked about carved images and why God hated them. In part 2 of Make No Image, we continued the discussion using today’s idols as examples. Now let’s continue with the third commandment, which says…

You are not to use lightly the name of ADONAI your God, because ADONAI will not leave unpunished someone who uses his name lightly. Exodus 20:7 CJB

You are not to misuse the name of ADONAI your God, because ADONAI will not leave unpunished someone who misuses his name. Deuteronomy 5:11 CJB

What is the Lord’s Name?

Growing up we heard “Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain” a lot by our parents, school teachers and neighbors. We were taught if a person’s cuss, using the word “God” in front of it that was taking the Lord’s name in vain.

It wasn’t until I got older that I realized “God” was not the Lord’s name. It was a title that represented who he was, is, and is forevermore. This discovery led me to search out the truth in the scriptures concerning the Lord’s name.

image of YHVH name
by Sacred Hand Publishing

Then I found out everywhere “Lord” was used in the KJV was actually the name of God. Those who wrote the scriptures used God’s name over 6000 times. That tells me God likes to be address by his name, just like we do. I don’t know about you, but I don’t answer to “Hey, girl!” or “Baby cakes.” I have a name and I prefer people to call me by my name.

What if you had a friend who never used your name? Instead she always called you girl or big lady or some other name. How would you feel? Haven’t you heard the comment, “My name is Christopher, but my friends call me Chris?” Those close to us call us by our names, whether it’s a variation of our names or a special nickname. Even those who barely know us use some form of our name to address us such as Mrs. Willow, Dr. Jones, and Pastor Smith.

We address each other by name so the other person can know who we are talking to.  God is no different. When God spoke to Moses, Moses asked for a name to give to the people. The children of Israel had been in Egypt for 400 years and they knew all of Egypt’s gods by name. Surely, the creator of the heavens and earth had a name too. Well he did. It was “I AM WHO I AM.” This was God’s first introduction to all of his children.

He also had a more personal name those close to him called him – YHVH. David called on his name time and time again. He was a friend of YHVH’s. So I learn from his example and call the great Creator by name. I call him Yah or Yahweh. Others use a different word derived from YHVH, like Jehovah and others.

Unfortunately, the correct pronunciation of his name has been lost. However, I believe he honors those who call on his name for help and praise his name always.

Don’t Vain the Lord’s Name

So what does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain? The Hebrew word for vain is “Shav’,” which means “(1) emptiness, vanity, falsehood; (2) emptiness, nothingness, vanity; (3) emptiness of speech, lying; and (4) worthlessness (of conduct).”

In short, it means don’t lie on God. Don’t swear anything false by his name. Don’t say he said something when he didn’t. Don’t say you belong to him and then act contrary. If you do, you are taking his name in vain. You are making his name worthless among those around you. Here are a couple of examples.

Example 1: You claim to be a Christian or know YHVH and follow his Torah. You are always judging others and putting them in a hell you don’t own. You see the wrong they are doing and yet, you don’t try to restore them. Instead, you gossip about them to whoever will listen.

Example 2: You claim to be a prophet or have the gift of prophecy. You speak something into a person’s life and you claim God is speaking. Yet, the prophecy never comes to pass. You have lied on God and brought shame to his name.

Example 3: You are always volunteering in the church. You jump every time they call you. You clean the church, help out at all of the conferences, run the Usher team, and sing in the choir. Yet, you never have time for your family. You take your pastor’s requests over your husband’s requests. Your children are basically raising themselves because you are too busy helping someone else in the church. Those around you see the mess your household is in and this leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths about God. Who wants to serve a god who makes the family unit suffer?

Take YHVH’s Name Seriously

Although we know his name, we are to reverence his name. Yahweh is not our home boy. He is not to be taken as someone common. He is to be feared with holiness. This means we don’t go around talking about him, using his name, as if he’s just anyone on the street. He is the God of all gods, the King of all kings, and the Lord of all lords and should be treated as such. His name is holy, just like he is. Therefore, respect and honor him and his name.

We are to shema (listen and obey) God, showing honor, respect, integrity, faith, and most of all, love toward him first and then our neighbor. In this way we honor his name. I found the following example at Isaiah 58 website in the article, “Taking the Name of the Lord In Vain.” I thought it did an excellent job at explaining honoring God’s name.

When a man and a woman are united in a covenant of marriage, they become, “one flesh” (Gen.2:24). And this “one flesh” bears one name. For example, when Barbara Myers and I were married, she became Barbara Clark. She took my name. She has been a great blessing to my life, a wonderful, helpful mate in Christ. And we have four beautiful children. She did not take my name in vain. But if she had been unfaithful, or had caused me financial difficulty, or been in any other way a hindrance in Christ, the purpose for our being married would have not been achieved. She would have taken my name in vain, for nothing. Similarly, when we enter into covenant with God by receiving the Holy Ghost, we become one with Him in Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17), and in so doing, we take His holy name. From that time, everything we do or say reflects on the name we bear. We may bear it honorably or dishonorably, faithfully or unfaithfully.

When I read the above story it really hit home to me. After all, we are in a marriage with YHVH. Therefore, shouldn’t we act like it? If you are married and/or have children, think about your relationships with one another. Isn’t our job as family members to protect the family name? I know when I was growing up my mom use to tell us we better not act crazy in the streets because everyone knows who we belong to. If she heard we were bad, we would embarrass us like we did her. My mom was serious about her name.

God is even more serious about his name and there are consequences to not honoring it. In part 2 of this commandment we will discuss what those consequences are. Until then, evaluate whether if you have been taking the Lord’s name in vain without realizing it. If you have, repent, forgive yourself and do better next time.

Prayer Time

Our Heavenly Father, who is in heaven,
Open our eyes to any way we are not obeying this commandment. Show us areas in our lives where we have brought shame to your name and made it void in the people’s eyes. Then give us the courage to honor you the way you should be honored, living a holy life pleasing to you.
In Yeshua the Messiah’s name, Amen.

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