Exodus 20:7

Sermon preached on April 20, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

One of my aunts is named Natalie. When she was a young adult she sent away for her birth certificate. She had never gotten one and she needed it in order to get a passport. When it came the name on it wasn't her name. The last name was correct, but the first name was something entirely different. It wasn't even close to 'Natalie'. She called them up and inquired about the mistake and found that it wasn't a mistake after all. She had been registered under the other name. They told her that if she wanted to use the name, "Natalie", she would have to legally change her name.

She was puzzled about the whole thing so she asked her parents about it. That's when she found out how it happened. When she was born she was the 10
th of eleven children. Her parents didn't have a name picked out for her. At a certain point after she was born one of the nurses came to the hospital room where her mother was recovering from the birth and asked what the baby's name was. The mother didn't have a name for her and told her to come back later. She came back later and asked again, but the mother gave her the same answer. I'm not sure how long this went on, but at the last encounter the nurse insisted on having a name. I guess they were both exasperated by that time and the mother said to her,

"Well, if you need a name now, name her yourself."

The mother then forgot about the whole incident and when they came up with a name for the baby, that's what they started calling her.

But the nurse, needing a name, and not being supplied with one, took the mother's suggestion and named the baby herself.

But what is interesting about it is that the other name, the one that was on the birth certificate, didn't seem to fit. Natalie was Natalie and the other name seemed very foreign.

But of course there's really nothing to that. For us names are usually just labels. If we had known her by the other name all her life I'm sure that the name Natalie would have seemed foreign. But at other times there is a relationship between a name and a person. Sometimes names are actually descriptive and describe what the person is like. Last week I went to the church where I grew up and saw an old friend, "
Beaver" MacAskill. He is a great guy that I was delighted to see. I hadn't seen him in years. For as long as I can remember he has had the nickname Beaver. It wasn't a derogatory nickname. That's what everyone knew him as. I've known him all my life and have always called him Beaver. I didn't even know his real first name and never thought to ask. How did he get the nickname "Beaver"? I suspect that it's because he has some mannerisms that remind people of a beaver. If you got a cartoonist to draw a picture of a beaver as a human I think it would remind me of Beaver.

My dad's coworkers all had nicknames. Dad's was
Dino. His first name was Dean and so they combined that with part of how his last name sounded. When I was in Nova Scotia last week I asked my sister to refresh my memory of some of my dad's policemen friends so I could use them here. I told her some of the ones I remembered, one of which was "Lurch" from the TV show the Addams Family. My sister's husband was listening and he was not familiar with any of the nicknames, but he knew some of the people who worked with my dad. When I mentioned the nickname 'Lurch' his eyes immediately lit up and a smile came across his face—because he guessed which one was Lurch. He said,

"Is that what they called …?"

Right away he knew who "Lurch" was and remarked on the similarity. There was a relationship between the character and the name.

I've see that in other names as well. I've known more than one guy who was nicknamed, "
Red" because of his red hair. I had a childhood friend that we called, "Porky" because he was a little like the Pillsbury Dough Boy. We weren't being mean in doing so, that's what everyone called him and what he went by.

God's names are like that. They are descriptive. They tell us about Him and what He is like. Philip Ryken says of the name of God that is used here, (Written in Stone p. 86)

"This is God's identity."

The great truth is that we see from this commandment is that

God's names are related to His character, to His being and we are to hold His names in the highest esteem.

The third commandment is all about defending the honor of God's name. Phillip Ryken writes, (p. 85)

"one of the remarkable things about God is that no one ever named him… God's true name is chosen and revealed by God himself. We do not tell God who he is; he tells us."

In one sense, much of what we are going to say about the name of God used here applies to all of God's names. The idea here is not that we are just to esteem and honor one name of God to the exclusion of the rest. Quite the contrary, we are to hold all of God's names in the highest esteem.

Yet when God says that we are not to take His name in vain, He used the name
Yahweh. G. T. Manley (The New Bible Dictionary) tells us that,

"Strictly speaking, Yahweh is the only 'name' of God. In Genesis whenever the word sem ('name') is associated with the divine being that name is Yahweh." "Yahweh… in contrast with Elohim, is a proper noun, the name of a Person… it presents God as a Person, and so brings Him into relationship with other, human, personalities. It brings God near to man, and He speaks to the Patriarchs as one friend to another."

Yahweh is the Covenant Name for God. It's significance was shown to Moses at the burning bush. In Exodus 3:13-15 we read,

"Then Moses said to God,
'If I come to the people of Israel
and say to them,
'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,'
and they ask me,
'What is his name?'
what shall I say to them?
God said to Moses,
And he said,
'Say this to the people of Israel,
'I AM has sent me to you.'
God also said to Moses,
'Say this to the people of Israel,
'The LORD, the God of your fathers,
the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac,
and the God of Jacob,
has sent me to you.'
This is my name forever,
and thus I am to be remembered
throughout all generations."

Herman Bavinck writes, ((The Doctrine of God, p. 105)

"The full name is 'ehyeh 'asher 'ehyeh, which signifies that he who now calls Moses and is about to deliver Israel is the same God who had appeared to the fathers… he will be what he has been for the patriarchs, what he is now, and what he will remain: for his people he will be everything. The One who appears to Moses is not a new or a strange God, but is the God of the fathers, the Unchangeable the Immutable One, the Faithful One, the eternally Self-consistent One, the One who never leaves or forsakes his people but ever seeks his own and ever saves them, who is unchangeable in His grace, in his love, in his succor, who will be what he is, since he ever remaineth himself."

Thus this name not only points to the greatness and glory of God, but to His saving acts on behalf of His people. That's what we see in Exodus 3. God tells Moses that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and that He is going to rescue His people and bring them to a land flowing with milk and honey. God came to a sinful, stiff-necked, ungrateful people and rescued them from bondage and Egypt and brought them to the promised land.

Think about the greatness of this name and how it applies to us. We were lost. We were dead in trespasses and sins. We were in bondage to sin and there was nothing that we could do to save ourselves. God send His Son Jesus to save us. He came, suffered and died for our sins. He took the curse that was due to our sins. He suffered the wrath of God that was due to our sins. He paid the price for them. He rose from the dead for our justification and ascended into heaven. There He is ruling all things on our behalf. We are seated with Him in heavenly places and nothing can stop Him from saving us. We are safe in His hand and nothing can separate us from His love. He is preparing a place for us and it's going to be glorious. Our lowly bodies are going to be made like His glory body. We are going to be made perfect. We are going to judge the world, the angels who fell and we are going to rule with Jesus for eternity. Forever and ever we are going to be with Him in perfect bliss and happiness.

What is the name of the One who does this? It is Yahweh. He is the great God of the Covenant—who saves His undeserving people. What a great name it is! How we should honor it!

Thus what we see here is that

you have a great duty to honor God's name.

As I have said before, often the commandments are put negatively, but they have a very strong positive side. When we are told that we are not to misuse God's name, we are also told that we should honor God's name, not only in what you say but in what you think about God. You are to hold the name of God in the highest esteem. John Calvin writes, (Institutes II.8.22)

"The purpose of this commandment is: God wills that we hallow the majesty of his name. Therefore, it means in brief that we are not to profane his name by treating it contemptuously and irreverently. To this prohibition duly corresponds the commandment that we should be zealous and careful to honor his name with godly reverence. Therefore we ought to be so disposed in mind and speech that we neither think nor say anything concerning God and his mysteries, without reverence and much soberness that in estimating his works we conceive nothing but what is honorable to him.""We must, in my opinion, diligently observe the three following points: First, whatever our mind conceives of God, whatever our tongue utters, should savor of his excellence, match the loftiness of his sacred name, and lastly, serve to glorify his greatness. Secondly, we should not rashly or perversely abuse his Holy Word and worshipful mysteries either for the sake of our own ambition, or greed, or amusement; but, as they bear the dignity of his name imprinted upon them, they should ever be honored and prized among us. Finally, we should not defame or detract from his works, as miserable men are wont abusively to cry out against him; but whatever we recognize as done by him we should speak of with praise of his wisdom, righteousness, and goodness. That is what it means to hallow God's name."

You'll also recall when Jesus' disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, the first petition He taught them was, (Matthew 6:9)

"This, then, is how you should pray:
'Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,'"

To hallow means to consecrate, to revere, to set apart for a sacred purpose, to make and keep holy. And that is what God wants us to do with his name: to honor it, to praise Him and glorify Him for Who He is and what He has done.

Jesus came to reveal the Father for us. His purpose was to glorify His name. He had a passion for God's glory. He told people how to worship Him, how to think of Him, how to praise Him. As He said in His great high priestly prayer in John 17:4-6 (HCSB)

"I have glorified You on the earth
by completing the work You gave Me to do…
I have revealed Your name to the men
You gave Me from the world."

We see the same thing in many of the Psalms. The men who wrote the Psalms, as they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, honored God's name and tried to get others to do so. Consider Psalm 103. It begins,

"Praise the LORD, O my soul;
all my inmost being,
praise his holy name.
Praise the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's."

Or consider Psalm 29:1-2 which says,

"Ascribe to the LORD,
O mighty ones,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness."

Psalm 66:1-3 reads,

"Shout with joy to God,
all the earth!
Sing the glory of his name;
make his praise glorious!
Say to God,
'How awesome are your deeds!'"

And in Psalm 72:18-19 we read,

"Praise be to the LORD God,
the God of Israel,
who alone does marvelous deeds.
Praise be to his glorious name forever;
may the whole earth be filled with his glory.
Amen and Amen."

I could go on and on. The point is that throughout the Bible we are urged to open our eyes to the glory of God, to His great deeds—and praise Him for it.

But we should also look at the negative side of this commandment.

You are not to misuse the name of God.

We are not to use God's name in an vain way. We are not to think or speak of Him carelessly, thoughtlessly, flippantly, as if he didn't matter or didn't exist. (Ryken, p. 88)

"God's name has deep spiritual significance; so to treat it like something worthless is profanity in the truest sense of the word: It is to treat something holy and sacred as common and secular. To dishonor God's name in any way is to denigrate his holiness. It is a way of saying that God himself is worthless."

Ryken tells us that a literal translation of this command would be, (p. 87)

"You shall not lift up the name of the Lord your God for nothingness."

Jochem Douma tells us that there were three ways that God's name was profaned in Old Testament times: in sorcery, in false prophecy, and in taking of false oaths. (Ryken)

In the ancient world some people believed that they could gain access to supernatural power by
using divine names in magical incantations. It is thought that the Egyptians did this. But the God of Israel cannot be manipulated that way. He is sovereign and merely mentioning His name has no magical power. We see an example of this in Acts 19:13f. God had been doing extraordinary miracles through Paul and some Jews who weren't Christians started imitating him. They would go to those who were demon possessed and say,

"In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches,
I command you to come out."

Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. [One day] the evil spirit answered them,

"Jesus I know, and I know about Paul,
but who are you?"

Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.

Another way that Douma tells us that God's name was profaned in Old Testament times was through
false prophecy. The false prophets claimed to have a message from God but they did not. False prophets tried to use God's name for their own profit.

Unfortunately, throughout the history of the church many have claimed that they were close to God, that they knew His will, that you should listen to them and esteem them because God is acting through them.

Not long ago I read an excerpt of a book (23 Minutes in Hell) in which a professing Christian claimed to have had an experience similar to what the apostle Paul had in 2 Corinthians. You'll remember that Paul said that he was caught up into the third heaven and heard inexpressible things. He didn't know whether he was in the body or out of the body. Well, this guy claimed to have an experience like that and he's very much in demand as a speaker and has written a book about his experience.

But as I was reading his book I noticed certain things that he said about God and God's will for human beings were not in line with what Scripture teaches. His God was very much a weakling, unable to do what He wanted to do. Not only that, but he seemed to teach a prosperity gospel, not at all like the teaching that we see in 1 Peter.

I hate to call any professing Christian a false prophet, but the fact is that they are out there. Beware of them. Compare everyone's teaching to the teaching of Scripture. If it doesn't match and diverges greatly, then they're false prophets. Don't believe them. Don't follow them. They're misusing God's name.

God's will for your life may not be health and prosperity–even if you serve Him with everything in you. Sickness, tragedy, suffering—that may be your lot. Yet in it you are to praise God, honor His Name, giving Him the glory in all things.

The third way that Douma tells us that God's name was misused in Old Testament times was in the
swearing of false oaths. People took an oath in God's name and then proceeded to lie.

I don't know if they still do it but in our courts people used to put their hand on the Bible and swear to tell the truth. Yet many did not. That's taking God's name in vain.

Now I ask you— do you misuse God's name?

Do you always honor it like you should? Are you meeting with God's people enough so that you are regularly lifting His name high? How do you react when something happens that hurts you very much? Some people get angry with God. Some people curse God because of it. Job's wife urged him to curse God. (Job 2:9) How did Job meet adversity? How did he react to the loss of all his possessions, to the loss of his children? In Job 1:20-22 we read,

"Job got up and tore his robe
and shaved his head.
Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:
'Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.'
In all this,
Job did not sin
by charging God with wrongdoing."

Do you honor God like that in bad times? If you don't, you misuse God's name.

Christians, honor God's name. Recognize that this command goes right to your heart. Some of the ancient Jews took this command literally, as referring to only the name Yahweh, and stopped using this name. They wouldn't pronounce it at all, even when reading the Scriptures, and thus they thought that they would be kept from misusing God's name.

But in the Bible itself this name for God is used something like 6500 times. So that's not what God intended. Nor would not merely pronouncing the name Yahweh keep someone from breaking the commandment. If one thought of God in a wrong manner, entertaining the thought that He was not good, or not faithful, he would have broken the commandment.

Who is like our God? He loves us, sinners. Who is like our God who sent His only begotten Son to die for our sins? Who is like Jesus, who loved us so much that He died for us? What a glorious plan He has for us. Christians, honor His name, in your thoughts, in your words, in your deeds.

Also, for Christians,

You should be concerned about other people misusing God's name.

Warn them about it. Urge them to turn from it. Misusing God's name is just like calling down a curse upon yourself. Our text says,

"for the LORD will not hold anyone
guiltless who misuses his name."

God will not hold them guiltless. In other words, He will surely punish them.

Christians, you are concerned about your name. If someone falsely spoke ill of you and your name, or your family's name, you would be concerned about it. Do you have such a concern about God's name?

Lastly, for those of you who are not Christians,

you are misusing God's name.

You don't have to curse to break this commandment. You break it by not believing in Him, in His Word. By your actions you are telling others that God is not good, that He is not worth believing in, that His promises are not true.

Turn from such misuse. Go to Jesus. Ask Him to save you. Find life in the Name that is above every name!