I used God’s name in vain!
“Dog gummit!”, “Gosh Darn!”, “Jiminy Cricket!” and “Jumping Jehoshaphat!”
Last evening while going to pay our final respects to a gentlemen that spent his life serving others in the church, we sang worship songs both to and from the funeral home. On our trip back home, while we were all singing a praise course, I was convicted of something I’ve stood in the pulpit and taught several times. Amidst my efforts to praise God and express adoration toward Him, I realized that I was taking the Lord’s name in vain. (No, I wasn’t “cussing”!)
So, you ask, what does it mean to take the Lord’s name in vain? For most people, whether you are religious or not, you would not hesitate with your answer, “It means to say G-D.” Undoubtedly, there are far more people that can answer this than there are who can list the ten commandments, name the Gospels, or even tell you the difference between the New and Old Testaments.
For most, the ultimate violation of the third commandment, “You shall not take the Lord your God’s name in vain,” is to say “G-D.” Some people will stand before God and when asked “Why should I let you in to heaven?” they will proudly say, “Because I did not murder, bear false witness, and I never said “the G-D word.” (Albeit, I do not think God is going to ask this question.)
To begin with, allow me to preface my commentary with this summation: We are not to use God’s name insincerely. Consequently, the question now becomes: What does the Bible mean when it says not to use God’s name in an empty or vain way? Thus, what does the third commandment mean?
You would think that a simple word study on the Hebrew word naqa (vain) would provide us a clear understanding. Likewise, our understanding of a “name” and what it signifies is much different than what it meant in the context in which the biblical commandment was given. From the study of scripture (hermeneutics) we find two principles that must guide our study of this commandment. Understanding contextually (exegesis), as opposed to reading into the text (eisegesis), what the text meant then and consequently understand more clearly how it’s applied today.
It is my belief that on Mount Sinai, God was attempting to prevent the Israelites from treating His name similar to other pagan gods. They were exposed to many prophets from other nations continuously making decrees in the names of their gods, attempting to add weight to their decree, soliciting obedience and fear from their people. God was saying to Israel; do not take my name in vain like these other nations use the names of their gods. He did not want them to use His name falsely or in vain. Simply put, God did not want the Israelites to say their god was Jehovah, and not demonstrate daily a monotheistic life style.
Therefore, I believe that this commandment has nothing to do with the words we use (although, from out of the heart the mouth speaks), and everything to do with how we live. For example; when my mother married my father, in Memphis Tennessee, back in the 1950’s, she took my father’s name. She forsook her parent’s name, and took her husband’s name. The taking of the new name, echoed a change in life, and change in status and a change in priorities. She was no longer a single woman, she was married.
Had my mother changed her name, but not changed her lifestyle, she would have taken my father’s name “in-vain”. Throughout my Army career I wore a uniform almost every day, in doing so I took on the name of those whose uniform it is. Whether team uniform, a policeman uniform or military uniform, you assume the name of that team, law enforcement or soldier organization.
When you take the name of God, at a baptism, and tell the world that you are now part of the ‘bride of Christ’ (as the church is called), yet you do not live like a ‘bride of Christ’, you have taken His name in vain, and you will not be considered guiltless. For Christians, He is your groom, not a casual friend. A bride is supposed to be an intimate friend, companion, confidant, and passionate toward their groom. We are to protect His name, be careful to represent Him honorably, and to always present a conduct comparable to His character. To treat Jesus as anything less, is to take His name in vain.
Finally, for me, I was singing praises to Him, using words of adoration. Words like, “I seek your face”, “I lift your name on high”, and “I surrender all.” Notably, it wasn’t the words per se; rather it was that my lifestyle didn’t live up to my words. Proclaiming to be His, wearing His name like a badge of honor, yet my life doesn’t mirror that of my words…. I had not sought Him that day, I had not lifted His name in praise until we pressed start on the CD player, and I had not surrendered all.
I am a blood bought, Holy Spirit filled, adopted son of the Most High God and I have a mansion in glory. Yet, I’m not guiltless.
Thank God, there’s a difference between conviction and condemnation, the former is of God’s Spirit and the latter from that Father of lies. The Spirit of God brings conviction unto righteousness, conversely Satan’s condemnation is meant to kill, steal and destroy.
Today, I will sing unto the Lord, I will lift His name on high, and I will draw nearer to Him … and people will know I’m His not by what I say, rather they will know by how I act.
A bondservant of Christ and eternal brother to you,