Is there anything in a name? One newspaper ad read: “Lost – One Dog. Brown hair with several bald spots. Right leg broken due to auto accident. Rear left hip hurt. Right eye missing. Right ear bitten off in dogfight. Answers to the name “Lucky.” In his book Names, Paul Dickinson collected strange and unusual names. In 1941 two men executed in Florida electric chair were named Will Burn and Will Frizzle. A Montreal window washer fell while washing windows and died. His name was Will Drop. Dan Druff became a barber. Jeff Treadwell became a Podiatrist. Two police partners were named Goforth and Ketchum. O’Neil and Pray became partners in church equipment. Will Crumble a plaster contractor.
After the Civil war, the managers of the infamous Louisiana lottery asked General Robert E. Lee if they could use his name in their scheme, assuring him it would make him rich. Lee stood up straight, buttoned his gray coat and shouted, “Gentlemen, I lost my home in the war. I lost my fortune in the war. I lost everything except my name. My name is not for sale and if you fellows don’t get out of here, I’ll break this crutch over your head!”
Solomon reminds us, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches”(Prov. 22:1) and “A good name is better than precious ointment” (Eccl. 7:1).
The third command highlights this and signals God’s support for this truth: “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” (Exod. 20:7). Words matter and names matter and no name matters more than name of “Lord.” Of Jesus the Christ, Paul writes, “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9).
A.W. Pink said, “His name must be used neither with contempt, irreverently, or needlessly. It is striking to observe that the first petition in the prayer the Lord taught His disciples is, “Hallowed be thy name!” The name of God is to be held profoundly sacred. In our ordinary speech and in our religious devotions nothing must enter that in anywise lowers the sublime dignity and the highest holiness of that Name. The greatest sobriety and reverence is called for. It needs to be pointed out that the only time the word “reverend” is found in the Bible is in Psalm 111:9, where we read, “Holy and reverend is His name.” How irreverent then for preachers to style themselves “reverend”!
In Colossians 3:16, the Bible says, “…teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” A host of beautiful hymns teach about the great value of Lord’s name. I like this one…
His name is Wonderful
Jesus my Lord
He is the mighty King
Master of everything
His name is Wonderful
Jesus my Lord
He’s the great Shepherd
The Rock of all ages
Almighty God is He
Bow down before Him
Love and adore Him
His name is Wonderful
Jesus my Lord
(“His Name is Wonderful,” Audrey Mieir, © 1987 Manna Music Inc/Kingsway’s
While trying to reach savage tribes in India, a missionary stumbled into a dangerous area. A large party of warriors surrounded him with spears pointed at his heart. Expecting to die at any moment, he breathed a prayer, closed his eyes and began singing, “All Hail the Power of Jesus Name.” When he reached the words, “Let every kindred, every tribe,” he opened his eyes. There stood the warriors, some in tears, every spear lowered. He spent the next two years preaching the gospel to them. Unfortunately, this reaction is a far cry from what we see and hear today—even right here in the Bible belt.
It seems people have no idea how God views their choice of words, and if we don’t pay attention, we can fall prey to this error also. “For out of abundance of heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word that men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Mt. 12:34-37).
But now, no idle words get you in hotter water than using the Lord’s name in vain. “Thou shalt not take name of Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” The New Testament version is found in Matthew 6:9: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” So what does God mean by “in vain”? It means “to use it lightly, frivolously or profanely.” The Jews understand this and always have! So much so that they never even pronounced His name. They wrote it YHVH. The Massoretic scribe copied the Name in a manuscript, he had to sit in full Jewish dress, wash his whole body, and could not begin to write the name of God with a pen newly dipped in ink and should a king address him while writing that name he must not take notice of him.” Ultimate respect!
Rabbi Stuart Vogel collaborated on a book with Laura Schlessinger entitled The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life.. He wrote of the third commandment:
…When the temple stood… the sacred name of God was clearly forbidden to be recited except on Yom Kippur, holiest day of year (which falls between 9/18-10/8), by the High Priest, the holiest person, in the Holy of Holies within the Temple at Jerusalem, the Holiest Place…In respect for it’s great sanctity (the name of God) is not pronounced as it is written…In ordinary speech, the word…“the Name” is substituted by some Jews …Some Orthodox Jews always spell God’s name G-d except in context of a blessing or other sacred text.
That’s the kind of respect God commands and expects. “The Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Deut. 5:11). Are you getting this?
How is God’s name profaned today? How do men take God’s name in vain? Hollywood hardly knows how to produce a movie without swearing, profanity and using the Lord’s name in vain. Do you know why? Because this reflects how people in the world treat God’s name.
Rabbi Vogel explains further, “the true translation of this command…is carrying the Lord’s name in vain.” Christians carry Christ’s name and it is possible that our lives may sully it if we do not live by His principles.
- People misuse God’s name in insulting others.
- People abuse God’s name in excusing their behavior: “God told me to cut the grass today.” “I didn’t feel led to go to work.” Instead of accepting and obeying God, people say “I’ve prayed about it and God has given me peace on this.”
- People misuse God’s name to blackmail and coerce: David Koresh, the infamous leader of the Waco, Texas based Branch Davidian cult: “God told me for you to give me your wife” Jim Jones of the People’s Temple: “God says you should drink this Kool-Aid.” Oral Roberts: if you do not send $8 mill within 3 months, God says He will “call me home.”
- People use God’s name to project a spiritual image that may be a sham. Phrases like “Praise the Lord” and “Hallelujah” punctuate their speech. These are wonderful words, when they come from a heart full of devotion to God. But you can teach a parrot to say these words and that is all some people do—parrot the talk of their religious mentors with no real thought of the true significance of these words, or any thought to the consequences of using God’s name lightly. Paul speaks of those who “…profess to know God, but in works they deny Him.” The talk of such is usually liberally sprinkled with these sacred phrases.
- People misuse God’s name in jokes: Jesus, God and heavenly things are holy and not material for humor.
- In Old Testament times, Rabbis taught that people sullied God’s name when they failed to offer thanks for their food. They believed food was a gift from God and that we “pay” for it by acknowledging it with gratitude.
- People abuse God’s name to express surprise or amazement. Be careful with euphemisms.
- We misuse God’s name if we do not worship in spirit. “These people worship me with their lips but their hearts are far from me” (Mt. 15:8). Have you ever sung a song about Jesus thoughtlessly?
- We misuse God’s name when we pray mindlessly. “When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as heathen do” (Mt. 6:7). Do we pray the same exact prayer, saying by rote the same things over and over?
- People abuse God’s name by disobeying God’s laws. We must remember, of course, we are under the law of Christ, not the Law of Moses (1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2). It is just as serious to take the Lord’s name in vain by what we do as by what we say.
God’s people have always taken God’s name with them. Israel means “God prevails” or “soldier of God.” If you’re a Christian, you take Jesus’ name with you to school, to work, when you go home, to Wal-Mart, to the ballgame. “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Tim. 2:19). It’s not enough to talk the talk; we’ve got to walk the walk. We take the Lord’s name in vain when we claim to be committed, but our actions don’t back up the claim. If you call yourself a believer, act like one! Don’t drag the name of Jesus through the gutter.
Don’t call Jesus “Lord” and thumb your nose up at His teachings. Are you doing that today? If so, you’re taking His name in vain. You’re dragging His holy name through the mud.
There are some people who would cast aside any law all together. Jesus took that head on in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice iniquity [lawlessness]!”
Iniquity is defined as 1) the condition of one without law—either because one is ignorant of it or because he is violating it; 2) contempt for and violation of law…; manifestations of disregard for law.” Disregard the law of Christ and you do so at your own peril.
The greatest hindrance to lost people being saved is not that they can’t understand the gospel, but that they can’t understand why people who claim to be Christians behave like they do. Mahatma Gandhi, activist pioneer of nonviolent social protest in leading the struggle for independence in India once said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Ever get your mouth washed out with soap? Of course, the mouth is not the real problem, is it? It’s the heart! And what’s inside will come out. When you squeeze the tube of toothpaste, what comes out? Toothpaste! When the world squeezes you, what comes out? That’s what’s in your heart. When I’m filled with love and peace and goodness and the world squeezes, that comes out. When I’m filled with bitterness and meanness and hate and the world squeezes, that’s what comes out.
Use God’s name in an honoring way, by praying, reading Scripture, talking to others about the Lord, singing songs of praise to Lord. Stand up for Jesus’ name when others profane it. You wouldn’t use someone’s name in vain if they were next to you. The more you use His name reverently, the less you’ll use it in vain.
Article by: Brett Hickey