Liberating Truths About the Ten Commandments
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”
Exodus 20:7 (NASB)
What’s in a name? Everything. Your name represents all that you are – your character and your reputation. You’re only as good as your name. The name of God was so respected among the Jews that they avoided writing any Name of God casually because of the risk that the written Name might later be defaced, obliterated, or destroyed accidentally or by one who does not know better. In the Third Commandment, we are instructed to honor God’s name and never take His name in vain. This command came with a warning, “… for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His Name in vain.” Most assume that this is the command against cursing, but there is so much more to taking God’s Name in vain than using it as a curse word.
“Vain” means useless or empty. When we speak in His name or represent Him with the name “Christian” yet act in a non-Christian way, we are using His name in vain or in an empty and useless way. The Apostle Paul wrote to those in Rome who were claiming to be called the people of God, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you.” (Romans 2:24)
This indicates that, when we take the name of Christ as a Christ follower, others have every right to expect from us a change of character, attitude, and lifestyle. We are no longer our own. We are bought with a price, the precious blood of Jesus, and we now bear His name, Christian. Imagine for a moment a woman who marries a man. Her last name changes to his as she takes on a whole new lifestyle, no longer a single woman but a married one. Wouldn’t we expect her now to act like a married woman? She would no longer date other men. She made a vow to be committed to her husband. In other words, if she had taken on the name of her husband but not changed her lifestyle, she would have taken his name “in vain.” She would have had a wedding ceremony but not a new life.
But, consider also the positive principle behind this negative command “not to take God’s Name in vain.” Rather than treating God’s Name in an empty way, consider the weight and glory of His name and the honor of bearing His name as a Christian. Much is known about God from the names given in Scripture for God. It’s a fascinating study. Here are just a few of the many names for God that help us understand who He is and what He does.
- Jehovah Jireh: The Lord is my provider!
- Jehovah Rapha: The Lord is my healer!
- Jehovah Shalom: The Lord is my peace!
Of all the many names of God given in Scripture, though, my favorite is the response He gave Moses when Moses was faced with a crisis of belief. God told him to go back to Egypt and deliver His people from Pharaoh. Considering the risk of this call and his own limitations and failures in the past, Moses asked God a great question: “Who do I tell them has sent me? What is your name?”
In Exodus 3:14-15,
“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, 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, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.’”
What a marvelous revelation! God said that His name was “I am …” I am what? I am all that you need! Do you need peace? God says, “I am your peace!” Do you need provision? God says, “I am your provision!” Do you need strength? God says, “I am your strength!” When you experience the Great I Am, you never have to worry or fear! Let God be God in your life. In faith, lean upon Him, trust in Him and obey Him.