“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.” (Exodus 20:7)
It’s command #3 in the big ten. It’s one you’ve probably heard all of your life, especially if you’ve grown up going to Sunday school. It’s a command that’s very important to God, but unfortunately, it’s not that important to our society. Even greater than that, sometimes it seems as though this command isn’t very important to Christians today.
You probably learned growing up that this command means you shouldn’t say phrases like “Oh my god…” or any rendition of that phrase because we shouldn’t use God’s name in such a flippant, careless manner. And this is absolutely true. We should cherish and uphold the name of God. We should use His name in a way that glorifies Him, not as a way to voice frustration, anger, fear or surprise.
But I want to bring out another application to this verse. One that I had never thought of before until this week. The application comes from looking at a very particular word in Exodus 20:7. That word is “take”.
You see, most of the time we apply this verse in the context of how we “use” God’s name. In fact, some translations say, “Do not misuse the name of the Lord in vain…” But there seems to be more to this verse than just the manner in which we say God’s name.
For example, think about your cell phone or tablet. Or maybe phablet if you have one of those giant phones. There’s a difference in taking it with you, and using it. To take it with you means it’s in your pocket, on your hip, constantly with you. To use it means you are performing some action (texting, tweeting, etc.) with it.
Back to Exodus 20:7. What does it mean to “take the name of the Lord in vain…”?
Next Tuesday, March 4th, Haley and I will celebrate 8 wonderful years of marriage. On March 4, 2006, we exchanged vows and she took my name. Her name changed. Not only on her license, but in a spiritual sense her name changed. She became a Gray. She took on the Gray family…the Gray heritage…everything that is Gray, she became. It would be a name that she would represent and cherish because it’s the name that our children bear. It’s the name that she bears. She doesn’t want to disgrace the name or take it in vain as though it’s not important.
When you became a Christian, you became united with Christ. You became a child of God. You took on His name. Everything that God is, you became and are becoming. You represent His name. You uphold His name. You are a part of Him, just like He is a part of you.
So how can we take God’s name in vain today?
In a number of ways. More than just in different phrases that we use. We take God’s name in vain when we don’t believe His promises. When we doubt His presence and purpose in our lives. When we believe the devil’s lies that we aren’t valuable or important. When we refuse to do God’s will. When we act in a way that doesn’t bring glory to God. When we doubt our God-given abilities. When we down ourselves because we don’t feel capable or competent.
If you’re a Christian, you took on God’s name. Don’t just use it in vain, but don’t take it in vain. Because His name is more than just a word that you say. His name is your identity. His name is your strength. His name is everything that you are not.
His name is I Am. Jehovah God. Yahweh.