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Lifting Up God's Holy Name

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

Jim Davis

The first command states that we must put God first, the second command states that we must not diminish God by diminishing our view of him and the third commandment states that we must not use God's name for unholy purposes.

Exodus 20:7
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. (KJV)

Exodus 20:7
"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. (NIV)

In the Hebrew mind God's name could not be separated from his reality. For this reason God's name could not be treated lightly. They would not even pronounce his name for fear of violating the third commandment. God's name in Hebrew is Yahweh, but the Jews wouldn't pronounce his name, they would use the word Adonai (i.e., Lord) or Elohim (i.e., God). They did this even when reading from the biblical text. They probably thought that they literally couldn't use God's name in vain if they wouldn't say his name at all. But this is not what the third commandment is about.

Lifting Up God’s Name In Vain

God intends for us to use his name in ways that are consistent with his character. The word "take" in verse 7 comes from a Hebrew word which means, "to lift up", therefore we are not to lift God up for unholy motives. To lift up God's name in vain would be to use it in an empty, groundless, frivolous, insincere way. We can use God's name without a genuine faith or commitment to him. We can attach God's name to our causes in order to manipulate others. Too often, politicians quote scripture or invoke the name of God to support their selfish agenda. The following verses in Ezekiel illustrate how this is done in religion.

Ezekiel 13:1-9
The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who are now prophesying. Say to those who prophesy out of their own imagination: 'Hear the word of the LORD! This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! Your prophets, O Israel, are like jackals among ruins. You have not gone up to the breaks in the wall to repair it for the house of Israel so that it will stand firm in the battle on the day of the LORD. Their visions are false and their divinations a lie. They say, "The LORD declares," when the LORD has not sent them; yet they expect their words to be fulfilled. Have you not seen false visions and uttered lying divinations when you say, "The LORD declares," though I have not spoken? "'Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says: Because of your false words and lying visions, I am against you, declares the Sovereign LORD. My hand will be against the prophets who see false visions and utter lying divinations. They will not belong to the council of my people or be listed in the records of the house of Israel, nor will they enter the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Sovereign LORD. (NIV)

The third command warns against taking God lightly. We may accept the ideas of God's kingdom, but we refuse to take him seriously. Many use God's name to raise money for starving children when in reality they only give a pittance of what they collect to the starving children.

In Numbers 22-24 Balaam was hired by Balak, the Moabite king, to use the name of God in an effort to curse Israel. The story reveals that God strictly prohibits us for using his name for our own personal gain.

We Must Lift Up God's Holy Name

God’s people must be concerned about lifting up God’ name in honor.

We lift God up when we keep our word.

Numbers 30:1-2
Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: "This is what the LORD commands: When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said. (NIV)

Jesus reiterates this solemn command in the Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5:33-37
"Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (NIV)

If your word is your bond there is no need for oaths to confirm your word.

Matthew 23:16-22
"Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.' You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it. (NIV)

James 5:12
Above all, my brothers, do not swear-- not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned. (NIV)

However the third commandment does not forbid swearing oaths in legal proceedings. Jesus answered Caiahphas "under oath to the living God."

Matthew 26:63-65
But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. "But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. (NIV)

Paul swore by the name of God.

2 Corinthians 1:23
I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth.
(NIV)

Galatians 1:20
I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie. (NIV)

Philippians 1:8
God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. (NIV)

The third commandment does not prevent us from swearing to the truthfulness of our testimony in court proceedings. However, if we give false testimony, it is a misuse of God's name.

We are not forbidden to make a vow to the Lord.

Deut 23:21-23
If you make a vow to the LORD your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the LORD your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever your lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the LORD your God with your own mouth. (NIV)

We lift God up by making sure that what we promise is not in violation to God's will.

Joshua 2:1ff

Joshua 9:1ff

2 Samuel 21:1-2
During the reign of David, there was a famine for three successive years; so David sought the face of the LORD. The LORD said, "It is on account of Saul and his blood-stained house; it is because he put the Gibeonites to death." The king summoned the Gibeonites and spoke to them. (Now the Gibeonites were not a part of Israel but were survivors of the Amorites; the Israelites had sworn to them, but Saul in his zeal for Israel and Judah had tried to annihilate them.) (NIV)

We lift God up by refusing to make rash vows.

Judges 11:29-31
Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah. He crossed Gilead and Manasseh, passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from there he advanced against the Ammonites. And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD: "If you give the Ammonites into my hands, whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering." (NIV)

Judges 1:34-37
When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, "Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break." "My father," she replied, "you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. But grant me this one request," she said. "Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry." (NIV)

Another way we can make rash vows is by promising others what we will do tomorrow or in the future when we don't know what tomorrow will bring.

James 4:13-17
Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. (NIV)

We lift God up when we refuse to scoff and blaspheme his work and holy name.

Leviticus 24:10-16
Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them. Then the LORD said to Moses: "Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. Say to the Israelites: 'If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible; anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death. (NIV)

We lift up God's name when we worship in truth.

Psalms 50:14-23
Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me." But to the wicked, God says: "What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you. When you see a thief, you join with him; you throw in your lot with adulterers. You use your mouth for evil and harness your tongue to deceit. You speak continually against your brother and slander your own mother's son. These things you have done and I kept silent; you thought I was altogether like you. But I will rebuke you and accuse you to your face. "Consider this, you who forget God, or I will tear you to pieces, with none to rescue: He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God." (NIV)

Jeremiah 4:1-2
"If you will return, O Israel, return to me," declares the LORD. "If you put your detestable idols out of my sight and no longer go astray, and if in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, 'As surely as the LORD lives,' then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory." (NIV)

John 4:24
God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." (NIV)

Our worship becomes vain when we set aside God's will to follow human traditions.

Matthew 15:1-6
Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, "Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!" Jesus replied, "And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.' But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' he is not to 'honor his father' with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. (NIV)

Matthew 7:21-23
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!' (NIV)

We must not slander God's holy name by showing partiality.

James 2:5-9
Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself," you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (NIV)

If we accept those who slander God's people, we slander God.

We must not dishonor God's name through pride and arrogance.

Proverbs 30:8-9
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, 'Who is the LORD?' Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God. (NIV)

We lift God up when we respect those he has appointed over us.

Acts 23:3-5
Then Paul said to him, "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!" Those who were standing near Paul said, "You dare to insult God's high priest?" Paul replied, "Brothers, I did not realize that he was the high priest; for it is written: 'Do not speak evil about the ruler of your people.'" (NIV)

Exodus 22:28
"Do not blaspheme God or curse the ruler of your people. (NIV)

From this basic principle of reverence for God and respect for His authority is derived respect for the authority of the civil government.

Romans 13:1-7
 
 

 

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