"You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Deuteronomy 5:11, NIV)
Over the summer I’ll continue the blog with a weekly look at the Ten Commandments. This week, the third.
At the heart of this commandment is God’s concern that his name not be used lightly or falsely, because he is great and awesome. Here is the eternal, all-sovereign, living, true, holy God. So he is to be given proper respect - and never misrepresented.
One way in which we might do this is by using His name as a swear-word. In Leviticus 24 we encounter a man who used God’s name as a curse. Perhaps it gave extra shock value; perhaps it revealed a resentful attitude to God. Either way, it was immensely serious, because it implied no respect at all for the great God who has made and redeemed his people.
One of the things that often happen quite soon after a person is converted to Christ is that their mouth is washed out. This was my experience. I had often used the name of Christ wrongly. But God in his grace made himself known to me, and I began to see that the Lord Jesus could not possibly be trivialised, or, worse, have his name used as a curse. He is Lord, Saviour and Friend - how wrong to speak of him this way! I am so glad I am forgiven.
There is, however, more to the scope of this commandment. We can talk respectable talk, but still be guilty of misusing the Lord’s name - by speaking of him and his will falsely. Here is Deuteronomy 18:20: But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death. That is serious!
What this is about is purporting to speak in God’s name when what we actually say is not from him. It is a ban on being what the Bible calls a ‘false prophet’.
Theologian Michael Horton uses the analogy of a trademark. Companies use this to protect their reputation. Years ago, I was given a pen with the Mont Blanc™ logo. How nice! But it turned out to be very scratchy, so I took it to be repaired. That was when I discovered that it was a cheap knock-off. Had I not been told that, my opinion of Mont-Blanc pens would have gone down. The false use of the name would have misled me and caused reputational damage.
We can do this with God when we claim he supports causes he does not. For example, the so-called ‘prosperity gospel’, which promises a life in the here-and-now of wealth and health for all the godly, misrepresents God, who has made no such promises.
What causes are you or I tempted to present as God’s, without checking the facts?
Instead, let’s keep our heads in the Bible, check what he’s really said, and pray, as Jesus taught us, Hallowed be your name.
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