Exodus 20:1 - 17
We are continuing our series on the Ten Commandments. For the past couple of weeks, we have looked at the overall purpose of the ten commandments and I talked about what they were and were not. The commandments were not given as a means to make us holy and righteous, but instead they were given as a way to reveal our sin nature and our inclination for rebellion against God. Thus, when we have a proper view of the law, or the 10 Commandments, they should bring us to our knees and point us to our great need for a savior found in Jesus Christ. At the core they show us that we cannot reach perfection and we cannot keep the commands perfectly.
The first commandment warns of worshiping the wrong god (there are no gods besides me) He is the ONLY God; He is not one of many gods and He certainly is not the greatest of multiple gods. No, He is one God and there are no other gods except for Him. The second commandment warns against worshiping God in the wrong way. This includes imagining the true God as like yourself or something lower. This means we have the tendency to make God into something of our own limited understanding, likeness, or ability to control. Today I will talk about the third commandment and it warns against irreverently misusing and abusing God’s Holy name.
What’s So Important About a Name?
Our names identify who we are on a personal level, but over time our name embodies who we are. If you have known me for a period of time and you hear the name “Jeff Holton” you would immediately have a mental picture of my physical appearance and probably associate my name with a characteristic or personality trait I have. The mention of my name could bring a positive, negative or indifferent response. Really names trigger positive or negative responses all the time. When I mention the names Charles Manson, Adolph Hitler, or David Koresh they would probably trigger negative responses and thoughts in your mind. But when I mention Mickey Mouse, Mother Theresa, or Martin Luther King Jr. they probably trigger a positive response or thought.
So, what’s the big deal about names? For parents, choosing a name for a child can be sort of a big deal and sometimes a daunting task. I remember with our first daughter, Carrie and I would spend countless hours talking about, researching, and debating over the name of our first daughter. Truth be told this was a long process for all of our children. We wanted our children’s names to have a biblical significance and meaning to them, honor a loved one, be unique and not start with the same letter as anyone else in the immediate family.
So really our names are precious, which is why we don’t like our names ridiculed, twisted or made fun of. I remember a nickname that was given to me as a teenager that I wasn’t overly fond of. I have always been a big boned boy (at least that’s what my mother said) so I have been on the heavy side for most of my life and having the name Holton doesn’t bode well with being fat… You know Whole Ton… As in Jeff weighs a Whole Ton! Yeah, kids can be mean. But the nicer ones would call me “Half ton”. I honestly don’t miss my teenage years. But, before you go and say, “Poor Jeff people made fun of his name,” I had my fair share of name calling myself.
On the other hand, sometimes we give cute or fun nicknames to one another as terms of endearment or surnames. Ultimately our names do not define us, they identify us. However, this is not the case with God.
“Do not misuse the name of the Lord your God, because the Lord will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses his name.” (Exodus 20:7)
The LORD’s Name
I have spent some time talking about the importance of names and how they describe us yet do not define us. God’s name is different, His name is who He is. Let’s go back to Exodus 3 when Moses encounters God in the desert. It is in the encounter that God commissions Moses to be the one to lead the Israelites out of captivity. Moses says, “If I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ What should I tell them?” God tells 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 tells Moses, “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; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation." In this passage God gives Moses His proper name “LORD”. Whenever you see the word LORD in all capital letters, you know that this is referring to the proper name of the GOD. In Hebrew, the name had four letters YHWH ( (which is called the tetragammaton: which means “four letters” יקוק yodh, he, waw, he) and the widely excepted pronunciation is Yahweh. This pronunciation was almost lost because Jews considered it so holy that they replaced its vowels with those of other divine names. The Jews came to respect this word with such reverence that they would not speak the name because they did not want to unintentionally take the name in vain. So, whenever they came to this name in their reading, they pronounced the word adonai which means my lord. The English versions have basically followed the same pattern. They translate the proper name Yahweh with the word LORD in all caps.
We see the name of God is LORD (YHWH) and that gives Him a title, but how does this name define Him?
Read Exodus. 34:5 – 7
The Lord came down in a cloud, stood with him there, and proclaimed his name, “the Lord.” 6 The Lord passed in front of him and proclaimed:
The Lord—the Lord is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth, 7 maintaining faithful love to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. But he will not leave the guilty unpunished, bringing the consequences of the fathers’ iniquity on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.”
The LORD is…
Misusing the name of the Lord…
This brings up the question, “What are the consequences for profaning or misusing the name of the LORD?”
According to the Levitical law for the nation of Israel one should be put to death for misusing the name of the LORD. Thankfully this law does not apply today because it was a civil law given to the nation of Israel. However, the law does show the severity of breaking this law.
We have already established that we are not under the law but under grace, so how is it that we dishonor or profane the name of the LORD today. Here are four ways.
As I conclude this message today, I want to challenge you to pray today, as you reflect on the holiness, sovereignty and greatness of our God, and determine do your words, worship, and actions bring honor or dishonor to our great and mighty God? I will warn you that if you do accept the challenge, you will be convicted (we all will) and you must determine in your heart today, am I going to commit to living my life to bring honor to God’s name in my home, workplace, and neighborhood.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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