by David Shalley.
The Third Commandment is seen by many to be just a forbidding of blasphemy, which nowadays seems scarcely an offence at all. The present day use of “OMG” is all but viral and barely registers as blasphemy, even among believers, sad to say! “Jesus Christ” pops out regularly on the media and in social gatherings on a regular basis. Even the use of coarse sexual language has become commonplace. In so many ways this is an impoverishment of our language. But that’s another issue!
The Third Commandment is an extension of the first two:
“You shall not misuse the Name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name” Exodus 20:7.
When words that once had great spiritual or intimate value have become devalued, with their deeper meanings all but lost, our sense of what is really significant and important disappears. This is true of everyday things but even more so of spiritual language. God in Commandment Three is asking us to be aware of the fact that there are big things and little things. That He is biggest of all, and that to demean our concept of Him will eventually lead to the devaluation of all that really matters in life.
We are in danger of losing all that is sacred and significant because of our consumerist pride. God is saying: Don’t trivialise me by using my name casually or lightly, an attitude fostered by those who seek to devalue any meaningful language for their own ends. We need to preserve and honour beings and concepts that are greater than ourselves and not just material things. So the Third Commandment is saying: “learn to be humble”. There is someone and something greater than yourself.
One gauge of a person’s spiritual maturity is their attitude towards the name of God. A person’s very relation towards the Name of the Lord is proof of what they are in the very fibre of their being. In the New Testament there is the echo of Commandment three for Christians are called to pray that God’s Holy Name “be hallowed” (Matthew 6:9). That is to say we set apart His Name from every other name, to be revered and adored above all others. Little wonder, for in the Bible, God’s names reveal His character, nature and ways of working. Hence they are to be used in ways consistent with their meaning.
To use, or take, the Name of God upon oneself, or express allegiance to it, and then to misuse or discredit that Name by words or actions is to break the third commandment.
The Lord moved against His own people because they had forgotten what His Name meant. By their actions they misrepresented and profaned His Name among the nations, resulting in much tragedy and suffering: (Ezekiel 36:22-23). Reading on to verses 26-27 reveal the plan of God that has been fulfilled in and through our Lord Jesus Christ and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.
It is a sad commentary on our times that the Name of God and our Lord Jesus are so often profaned. In the media and public spaces, by the prominent and the ordinary, liberties are taken with that Name that few would dream of taking with Buddha or Mohammed!
This is bad enough, but worse still is the person who claims to be a follower of Christ and yet fails to live up to what that claim demands. He or she who takes that name upon their lips in a religious way, and yet whose life denies all that God stands for joins with those who blaspheme His Name among the nations.
Think of the wonder of His name:
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (NIV).
And what a Name:
The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”-which means, “God with us” (NIV).
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father (NIV).
We, as God’s people, are called to “exalt His name together” Psalm 34:3; “to be imitators of God” Ephesians 5:1; and to so live as to “make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive” Titus 2:10.
Yet how confronting it is to contemplate the picture drawn for us by Christ Himself about those who took His Name but did not do His work: Matthew 7:21-27.
Was it not the realisation of his own culpability that brought Isaiah to exclaim: “Woe is me…I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” Isaiah 6:5.
As God’s people we cannot duck this one! If we live among a people of unclean lips (and who can deny that we do?) then it is because our own lips have presented to them a caricature of the Lord Almighty.
Can God sign His Name to my lifestyle? Can he initial my priorities? Is His seal of approval found on my attitudes? Can He append His signature to my leisure activities or my financial practices?
“Love fulfils the Law” Rom 13:10. Both to God and to my neighbour.
As Paul wrote: 1 Timothy1:8 “We know that the Law is good if one uses it properly”. Sadly, some want to use it as a means of exerting control over others. See also Psalm 19:7-11, a beautiful statement about the Law of the Lord.
To walk in the Spirit is to walk in that sort of love: a love that will achieve most for its neighbour because it holds God so high in its heart that it could never demean His lovely Name , and thus cause others to spurn and mock it.