“For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.” (Isa. 33:22).
The last time we focused on the immensity of God the LORD. This message is much more sobering because it deals with God’s holiness and the grievous sin and error of misusing God’s name and titles. God’s name shows all that He is. It shows God’s disclosure to us, pulling back the curtain on all his attributes. The recent controversy calling the God of the Bible the Islamic name of “Allah” is seen as blasphemy according to scripture.
That is among the many reasons why we should hallow his name and never at any time misuse it. Understanding something about His name should produce a holy horror and a sense of scared sacredness in our hearts! This is not theophobia. In fact, it is only because of people’s love of sin and hate of God, that they see him as dangerous and they run away in fear from Him (Gen. 3: 10; Ex. 20:18-20).
I know many men do not preach this way today, but the Bible does not give us a surface report of the human condition. It gives us a diagnostic of the human heart and life and exposes its depravity for all to see. Oh how I long for men of God who will teach people, “the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” (Ezek. 44:23). People may have redefined the fear of God to the point that even their definition of it as “reverence” is watered down. It is not just respect. It is loving God for all he is: His wrath and peace, his love and holiness. They are devoted to Him for who He is, even if it scares them they want to know and become closer to Him.
The Bible teaches in the third commandment, “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.” (Exodus 20:7). The Word “vain” is sheqer in Hebrew which means all that associates God’s name to anything that is deceptive or false (Ps 119:29). It is anything that misrepresents, defames, blasphemes his name. “Do not bring shame on the name of your God by using it to swear falsely. I am the Lord.” (Lev. 19:12NLT). We should not even “idly utter” his name (Ex. 20:4 Darby).
Blasphemy is a serious sin (Lev 24:16). People have such hardness of heart and a dangerous willful rebellion and ignorance when it comes to holy things.
The Hebrew word for blasphemy is nĕ’atsah. It means a disgust and hatred considering God unworthy of respect (2 Kings 19:3) and it also involves actions that provoke God’s anger (Neh 9:18, 26). The Greek word blasphēmias paints a picture of character assassination upon God Almighty (Mt. 12:31) with disrespectful actions and speech that brings disgrace to God’s majesty (Col. 3:8; Rev. 13:6).
God is offended by disrespect and it provokes him to holy anger (Rom 1:18). The Bible says, “ungodly sinners have spoken against him.” (Jude 1:15). “For they speak against thee wickedly, and thine enemies take thy name in vain.” (Ps. 139:20). God is so insulted by this that he says he will punish anyone who dishonors his name, as a Judge would sentence a criminal and, “he will not hold him guiltless.”
This sin is so often committed and is so obvious that there is no need to illustrate it. We should avoid using God’s name as a swear word or meaningless exclamation. We are not to commit blasphemy which means we are not to use his name flippantly, tell jokes about God or spiritual things, laugh at spiritual things or connect anything that relates God, Christ, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost to profanity because all these violate the third commandment.
I have heard even some “brethren” justify their use of profanity with some lame cultural arguments. It is clear that anger is connected to cursing and profanity. It is a sinful habit. When it comes to saying, “Oh my God!” a common exclamation we have developed, it would help us to know that it is profanity in any other use than prayer. It’s very simple. Do not connect God, Christ, Lord or the Holy Spirit to anything except in testimony, preaching and prayer-period.
It can also be the misinterpretation and misapplication of scripture by false doctrine (Deut. 13). It is a violation of God’s law to attach God’s name or approval to something that human beings came up with on their own (Deut 18:20-22). This is something every pastor, expositor, preacher and teacher should keep in the forefront of what they say: does what I teach and preach glorify and represent God Almighty correctly. The idea that the preacher gets behind the pulpit as a humble servant and representative of God should bring a godly fear to his heart.
Notice the prophetic role of the preacher is seen simply in this: preach the Words of God as he conveys it in scripture. Do not add anything to it, do not take away from it, tell them what I tell you. Anything else is vanity. “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” (1 Tim 4:16).
Misusing or taking God’s name in vain can be seen as saying one thing and acting in another way: hypocrisy, offensive unchristian behavior and backsliding. This is always a danger for those who profess to know Christ as Savior. That is why the King prays, “Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” (Prov. 30:7-9). Matthew McMahon (my favorite Presbyterian) puts it this way, ” …When we profess God’s name but do not live answerably to it. It means we live hypocritically. Thomas Watson said, “pretended holiness is merely double wickedness.” Whenever we do not live up to the call of the Christian life, we take God’s name in vain. We are mirrors that should reflect the perfection of God. If the mirror claims to be Christ’s and reflects tendencies of hell, then we use the name of Christ in vain, and people see that.”
There is a relatively unknown passage (as far as the exposition of it goes) in the book of Leviticus that illustrates the serious nature of this subject: “And the son of an Israelitish woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel: and this son of the Israelitish woman and a man of Israel strove together in the camp. And the Israelitish woman’s son blasphemed the name of the Lord, and cursed. And they brought him unto Moses: (and his mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan:) And they put him in ward, that the mind of the LORD might be shewed them. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death.” (Lev. 24:11-16).
While that was an unforgivable blasphemy. People will still protest, “Oh well, that is the Old Testament.” But it is still a sin in either Testament and payback of sin is spiritual death (Rom. 6:23). This is not to promote a legalistic nitpicking about every word you say-so be cautious about that. Blasphemy falls under what the Bible calls presumptuous sins or a willful reckless, unthinking rebellion against God which despises his Word (Num 15:30-31; Ps 19:13). Whereas all manner of sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that a person that is not a child of God commits, “shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (Mt 12:32). There are certain sins that result in physical death (1 John 5:16) even among Christians for which God chastises them with death and calls them home. Christians once saved do not die spiritually, but some sins causes God to discipline them by physical death.
This happened when the Corinthians approached the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy, undiscerning manner (1 Cor 11:23-34). Some of them became sick and some even died (1 Cor 11:30) I know pretty scary-and this is the New Testament! That is why the Bible says, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world.” (1 Cor 11:31-32).
People misuse and take the Lord’s name in vain so much these days, to correct others would be like cutting open a pillow and chasing its feathers. This is not to be legalistic but we do have a responsibility to confront people. “And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.” (Lev. 5:1). God’s law is for all people but I think this applies more to people who should know better an profess to be Christians! How is it they can swear, use profanity or take the Lord’s name in vain? Among Christians this should be a settled issue. We should avoid abusive, corrupt, obscene, filthy, foul language (Eph 4:29, 5:4; Col. 3:8) and never misuse God’s name. As brethren we are accountable to one another for the witness of the gospel should be seen in our words and actions.
What about the unsaved or unbeliever? Some people might say, “Well it’s not me but I am around it every day at work or when I visit my unsaved family. What am I supposed to do? I can’t keep rebuking and correcting them.” We are concerned as appearing self-righteous (but we should be more concerned about God’s glory) yet I would like to offer some plausible imaginative ways of approaching this.
When people at my work place break this commandment (which they do creatively and continually) I have found if I am in the vicinity they apologize.
Funny how that works right?
They know what I believe and they think they are offending me. I appreciate that. I attempt not to be snotty or discourteous with them but I sometimes say, “You did not sin against me!”
Or I will smile and say, “Don’t speak about God that way he is bigger than you!”
Sometimes they say, “Jesus Christ!” I reply, “He is worthy to be praised!”
I do sometimes hear them connect the expletive “damn” to the Divine (you know what I mean) and I tell them, “there will be no damnation today!”
Sometimes I just say. “Easy, easy, gentle…”
Let us hallow his name with our lives and magnify the Lord in the eyes of others and honor his name to the best of our ability.
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