The Ten Commandments – Third – The Sacred Name

Title: The Ten Commandments - Third - The Sacred Name

Bible Book: Exodus 20 : 7

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: The Ten Commandments; Name, God's



Bear in mind the purpose of the Ten Commandments: to show us our sin, to point us to Jesus for salvation, and to serve as moral guidelines for the Christian in his daily life.

The first commandment dealt with WHOM we are to worship. He is the one, true God, and we are to love and serve him only. The second commandment dealt with HOW we are to worship God. We’re to worship him in spirit and in truth. We are not to substitute images, ceremonies, or institutions for God.

Now, we come to the third commandment, which is has to do with the NAME of the one we worship. It is recorded in 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.” In this third commandment we see three things:

I. The Sacred Name

A. Why His Name Is Sacred

Proverbs 22:1 says, “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches....” When we speak of someone as having “a good name” or “a bad name,” we‘re not referring to the spelling of the name or the sound of it - we’re talking about the person whom that name represents.

That’s why God’s name is so profoundly important. We can never separate God’s name from God himself, because his name is expressive of his attributes, his character, his very being. Psalm 8:1 declares, “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” Psalm 111:9 says that “holy and reverend is his name.” In Matthew 6:9 Jesus taught that we are to pray, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” - and “hallowed” means “uplifted, revered, respected.”

B. There Is Salvation In His Name

God’s ultimate revelation of himself was, and is, in Jesus Christ. In Matthew 1:21 we read, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.”

Acts 4:12 says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

It is in the name of Jesus, which is in the person of Jesus, that we find salvation. Once we’re saved, then, we are to live in such a way as to bring honor to that name. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

C. There Is Power In His Name

There is miraculous power in that name. In Acts 3 we read of how Peter and John saw a crippled man at the temple gate. In verses 6-8 we read: “Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.”

And there is still wonderful power in that blessed name. Many of you ladies are familiar with the name Beth Moore. It is my understanding that she came out of a sad, tragic background. But she met the Lord and has become a powerful witness for him. She speaks to ladies’ groups all over the United States and also inspires them with her written material. Beth Moore says that when temptation comes upon her and she feels the pressure mounting, she has a weapon; she begins repeating the name, “Jesus...Jesus...Jesus,” and the devil is defeated and God gives her the victory.

Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

When my family and I lived in Hannibal, Missouri, where I served at Hannibal-LaGrange College, there came a time when my heart was so broken, and I was hurting so deeply, that I honestly didn’t see how I could keep on keeping on. One day I was sitting in my office, so despondent that I didn’t know what to do, when I began hearing music. The college choir was practicing in the auditorium just across the hall from my office. They began singing, “There is strength in the name of the Lord! There is power in the name of the Lord! There is hope in the name of the Lord! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” And as they sang, God spoke to my heart, and I was given a fresh infusion of hope, encouragement, and determination, and by his grace I did keep on.

And you can keep on, too, whatever is weighing on your heart, however deeply you hurt, however enormous may be the obstacle you’re facing or the disappointment you’re dealing with, you can not only survive, you can prevail, if you’ll surrender yourself and your problems to him. There is, indeed, strength in the name of the Lord!

D. We Are To Honor And Exalt His Name

Because it is in him that we find salvation, strength, and hope, the name of Jesus is to be honored and exalted above all names. Paul wrote, in Philippians 2:8-11: “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

With minor editing, here is the way one poet expressed it:

I know a soul that is steeped in sin,
That no man’s art can cure;
But I know a Name, a precious Name,
That can make that soul all pure.
I know of lives that are sunk in shame,
Of hearts that faint and tire;
But I know a Name, a wonderful Name,
That can set those hearts on fire.

Sometimes a person will receive in the mail a highly valuable item and the package will be marked, “Handle with Care.” That’s what the third commandment is telling us about the name of God--we’re to handle that sacred name with care.

That’s why this commandment admonishes us against...

II. The Sinful Misuse

The Hebrew word translated “vain” means “empty of content.” The New International Version of the Bible translates the commandment this way: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” Sadly, there are numerous ways in which people can and do take God’s name in vain.

A. Profanity

One way is by using his name in profanity. What would you think of a person who used his wife’s name in a vulgar, smutty, unclean way--or used his mother’s name in that way? I would consider him a sorry excuse for a man. There’s also something drastically wrong with a person who uses God’s name in profanity.

1. Indicates weakness of vocabulary

Some people apparently think that using profanity makes them “macho” and shows strength. Actually, the very opposite is true. Profanity is a sign of weakness--for one thing, weakness of vocabulary. It’s pretty pitiful for a man to be so lacking in the ability to express himself that he resorts to profanity.

2. Indicates weakness of character

Profanity is also a sign of weakness of character. Jesus said, in Matthew 12:34, that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” To use the name, God, or the name, Jesus, or the name, Christ, as a curse word, is evidence that a person’s heart is corrupt. Sam Jones, the Methodist evangelist of another generation, said: “When I hear a man cursing I hold on to my pocketbook. If he will break one of God’s laws, he is likely to break another. If he will curse, he may steal.” George Washington said: “The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and so low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.”

Often someone says, “Well, I don’t mean anything by it; it’s just a bad habit I’ve fallen into.” Well, I’ve got news for you: the devil means something by it, and every time you use a curse word you‘re serving Satan and you‘re shaking your fist in the face of God.

3. Indicates a corrupt society

The widespread use of profanity in a nation is a sign of a corrupt society. I love America. In spite of our faults as a nation, I believe this is still the greatest country on the face of the earth, and I’m thankful for the privilege of being an American. But it’s because I love my country that I am so grieved at the direction in which we’re going morally and spiritually.

The Old Testament prophet, lamenting the depths to which ancient Israel had sunk, said, in Jeremiah 23:10, “...because of swearing the land mourneth....” That is also a major problem in twentieth century America. You can hardly turn on a television program or open a modern novel without having your sensibilities assaulted by an avalanche of vulgar, filthy, profane language. Paul might as well have been writing about modern-day American when he said, in Romans 3:13-14, “Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing.”

Some folks try to defend that type of writing and programming by saying, “Well, that kind of language is just one of the realities of life.” But using that kind of verbal garbage in books, TV shows and movies helps to perpetuate such filth--because the media people don’t merely reflect society’s standards, unfortunately they also help set those standards--for impressionable children, and for many other people of various ages, because, sad to say, some folks obviously have no higher point of reference in their lives than simply what they see and hear around them.

But regardless of how commonplace it may be in some circles or in the media, using God’s name in profanity is totally and absolutely inexcusable. What can you and I do about the problem, beside being careful not to use such language ourselves? We can refuse to buy literature that contains ungodly language. We can refuse to go to movies that are filthy. And so far as TV programs, we can press the “off” button when such language is used in a program or a presentation. We don’t have to let anyone dump his verbal garbage on our mental doorstep.

B. Frivolous, Disrespectful Use

Closely related to what’s already been said, there’s also another way that people break this commandment. People break it by using God’s name in a frivolous, disrespectful way. They don’t exactly curse, but they continually use God’s name lightly and improperly. They say such things as, “I swear to God,” or they use the expression, “Oh, God!” Such expressions demean the majesty and greatness of God. To use his name in such a manner is an insult to God, whether you intend it that way or not.

C. Falsely Professing His Name

Still another way that folks take God’s name in vain is by falsely professing his name. In Luke 6:46 Jesus said, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?”  When a person professes to have received Jesus as Lord and Savior and then doesn’t back up his talk with his walk, he is taking God’s name in vain. We take God’s name in vain when we profess to be followers of Christ and yet harbor a bitter, unforgiving spirit, or neglect God’s church, or indulge in immorality behavior, or refuse to answer the call of God to serve. Jesus said, in Matthew 7:20, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

A soldier in the army of Alexander the Great, the mighty Emperor and Commander-in-Chief of all his armed forces, was found guilty of gross misconduct and was brought before Alexander. As the soldier stood there nervously, the renowned commander asked, “What is your name?” The soldier replied, “Alexander, sir.” There was a pause, and the Emperor said, “Soldier, I asked you, What is your name?” “My name is Alexander, sir.” This time the commander’s face was red with fury as he shouted: “I’ll ask you one more time, soldier: What is your name?” Trembling with fear, the soldier meekly replied, “My name, sir, is Alexander.” Alexander the Great stood up, faced the man, and with deep emotion said to him: “Soldier, you either change your behavior or change your name!”

If you and I are going to call ourselves Christians, then God expects us to back up that profession with our behavior.

We’ve considered the sacred Name, the sinful misuse; now look with me at...

III. The Solemn Warning

“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.”

Following the Civil War, Robert E. Lee was a broken man and was living in very modest circumstances. One day the managers of the infamous Louisiana Lottery came to see him. They said they wanted him to endorse their evil business. General Lee sat in his old rocking chair, his crutches at his side, and listened to their proposition. Thinking that he might not have heard them right, he asked them to repeat what they had said, so he could be sure he had understood. They said they wanted no money from him; all they wanted was the use of his name, and for that they would make him rich. Lee sat up straight in his chair, buttoned his old gray tunic about him and, with his eyes flashing fire, thundered, “Gentlemen, I lost my home in the war. I lost my fortune in the war. I lost everything in the war except my name. My name is not for sale, and if you fellows don’t get out of here I’ll break this crutch over your heads!”

But the punishment that God metes out for taking his name in vain is much more serious than breaking a crutch over someone’s head.

Listen to what God said to the people of ancient Israel in Deuteronomy 28:58-59 (NIV): “If you do not carefully follow all the words of this law, which are written in this book, and do not revere this glorious and awesome name--the Lord your God--the Lord will send fearful plagues on you and your descendants, harsh and prolonged disasters, and severe and lingering illnesses.”

Certainly not all illnesses or disasters are punishments for sin but, as we can see from the passage we’ve just read, sometimes these things do come as punishment for sin, including the sin of misusing God’s name. But regardless of the form in which the punishment comes, you can be certain that you won’t get by with taking God’s name in vain.

Numbers 32:23 gives this sobering reminder: “ sure your sin will find you out.” Jesus said, in Matthew 12:36, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Galatians 6:7 declares: “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”


But I’m thankful that you can avoid the wrath of God if you’re willing to meet his conditions. If you’ve never done so, you need to repent of your sins and surrender your life to Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

If you’re a Christian who has gotten off the track, confess your waywardness, ask God to forgive you and give you a new start--and claim the promise of 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Paul Powell tells a story about the late Huber Drumwright, who was dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, and later executive secretary of the Arkansas Baptist Convention. When Huber Drumwright was a seminary student and was having a hard time financially, he went to a bank in his hometown of Dallas to borrow some money. He sat down at the desk of the loan officer, told him how much he needed to borrow--and it was a considerable amount for that day and time--and was prepared to show all the collateral he had been able to scrape together. But to his great surprise, the loan officer immediately told him he would loan him the money. Huber Drumwright said, “Don’t I need any collateral?” The banker replied, “No! I’ve been a member of the First Baptist Church of Dallas for the past twenty years and my Sunday School teacher has been Huber Drumwright Sr. Anybody who bears his name is good with me.”

When you and I surrender our lives to Christ as our Lord and Savior, we take on his name, we become known as Christians, followers of Christ. And we ought to live so that the name “Christian” is good with anybody, anywhere, anytime. May the Lord help us to determine afresh, right now, that we’re going to conduct ourselves in that manner and he will help us, if we’ll commit ourselves to his two-fold plan for victory, found in James 4:7: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

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