Lecture 07: Third Commandment
Lecture: Third Commandment
F. Third Commandment - "You shall not use the name of the LORD your God for emptiness."
Everette Fox who did the translation of the five books of Moses in the Shocked Bible. It tries to be very close to the Hebrew. His translation goes like this: you are not to take up the name of Yahweh your God for emptiness. The idea here of the 3rd Commandment is not to do this in any frivolous light-hearted way. When you take the name of God on your lips, it needs to be done in a weighty serious manner, in a manner that is full of meaning. Packer says that this commandment forbids any use or involvement of God’s name that is empty, frivolous or insincere. In its basic meaning, it has several key ideas which would certainly involve any false oaths in name of God and any lying. In a larger sense, it involves the use of any improper or empty name of God that is thoughtless or hypocritical.
1. Positively Stated
What comes to my mind is Hallowed be Thy Name, which is from Matthew 6:9. This is a line from the Lord’s prayer that we pray regularly; our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be your name. Hallowed is another use of that Greek verb which means set apart. Instead of letting the name of God be something lite or over-familiar or used inappropriately, we make a diligent commitment to let that name be most sacred and special.
2. Individual Application
On an individual basis, what would be some examples of light-hearted use of the name of the Lord? One such use is, ‘oh my god.’ This is used for the name of the Lord for surprise, typically. In growing up in my home, the name of Jesus was sometimes used in an expression of anger. ‘I swear to god,’ is another one. The reflective action of when you sneeze by saying, ‘God bless you.’ I don’t want to get into some legalistic thing where we are beating people up in judgmental ways. Literally, this commandment talks about whenever we take the name of the Lord upon our lips in whatever form, whether the use of Jesus or God in general. Whenever we take the name on our lips, we should do it with respect and never without meaning. There are lots of variations on this in terms of shortening the name or abbreviating it, etc. I have a Jewish version of the Psalms that I read in my daily devotions sometimes; it has the English and then Hebrew on the opposite side. Whenever you are reading through the Psalms and you come across the divine name of Yahweh in the Hebrew version, the word Hashem is substituted for Yahweh. This is rooted in the 3rd Commandment. In Jewish history, there was such concern about violating this commandment that the name Yahweh was never used ever in speaking. This is still true today. Another expression that you sometimes see in Jewish writing is God written with an underlined gd. They are trying to be careful with the name. The most classical one is the use of Adonai instead of reading Yahweh. Adonai simply means Lord or master and then that became the practice not only in Jewish circles but also in Christians circles. Today, in our Old Testament, when we see LORD in all capitals, that is Yahweh and when you see Lord, that is Adonai. This merging was probably also responsible for the development of the word, Jehovah. These three vowels which were sounds from Adonai were thrown into the middle of these four consonants of Yahweh all because of the concerns of the 3rd Commandment. So, Jewish people take this is great seriousness.
3. Application in the church
How seriously do we take the name of the Lord in the church? Remember that all these things are spoken to covenant people. Some people always repeat the name in prayer or even confusing the name in regards to the person of the trinity. What does it mean to pray in Jesus’ name? Must we always attach this to a prayer? Is there a power assigned to the name of Jesus? Jesus is the one who provides access to the Father; I think the name represents the character of Christ. It certainly represents submission to the will of God. It is much more than a kind of magic formula; it means that we will live in his name, move in his name and act in his name. What about other areas that we should be a little more thoughtful when using his name? I can see a continuum here with two extremes. One could be something that is almost superstitious and inappropriate making it almost magical. Another side would be a casual kind of indifferent attitude that we often have. I think there is something about disciplining our own thinking in some behavior. It reminds me of other times when I would be watching Jews in actions or Muslims in action with orthodox Jewish people unashamedly mark themselves out differently with everything about their lives being different. When driving by Muslim communities in Ski Lanka, you know who they are; unmistakably marked out as different. There is something about the discipline of that which probably has a power that most of us are missing in the Christian life. We try so hard to infiltrate and be like everybody else. I usually think about this when I see youth ministries that are so focused on trying to make everything cool. That strikes me as kind of the opposite direction; be holy as I am holy. Legitimately it could be translated, be different because I am different, says the Lord. Some of these kinds of disciplined patterns remind us to be different. We can be better as long as we don’t turn it into something inappropriate or superstitious or legalistic.
Another point in terms of being sincere is using the name with integrity in worship. In any of our songs and prayers, the name is all over the place. We need to remind ourselves of being thoughtful about what we are singing. So, sincerity really comes to mind here. Do we really mean what we say? Do I mean what I say when I use the name of the Lord in song or in prayer? In the church when we preach or teach in any sense when a person claims to speak in the name of the Lord. Every time a preacher steps into the pulpit, it is a claim to be speaking in the name of the Lord. Every time a teacher steps before a Sunday School class; that’s a claim to be speaking in the name of the Lord. I remember when people would say, ‘thus says the Lord’ and hearing some very bazar things being supposedly prophesized. Any of these would be examples for the need for the absolute greatest care and attention. Know that a false prophet in the Bible would be stoned to death for speaking out of tune with God. In Jeremiah 23:16 the point is really driven home in a frightening way. This is what the Lord Almighty says, do not listen to what the prophets are prophesizing to you. They fill you with false hope and speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the Lord. They keep saying to those who despise me; the Lord says you have peace and to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts; they say no harm will come to you. But which of them have stood in the council of the Lord to see or to hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word? See, the storm of the Lord will burst out in wrath with the whirlwinds coming down on the heads of the wicked. The
anger of the Lord will not turn back until he fully accomplishes the purposes of his heart. In days to come, you will understand this clearly. I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message. I did not speak to them and yet they have prophesied. If they had stood in my council, they would have proclaimed my words to my people and would have turned them from their evil ways and from their evil deeds.
Am I only a God nearby declares the Lord and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him, declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth, declares the Lord? I have heard what the prophets who prophesize lies in my name. They say, I had a dream; how long will this continue in the hearts of the lying prophets who prophesize the delusions of their own mind. They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal worship. Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream but let the one who has my words speaks it faithfully. For what is straw to do with grain, declares the Lord. Is not my word like fire, like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces? I am against the prophets who steal from one another words that supposedly are from me. I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet the Lord declares. Indeed, I am against those who prophesize false dreams. They lead my people astray with reckless lives and yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least, declares the Lord. When they ask you what the oracle of the Lord is, say to them what oracle? I will forsake you, declares the Lord. If a prophet or priest claims that this is the oracle of the Lord, I will punish that man and his household. This is what each one of you who keep saying to his friend or relative, what is the Lord’s answer or what has the Lord spoken? But you must not mention the oracle of the Lord again because every man’s own word becomes his oracle. So, you distort the words of the Living God; the Lord Almighty, our God.
So, anyone who presumes to speak in the name of God and yet does so insincerely or with their own words, their own visions or dreams, whenever we claim to speak in the name of the Lord, we have to do it very cautiously. I think of this in the cooperate worship setting, but this can be true even in our own individual conversation. Sometimes, we are pretty lite in tossing the name of the Lord around where we say God wants me to do this or God told me to. This should never be done flippantly or lightly. This is similar to what we saw in the 2nd Commandment in the desire to take it to the extreme with no use of images and the disdain of all artwork. Similar with the 3rd Commandment in a desire never to take a false oath, some will stay away from oaths altogether. You can understand this, based on the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount when he says, I say to you swear not by heaven above or by God’s thrown or by God’s footstool or by anything else; let your yes be yes and your no be no. But, in both testaments, there is reference to fulfilling an oath if you take one. My thinking would be, in my capacity and responsibility as a citizen in civil law courts for example. If I am asked to take an oath in the name of God, I will do that but I do it then make sure that I fulfill it.
In regards to the gifts of the spirit and prophecy, I do believe these gifts are still active and exercised. Practically, I have had a hard time finding situations where I thought that it was done well. But, theologically, I still confirm that. I am of the opinion that in terms of prophecy, there is a difference between Old Testament prophecy and New Testament prophecy. Wayne Grudem in an article in Christianity Today, wrote an article on why Christians can still profit by; he made a distinction between Old Testament prophecy where Isaiah says, thus saith the Lord and that is it. It’s from God and then turning to the New Testament saying the he wasn’t sure if he saw that same pattern. You get this pattern from 1st Corinthians 14 where it says to let one speak and others will weigh it carefully. It is difficult to know whether that means this discern is from God or not or if it means to listen to it very carefully. But put this together with 1st John 4 in testing the spirit to see whether it is from God; you get the sense in the New Testament where the idea was more if a person thought that they had a word from God, we are the body of Christ together. The same spirit that person with a gift of prophecy, that spirit is indwelling every other believer. The sense is not so much one speaks and thus saith the Lord, like it or not. But rather, a brother and sister get up and say, I believe the Lord is saying to us……., humbly inviting others to affirm that, whether it is from God or not and not setting themselves up as the prophet in the midst of that people. So, in taking a different approach, that frees us up a lot, because we are submitting ourselves to the body and leadership of Christ. We are inviting people to discern what is happening.
In visiting my home church after several years, I sat in the back and the pastor says so and so will come and share a few words with us. A man stepped up to the pulpit that I knew; he was an unofficial leader of the church. He started reading some passages relating to death and comfort in the midst of death. In closing the Bible, he says, I am sharing these Scriptures because God has told me that in this next year four of our members will die. We were all very surprised, sitting their stunned. The Pastor then said, let’s pray. He should have said that doesn’t pass the 1st Corinthians 14:3 test. Nobody felt particular edified or built up by this. I went back to the church a year later taking my second vacation, about fourteen months later and had lunch with the pastor. Well, nobody had died and the person only said that God told him to say it and he said it. Not only did he not submit the first time but he didn’t submit the second time. That is the kind of pride and arrogance that isn’t acceptable in a New Testament setting where we are all filled with the same Spirit and all submitted to one another under one head. Sometimes, what has been done in the name of the Lord has scared people away from Jesus. I think Chuck Smith calls it charismania. These charismatic things are done sometimes and scares people away from genuine charismatic experiences. But I have heard words that the body needed to hear; it was comforting and liberating. I think we are helped along if we have this attitude of submission to one another. Again, taking 1st Corinthians 14:3 as a model for what New Testament prophecy is all about; it isn’t about new revelation. In fact, you get the opposite sense; for example, in Galatians 1:6-9 Paul is arguing with them for following another Gospel. If anyone gives you a different Gospel, even an angel from heaven, let him be anathema, for God’s Word has been delivered to the saints and the revelation is complete. So, we are not talking about new revelation, but instead, appropriate words of comfort, exaltation, and encouragement.
4. The Name
The opposite to this would be in zeal for the name. when John is writing to Gaius in verse 7 in 3rd John, he is telling the church that in spite of what Diotrephes is doing, they ought to be receiving those who teach and travel and minister in the name of the Lord. It was for the sake of the name that they went out receiving no help from the pagans. We live for the name; we serve for the name and we labor for the name. We pray in the name and we hallow the name. This expression of the name also reminds me of Philippians 2 when it says at the name of Jesus which is above every name. Every knee shall bow and confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Many people think that Curios is a reference back to Yahweh. I think it would be good to do teaching about the names of the Lord in the Scriptures. People understand more of the real meaning of the many names of the Lord throughout the Scriptures. It would help to infuse the names with meanings as we use them. Keep the names and meditate on the names and encourage people that whenever we use the name to do so carefully and thoughtfully. I personally hesitate to even put bumper stickers on my car. I’m cautious with bumper stickers and with T-shirts and those kinds of things.