We are not to bare the titles and authority of the Self-Existent God and use it for evil. The authority of God’s position should not be used to deceive and destroy. God will not label any one who takes His name in vain as innocent.
Understanding God’s Name
The name of God is a subject many of us neglect to study, but God places importance on names in general; especially His own name. If we endeavor to keep the third commandment, we must study the name of God deeply. Let’s look at an exchange between God and Moses.
“Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?” (Ex. 3:13)
Moses asked what shall he say if asked what is God’s name. God wastes no time answering Moses’ question.
“14 And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” (Ex. 3:14-15)
God gives the name revealed unto Abraham in the book of Genesis. This name is recorded in Hebrew as YHWH. YHWH means the Self-Existent or Eternal. Notice God tells Moses this will be His name forever. God tells Moses to tell the elders, “The Self-Existent God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob…” This revealing of His name is a memorial to all generations. God distinguishes Himself from all other gods worshipped. His existence does not depend on the craftsmanship of men. His name declares this fact. His name declares He is the one true God.
A Stamp of Authority
If you study the use of this name in the Old Testament, you’d find that God uses His name as a stamp of authority for His laws and His prophecies. Let’s look at a few examples of this.
In discussing the harvest and poor of the land, God says this: “And thou shalt not glean thy vineyard, neither shalt thou gather every grape of thy vineyard; thou shalt leave them for the poor and stranger: I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 19:10). Notice God closes this command with His name. This is the same name He gave to Moses to use when talking to the elders. Essentially, God is putting an emphasis on this particular command. This is an example of God’s authoritative stamp.
Read through the nineteenth chapter of Leviticus. God uses the name YHWH as a stamp of authority thirteen times in this one chapter. God’s name is never used frivolously or for entertainment purposes.
Notice this verse: “And ye shall keep my statutes, and do them: I am the Lord which sanctify you.” (Lev. 20:8). Again, God tells us His name. This is the same name given to Moses. God does not use His name lightly, neither should we.
“20 But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. 21 And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? 22 When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.” (Deut. 18:20-22)
The use of God’s name is not to be taken lightly. Notice verse 22 says the prophet “speaketh in the name of the Lord.” Again, Lord is translated from YHWH, God’s revealed name. These verses describe something that is common practice in many Christian circles. Today, many televangelists claim to receive, “a word from the Lord.” More on this later.
Using His Name with Reverence and Respect
God tells us in His word His name is YHWH. Typically, we do not use the name God gave to His prophets. Commonly, we use the generic title God to refer to the Creator of all there is. If we are going to use this generic title to refer to the Creator, we must use this title with honor and respect.
Look at what Jesus said referring to the Pharisees:
“7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.” (Matt. 23:7-10)
Jesus Christ tells us how to use important titles. Also note the context in which the title is used is important. For example, the title Father refers to the Father in heaven; however, this command does not include your biological father. We know this because the 5th commandment tells us to, “honor thy father and mother.” It is inappropriate to refer to someone as your father in a spiritual context who isn’t the true Living God.
When using the title God, we should be using it with reverence to the One who it refers to. God should not be referred to casually for vain reasoning. This title should not be use as a form of profanity. This title should not be used to express shock at certain events. This title should be used in a way that shows your respect for our Father in heaven.
Far too often, popular culture has used the title of God in overtly disrespectful ways. We all can think of many movies and television shows where God is used as a punchline in a joke. These disrespectful displays have slowly but surely trickled into the vernacular of Western culture. We, as believers, must abstain from participating in the vain use of the title God. Remember, God “will not hold him guiltless who taketh His name in vain.”
Let’s return to the subject of televangelism. Reread Deut. 18:20-22. As mentioned previously, it is far too common to see ministers on television claim to have a “prophetic word.” These televangelists claim God has told them to tell you something or give some advice. The Self-Existent One tells us to look to see if their words come to pass. We are not to be afraid of those who speak falsely in the name of God. The word afraid is translated from a Hebrew word with several meanings. More often than not, the word was translated into sojourn or dwell. We are not supposed to dwell or travel with presumptuous prophets. Look at this from a spiritual context. We must not continue our spiritual journey with men (or women) who claim to speak for God, but their words do not come to pass. God wants us to move away from these kinds of people. The other meaning of the Hebrew word is simply to be afraid. We are not to fear words that are not from God. But what if their words do come to pass?
“If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them.” (Deut. 13:1-2)
Verse 2 implies what we must do if a man’s word comes to pass. You must look at the direction this prophet tries to lead you. We must be spiritually astute, discerning whether or not he is enticing us to follow false gods (or false doctrine). In order to do this, we must listen carefully and cautiously to the words of that prophet. Then those words must be compared to the preserve written word of God. Only through this comparison, the wicked intent of a man can be revealed. But why would God allow a false prophet’s word to come true?
The answer: “Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deut. 13:3)
God wants to prove your heart. God wants to prove whether or not you really love and respect Him. Beware of false prophets.
Let us conclude this study with the issue of swearing. It is common for people to try to prove their trustworthiness by swearing, but the Lord Jesus Christ teaches us to do the opposite.
“33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: 34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: 35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.” (Matt. 5:33-36)
Jesus tells us not to swear by the things God has made, so we definitely should not swear by God’s name. Remember, God’s name is His authoritative stamp. It is sin to swear by His name and authority without His authorization. (This applies to His titles as well.) Jesus tells us that anything other than a yes or no is evil in verse 37. We are not to participate in that which is evil.
Revere the name of the Lord your God. Don’t use His name for your own purpose. Remember, “the Lord will not hold him guiltless who taketh His name in vain.”
2 thoughts on “A Lesson in Sin: Honoring God’s Name”
To take the name in vain not only means to despise His authority–which we find that “I am YHWH” applied to anything that is a royal decree. But the word used there for “vain” means to destroy, ruin, render useless. His name has been removed from His own autobiography nearly 7,000 times! He gave us his personal name to take upon ourselves–as any adopted child or even a servant would in those times. You go to any ecumenical minister breakfast where there are Muslims and Buddhists and Christians and Universalists and whoever all else, and they will all pray to “god”–but they mean drastically different things by it. No, His name is the name above all names–not “god.”
I understand your point and I am not in disagree; however, there are some points you might be overlooking. 1) There are several names used by YHWH in the Bible. A superficial study of the topic would make this fact plain. One of the names use to refer to the Creator is Elohim. Elohim is a generic title. This term is the plural and means gods. YHWH uses this generic title to refer to Himself on numerous occasions. The same term is used when talking about false gods as well. If YHWH uses this term for Himself, who am I to disagree with the usage. 2) In the Bible, YHWH is translated into Lord (with small caps) and Elohim is translated into God. Thus we read in the KJV “the Lord thy God” through what is known as the Old Testament. Remember many of the times we read this, it is YHWH making the statement. Yes YHWH’s revealed name is of the utmost importance, but so is Elohim. If this was not so He would not have referred to Himself with the title. He is the Self-Existent God. His revealed name amplifies the title.
Let me also say, I am not a supporter of ecumenicism. I am fully aware that it is not biblical. When they say “God,” they do mean different things. We cannot associate with such things.
Lastly, I admire your conviction. When I pray, I know who I am praying to and I generally do not pray with others if I don’t know if they are praying to YHWH Elohim (Lord God in English). Please remember there is a lot of deception in the world and we must study to show ourselves approved and encourage others to do so.