What Does It Mean to Take God's Name in Vain? - Israel Bible Weekly
I could have been named anything else. The arbitrary sound of my name forced me back on the arbitrary fact of my own little existence. Somehow I had come to experience the fact — the mystery — of my own creatureliness. And this happened to me more than once. God has a name. But, unlike ours, his Name perfectly expresses what and who he is.
Jeff is an arbitrary noise, an arbitrary signature, that has no intrinsic connection to a person who by no means has to exist. Jeff expresses nothing. Charles Geischen has recently shown how the distinction-in-unity of God and his Name was a Trinitarian formulation used by early Jewish-Christians. And I think this is only confirmed by the seriousness with which the Ten Commandments took blasphemy. That is to say that if God is his Name, our use of that Name amounts to either glorification of God or direct violence against him. A nother stream of tradition links the second person of the Trinity with the Name in a different way.
Who am I? Our God-given names, writes St. John Rev. In the meantime we faintly hear the sound of our new name on the lips of Jesus. Receiving this influx of power, Abraham, a sterile old man, was able to conceive Isaac, and Joshua was able to conquer the Promised Land. This is what Numbers talks about:. This is exactly what we still do today in Baptism.
Traditionally the baptized would receive a new Christian name.
More importantly, they would receive the Holy Spirit and the sign of the Cross on their foreheads — the letter T. To add one more layer of traditional meaning and a commonplace among Messianic Jews , a cross is the last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Taw, and this letter also stands for the Name of God with which the people of God are marked for salvation Ex.
Now we are a part of his family, and he is our Father. Who are we? Sons and daughters of the I am!
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There is a lot here, too much to go into in this brief essay. Instead, I want to deal with the heart of the matter—how our speech and actions relate to our love, or lack of love, for God. When Jesus encountered the religious leaders of his day, he saw past their attempts to keep God happy with made-up laws about how much one should give to the temple or how many steps one could take on a holy day. They failed to love God. This made their attempts to keep the law vain. You hypocrites! No one always perfectly loves God.
Everyone, all the time, takes the name of the Lord in vain. False doctrine—lies about God—is the worst kind of inappropriate speech that takes the name of the Lord in vain. The apostle Peter speaks to this:. But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.
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And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.
Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. Most people think cursing is using dirty language. Blasphemy, at its root, is to speak sacrilegiously against God, to treat him inappropriately or falsely. When considering our doctrine or praises, we can begin to see human failure in both.
Everyone takes the name of the Lord in vain whenever they say anything false about God, whether out loud or in their inner thoughts and feelings. Paul puts it well:. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.
They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. Titus We are called to praise God , not only with our words but also with our lives. This too violates the third commandment.
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Even though everyone takes the name of the Lord in vain in various ways, Jesus never did. Jesus kept the third commandment perfectly. Jesus kept the third commandment in our place. Jesus loved God perfectly. He had a perfect regard for Scripture. Every time he prayed, it mattered.
What in God's Name
He taught the truth about God. He spoke it. He lived by it even to the point of death.