2014-11-30 - The Third Commandment
God's Name - Synonymous with Who He Is
God's Name is synonymous with who He is: The reason for the need to take God's name seriously is because His name is who He is. The name of the Lord is synonymous with the Lord Himself. The Biblical Illustrator puts it this way:
"It (God's name) holds up God in His special character of Yahweh, the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God of His own dear people." 1
In Genesis 4:26, we read:
"At that time, men began to call on the name of the Lord."
When men call on God's name, this means they are calling on God. The psalmist says
"I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonders. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High" (Psalms 9:1–2).
Praising God's name is the same thing as praising Him.
I think you can understand that how one treats the name of God says something about how one thinks about Him. We live in a society where, while our names may mean something, they really aren't seen as who we are, in the way it was in the Biblical culture. Because of this, when someone takes the name of the Lord in vain, when confronted, they say that they didn't mean anything by it. Isn't that what we mean as taking God's name in vain? Remember, we read the definition of vain as having no real value — worthless. To take God's name in vain means to make it worthless. It is therefore no wonder that God has commanded against this.
The Jew, again with his tendency to take law beyond its intent, would often not even use the name of God, that is Yahweh. The name "Jehovah" came out of this choice. When Yahweh was found in scripture, the vowel points for Adoni or Lord were used. Therefore, it translated incorrectly as "Jehovah."
Even today, one often finds in Hebrew, translations the word God written "G-d." The orthodox still will not pronounce the one name of God. Tradition says the name of God was only spoken once a year by the High Priest, on the Day of Atonement. Now while this kind of response was done out of legalism, one can see how important the Israelites considered the name of God. They didn't want to take any chances of abusing it. Is it not equally as important for us to hold God's name it such high esteem?
So because God's name is who He is, and knowing God's name is knowing Him, let's take a look at a few more references that talk about His name. The Psalmist says of those who take the Lord's name in vain:
"They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain" (Psalms 139:20 ESV).
It's the enemies of God who abuse His name, therefore can we? If we move on in the Torah, we can see the penalty for blasphemy.
"Now an Israelite woman's son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman's son and a man of Israel fought in the camp, and the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. And they put him in custody, till the will of the Lord should be clear to them.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, "Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death" (Lev. 24:10–16 ESV).
We read in Psalm 8:1
"O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the Earth! You have set your glory above the heavens."
And again in 9:10
"And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you."
Let's look at some of the names of God:
"He is called Elohim, the Everlasting, when his antecedent eternity and absolute independence are contemplated. He is termed Yahweh, the Self-existent, the Author of all existing things, when he is regarded as the free and personal God, manifesting his being to the intelligent universe by the works of his creative power. He is named El Elion, the Most High God, when his unattainable preeminence above all created things comes into view. He is designated El Shaddai, the Almighty God, when he wishes to set before the mind his unconquerable omnipotence." 2
It is difficult to clearly understand what God means in the Chapter 4 passage, when He calls Himself "I AM THAT I AM." But, the clearest understanding seems to relate to the eternal, self-existing, unchanging nature of God. It is He, in this aspect, Who was to be the source of encouragement and comfort for the Hebrew people. It is this God who was sending Moses to them, and they were to accept Moses as His representative. It is easy to see that the names of God show us who He is, and in what capacity we are seeing Him.
"Praise the Lord! Praise the name of the Lord, give praise, O servants of the Lord …" (Psalms 135:1 ESV).
To be continued.
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