Image above from Logos Bible Software

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

(Exodus 20:7, ESV)

This passage seems to be easily misunderstood as to the focus of this Commandment.  There are three thoughts that come to mind when it comes to this commandment.

  1. Using a cuss word with the Lord’s name attached.
  2. Taking an oath in the Lord’s name.
  3. Falsely saying you are a believer when in fact you are not.

The first one listed is the most common understanding and is quite frequently taught in the home, at school, or at the church.  This one is not I have found mentioned in the scriptures so it would be difficult to check this option out in scripture.

The second option taking an oath in the Lord’s name is used in the scriptures when the Israelites are told to let their yes be yes and no be no.  We are reminded of this in James “But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any oath, but let your ‘yes’ be yes and your ‘no’ be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.” (James 5:12, ESV)

The third options seems to be the main focus of the commandment because the Israelites during this time seem to go back and forth on taking the Lord’s name for their benefit with the thought they can step away if they need to.

“And the Lord said: ‘Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discerning men shall be hidden.'” (Isaiah 29:13-14, ESV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but it is not a fear taught by men.

A.W. Pink (1886-1952) reminds us:

“God’s name is used in vain when it is employed hypocritically – when we profess to be His people and are not.  Israel of old was guilty of this sin: Isaiah 48:1 – they used the Name of God, but did not obey the revelation contained therein, and so violated this Third Commandment: compare Matthew 7:22-23.”

Isaiah 48:1-2, (ESV)

“Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel, and who came from the waters of Judah, who swear by the name of the Lord and confess the God of Israel, but not in truth or right.  For they call themselves after the holy city, and stay themselves on the God of Israel; the Lord of hosts is his name.”

Matthew 7:22–23 (ESV)

“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

The questions raised by this commandment is a serious question of eternity.  How can I know I am saved?  J.D. Greear has a great article that helps to clarify this question that is so often raised to pastors in any type of ministry.  Click on the link below to learn more about how to know you are saved.

God bless,

Joseph Williams

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