Taking God Seriously (Exodus 20:7)
We’re on part three today on Ten Values to Build Strong Families. Thousands of years ago, God provided ten values that can serve as the foundation for our families. We’ve looked at the first two values: take God seriously, and accept no substitutes. Today we’re looking at the third value that God gave in the Ten Commandments, and it’s found in Exodus 20:7: “Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.”
God gave us the Ten Commandments to show us how we should live. The Ten Commandments were given not to ruin our lives, or to constrict our lives, but to show us how we can experience life the way that God designed it. If we follow the Ten Commandments, then we get a life designed by God. God becomes your life designer. God becomes your family designer.
Why did God give this command – “Don’t misuse the name of the LORD your God” – as number three in his top-ten list of how to live?? What does this have to do with living the way that God intends??? Today we’re going to discover that one of the most important steps you can take in building a strong family, and a strong life, is to take God seriously. That involves taking God’s name seriously as well.
You may have heard a few weeks ago that Puff Daddy has decided to change his name to P. Diddy. Within minutes of that announcement, Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes announced that he is changing his name to Puff Daddy. They’re not the only ones that should consider changing their names. Paul Dickinson has written a book called Names. He has a habit of collecting strange and unusual names. In 1941 there were two men who were executed in the electric chair in the Florida state penitentiary and their names were Will Burn and Frizzle. Recently there was a Montreal window washer who died by accident, falling as he was washing windows. His name was Will Drop. Others, he says, seem destined for certain occupations. Joe Bunt became a baseball coach. Dan Druff became a barber. Jeff Treadwell became a podiatrist. Goforth and Ketchum, two guys, became police officers and partners. O’Neill and Pray became partners in church equipment. Wonderfully Trembly, a psychologist. Zoltan Ovary, a gynecologist. P.P. Peters, a urologist. A plaster contractor, Will Crumble.
Never before have names been more important than today. If there isn’t a website with your name on it yet, some are predicting there will be within five years. Court battles are being fought over domain names like www.GovernmentofCanada.com. Hockey legend Gordie Howe has received a trademark for his name, and his wife has trademarked the names Mr. Hockety and Mrs. Hockey. Gordie Howe can put an ? after his name. Your name is important, and it’s only going to get more important.
Why should we take God’s name seriously?? Your name and God’s name are more than just words. Names represent three things: reputation, character, and authority.
Your name represents your REPUTATION. If your name is good enough, it can be worth billions of dollars. Coca Cola is the name of a company. Coca Cola is on record that it could lose everything it has – its distributors, products, its bottlers, its leadership – but if it retained its reputation, its name, it could rebuild from scratch. Your name is closely related to your reputation. Identify the following people. Old Blue Eyes – Frank Sinatra. His Airness – Michael Jordan. The Mailman – Karl Malone. Your name and your reputation are linked. When we speak of God’s name, we’re really speaking of God’s reputation.
Your name represents your CHARACTER. Do you remember the movie way back in 1990 – Dances with Wolves?? Names are sometimes used to describe what a person is like. It doesn’t always work out, as Sonny and Cher found out when they named their daughter Chastity Bono. In the Bible, though, they would name children after certain character qualities like honest, just. One’s name would represent her character. God sometimes gave people new names. God changed Abram (“Exalted Father”) to Abraham (“Father of Many”). Jacob (“Deceiver”) was changed to Israel (“One who struggles with God”). Simon became Peter (“Rock”). God would change their name because their names represented their character.
God’s name represents his character. The name that God gave himself is Jehovah. This is God’s personal name. It’s a name that means, “I will be with you. I’ll show you who I am by my actions. I’ll be there with you.”? You can’t misuse God’s name without maligning God’s character. Names and character are tied together.
Your name also represents your AUTHORITY. I attended a conference last year.? One of the speakers at that conference was from a large church, and she had to fly back to speak at a conference that night. The host wondered, “Could we get the schedule changed so you can stay a bit longer?”? “Not a chance,” the speaker replied. Right there on the stage, he phoned up that church, and did a fairly good impression of Billy Graham. The schedule was changed. It’s one thing for Darryl Dash to call. You may be busy. You may let the phone ring. But if Billy Graham called, you’d probably pick up the phone.
God’s name is tied to God’s authority. When we pray, “In Jesus’ name,” we’re praying using the authority of Jesus. A name represents the person. In a sense, the name is the person.
That’s why God says, “Take my name seriously.”? Jehovah – or YHWH – is the redemptive name that God gave to his people, as the one who delivered them from bondage. It’s the name of the God who keeps his covenant – his promises – with his people. It’s a name that speaks of God’s faithfulness to us. It’s a name that was so revered that it was only pronounced once a year by the priest when giving the blessing on the Day of Atonement. God’s people treated that name with such respect that before the age of the printing press or the photocopier, when scribes copied the manuscripts of the Bible word for word, a scribe would come to the name YHWH, and would stop, ceremonially bathe all over, and then go back to the scroll with a new, unused pen. Jehovah is the awesome personal, covenantal, promise-keeping name of God that can never be misused.
God says, “When you misuse my name, it’s no big deal. When you build a family, and you don’t take my name seriously, you’re headed for trouble. My name is my reputation, my character, and my authority. Don’t use it flippantly.”
What happens if we don’t take God’s name seriously?? On Feb 7, 1996, three teenagers breezed through an intersection and directly into the path of an 8-ton truck. These three young men were killed in this accident. Investigators discovered that there was a stop sign lying on the roadside near the accident scene. Three other young people had thought it would be fun to go along the rural roads of Hillsborough County and steal road signs the previous night. These three young folks were convicted of manslaughter and each of them faces 27 years in prison for the death of the three teenagers. The judge said, “I don’t believe for one minute that you pulled up these signs with the intent of causing the death of anyone, but pulling up the signs caused ramifications that none of you may have ever expected.”
You may not mean to do damage but misusing God’s name. But every time you misuse God’s name – every time you don’t take God and his name seriously – you are causing irreparable harm to yourself and your family. What are some of the consequences of misusing God’s name??
1. MISUSING GOD’S NAME OFFENDS GOD
In one sense, misusing God’s name does no damage to God. God isn’t diminished by what I think of him or what I call him. What I think of God doesn’t change who God actually is. But in another sense, God does care what we call him. He wouldn’t have given this command if he didn’t. God is deeply offended when we misuse his name. God said, “Do not treat my holy name as common and ordinary. I must be treated as holy” (Leviticus 22:32).
2. MISUSING GOD’S NAME DAMAGES US
Misusing God’s name offends God, but it also damages us. Misusing God’s name damages our relationship with him. Exodus 20:7 says, “The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.”? Anyone – no exceptions – will pay a great price for abusing God’s name. In fact, Leviticus 24 tells us that the penalty for taking God’s name in vain was execution. You won’t be executed today, but you’ll miss out on God’s blessing. If you misuse God’s name, it’s like you’ll be opening up an umbrella that will deflect the showers of grace God wants to shower on your life. And misusing God’s name will bring punishment in the life to come. Jesus said in Matthew 12:36-37 (the Message paraphrase): “Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation.”
Misusing God’s name offends God. It damages us.
3. MISUSING GOD’S NAME HARMS OTHERS
The way we use God’s name has an affect on those around us. It has an affect on our families, and those who are close to us. Your words touch others – your children, your husband, your wife, your friends. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue can kill or nourish life.”? Words aren’t abstractions, or even representations of abstractions. Words carry power. Those around you will be blessed by how you use God’s name, or they will be harmed by how you misuse it. It’s your choice.
That’s why God says in Exodus 20:7, “Do not misuse the name of the LORD your God. The LORD will not let you go unpunished if you misuse his name.”
What constitutes a misuse of God’s name?? We misuse God’s name when we speak untruthfully. That’s the main way that the Bible says we misuse God’s name. This happens when we call God to witness a contract or a vow, and then break that contract. God said in Leviticus 19:12, “Do not use my name to swear a falsehood and so profane the name of your God.”? Whenever we say, “I swear to God,” and then tell a lie, or don’t follow through on what we’ve said, we’ve just blasphemed God’s name. This goes even further if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus taught that if you follow him, and you break a contract or lie, you’ve just broken the Third Commandment. Jesus said, “Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Your word is enough. To strengthen your promise with a vow shows that something is wrong” (Matthew 5:37).
It’s possible to misuse God’s name in other ways. We misuse God’s name when use God’s name to fill speech. We say God’s name just to fill the air. We can misuse God’s name by using his name as an expletive. It’s like the farmer who was late getting home for dinner. His wife said, “Did the wagon break down?”? The farmer said, “No. On the way home I offered a ride to the minister, and from that point on the mules didn’t understand a thing that I said.”
You may not have realized how serious a matter this is. One survey says that two-thirds of people admit to having taken God’s name in vain. There is power in God’s name. When you misuse God’s name, it’s a serious matter. Some of us need to say to God, “Father, I had no idea. Forgive me.”? You need to acknowledge the offense you’ve caused God, and the damage you’ve caused to yourself and others by misusing God’s name.
But we also need to learn how to use God’s name correctly. For the rest of this message, I want to look at three ways that we can use God’s name correctly. Incredible blessings come to the person, and to the family, who honor God’s name. What are three ways that we can use God’s name correctly?
1. RECOGNIZE THE POWER OF YOUR WORDS AND YOUR LIFE
That’s where it starts. Recognize the power of your words and your life. In the Old Testament, when someone swore by God’s name to do something, it meant that you were committed to doing it. When they took an oath, they had to keep it. But human nature being what it is, people developed a system in which some oaths counted and others didn’t. Evasive oath taking became an art. One rabbi said, “If you swear by Jerusalem, it doesn’t count, but if you swear toward Jerusalem, it’s binding.”? That’s why Jesus said, “Don’t make any vows…Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Your word is enough” (Matthew 5:34-37). I don’t think that Jesus was teaching us never to take an oath. There are lots of examples of oath taking in the Bible. But Jesus was teaching that every promise we make, every word we speak, has the same power as if we swore by God’s name. Every time we lie, we misuse God’s name. Every time we keep a commitment, we honor God’s name.
2 Timothy 2:19 says,? “Those who claim they belong to the Lord must turn away from all wickedness.”? You are a name-bearer of God. Your lifestyle can misuse God’s name. What you say and how you act reflects on God. The Bible says that every sin we commit is an occasion for God’s name to be blasphemed by those who don’t believe in God. Sometimes people don’t come to God because they’ve never met a Christian. Sometimes people don’t come to God because they have met a Christian. Your walk needs to match your talk. If it doesn’t, you’re misusing God’s name.
The employee who doesn’t work faithfully is breaking the third commandment, because theft profanes God’s name. But God loves the person who sticks to his word, no matter how costly. Psalm 15:4-5 says, “[Those who] keep their promises even when it hurts…Such people will stand firm forever.”? God loves the bankrupt businessperson who spends her life trying to repay her creditors. God loves the man who keeps his marriage vows, even when those vows are costly. Integrity – rock-ribbed integrity – is the key idea in the Third Commandment. Every time we speak and act with integrity, we’re honoring God’s name.
2. REVERE GOD’S NAME
Revering God’s name means that we treat it with the utmost respect. Use it carefully. Use it lovingly. Refuse to use God’s name flippantly, or without thought. This extends to your prayer life and your singing. Do you ever say grace without thinking?? Do you ever sing a song about God without even thinking about what you’re singing?? Don’t do it. Psalm 29:2 says, “Give honor to the LORD for the glory of his name.”
We need to be very careful in the reverence we give God’s name. We no longer ceremonially wash ourselves when it comes time to write God’s name. We’re amazed that the scribes stopped everything that they did to write God’s name cleanly and with a new pen. We now are quite used to hearing God’s name profaned. We even say, “It doesn’t bother me.”? It ought to bother you. If my wife’s name were taken in vain, I would speak up. I wouldn’t let it slide. If someone ridiculed your mother, you’d protest. But many of us say nothing when the name of Jesus is blasphemed all the time.
How can we revere God’s name?? I would challenge you to speak up when someone close to you is misusing God’s name. You can’t always do this with strangers. But you can do it with those who are close to you. You don’t have to be rude or abrasive. Do it tactfully. You’re not there to condemn them, but to influence. Let them know that the name they’ve just used is a name that means the world to you.
Watch your intake of language. Some of you can’t control this – you’re exposed to all sorts of language at work. But others of us have a lot of control over whether or not we hear God’s name profaned. Watch what goes into your mind. Garbage in, garbage out.
We should watch out for even what someone calls “minced oaths” – phrases like “Gosh, darn it” or “Judas priest” or “gee whiz!”? Those are just variations of taking God’s name in vain. They’re rhyming. There’s one problem – it doesn’t fool God. God can see through it. It’s not respectful of God’s name.
One of the most important places we can revere God’s name is in our families. We say things to our fa milies that we would never think of saying to anyone else. Verbal abuse is rampant in families, and it’s causing great damage to relationships. You can do what one family did. They made a swearing jar. Anytime anyone cussed, they put a dollar in it. Not a bad idea. But also watch how you speak of God in front of your kids. Don’t speak in pious terms. Speak in honest reverence. Let them see the relationship that you have with God.
There’s no name like God’s name. Do what Jesus did. He taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven, may your name be honored” (Matthew 6:8). Revere God’s name.
One more way we can honor God’s name:
3. RELY ON GOD’S NAME
Psalm 9:10 says, “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O LORD, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you.”? Psalm 33:21 says, “In him our hearts rejoice, for we are trusting in his holy name.”? Whatever you do in life, you should do it trusting in God’s holy name. Jesus said, “Ask anything in my name, and I will do it!”? We pray in Jesus’ name because God is perfect. Only a perfect person can come into his presence. I don’t have any right to come to God on my own. But Christ can. He is our bridge, our representative between God and us. We need to rely on his name.
Psalm 20:7 says, “Some nations boast of their armies and weapons, but we boast in the LORD our God.”? Today you might say, “Some trust in their resume and their power suits, their power connections, their ability to make it happen. I’m trusting in the LORD my God.”? God’s name is much more trustworthy than your name or my name. You need to make sure you’re trusting in God more than yourself and your career. You need to make sure you’re trusting in God with your family. Commit your family to him.
The best way to rely on God’s name is to rely on what Jesus has done for you. It’s the only way to escape the judgment for all the wrong you’ve done in life. Acts 4:12 tells us how we can rely on God’s name. If you only hear one thing this morning, hear this: “There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.”? John 20:31 says, “By believing you may have life in his name” (NIV). That’s what you need. You need forgiveness by trusting in God’s name.
You may not have chosen this as the third value upon which to build a strong family. But God did. He says, “Take me seriously. Take my name seriously. Recognize the power of how you live and speak. Revere my name. Rely on my name.”? This is foundational to building a strong family. God said, “These are all the commands, laws, and regulations that the LORD your God told me to teach you so you may obey them in the land you are about to enter and occupy, and so you and your children and grandchildren might fear the LORD your God as long as you live” (Deuteronomy 6:1-2). Take God seriously.
Please pray with me.
You may have been guilty of misusing God’s name. You never realize how serious a matter this is. You may have misused God’s name the way you speak or act. But you can receive God’s forgiveness. I’d ask you to pray a prayer to God right now expressing how much you delight in God’s name, and asking for God’s forgiveness for misusing God’s name.
If you would like to take the step today of relying on the name of Jesus, this is the best, the most amazing step you could ever take. “There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.”? You can call on the name of Jesus today. It can be as simple as “Jesus!? Please save me.”? It can be more than that. You can pray, “Jesus, I want to rely on you. I want you to be the foundation for my life. I trust you. I pray that you would forgive me for all the wrong I’ve done. I pray this in your name, Amen.”? If you take this step, you will have taken the most important step you could ever take. I’d ask you to let us know that you’ve taken this step. There’s a place on the communication card for you to do that.
“O LORD, our LORD, the majesty of your name fills the earth!? Your glory is higher than the heavens” (Psalm 8:1). Thank you for giving us values on which we could build our lives. Help us, dear God, to build a strong foundation for our families by putting you first. Help us to never accept substitutes for you. And we pray today that you would help us to honor your name, in our worship, and in all that we do. And all God’s people said…