The Third Commandment – Taking the Lord’s Name in Vain
This is my tenth post on the Ten Commandments using Buddy Dano’s study: FOR THE LAND OF THE FREE: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF FREEDOM and the only post dealing with the third commandment.
This will probably be the shortest quote of this series of posts on the Ten Commandments but that does not mean that it is the least important. In this introduction I will make two applications regarding this commandment. Most people make one or the other application but very few ever make both. To kick things off, here is a quote from Pastor Dano:
It also covers the attachment of God’s Name to some project or action that someone would like to see undertaken or adopted by claiming, ‘‘It is God’s will.’’
Most of you will remember the Haitian earthquake that occurred recently. When that happened certain Christian leaders stepped forward and stated that they believed the earthquake was God’s punishing Haiti (i.e. it was “God’s will”) because of a pact that the nation’s founders had made with the devil. First of all God Himself said that he will punish people unto the third or fourth generation of those that hate him (see last week’s post on the Four Generation Curse). It has been a lot longer that four generations since the founding of Haiti so, if He was punishing Haiti for that, it would make Him a liar. More to the point, no one on this earth is privy to why God performs or permits certain acts. Unless God has revealed to you why something has occurred (and I don’t believe He has) then you really shouldn’t speak to His motivations.
On the flip side, when a Christian makes a dogmatic statement as to why some tragedy has occurred then lots of people (mostly unbelievers) come out of the woodwork to say that “God wouldn’t do that!” Excuse me! Once again this is an example of putting words in God’s mouth and I strongly believe it is also a violation of the third commandment. I will state that I don’t believe that the Haitian earthquake was God’s punishment for a pact made with the devil over 200 years ago because God Himself said He wouldn’t do that. On the other hand, God is all-knowing (omniscient) and all-powerful (omnipotent) so I know that He knew the earthquake was coming and permitted it to happen. What I don’t know, and will not speculate about, is why God permitted the earthquake to happen. Is that so hard to grasp?
Here is Pastor Dano:
We shall look at this commandment as it stands in the English and then examine it exegetically from the original Hebrew language. ‘‘Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord thy God will not hold Him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain.’’
Now to begin with, the more accurate translation should be read. ‘‘You should not lift up’’ not ‘‘thou shalt not take.’’ The lifting up implies purpose, as of the lifting up the sins of the world upon Christ on the cross. In the present, it is used for the lifting up of the voice against God. The Hebrew word for ‘‘vain’’ or ‘‘in vain’’ means for worthlessness or wickedness, or for an evil purpose. This includes false testimony in the Name of the Lord in a court of law or in any phase of life.
So this commandment then does not have anything to do with exclamation and it covers far more than just mere profanity. It is claiming God as one’s own witness that what one says is true, when in fact, it is not. This prohibition involves using the Name of God to cover a lie. Such as some say, ‘‘May God strike me dead,’’ or ‘‘God is my witness,’’ or ‘‘So help me God.’’ It also covers the attachment of God’s Name to some project or action that someone would like to see undertaken or adopted by claiming, ‘‘It is God’s will.’’
Now the understanding of this principle involved in this commandment contributes greatly to the preservation of human freedom. It is designed to keep people free from being falsely accused or convicted, or erroneously coerced into some action by bringing God’s Name in. God’s Name is rightly and legitimately used in prayer. And in praise, and in thanksgiving, and this is a love response toward God on the part of the believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now in the phrase ‘‘The Lord will not hold him guiltless,’’ the verb ‘‘guiltless’’ is actually ‘‘to acquit,’’ the Lord will not acquit him that takes His Name in vain. Now in the framework of the DECALOGUE, this indicates when a maximum number of people in a national entity habitually take the Name of the Lord in vain, national disintegration follows.