Doing Nothing In God's Name
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).
For most of my life I thought that commandment three was a message to Hollywood, NASCAR, and frustrated rednecks everywhere who could not refrain from calling down the damnation of God with every other word. Every child raised in the religious south knows that taking the Lord’s name in vain is usually followed by getting your mouth washed out with soap. You should not say “Oh Lord” or “My God” or “God D***” unless you are praying for rain or preaching against the lottery. All other uses of the name of God are just plain old cussing; taking the Lord’s name in vain.
While men driving Chevrolets should not cuss God, they are not the primary concern of commandment three. The original language literally reads that one should not “lift up” the name of the LORD to “emptiness.” It means to connect His name with nothingness, emptiness or to make the mistake of saying He is a part of something when He is not. The people who stood in immediate danger of doing so were not the pagans of Hollywood, NASCAR, or the deep South, but those who were entrusted and permitted to handle the sacred name of God. The name of God was not given to Hollywood, it was given to Israel. Commandment three is directed toward the "your God" crowd not the "oh God" or "God D***" crowd. Those of the "your God" crowd needed to be most careful with the name of God. It was theirs to use. The name of God was not merely His title, it was Him. His name was His power, His character, His being, His worth, His glory. He is His name. You could not say His name without saying something to, for, or about Him.
God gifted Israel with His name. He gave it to them to use. It is like walking into a Ford dealership and saying, “Henry sent me.” I am here for the Creator. He allowed them to use it to make oaths, call down His power, prophecy, and worship. Knowing the name of God was a miracle of divine revelation. Using the name of God was a divine right and privilege. His name spoke of His faithfulness to His covenant. Jesus taught us to pray in His name in assurance that God hears and answers prayer. His name should be protected, cherished, and honored. It should be used in sacred care. Anything else is vain.
NASCAR drivers, movie stars, and rednecks may cuss, but it is the professing Christian, the church goer, who stands in grave danger of taking the Lord’s name in vain. Taking the name of the LORD in vain means to say it and use it as if it means nothing. It is to do something meaningless and empty and claim that God endorsed it. People lift the name of the Lord to emptiness when they sing, pray, preach, or give mechanically, with no thought or reverence of the living God. Lifting the Lord’s name to nothing is to listen to a sermon on Sunday and act as if God does not exist on any other day. Taking the Lord’s name in vain is to own a Bible, never read it, but claim that you love the Lord and believe “the Word.” Lifting the Lord’s name to emptiness is to say you are born again but you never change. It is to be content with shallow faith. To take the name of the LORD in vain is to say that you have met Him but live as if nothing ever happened. It is to say that you love Him and do nothing to serve Him. It is to use His name to justify the ridiculous. It is to say the LORD is “in” something when it has nothing to do with Him and more to do with you, your fear, your preference, or your own self worth. To do something for you and say it is for Him is to cuss God. The LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.
To know the name of God is a sacred honor. Those who name Him should live as if they have met Him. Their prayers should be laced with His power, their walk influenced by His faithfulness, their sufferings mindful of His glory. Those who know God cherish His name. His name is sacred. It is powerful. It is meaningful. They do what they do in God’s name. Those who take the name of the LORD in vain are content with emptiness and truly believe they have God's endorsement to be vain. Do not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.