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3rd Commandment

3rd Commandment

July 14, 2024 by Pastor David Hubbard
Passages:Exodus 20:7

Sermon Synopsis

3rd Commandment
Exodus 20:7
Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the
LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
It’s one of the world’s most serious problems, but a lot of people
don’t take it seriously at all. It is absolutely deadly, and yet many
think it’s no big deal. The problem I’m talking about is bad
language, especially the misuse of God’s name.
You might be thinking,
“Come on! We’ve got disease and crime and
homelessness and drugs and child abuse and wars, and you’re
worried about some off-color words here and there? If you want to
talk about something important, fine. But cleaning up our
language? That’s the least of our problems! They’re only words.”
Let me mention another matter that seems pretty small compared
to the really “big” problems: graffiti–spray painting things on
buildings or subways. If you had to identify the most serious
problem in our bigger cities, graffiti wouldn’t be at the top of the
list. Gangs, drugs, unemployment, teen pregnancy, gun
control—these are the big problems. By comparison, a little spray
paint seems like it wouldn’t matter at all.
Except that it does matter. Sociologists and community leaders and
law enforcement officials are convinced of it. They find that areas
which tolerate graffiti and the defacing of property are areas where
the general sense of pride in the community goes down and the
crime rate goes up. For example, cities have actually found that
when they keep the walls of a subway freshly painted and free of
graffiti, the crime rate on the subway goes down. Communities with
run down buildings, trash on the streets, and graffiti on the walls
are communities that instill contempt for property and people and
self. And that sort of attitude gives rise to all sorts of other evils.
It would be funny to say that graffiti is the root of all evil and that
getting rid of it would solve everything. But graffiti reflects
attitudes of contempt and despair which are at the root of other
evils, and it reinforces those attitudes.
Now, what does this have to do with misusing God’s name? We’re
tempted to say,
“Oh, it’s just words.” But, words aren’t just sounds
made by vibrations of our vocal cords. Just words? There’s a sense
in which words are everything. Words are the way we express our
thoughts and attitudes. Words are the main way we relate to others.
When we choose our words carefully, it shows respect for ourselves
and for others. But, when we’re careless about the words we use, it
shows that we are careless about what kind of people we are and
how we relate to others.
Our use of language is especially significant in relation to God. A
mouth that uses the name of God lightly reveals a heart that takes
God lightly. A mouth that speaks God’s name only with reverence,
that speaks of holy things with great care and utmost respect,
expresses a heart that honors God. Who we are and what we think
of God comes through in how we speak.
Just as graffiti shows contempt not only for property but also for
ourselves and others, so misusing God’s name shows not only
contempt for words, but contempt for ourselves and for God. Just as
graffiti is an outer symptom of an inner attitude that causes all
sorts of other problems, so misusing God’s name is an outer
symptom of an inner attitude that lies at the root of nearly every
problem in the world today.
When we don’t take God seriously, can we take anybody or anything
else seriously? When God’s name isn’t sacred, what is sacred?
When we don’t care about offending God, we aren’t much
concerned about the feelings of others. When we spray graffiti on
God’s name and attack his honor, we add to a general atmosphere
of contempt for God that breeds every sort of ungodly and
antisocial behavior imaginable.
If you think I’m exaggerating the significance of all this, then your
problem isn’t with me. It’s with Jesus. He’s the one who puts so
much emphasis on words, not me. He’s the one who declares that
what we say reveals who we are and where we stand with God.
Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 12:34-37.
“34O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good
things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth
good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth
evil things.
36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak,
they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
37For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou
shalt be condemned.”
According to Jesus, words are the evidence of what’s in the heart.
Words are the evidence that will acquit or condemn us. Words are
evidence of salvation or damnation.
When God gave the Ten Commandments, in Exodus 20:7, we read
that he ordered,
“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God
in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his
name in vain.” All sorts of problems come from carelessness with
words and contempt for God, but this is the problem: God himself is
insulted, and he “will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his
I’ve met people with terrible language, people who misuse God’s
name in almost every other sentence. Sometimes, when they find
out I’m not only a Christian but a preacher, they are embarrassed
and apologetic. They say,
“Oh, I didn’t realize. I’m sorry if I’ve
offended you.” Well, offending me is the least of their problems.
They should worry less about what I might think, and more about
what God thinks.
The Lord is holy, and his name is holy. And so we must always
speak of him with reverence, never with carelessness or contempt.
God commands,
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your
God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his
name.” To understand what God prohibits in this commandment,
let’s point out some common misuses of God’s name.
Misuses of God’s Name
The first, and perhaps the worst, is blasphemy. Blasphemy is
deliberately dragging the Lord’s name through the mud, mocking
and insulting and making fun of God, speaking of him with hatred
and contempt. Some people angrily attack the God portrayed in the
Bible, saying they can’t believe in a God like that. Some
foul-mouthed authors portray Jesus as a contemptible fraud.
Movies and comedians sometimes get their laughs by poking fun of
Bible stories of truths about the Lord. These are all varieties of
blasphemy, deliberate and direct attacks on the name and
reputation and honor of God.
Another way of misusing God’s name is carelessness. Some people
use God’s name as an exclamation, a way of spicing up their
language. They say “O my God,
” not as the beginning of a prayer
but as a way of showing surprise. They say,
“Good Lord,
” not in
praise of God’s goodness but to express mild astonishment. They
use the words “God Almighty” and “Jesus Christ,
” not to invoke
the Master of heaven and earth, but to add some force and emotion
to what they’re saying. Some use the word “God” every sentence or
two for punctuation, almost like a spoken comma or period. This
shows a sorry lack of vocabulary and creativity, and it also shows a
lack of respect for God. Using God’s name casually and carelessly is
a violation of God’s commandment.
Another violation is cursing. What is cursing? It’s talking as though
we have control of God’s wrath and punishments. If you speak of
damnation or tell someone to go to hell, you are calling down a
curse that only God himself can carry out. Only God can damn a
person to the everlasting sorrow of hell. You have no business
calling down such an awful curse on anyone.
But maybe you say,
“It’s only words. I don’t mean anything by it.”
You don’t mean anything by it? You think you can speak of hell or
damning the way you might say “wow” or “shucks”? To speak
these terrible curses, to use words that are properly used only as
solemn warnings of God’s judgment, shows that you don’t take the
Judge of the universe seriously. Cursing is a misuse of God’s name
and a violation of God’s commandment.
Still another way of misusing God’s name is through euphemisms,
using expressions that aren’t quite as jarring as the word that is
really meant. You may be too polite to “damn” something, so you
“darn” it instead. You’re squeamish about misusing the name
” so you say “Gee” or “Jeez” instead. You don’t want to say
“God” merely as an exclamation, so you say “golly” or “gosh”
instead. But using euphemisms can be just a more polite and
“respectable” way of misusing God’s name.
You might be tempted to say,
“Give me a break! Chill out! It’s not
that serious, is it? It’s only words.” My point exactly: only words.
When you talk as if God and Jesus are only words, you show that
God and Jesus aren’t a living, personal reality to you. When you talk
as though damn and hell are only words, you make light of the
dreadful judgment that awaits the enemies of God who will, in fact,
be damned to hell.
Only words? “The Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses
his name.” Only words? In Matthew 12:36-37 Jesus says “But I say
unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall
give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou
shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”
Misusing God’s name isn’t just a breakdown in etiquette or a flaw in
vocabulary. It is an insult to God. It is a symptom that we are out of
touch with who God really is in his holiness and majesty.
Now, I’m sorry I’ve had to be so blunt and specific about all this. In
describing the misuses of God’s name, I run the risk of misusing it
myself. But I want you to see clearly the ways in which some
common speech patterns, things to which you might not give a
second thought, are violations of God’s commandment.
Religious Misuses of God’s Name
So far we’ve looked at some of the more irreligious ways that God’s
name is misused, but, sad to say, it’s also possible to misuse God’s
name in ways that seem quite religious.
One example is invoking God’s name to promote our own agenda.
Certain kinds of preachers and church people are fond of saying,
“The Lord revealed this to me” or “The Lord told me to do that.” A
while back, I saw a TV preacher saying,
“The Lord revealed to me
that he will do great things if only 300 people watching this
program will each call in and give $300 in the next hour.” That may
be a good gimmick to raise $90,000 in less than an hour, but was it
a direct revelation from the Lord? Saying “The Lord told me
such-and-such” is an effective way of manipulating others and
claiming divine authority for one’s own ideas, but it’s also a
shameful misuse of God’s name.
God’s name can be misused even in the God-talk that we use in
church. In Ecclesiastes 5:1-3, the Bible says,
Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more
ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider
not that they do evil.
2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to
utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon
earth: therefore let thy words be few.
3For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a
fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.
Friends, choose your words carefully. Make sure you listen to God
before you start talking about him. Don’t say any prayers or sing
any songs that you don’t really mean. When you start rattling off
holy words out of thoughtless habit, you are misusing God’s name.
When you spout long-winded, wordy prayers, you’re not
impressing God. You’re insulting him. Jesus says in Matthew 6:7
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for
they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
When you pray, tell God what is on your heart and then be quiet.
The Lord would rather hear one honest, heartfelt sentence than an
hour of empty words.
Ecclesiastes 5 warns us to use God-talk sparingly and not to say
anything we don’t mean. Then it goes on to warn us not to make
any promises we can’t keep.
Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not
to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast
5 Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest
vow and not pay.
6 Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou
before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be
angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?
7For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also
divers vanities: but fear thou God.”
God’s name can be misused in the vows and oaths and promises we
make in religious ceremonies. When promises are made at baptism,
God takes your promises seriously even if you said them only so you
could carry on a family custom. When marriage vows are made in
the presence of God, God takes you seriously. If you go back on
those promises, you not only betray your spouse, but you also abuse
God’s name. You may want to say,
“My vow was a mistake. And
besides, it’s only words.” But let me say again: Words are
everything. Words are the stuff of which relationships are made.
When we break our word and dishonor God’s name, we destroy our
relationship to others and to God. Every word is spoken in God’s
presence. So, say what you mean, and mean what you say.
Taking all of this a step further, there’s a sense in which, if you’re a
Christian, you really shouldn’t need any special vows or oaths at all.
If you bear the name Christian, everything you say reflects on the
name of Christ. Just make sure your words are true and your
promises are reliable, and you will do more to honor God’s name
than any amount of swearing that you’re telling the truth.
As Jesus puts it in Matthew 5:37,
“But let your communication be,
Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of
evil.” There’s no use trying to prove your truthfulness by invoking
God’s name or swearing on a stack of Bibles, or swearing by
anything else. Just be truthful. It is misusing God’s name to swear
by him in order to shore up your own lack of credibility.
We live in an age that has so little knowledge of the Ten
Commandments, so little regard for words, and so little respect for
God, that we barely realize when we’re misusing God’s name, let
alone how serious it is. We need to feel once again the full force of
that mighty commandment: “Thou shalt not take the name of the
LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that
taketh his name in vain.”
Calling on God’s Name
But God doesn’t want us to stop there. He doesn’t want us to be
satisfied just with cleaning up our language a bit. That’s essential,
of course. God wants us to avoid blasphemy, careless talk, cursing,
euphemisms, empty God-talk, babbling prayers, thoughtless vows,
and all the rest. But what God really wants is for us to become the
kind of people who use his name properly, who call on him for our
salvation and praise him joyfully.
However, this isn’t something we can do simply by being told to do
it. If we’re misusing God’s name, it shows we’ve got a problem on
the inside. Our words correspond to what is in our hearts. As Jesus
puts it,
“out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” And
of itself, God’s commandment can’t change what is in our hearts.
By condemning the misuse of God’s name, the commandment
points out the symptoms very well, but it doesn’t cure the deeper
illness: a lack of respect for God and a bad relationship with him.
God’s law can show us our problem, but it can’t solve the problem
or change us on the inside.
Something has to happen in our heart. We need God to forgive us
and transform us through faith in Jesus Christ and by the inner
working of his Holy Spirit. God’s law can point out our sin, but only
Christ can take away our sin. The law can show us what’s wrong
with our old heart, but only the Spirit can give us a new heart.
If you’ve been using bad language and you’ve begun to realize how
wrong it is, don’t just make an effort to choose your words a little
more carefully from now on. Seek God’s help to change the entire
way you relate to him. Misusing the Lord’s name leads to
damnation, but calling on his name in faith leads to salvation. Trust
in your heart that Jesus is alive and that he brings you new life. Call
on him and ask him to forgive you and make you a new person.
Then openly declare him to be your Lord and Savior. The Bible says
in Romans 10:9-13,
“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the
Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised
him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with
the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be
12For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the
same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be
The name of the Lord isn’t just a matter of words. It is the name
that saves us, and it is the name that keeps us safe. The Bible says in
Proverbs 18:10 “The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the
righteous runneth into it, and are safe.” God revealed himself to
Israel as Yahweh (or “Jehovah”), the great I AM, the Lord who is
present. He revealed himself clearly and personally as Jesus, that
wonderful name which means “Savior.” Acts 4:12 says “There is
no other name under heaven given among men by which we must
be saved.” God revealed the eternal mystery of his divine being and
his love as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. His people are baptized into
that glorious triune name, and we receive God’s blessing and
benediction in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
These ways of referring to God are not just words. They are revealed
names of the mighty and gracious Lord of the universe, the names
by which his heart of love calls out to our hearts, beckoning us into
an intimate relationship with him and into all the riches of his
eternal life. So instead of misusing the name of the only one who
can save you, call upon his name in repentance and trust, and this
great God will be your salvation.
Then you will discover the real point and purpose of your existence:
to glorify God and enjoy him forever. As a Christian, seek your
deepest joy in exalting God’s name. Let God’s commandment spur
you on to honor the name of the one who created you and saved
you. Pray “Hallowed by your name.” Sing his praises. Tell others
about him. Do everything to the glory of God’s name. Look forward
eagerly to the day when “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow.”
In Psalm 34, the poet expresses his desire to exalt God’s name, and
he calls you and me to join him. Let’s close with these magnificent
words: Psalm 34:1-3
I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in
my mouth.
2My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear
thereof, and be glad.
3O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.

Exodus 20:7

“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.

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