MAY 17 2015

The Third Commandment

Part One


Our Scripture reading this morning is Exodus 20:7.


[I. Introduction] There are two kinds of law in the Bible. There are moral laws. These reflect the very character of God and are, therefore, eternal. They were true and binding under the old covenant and they remain true and binding under the new covenant. In fact, they will never change because God never changes. They will be true and applicable to all living creatures into eternity.


There are ceremonial laws. These are also called redemptive laws because they represent some aspect of redemption, that is, saving God’s people from their sin or from the influence of sin. The redemptive laws are activities (or prohibition of same) that picture a greater reality. Therefore, they are temporary by nature. When the reality comes the picture is done away with.


Sometimes you hear of a third category of laws called “civil laws.” However, the Scriptures do not make this distinction.  There were, of course, civil laws in Israel but it is probably better to consider them under one of the two scripturally designated categories.


The ten commandments consist of nine moral laws and one redemptive law. The redemptive law is the fourth commandment about the Sabbath. However, even the fourth commandment has moral implications. Therefore, all ten commandments still direct our lives.


Not only do they direct our lives but they do so in the way of blessing. The one who follows the ten commandments will discover that their lives become better than it was. They discover that their lives are better than their neighbor’s who does not seek to follow them.


The power to live out these commandments is not within us. If left to ourselves all of us will not only fail to live them out but we would even experience a relishing of breaking them. By God’s grace we will return to this matter before long.


The blessings are waiting and the blessings begin with understanding what each commandment entails. To this we now turn.


[II.] In order to understand the third commandment we must have an acquaintance with the significance of names in general. There has been a disagreement about the significance of names that goes back 2500 years! What relationship does a name have with the object that it names? Plato took the position that names (and words in general) take on their meaning through custom and general agreement and that names held little relevance for knowledge about the object which is named. Put another way, Plato held that the representation of a name was merely verbal and nothing more.


The Stoics took another position. They held that names represented things according to their nature. Put another way, they held that there is a close affinity between the name and its object: that the representation is more than just one of convenience.


Throughout most of history Plato’s position was the minority. The majority of people believed that a name carried with it a certain power and effectiveness related to its object. And so, among the heathen, when a god’s name or a demon’s name was known and used there was power that accompanied it.


In modern times, at least in the West, Plato’s position is the dominant one. It is viewed as superstitious to think there is any power in a name. Names are just matters of convenience.


History is interesting and modern ideals are influential, but neither should carry much weight in determining what is true. Who is right Plato or the Stoics? The ancients or the moderns? To answer that question we must turn to Scripture. The Bible, if it is inspired by God, will provide us the answer. Well, the Bible is inspired by God infallibly. What does it reveal?


[A.] Names communicate something real about the person or place.


  • In Genesis 3:20 we read: The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. The name “Eve” means “living.”
  • Genesis 4:1: Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten1 a man with the help of the Lord.” The name Cain means “gotten.”
  • Genesis 11:9: Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused1 the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. The name Babel means “confusion.” It is also called Babylon, simply another form of the same word. Babylon was where Iraq is now. They are still confused there even after 6000 years!
  • I Samuel 25:25: Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. The name Nabal means “fool.”


In the West we tend to give names to our children because of the way they sound. If it has a pleasant ring to it then we like it. Most people do not consider the meaning of a name. I used to be like this. When our first child was born I thought along these lines: “My name starts with the sound of a “hard c,” that is, the sound of k. (A “soft c” is the sound of s.) So, for boys I think I will have their names start with that sound. Since he was born in Hawaii I also thought a Hawaiian name would be appropriate. “Kai” sounded short and powerful. It means “water,” “sea,” or “ocean.” The main reason I named our first child Kai was simply because of the way it sounded.


Interestingly, do you know what we discovered? Kai has always been very fond of water. Since he was little he has loved the ocean and rivers.


It was the same with our second child. Since he is a boy I wanted to keep the hard c going. At the time that our second son was born I had a boss who was, looking back on my career, the best boss that I had. He was pleasant, friendly, and enjoyable to work with. Besides all that, he gave me very high marks for my work. His last name was Coulter. Contrary to what he occasionally thought, I did not name our son after him. But I did ask what the meaning of his surname was. He said it meant “tiller of the land.” Actually, it means “back-land.” One geneologist thinks it implies “owner of the backland.” I thought that the “land” notion matched very well with the “sea” notion of Kai, so that is how Coulter got his name.


The meaning played a role, but I primarily gave that name for it’s sound. I thought it had a nice ring to it. Maybe Coulter will be a land owner one day.


By the time I got to our third child I paid more attention to the meaning. Clark comes from the French word clerc, meaning cleric, priest, scholar, one who studies. Especially, one who studies the Scriptures. Our Clark has certainly not displayed any of those qualities. Even though he gets good grades it is by raw talent, not by studying. In fact, he seems to take pride in the fact that he does not study. This is going to get him into a lot of trouble in high school and college, so we hope he takes on the traits of his name. Especially in the Scriptures!


The Hebrews always considered the meaning of names.


[B.] God Himself considers the meaning of names important. He changes the names of Abraham, Sarah, and Jacob. Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter and the overcomers will receive a new name in the age to come. It is one thing to observe that a primitive people attach importance to a name, but it is another to see that God does. He does.


[III.] What about the name of God? One of the most fundamental and essential features of the biblical revelation is the fact that God is not without a name. He has a personal name by which he can, and desires to be, invoked.


Turn to Exodus 20:24.  An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.


The first part of this verse references the offerings that the children of Israel were to give. Those offerings are examples of commands that were redemptive in nature. They were for Israel only. But note what God says right after: In every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you.


This is significant. The Lord is saying that where his name is, when it is used, there is his presence and his blessing. This means that Plato was wrong. At least when it comes to the name of God he was.


God’s presence and blessing attends to his name!


[A.] What is God’s name? He reveals this in Exodus 3:13-15. READ. The name of God is obscured in most translations of the Bible. They translate his name by a title, Lord. There is more than one reason for this. The main reason, though, is because of tradition. But the tradition goes back to the Jews fear of breaking this commandment – the third commandment. They were fearful of misusing the name of God. Therefore, they thought that if they never said it at all they would not misuse it – use it in vain.


There is no question that this idea is misapplied. God desires that his name be used!


This practice by the Jews continued until they began to think that God’s name was too holy to even be spoken. But from Exodus 3:15 we see that he desires his name to be spoken.


God’s name is Yahweh.


There are some versions that translate the name as Yahweh rather than the generic “Lord,” such as the Jerusalem Bible, The New Jerusalem Bible, The New Living Translation, The Emphasized Bible, Holman Christian Standard Bible, and The Names of God Bible.


The name Yahweh either means “I am that I am” or “I will be who I will be.” Both meanings are true of our great God. The first, “I am that I am,” declares his self-existence. He is the only self-existent entity in all the universe. Everything and everyone else derives its existence from something else and, ultimately, from God. But Yahweh has always been and his existence depends on no other.


The second, “I will be who I will be,” declares that God is for His people and he will be to them who they need. He will be their Help, their Sustainer, their blessing. He is our Help, our Sustainer, our blessing!


In Exodus 3:15 Yahweh also says, This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.  That seems clear enough, does it not? The name Yahweh is God’s personal name and it is to be used forever.


[B.] When we come to the New Testament, however, we discover an amazing thing. The name of Jesus is exalted and is used in the same way that the name Yahweh is used. In some places the Old Testament is quoted and where Yahweh’s name appears the apostles write “Jesus!”


[IV. Conclusion of Part One] When the third commandment directs us not to take the name of God in vain. This applies to the name Yahweh; it applies to Jesus, and it even applies to titles such as “God,” “the Lord,” and any name or title that represents God. This is because in modern usage titles are often used as names and represent the person.


There is both a positive and a negative aspect to this command. By God’s grace we will consider those next time.


Let us remember that the Lord promises a blessing to those who use his name. His name is Yahweh. Since the incarnation his name is Jesus. In the same way that it is good and acceptable to pray to both the Father and the Son (There are examples of both in the New Testament.), it is good to use either name when we call upon the Lord. This week let us all revere his name, call upon his name, and thus experience his presence and blessing!


He is available and rich to all those who call upon Him. And we call upon Him by using His name!