MAY 24 2015

The Third Commandment, Part Two


Read Exodus 20:7


[I. Introduction] This message is a continuation on the third commandment.  We saw that there are two kinds of law in the Bible. There are moral laws and redemptive laws (also called ceremonial laws). The moral laws are perpetual. Because they reflect the character of God they are eternal just as God’s character is eternal and unchanging.


The ten commandments consists of nine moral laws and one redemptive law. But even the redemptive law has moral implications; therefore, all of the Decalogue is still to be loved and followed by God’s people.


We also saw that the law brings with it blessings upon those who follow it. These blessings are primarily in the natural order of things. Since God created us he knows what is best for us and, as we live out the commandments, we experience the fullness of life that we were meant to experience.


There is, however, a supernatural blessing that accompanies the living out of the commandments. Things begin to go well with the person who loves God’s law that goes beyond the fulfilled life that comes from simply living in obedience.


Each commandment has a negative aspect and a positive aspect. This is true whether it is stated in negative terms (Thou shall not…) or positive terms (Thou shall…).


[II.] The same is true of the third commandment. The prohibition that is plainly stated is the negative aspect of the commandment. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.


When I was a young man (which was a long time ago) there was a popular song on the radio. They played it so often that I was sick of hearing it. It was by Carly Simon and it was entitled You’re So Vain. The lyrics are these:


You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive

Well you said that we made such a pretty pair

And that you would never leave

But you gave away the things you loved and one of them was me

I had some dreams, they were clouds in my coffee

Clouds in my coffee, and...You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you

You're so vain, I'll bet you think this song is about you

Don't you?


Not a bad song. It’s just that it died the death of a thousand plays. You cannot play a song a thousand times and continue to like it. Unless it is Over the Hills and Far Away by Led Zeppelin.


That song by Carly Simon shows one of the meanings of the word “vain:” preoccupied with self; excessively proud. That is not the meaning of vain in the passage.


Another way that this commandment is translated in popular versions is: You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. While it is true that the commandment includes the thought that we should not misuse the name of Yahweh, that is not the meaning of the words. Accurate translations should seek to translate the underlying words as carefully as possible and leave the meaning to the reader or to footnotes.


“Vain” is a perfectly good word to translate the original Hebrew word, shav. There is another meaning of the English word vain, of course, and that is without real significance, value, or importance.” That is the meaning of shav. Literally, the word means “empty.” If we use the Lord’s name in an empty way, without truly recognizing it’s meaning, value, importance, and holiness then we have broken this commandment.


This is why we spoke last time about the importance of names in the Bible and also why we considered the meaning of God’s name.


We saw that God’s name is Yahweh and that it either means “I am” or “I will be.” Both expressions are true of our God. He is the only self-existent being in the universe and He will be who his people need Him to be because He is for His people – to deliver them, to rescue them, to aid them, to sustain them, to bless them. Oh, what a good God He is! He is our life and our life supply!


We must never use God’s name in a way in a light way. This includes not only the name of Yahweh but, as we saw, the name of Jesus. This is because the apostles in the New Testament substitute the name of Jesus for Yahweh in the Old Testament. Jesus is the English equivalent of the Hebrew name Yahshua (Joshua). Yahshua means “Yah saves.” Hence, Jesus’ name means “Yahweh saves” or “God saves.” How true this is! Not only does God save, but he saves through, and only through, His Son, Jesus!


The first year or two that I was a Christian and I was in the Air Force I was bothered when I heard the name of Jesus used in vain. I decided I was going to do something about it. For a while, whenever another airman would use the name of Jesus as a swear word, I would get on my knees and say, “He is the Lord and Savior.” I’m not sure what effect it had and I stopped doing that after a short time. But, I think that was the right response and I plan to start doing that again. It communicates to others in a rather strong way that Jesus’s name is sanctified and meaningful.


To say that we must never use God’s name in a light or empty way includes God’s titles such as “God” and “Lord” because those titles, although not technically names, still represent the Person of God. His names and his titles are holy.


[III.] Each negative command implies the thing that God desires positively. After all, God is not interested in merely having us avoid certain actions. He is after us thinking, doing, and living in a different way. If we are not to use his name in vain then we are to use his name as it was intended, honoring it as we use it.


To use God’s name the way it was intended means we use it one of two ways. One way is to speak or write of Him with meaning. An example of this is sitting with a friend and simply talking about God. He is the best topic of conversation! We ought to use his name or titles in our conversations. That is plain enough.


The other way is to invoke Him. In Deut. 4:7 the Israelites say: For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the Lord our God is to us, whenever we call upon him?


God desires to be invoked because he comes near to us when we invoke Him. And, the way we invoke Him is by calling on His name!


[A.] What does it mean to call on the name of the Lord? It is not the same as praying to him. To call is to call out loud, to cry out, to invoke. Praying may be silent but calling is audible. We know this from the meaning of the underlying words but also from the way it used in context. For example, Lamentations 3:55-56:           “I called on your name, O Yahweh,

                        from the depths of the pit;

            you heard my plea, ‘Do not close

                        your ear to my cry for help!’

Here we see that calling is a cry.



When Stephen was being stoned as recorded in the 7th chapter of Acts, we read in verse 59 that he called out to the Lord Jesus as he was dying. That was not a silent prayer. He cried out. Most likely he shouted!


Paul, when he was still Saul and seeking to stop the followers of Jesus, received authority from the chief priests to arrest them. Acts 9:14 says that he sought those who “called on the name of the Lord.” He knew who the followers of Jesus were because they were calling on his name. How would he know that unless he heard them? In other words, the calling was audible and it was loud enough that others could hear.


[B.] Why do we need to call upon the name of the Lord?


[1.] People need to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.            For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

(Romans 10:13 ESV)

I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call on the name of the LORD, (Psalm 116:13)

In this one Psalm, calling on the Lord is mentioned four times.


In the first few verses of Isaiah chapter 12 we see that drawing “water from the wells of salvation” is by calling on the Lord.


One commentator has said, “The way of praying quietly does help people to be saved, but not so richly. The way of calling loudly helps people to be saved in a richer and more thorough way.” I believe he is right. The greater our sense of need the richer and fuller our salvation experience is. Jesus sais that those who are forgiven much, love much. But it is also true that the greater our sense of need the more we cry out!


People need to call upon the name of the Lord to be saved.


[2.] Another reason for calling on the name of the Lord is to be rescued from distress, from trouble, and from sorrow. In Psalm 18:6 we read:

            In my distress I called upon the LORD;

                        to my God I cried for help.

            From his temple he heard my voice,

                        and my cry to him reached his ears.

Here we not only see David calling upon the Lord for help, but we also see again that to call is a crying out.


This is a frequently occurring theme throughout the Bible. People who have argued against calling on the Lord in a loud way, found themselves calling on Him when they were in trouble or illness. Watchman Nee relates the story of an elder of a church in China who spoke against calling on the name of the Lord. In his view everything should be done with dignity and quietness. Calling was not dignified and not quiet. Then one day a member of the church was walking down the street in town and saw this elder riding his bicycle. He was struck my a car and he was flying through the air he heard him call out, “O Lord Jesus!!”


When we are in trouble we should call on the Lord!


[3.] We should call upon the name of the Lord in order to receive Him. When I say “receive Him” I do not mean receive Him for salvation. We have already established that. Those who are saved, those who already belong to Him, have already received Him. The Lord has come to dwell within the disciple of Christ. When I say “receive Him” I mean to receive more of Him! Brothers and sisters, the Lord Himself is our greatest need and we need more of Him!


The New Testament clearly reveals that Christ today is the life-giving Spirit. Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

            (1 Corinthians 15:45 ESV)


All Christians know that:

  • he lived a sinless life when he walked on this earth
  • that he died on the cross for our sins
  • that he was resurrected
  • that he was glorified by the Father
  • that he ascended into the heavens
  • and that he is Lord over all.


But not many know that he is the life-giving Spirit and many who know neglect this matter.


One can know Jesus as Lord and Savior but still be in bondage to sin or to emotional disturbances. But where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty!            Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

            (2 Corinthians 3:17 ESV)


From this passage we see two things. The Lord is the Spirit now. This is how he comes to us and ministers to us – as the Spirit of Christ! And, we also see that we need the Spirit of the Lord Jesus to set us free from all the things in our life that hold us back from the life of liberty!


There was an engaged couple who were travelling together and were committed followers of the Lord Jesus. They were on a long trip and their car broke down on a lonely stretch of road in Eastern Europe. This was long before the days of cell phones so there was nothing they could do except to start walking. After an hour of walking on the wooded, hilly road they came across a rather large house, almost like a castle. They knocked on the door and were greeted by a servant to whom they told their plight. He invited them into the parlor and it wasn’t long before the master of the house came and informed them that there was no telephone service out here in the country. However, since it was getting dark he extended to them hospitality. He said they were welcome to spend the night and he could send a servant to the closest town where arrangements could be made to tow and repair his car. The couple gratefully accepted his invitation. They were shown adjacent rooms in the spacious mansion. Strangely, the owner ominously told them to make sure that they kept their doors locked at all times.


As the couple were saying goodnight to each other the young man noticed apprehension in the girl’s eyes. He tried to reassure her. “Look, dear, I am right in the next room. If there is any problem just call my name. I’ll be here in a flash.” So, they each retired for the evening. In the middle of the night the woman was awakened by the sound of someone in her room! Unbeknownst to them there was a resident of that mansion that was of highly questionable character and he had made his way into her room with evil intent. She called out the name of her beloved: “Robert!!” Only his name was needed. As soon as he heard his name he rushed to her door, entered and, being both a martial artist and physically fit, rescued her from the clutches of the other man.


When the young lady called the name of her betrothed what did she get? Did she get  the local police arriving 40 minutes later? Did she get some servant who slept on another floor of the mansion and could not hear her anyway? No! She received the presence of her beloved. When she called Robert she got Robert!


In the same way that her beloved was near at hand and came quickly, the Lord Jesus is near at hand and comes quickly when we call upon Him. When we call Jesus we get Jesus!


While Robert may have taken moments to get to his love’s room, the Lord comes instantly! We call his name and He is present, ministering life to us! He ministers life to us and sets us free from everything that holds us down. Praise Him for His availability!


[Summary of point B.] Everyone should call upon the Lord. Those who do not yet belong to Him should call upon Him for salvation. Those who do belong to Him should call upon Him not only in their distress, but at all times in order to receive more of Him!


[C.] When should we call upon Him? At all times!


  • When we are lonely, we can call upon the Lord.
  • When we are tempted, we can call upon the Lord.
  • When we are in trouble, we can call upon the Lord.
  • When we about to read His word, we can call upon the Lord.
  • When we feel a lack of life, we can call upon the Lord.
  • The lonely will experience his presence.
  • The tempted will experience deliverance.
  • Those in trouble will experience rescue.
  • Those studying will experience understanding.
  • The weak will experience the life of God!


Our great need is more of Christ. To fulfill the third commandment, yes, we must refrain from using the Lord’s name in a light or meaningless way. But God desires that we use His name. The best way to use His name is to call upon Him. Then He is to us what we need Him to be.