The Name of God. Speaking the Name of God. But not using or speaking the Name of God lightly or misusing or using in vain … but how? And what about Christians, non-Hebrew speaking Christians, who never use YHWH and use translations that have LORD and not YHWH? What about us? What are we to learn from this? Does it even “apply” to us? What about you — Do you have any scruples, rules, or principles to follow when it comes to the Third Commandment? Do you pronounce the Name? Or do you reverence that Name by using “Lord” or “LORD” or “God”? Does the Bible prohibit the use of the Name or the misuse of the Name?
The Third Command:
“You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name (Exodus 20:7).
Or, “Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD (Lev 19:12).
We are reading Patrick Miller’s new book, The Ten Commandments: Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church.
We begin with this: the Third Command is about using the Name of God deceptively in oaths. It is about using God’s Name in oaths that are false. It is about using God’s Name in oaths that are worthless.
At the core of this is irreverence.
At the same core is the Name, YHWH. While many connect this Name to Exodus 3:13-15 (after the jump), the so-called Yahwist source of the Pentateuch has it from Genesis 2 on. (Thus, see 2:4; 4:26; 12:8.) [I’d rather not get into a discussion of the origins and development of the Pentateuch; I’m using the categories of Miller’s book.)
In essence, to use the Name is to connect oneself to the realities of that God. It is to claim a relationship to that God, but that God is revealed in and through that Name, and that means using it means standing under the realities of God. To use that Name is to invoke all that YHWH has done, is doing and will do — and it invokes all YHWH is.
Here is the beautiful passage in Exodus 3 about the Name of God:
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’
“This is my name forever,
the name you shall call me
from generation to generation.”
This is the Name; it refers as much to “being with” (Exod 3:12) as to self-existence (which is more Greek philosophy than anything else), and it refers to the promise that God will be “with” and “for” Moses (and Israel). That Name, then, embodies the covenant relation of God to Israel. Taking the Name lightly is breaching the covenant relation.
But there’s more: the Name of God embodies the Actions of God, and those actions include a presence to be “with” as the One who is “for” in the sense that God gives and liberates and brings to himself:
Exodus 6:2-8: 2 God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the LORD I did not make myself fully known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.
6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’”
See also Exodus 34:4-8.
Now we ask: What does it mean not to take the Name in vain?