The Name of God 2

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 is what the Third Command is all about:

“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).

The Name is central to Israel’s worship. The Name is also central, ultimately, to Christian worship. How much does the Name have to do with our worship at the conscious level? How often to do we give our people time to ponder the Name of God — what it means — when we worship? Or do we barge in?

We are reading the exceptionally complete and readable book by Patrick Miller’s, The Ten Commandments: Interpretation: Resources for the Use of Scripture in the Church.

In our last post we sketched the commandment itself, and today’s post concerns Using and Misusing the Name of God, beginning with how God’s Name is used in worship.

Miller investigates the Name when the text moves from the Ten Commandments to the Book of the Covenant (Exod 20:22–23:33), and he does so under these themes:

1. There is an intimate connection between revering the Name of God and the exclusive worship of the Lord. The Name fills the sacred space.

2. The primary place, the originating place, of the name of God is the sanctuary and worship.

3. It is the name of God that specifically characterizes the true and proper worship of God. How true: the Name provides the content and boundaries of true worship. God is defined by and filled by “YHWH”.

4. The proclamation of the name marks off the proper worship of God from practices that come from outside the story and apart from or over against God’s self-revelation and instruction.

Miller then explores the relationship of the Ten Commandments to Deuteronomy 12–26, which many consider to expositions of the Commandments. That suggests Deuteronomy 14 expounds the Third Commandment.

Concerns that speak to our world: the text (below) speaks of the importance of simplicity, a sense of order and propriety, and the need to avoid or adapt practices that belong to the culture more than to the biblical teachings about worship.

5. Speaking and proclaiming the name of God in worship is an avenue to God’s presence and blessing. An extensive discussion of blessings, and he briefly explains Numbers 6:22-27.

6. Blessing the name of God is an act of praise and thanksgiving to the one who has blessed us.

Exodus 20:22-26:

22 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

24 “‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. 26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.’

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://renovatechurch.blogspot.com/ Dave Diller

    Scot,

    Part of honoring this commandment also causes us to question, “How am I living out the name of God?” When we talk about using and misusing the name of God we should be mindful of “what” we attach his name to; through both our actions and our words.

  • Deets

    Dave #1,
    I think you hit it right there. Those who bare God’s name as his people can dishonor the with or without speaking it on a basis of unholiness in worship. It brings to mind Amos 5:21-24. Worshiping in the name of the Lord that forget justice and righteousness is to take the Lord’s name in vain.

    “I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
    I cannot stand your assemblies.
    Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them.
    Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
    I will have no regard for them.
    Away with the noise of your songs!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
    But let justice roll on like a river,
    righteousness like a never-failing stream!”
    Am 5:21-24


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