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(Exodus 20:7) Posting Guards . . . Seasoning Words

(Exodus 20:7) Posting Guards . . . Seasoning Words

by Stephen Davey Ref: Exodus 20:7

What does it mean to take the Lord's Name in vain? Is it simply using His name as an expletive or is there a lot more to it? In this message Stephen reveals what the 2nd commandment is really all about . . . and it isn't what you think!



(Exodus 20:7)


(first of tape cut off) But we are only to the third command when God is already addressing the way that we talk.  And rightly so.  If you have been studying with us, you know that the first command had to do with the fact that God is preeminent.  And, if God is preeminent, then the second thing that would follow is that we worship Him alone.  And those are the first two commandments.  And, if He is prominent, if He is preeminent in our lives and,  if He is the only God that we worship, then the third command makes perfect, logical sense.  And that is, we will address Him correctly; we will use the words that would honor Him.  If He is, in fact, preeminent and prominent, if He is the God  I worship then that will affect our speech, that will affect the way that we talk.  And that’s the third command that we’re going to look at this morning. 

But why is this so high on His list?  Why would His name be so important in scripture?  And I think it’s because whenever you address the name God or Jesus or Christ, whatever it may be, when you address that name, you bring the thought, even though it’s for a split second, all of the character and all of the quality behind the name.  It is what the name represents.  You could go to other countries and find that Jesus (Spanish pronunciation) is a very common name, Jesus.  However, in the context of the believer, in fact, the world will stand accountable to how they use that name because of all that’s behind His name when we refer to Him as Jesus or Christ or Lord.  In Hebrew times, names were very important, as you well know.  They would name their children, usually, after a quality or a characteristic that they would hope that their child would grow up to be like.  They don’t name them, like so many do today, where you look for that little jingle, or something that goes well with your last name, or initials that look good on luggage, or something like that.  You’re looking for a name that has something in it that has deep resonance and a quality of character that would hopefully be something the child would live up to.  In fact, I was reading, the Puritans used to follow along the same thing.  And they would name their children, usually, names, you’re probably familiar with that, they would name their daughters names like Charity, which is very common today, a very beautiful name, Kindness, and Hope, and Faith.  And I even read where one Puritan named his daughter Silence.  I thought, “Man, did he have a rude awakening about 2 a.m. in the morning.  She didn’t live up to that.”  But, all of these names are something that they hoped they would live up to.  Well, in Hebrew thought, and this is what we’re going back to, names were incredibly significant.  And God’s names are just as, and more so, significant.  And, when you use His name, be careful that you don’t use it in vain as the third command prohibits. 

Does it really matter to God how we use His name?  In the book of Leviticus, chapter 24, verse 11, there’s the story of two men who were in a fist fight.  And one of the guys, evidently the one who is losing, blasphemes and he curses.  That’s all it says.  It doesn’t give us the expletives, it just says he blasphemes and he curses.  And so, they were so serious back then that they took the man to the elders.  And they said, “What are we going to do? This man cursed.  He took God’s name in vain.”  And God’s answer was, “Stone him.”  Now, fortunately, that, of course in this dispensation of grace, is not the immediate practice.  However, Ephesians, chapter 5 gives these words.  In fact, you ought to turn there.  Ephesians, chapter 5, you’ll find that this command has just as much serious import today as it did then.  Although there is not immediate death, notice what he says in chapter 5, verse 4, “and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.  For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person” - in the context, what’s he talking about?  Someone with that kind of mouth.  He says that this person, “who is an idolater, has” - no - “inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.”  An individual who lives and the name of God is constantly used in vain, as we’ll learn later in our study, is a person who is indicating that God is not prominent, that God is not worshipped and therefore, His name is used in vain, indicating He is not of God’s.  So it is very serious then and it is serious now.  In fact, when we use the name of God, we need to be prepared to worship. 

I think there are three ways, if you have your notes, it may be helpful to follow along.  I think there are three ways, today, that people use God’s name in vain.  The first one is commonly thought of when we think of using God’s name in vain, and that is, profanity.  And I’ve written beside that, “using His name in the wrong context.”  Now there are three types or classes of people who take God’s name in vain by the way of profanity.  Let me give them to you.  The first, I think, is the uninformed.  This is the individual who is oblivious to what God has revealed about His name.  Perhaps a young person who has yet to understand the gravity of what they may be repeating.  The reason I know that is because I can still vividly remember an elementary school experience in my own life.  When I, I think, was in third grade and I overheard some older boys saying some words.  And I remember as I heard them and then watched them, I thought the way they acted, boy, that was kind of tough, that must be big guy talk.  And I can remember having a crush on a girl, the only one I ever had, except my wife obviously, and I thought, “Boy, this would be impressive if I talked to her that way.”  And I remember talking to her using the words that I had heard these guys say.  She was not so uninformed.  In fact, by the time she finished turning me in, you’d think the National Guard had been called in.  I was in very serious trouble.  My only defense was, “I didn’t know!  I didn’t know what it meant.”  I did from then on.  I could never use that excuse again.  It only worked once.  But you see, that’s the case, I think, with people who are uninformed.  Perhaps younger people who don’t know that God’s name is sacred, it is to be sanctified.  I really think that this is the smallest of all three classifications that we’re going to talk about.  Because, I think, at the heart of everybody, the reason they go after God’s name, the reason they go after Jesus, or Christ, is because written in their heart is rebellion and they’re seeking the highest form that they can, in effect, shake their fist at.  But if you are uninformed, after this sermon, you will not be.  So you cannot use that excuse. 

Number two would be the uncontrolled, the uncontrolled individual.  I think that moment of fury or pain or disappointment.  When you smash your finger with the hammer, when you are cut off in traffic, when you are cut out of a promotion by someone else and those words come out of your mouth, you are uncontrolled.  We’re not just talking about unbelievers, we’re talking about the believer who is not controlled.  And it reveals itself in those kinds of situations.  In fact, I think that’s what David had in mind, in Psalm 141, verse 3, when he said, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.”  He’s literally saying, “Post a sentinel at the door of my lips.”  This means a lot to me because we used to play little league, growing up on the base there in Norfolk, which was a Navy town.  And you had to drive your car past that little gatehouse where that military man stood.  And he would watch all of the cars coming through.  And, if you didn’t have a bumper sticker indicating you were part of the military, you would be stopped.  And he would lean down and he’d ask what we’re doing.  And we’d say, “We’re going to play baseball.”  And he’d say, “Go on through.”  And on the other side was a guard who would carefully watch everyone who would come out.  And, if you were part of the military, you had to have a pass or he wouldn’t let you out.  Isn’t it interesting that David is, in effect, saying, “Post a sentinel.  Don’t let anything past it, in it or out of it, that is not pleasing to you.  Watch it carefully because there may be something let go that hurts the credibility or the security of this base and my character.”  So he says, “Post a guard.  I don’t want to be uncontrolled.”  In fact, in a later Psalm, David will talk about setting a watch over his lips.  And it’s interesting, the context there, his son Absalom is in rebellion, it is one of the most difficult times in David’s life and it’s at that time that David says, “God, guard my mouth because I don’t want to slip.  I don’t want to say anything, even in this terrible situation that would bring dishonor to Your name.”  So there are the uncontrolled. 

You know, I believe, since we all could fit into that category, I’m convinced of one statement that I read, “If we are in the habit of using God’s name the right way, we will be less likely to use it the wrong way.”  It is developing the habit of referring to God and Jesus and Christ in the right context.  And that will protect us, as we mature in Christ, never to use His name, that’s the last thing that would come out of our mouths during uncontrollable moments, perhaps. 

And then there is the third, and that is the unsaved.  And I think that is the person who uses God’s name to kind of boast of his independence.  J. Vernon McGee, an old commentator who is now in heaven, said that he believed that, if you could tape record everybody’s conversation for a week and then play it back, you would have enough evidence to determine whether or not they were a believer.  I think that’s a biblical thought because in Colossians it says that one of the marks of a believer that sets him apart is his vocabulary.  He says, “I want you to season your conversation with salt.”  Salt was that ancient way of preserving things to keep things from getting, I said ancient and I put my foot in my mouth because some of you people probably salted meat on the farm, right?  How many are upset right now?  Good.  Okay, whew!  I said ancient way, that’s a slip.  Someone has calculated that there are thirty conversations a day that you get involved in.  Thirty thousand words.  Every year, you and I write a hundred books, two hundred pages long each.  Which means that you and I are authors.  We are rapidly filling up a library of our words.  And when we come into contact with Jesus Christ, we change perspective.  And the thing that sets us apart from the unbeliever is the way that we use words.  And, especially, how we use His name.  I cringe at someone who says they know Jesus Christ and then I hear them use God’s name in vain.  In fact, to me, that is a red flag.  Why?  Because Paul says this distinguishes us from the unbeliever.  It’s interesting, if you’ve studied the life of Peter, you remember when he was by the campfire warming his hands.  He was about to deny Jesus Christ and you remember that servant girl recognized him and said, “Hey, you are part of them.  You’re Galilean.”  And he said, “No, I’m not.”  And later someone else pressed him and then another pressed him.  And finally, what did he do?  He cursed, he swore, he called down curses.  And isn’t it interesting that no one else accused him of being part of the band that followed Jesus Christ.  That did it.  Street talk took care of any further accusation.  He was off the hook.  Isn’t that an incredible implication?  It is the way that we talk that tells the world that we are following Jesus Christ.  That’s one of the highest indicators of whether or not we’re part of His band. 

So, the uninformed, the uncontrolled, and the unsaved.  That, I believe, is the classification of people who profane His name.  And that, usually, is what we think of when we think of people taking God’s name in vain.  But there are two others that I think camp a little closer to the church of Jesus Christ.  The second is hypocrisy.  That is using His name for the wrong reason.  Hypocrisy.  Mark, chapter 12, verse 40, talks about the Pharisee and the scribe, “who . . . for appearance’s sake offer long prayers”.  In other words, they are invoking the name of God to impress someone.  How often do we do something, give, fast, or pray.  Those are three things that are supposedly done in secret, as it were, and there is something about it that we must let people know that we are doing it.  When we do, we literally take His name in vain.  We use it for the wrong reasons.  It is to bolster us.  It is to be impressive.  And so they would pray long prayers for appearance’s sake.  I wonder how many come to church for appearance’s sake.  Not this morning, I guarantee, you are here for the right reason.  But how many show up because this is the thing to do, to be seen to do?  That is hypocrisy.  That’s using His name for the wrong reason which, I believe, is taking His name in vain.  Matthew, chapter 7, verse 22, is an interesting passage where it’s, in effect, the judgement.  And Jesus Christ is telling the religious leaders, one day you will come to me and you will say, “Lord, Lord,” - “haven’t we done all of these things, haven’t we” - “cast out demons” - “haven’t we” - “prophesy in Your name, and in Your name perform many miracles?”  And Jesus Christ, the judge, will say, “I never knew you; depart from Me”.  That’s an indication, men and women, that there are people today who use the name of Jesus Christ, who cloak their ministries in the name of God, who have no part of God.  Hypocrisy at it’s most blatant form.  And God will one day say, “I” - “really” - “never knew you” - “even though you used My name.” 

I think we need to be careful how we use God’s name, as believers.  Be careful, men and women, that you and I don’t use His name at the drop of a hat just to defend our position.  Be careful when you say, “I prayed about that.”  Be careful when you say, “God led me to do that,” or, “God told me to do this.”  Be very careful because you are invoking the name of God as your defense.  And remember that thought, His - “thoughts are not” - my - “thoughts” - His - “ways” - are not - “ways”.  Be careful to bring into alignment with your ways the character and quality of God. 

I’ll never forget riding the bus to school in college.  I went to Liberty for a year, and this is before they had a campus, and we would ride an old school bus to a public school.  And we were sitting on the bus and I was sitting beside this gal and she had just gotten engaged.  And, at that point in time, I was kind of full of questions and I remember talking to her about it.  And she said, “Yea, I’m just so excited that God led us to do this.”  And I said, “Well, how do you really know that this is the time and this is the guy?”  And she said, “Well, you’ll never believe it.”  And I thought, “Boy, she’s going to see it written in the sky or something.”  And I’m taking notes.  She said, “My fiancé and I were at the mall and we went into a jewelry store and the ring that I liked fit.”  Of course!  Who would question that?  It must be God’s will.  I remember thinking, “That poor girl.  I hope it fits for forty or fifty years.”  You know, be real careful when we talk about God, as if we know God wants us to do something.  Not that we cannot know or be certain in our hearts but there are a lot of people who are using His name to defend their causes when their motives are wrong. 

The third and final one, is insincerity.  This is using His name with the wrong attitude.  There are three ways, at least three that came up.  First of all, using His name without reverence.  I think this is the expressions.  You understand the context of what I am saying here.  It is the person who says things like, “God Almighty” or “Oh, Lord,” “Oh, God,” “God.”  It is using His name without a tone of reverence.  It is pulling His name into something without a reverential attitude that has no place there.  His name is reserved.  He said, in effect, “Set apart My name before the nations.”  That is, make it special, when you use it, make sure it’s a special time or it’s reverential.”  It isn’t a slang word.  It is somebody’s name.  The Hebrews were so careful of His name that they only spoke it once a year.  And it was not everyone who spoke it, it was the high priest on the day of atonement that would verbalize the name “Yahweh” once a year.  Now, we bask in the light of grace that we can come and say His name freely.  I would never want to go back to just saying His name once a year.  But let’s not become so trivial and trite with his name that we use it for everything, whether the car is stuck, the dinner is burned or whatever.  It’s not, “Oh, God.”  His name is not for that.  I think it’s interesting as well, that we use Jesus’ name all too freely.  One thought, that has struck me, reading and preaching through the Gospel of Mark and then, of course, Paul’s epistles, and I want you to note this carefully, we could debate this and this is just a seed for thought, it is a rare thing for someone, after the resurrection of Jesus Christ to use just the name Jesus.  Did you pick that up?  You read the epistles and it is always the Lord Jesus.  It is always Jesus Christ, the Lord Jesus Christ.  I think there is a subtle implication there that these men knew, now He is resurrected, let’s attached to His human name His deity.  Let’s be very careful.  It isn’t, “Hey, Jesus,” it is Jesus Christ, it is the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus Christ. 

There is another way that we can use His name insincerely and that is using His name without reason.  Using His name without reason.  I think I’ve already illustrated that way, when the supper is burned or whatever, you pull His name into a context where it has no business being.  There is just no reason to use His name like that.  Develop a habit.  In fact, husbands and wives, kind of nudge each other and check each other when you say that around the house, if you do.  Say something else.  Say your wife’s name, “Oh, Cindy,” or whatever.  That’ll go far.  Don’t say His name.  That’ll straighten you guys out. 

Then the third, and I think this is fairly important, using His name with repetition.  It’s interesting, in the pagan context, whenever they wanted to get the attention of their god, they would repeat his name over and over again.  Do you remember when the prophets of Baal were on the mountain, they repeatedly called out his name?  Do you remember when the Ephesians repeatedly called out, “Great is Artemis or Diana,” “Great is Artemis or Diana?”  They constantly said that, trying to invoke her attention.  Trying to get Baal’s attention.  We don’t go to somebody to get their attention and say, “Hey, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe, Joe,” “Hey, Frank, Frank, Frank, Frank.”  That would be silly.  Be careful, there isn’t anything pietistic about His name, it isn’t a magic formula, and I think it is used irreverently if it is used as some kind of formula.  If I repeat it over and over again, MAYBE I’ll get His attention.  He isn’t deaf, He heard you the first time.  I think that’s a very irreverent use of His name.  Using it without reverence, without reason, and with repetition. 

Now let me give you three things about His name that never change, by way of application.  Number one, reverencing His name is our highest purpose.  Psalm, chapter 34, verse 3, David says, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together.”  In fact, one of the corporate pursuits of Colonial Baptist Church is that we can magnify His name together.  Come - “let us exalt His name together.”  Let’s set this name apart.  Let’s give it a special place.  Let’s use it in a special way of worship.  It’s one of our pursuits as a body of believers. 

Secondly, representing His name is our honored position.  Let me read you this passage, II Corinthians, chapter 5, verse 20, from the amplified, it says this, “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; that is, we represent His name.  God making His appeal, as it were, through us; we, as Christ’s personal representatives; you, for His sake, to lay hold of the divine favor now offered you to be reconciled to God.”  Isn’t it interesting that we go in the name of Jesus Christ as His honored ambassadors. 

Third, revealing His name is our heavy pursuit.  We not only reverence it, represent it, we try to reveal it.  Matthew, chapter 28, the great commission says, “Go . . . and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name” - in the name - “of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit”

The third command, in Exodus, chapter 20, verse 7, where He says, “Do not take My name in vain,” is much more than prohibition, it is much more than saying, “Don’t do something.”  He is going far beyond that, I believe, in saying, “Set it apart, reverence it, reveal it, represent it.  Give it something other than a commonplace position.  Give it a special place.”  And I believe, men and women, as believers, these are our highest purposes. Representing Him is our grandest position.  Revealing Him to the world, as who He is, His character, His quality, His name, is our greatest responsibility.  Let’s pray.                                                                

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