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The Second Commandment: You Shall Not Misuse the Name of the Lord Your God

March 21, 2018

The Second Commandment: You Shall Not Misuse the Name of the Lord Your God

The 10 Commandments have been an important part of the Christian church since Moses came down the mountain with the stone tablets carved by God. Since that day, we have studied them, memorized them, used them as a guide for the faith of the church. In this series on the 10 Commandments, we will examine each one and reflect on its application to our lives.

You might be saying to yourself, “But that’s not the second commandment! What about graven images?” Before continuing with the series, read through our explanation on numbering the 10 Commandments. This series follows the Catholic/ Lutheran tradition of considering the passage about graven images as part of the first commandment.

The Name of God

What is God’s name? If you read an English bible, you’ll have a hard time finding any name other than Jesus’. Our English translations follow an old Hebrew tradition of replacing God’s name with the word, “LORD,” out of respect and care so they do not misuse God’s name. In the Hebrew, the name of God is יהוה, which is transliterated as YHWH and pronounced “Yahweh.”

This convention came from respect for the second commandment. For centuries, when someone would read aloud the Old Testament in Hebrew, the reader would substitute the word, “ adonai (my lord) ,” for God’s name.

Using God’s Name To Proclaim His Actions

God’s commandments not only orient us away from evil actions, they also orient us toward the good. The second commandment reminds us that God has given us his name for us to use it.

God, himself, uses his name when he describes his actions. For example, in Exodus, chapter 6, God repeats his name at the beginning and the end of his plan to save his people. He repeats, “I am YHWH” And the describes what he plans to do against Egypt to save his people from slavery.

The same thing happens in chapter 7, “Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.  And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” God uses his name as a way to describe how he is regarded by the world and by his people.

In Ezekiel, God uses his name to associate himself with both salvation and judgment. In chapter 20, “Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, the land I had sworn with uplifted hand to give to your ancestors.” He is recognized by the mighty work that brings his people back to Israel.

It is also true with judgement. Ezekiel 33, “I will make the land a desolate waste, and her proud strength will come to an end, and the mountains of Israel will become desolate so that no one will cross them. Then they will know that I am the Lord, when I have made the land a desolate waste because of all the detestable things they have done.”

God wants us to use his name to praise him for his glorious salvation. When he does his greatest work, saving us from sin, we are to praise him using his name. If we follow the Bible’s example, we should include what God has done with those praises. We praise his name in connection with the salvation he brings through Christ, in connection with the gifts he gives us through his church, and in connection with the prayers he answers.

We also use his name to proclaim what he has done to the whole world. We share the message of the gospel with everyone, telling the world about the wonderful things God has done, so they may know that he is the Lord.

Call On God’s Name In Trouble

We don’t just use God’s name for praise and proclamation. The psalmists call upon God to save them by invoking his name. Psalm 143:11, “For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.” The psalmist calls on God to save his life, because he wants the fame of the Lord to be made known.

There is something similar in Psalm 6, “Among the dead no one proclaims your name. Who praises you from the grave?” The psalmist calls on God to save him so he can continue proclaiming the praises of God and telling about his amazing works.

God has given us his name for us to call on him, too. He wants us to offer up our prayers and petitions to him using his name. He promises to hear us, too.

God Puts His Name On Us

We don’t just use God’s name to proclaim and to pray. God has also placed his name on each and every Christian. Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” In baptism, God places the triune name on us. Whether dunked or sprinkled, God’s holy name is given when one is baptized.

We recognize this with the words that every Christian church uses when we baptize someone. They come directly from the above passage, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” God places his name on us, and he makes us holy so we can serve him.

Misusing God’s Name

We misuse God’s name when we use it in opposition to the purposes for which he has given it to us. When we use God’s name to curse someone, to convince someone of a lie, to shout it as an expletive, or many other ways.

God has given us a wonderful gift, his name. He calls on us to use it to declare his praises, to call on him in trouble, and to bear it in out baptisms.

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