“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
When many think of this command their first thought can be that it refers to using the Lord’s name as a swear word. But there is much more involved with a vain use of Gods name. In order to understand the severity of taking the Lord’s name in vain, we should have a Biblical perspective on His name as it is outlined in Scripture. The God of Israel was known by many names and titles, but the concept embodied in God’s name plays an important and unique role in the Bible. God’s nature and attributes, the totality of His being, and especially His glory are reflected in His name. Psalm 111:9 tells us His name is “holy and awesome”. Or take the Lord’s prayer, Jesus begins the prayer by addressing the Father with the phrase “hallowed be your name” Matthew 6:9, an indication that a reverence for God and His name should be foremost in our prayers.
Often we can barge into God’s presence with presumptuous “to-do lists” for Him, without being mindful of His holiness, His awesomeness, and that there is a vast chasm that separates our nature from His. That we are even allowed to come before His throne is only because of His gracious, merciful love for us. And we should be careful, never take that grace for granted.
There is a larger sense in which people today can take the Gods name in vain. Those who name the name of Jesus, who pray in His name, and who take His name as part of their identity, but who deliberately and continually sin, are taking His name in vain. Jesus has been given the name above all names, at which the Bible tells us, every knee shall bow Philippians 2:9-10, and when we take the name “Christian” as our identity, we must do so understanding all that it means. If we profess to be Christians, but act, think, and speak in a worldly way, we are taking Gods name in vain. When we say we love Him, but do not do what He is asking us to do Luke 6:46, we are taking His name in vain.
For those who are caught in sin, the good news is that there is forgiveness because of what Jesus has done on the cross, and we should come to Him with repentant hearts. But command is speaking right to the very heart of our relationship with God, we need to make sure that we are respecting God with our words, our actions and our very lives and that we ‘take God seriously’.