By Daniel Downs
The bedrock of Western civilization is the divine covenant. This covenant began with Noah. It was expanded with the specificity of a national and global promise by God to Abraham. The nationalization of the covenant was first initiated by God’s covenant act at Mount Sinai and restated to the Israelites at Mount Horeb. However, it wasn’t until the Israelites entered and possessed the Promised Land that the institutionalization of this divine covenant was realized. Its eventual globalization began when the Jews were forcefully dispersed throughout the world and later through the rise of the Jewish Messiah and the spread of his Church across the globe.
The covenant first given by God at Mt. Sinai and reiterated at Mt. Horeb is known as the Ten Commandments. It is the third commandment that is the basis of all covenants both human and divine. The third commandment goes like this: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Ex. 20:7 & De. 5:11)
While growing up, I believed this commandment meant not to use the name of God as a curse word. When I became a follower of Messiah, the meaning expanded in two ways. I realized I should not use Jesus Christ as curse word either. I gained further perspective about the meaning of not using the name of the Lord in vain through the gospels. Jesus taught not to make promises to God or to make oaths by his name or anything related to Him and not fulfill them (Mat. 5:33-37). Doing so demonstrates an attitude that God is not to be taken seriously. A terrible example of how God has responded to those who have little regard for the Almighty while otherwise pretending they do is found in Acts 5:1-11. Like many others a couple, Ananias and Sapphira, promised to give part of their property to the community of faith for the benefit of the poorer members. However, they changed their minds. Instead of being honest, they lied to the representatives of God in His Temple. Because of their frivolous attitude towards God, their lie cost them their lives.
God is still holy and true.
Let me digress a moment, one of the things I quickly noticed as a member of God’s household was the way non-religious people use the name of God and Jesus Christ. It was a revelation to me because I spoke the same way before committing my life to God and Christ. What I mean is people say God damn and Jesus Christ is the same way. They speak the name while experiencing problems and frustrations. Why? I’m sure it is because they are deeply aware of the presence of God, their sinful condition, and need for both justice and forgiveness. Think about it; what does Jesus Christ have to do with any troublesome situation? Why would the same be a cause of God’s damnation? Spiritual humans, all are made in the image and likeness of God, simply know the real situation and the real need.
Getting back to the main point, you can’t take the name of the Lord in vain if you are not in a covenantal relationship with God.
In both biblical testaments, God’s representatives spoke about the relationship between God and His people. In the Hebrew Bible, the prophets spoke the relationship between God and Israel in terms of marriage. (See Isa. 57:1-8; Eze. 16:1-63; Jer. 2:23-3:5; Hos 2:14-20) In the Gospels and Epistles, the apostles also spoke of the relationship between Christ and the church in terms of marriage. (See Mat. 22:1-14; Eph. 5:22-32; Rev. 19:7) Why? Because marriage is a covenant based relationship. It is a relationship based on the promise and premise of truth, trust, and faithfulness. Marriage is the giving and taking of a shared name, a combined heritage, and mutual benefits and obligations. Moreover, the name given represents the obligation of protection and provision. Without the leadership to back it, the name is rather vain.
The biblical prophets and apostles also spoke of the relationship between God and his people as one of parent and children. (See Isa. 30:1; Eph. 5:1; 1 Jo. 5:1) Here the covenant is being applied to later generations. Just as in marriage, the covenant is inherent in family, and it is an inheritance to the children of that marriage covenant. Each new marriage extends that covenant throughout the generations. That is the way God regards covenant with the Jews, Israelis, Christians, Americans, every husband, wife and their children, and anyone else with whom He has entered into covenant as both a marriage and an inherent right and obligation of later generations.
To take the name of the Lord God in vain is to live like there is no person, no name, and no covenant to honor and cherish.
Source of Inspiration: “God Carved His Love in Stone,” a sermon by David Jeremiah delivered on September 30, 2012, http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/television_archives.aspx.