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Week 4: The Third Commandment
This week, the Rev. Jane Ferguson is teaching on the third commandment, looking at what it means and how Jesus teaches His followers to keep it. Here are the notes to accompany her message:
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Exodus 20:7
What is in a name?
  • First thing we inquire after the safe arrival of a baby
  • Thing that makes us feel welcomed, when our name is remembered
  • Can make us feel unseen or unimportant if our name is often forgotten by people
  • Reputation
Why are names important in scripture?
  • Scribes writing the name of the Lord would change writing implements each time they wrote the name of God
  • God thinks names are important: animals are named in Genesis; name changes when people have changes in faith, i.e. Abraham, Sarah, Jacob and Simon-Peter; names given to parents for their children, i.e. Isaac, Ishmael, Solomon, Josiah, John and Jesus; our names are written on His hands (Isaiah 49:16) or in His Book of Life (Revelation 13:8)
  • We think names are important too: trademarks, last names and family names; our name and our reputation are tied
  • So what does this commandment mean? Reason for children not to say ”OMG” when they learn it at school; used as a general way that Christians object to profanity “don’t you have any better words?” Or as a reminder when people say “For God’s sake” or “Jesus Christ” as words of exclamation or frustration.
HOWEVER, that’s not the full story:
1.  It is a privilege to be allowed to call God by his name.
  • For Jews, using the name of God was a rarity. The priest could once a year on the Day of Atonement. The people never could.
  • It’s a name like ‘Father’ in the Lord’s Prayer, really more like ‘Daddy.’ It’s intimate and for those close to Him.
  • It’s a name we get to use with fear, respect, humility and vulnerability, and it’s by glorious invitation.
2.  If we expect people to take our faith seriously, how we use the name of God is important.
  • Frivolous use
  • Swearing an oath
  • Conducting business in God’s name
  • Overtly Christian businesses acting in Christ-like ways, e.g. Chick-Fil-A, HEB and others
3.  The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that our Father’s name is to be hallowed.
  • We say it EVERY WEEK. Have you thought about what it means?
  • Whenever we come to pray, we’re taught to use this form
  • We renew the covenant God has made with us every week, often more.
4.  There is POWER in the name of Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit.
  • Can be invoked by our words: praying for healing, praying for protection and praying in the early hours of the morning
  • Can be put to use: to influence and to comfort
  • Can be powerfully misused to oppress, abuse and propagate unholy agendas: Hitler’s oppression of the Jews; Apartheid / slavery; women have been oppressed / mistreated using God’s name as justification; in the UK, Catholics against Protestants and vice versa, over and over and over again in the middle ages
  • We assume far too much about the mind of God, yet we think we’re so good at acting in His name.
5.  To give weight to our promises, but God says in Matthew 5:37, let your yes be yes and your no be no; use YOUR name, don’t use mine.
  • Your name and your reputation should be enough as a person of integrity.
6.  And this was the game-changer for me: God’s name is YOUR name.
  • You are an adopted son or daughter and heir of the kingdom.
  • His inheritance is yours. His name is yours.
  • The power of God’s name is given to you as a tool for you to put to work in the world to pursue love, justice and mercy.
  • Our names are bound up in his: ‘The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, of XXX (insert your name here).’
  • At your baptism, your given name is woven into the liturgy, a sign of God calling you and welcoming you to the family.
We treat God’s name with reverence because it is our family name. We use it carefully because our Brothers and Sisters (even the ones we don’t like) all share it with us; all heirs in the kingdom, all witnesses to the Way, all pilgrims on the journey. We have a responsibility to behave in a way worthy of God and worthy of our spiritual brothers and sisters.
If up to now we have spent our time casually taking the name of God in lightly, if we have used it to win family arguments or guilt people into our point of view, if we have used it to control our staff or coerce our spouse or children, then maybe now it’s time to remember to hold it in the high regard it deserves. I know it’s time I did.
Questions for Reflection
  • What were your preconceptions about the third commandment and where did they come from?
  • Do you know any of the names of God in the Old Testament? What do they tell you about the character of God?
  • How did the apostles use the name of Jesus? What can that teach you about the power of His name?
  • Where or when have you misused the name of God, perhaps in your words or actions?
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to and through you. Have you ever been ashamed of the name of Jesus? For yourself? Because of the actions of others?
  • How can you bear God’s name more faithfully in your life? At home, in your work, with your friends and the world around you?
Prayer for this Week
Father, Lord, Savior, Holy Spirit, Comforter, Provider, Shepherd and Sanctifier. You have many names and we’re learning more about Your character through them, but you know each of our names; they’re graven on Your hands and written in the Book of Life. You knew us in the womb, baptized us into a family and Your Holy Spirit marks us as sheep of Your fold. Forgive us where we have misused Your name for our purposes. Teach us how to revere Your name and how to use it with care and wisdom, all for Your glory. Amen.