We have looked together at the first two commandments – “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” and “Thou shalt not make any graven image.” We have focused on two key themes – First, God is the God of our salvation. He is the God who saves us. He does this through his Son, Jesus Christ; Second, In saving us, God has this great purpose – to recreate us in his own image, making us more like our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.
With these two great truths before us – the Lord has saved us and is continually at work within us to make us more like himself, we turn to the third commandment – “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
Taking the Lord’s name in vain – what does this mean? It means taking the Lord’s name lightly. It means ignoring the Lord. In the opening chapter of the New Testament, we read that the name of Jesus means Saviour: “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). To take the Lord’s name in vain is to refuse to let him be your Saviour. In this commandment – “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord they God in vain”, God is speaking to us. He is pleading with us, “Take me seriously! Let me be your Saviour! Let me be your Friend!” He is calling for your response, “Believe me! Trust me! Love me!” This is what God is saying to us through this commandment – “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
The ten commandments take us back into the history of Israel, back to the exodus – God bringing his people out of their bondage in Egypt; back to Mount Sinai – God giving his people instruction concerning how they were to live their lives. We must not, however, remain back there. We must look at the ten commandments in the light of Jesus Christ, in the light of the cross. God says to us, “Take me seriously.” Before he asks us to take him seriously, he has taken us seriously – so seriously that he gave his son to die for us. He took the people of Israel seriously. He did not leave them in Egypt. He brought them out of their bondage. He has taken us seriously. The cross leaves us in no doubt about that. The cross makes this perfectly clear – God is in earnest about his purpose to bless us. God really means it when he tells us that he loves us.
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” What does this mean for us in the light of the cross of Jesus Christ? Jesus says that all who honour the Father are to honour the Son also – “that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father” (John 5:23). To those who imagine that they can have faith in god without trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus says, “He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him” (John 5:23). How do we honour the Son? How do we honour the Father? Jesus says, “Truly, truly, i say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).
Like the second commandment – “Thou shalt not make any graven image”, the third commandment – “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” is followed by a word of warning. God does not offer to his “steadfast love” (Exodus 20:6) without, also, warning us against the dangers of rejecting his love – “the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” This the word of warning. To refuse God’s way of salvation is to remain in your guilt. There is, however, a way in which guilt is removed.It is the way of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the way which brings great blessing into your life.
There’s a verse in Scripture which says, “Those who honour me, I will honour” (1 Samuel 2:30). As you honour Jesus Christ your Saviour, God honours you. He removes your guilt. He forgives your sin. He calls you his child. He gives you his Holy Spirit to live in you. He gives you the gift of eternal life. Have you received these great gifts from God? Have you, by simple faith in Jesus Christ, received the blessings of God’s salvation into your life? Imagine you received a carefully chosen and carefully wrapped gift. The next time the giver sees you, he asks, “How did you like the birthday present I gave you?” To your shame, you are forced to confess, “Oh, I forget to unwrap it”! Don’t forget to unwrap Jesus Christ – God’s greatest gift to you. We honour Jesus Christ by receiving him as Saviour. We, also, honour him giving him the place of highest honour in our lives. Imagine the giver of the birthday gift returns to your home. He finds you, working in the garden. He says to you, “What! Yo wore that good, new shirt, working in the garden!” We dishonour the gift – the Lord Jesus Christ – and the giver – God the Father, when we take Jesus Christ for granted and do not give him the place of highest honour in our lives.
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord they God in vain.” How do we live our lives in the light of this commandment?
A man entered a restaurant. His whole appearance was elegant and distinguished – most impressive! Within a minute, he let out a sentence , full of unrepeatable words – not so impressive! Is your ‘religion’ a matter of outward appearances? or Do you have the inward reality of Christ, living in your heart?
A woman, travelling on a bus, let out a string of unrepeatable words. As she left the bus, the driver said to her, “Have you left something behind?” She said, “No! I haven’t.” He said, “Yes. You have – a very bad impression!” What effect do you have on other people?
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” – This commandment leads us to our Lord’s name, the name of Jesus Christ. Let us not take our Saviour’s name in vain. Let us not drag his lovely name into the mud. Let us exalt his name.
May our lives – words and actions, bring glory and honour to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. As you honour him, he will honour you.”Lord, I respect you; Lord, I honour your name.”Say it gently! Whisper it sincerely! Listen! You will hear a still, small voice within you – “Likewise, my child.”