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Use God's Name. It won't be in vain!

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20160916

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Use God's Name. It won't be in vain!




"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain."
Exodus 20:7a ESV



This is widely referred to as the "2nd Commandment".


It's also the reason most God-fearing parents won't let their kids get away with saying "OMG" or its lengthier counterpart, "Oh My God". Using God's name as an exclamation of shock or amazement is regarded as a "vain use", or what the NIV translates as a "misuse".

This is all well and good. We should curb our enthusiasm such that we do not take up God's name in such a way. And sadly a lot of kids these days are probably learning that kind of language from Mom and/or Dad. Well, now you know.

Additionally, as Martin Luther points out in his Small Catechism, this Commandment also curbs us from all kinds of spiritual mischief such as "satanic arts". Of course almost nobody uses that phrase any more, even though they might check their daily horoscope, "thank their lucky stars", or even dabble with a palm or tarot card reader - you know, just for fun. And yet we should understand all of these as prohibited when God instructs us about the proper use of His Name.

But sadly, most people stop there in their meditation of the 2nd Commandment. "Gotcha! Don't swear, don't say "Jesus" when I really mean "golly!", and stay away from voodoo." NEXT.

But wait!

There is a lot more to this little diamond of God's Word than just how to speak like God matters. This Commandment is a promise.


Suppose I say to you, "You will not be disappointed if you visit Disneyland."

Certainly on one level, if I had any authority over you, I would be commanding you to have a good time. "Don't be disappointed". OK? And in this case it might not be that difficult a thing to do!

But I'm also saying something that is causing you to look forward to your trip. I am saying, "When you go to Disneyland, oh man, you are gonna love it because you'll not be disappointed." And if I had the power and authority to actually make your trip exciting and better than your wildest expectations, then my words are a promise: "You'll not be disappointed..."

When God says, "You'll not use his name in vain", of course he's commanding us to not to (Yes, in the spirit of Disney, I'm quoting Mater). But because God also has the power and authority to make sure that when we do use his name, it will be, well, the opposite of "in vain", he's also issuing a promise.

In other words, in addition to being about what we shouldn't say, the 2nd Commandment is about what to expect when we call on God's name in faithful expectation. It will not be in vain.


Which means that when we pray in God's name, we are not praying in vain. When we Worship in God's name, we are not worshiping in vain. When we receive God's name in Baptism, it's not in vain. You get the point.

In Numbers 6, the LORD speaks to Moses and says, "This is how you will put my name on my people: say to them, 'May the LORD bless you and keep you; may the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace'". When do you hear those words? Most likely you hear them as the closing "benediction" of Sunday morning Worship. In Numbers 6, God says that when his name is used in just that particular way, something happens. All those who hear those words receive God's name almost like a new dress or a new suit... we "put it on". And the 2nd Commandment assures us that it isn't in vain.



God has big plans for his name. He uses it in mysterious ways to work forgiveness and faith and blessing. He gives his name to us to use as we call on him in prayer and praise and thanksgiving. And He promises that when we do that, it will be effective, powerful, dynamic, active, alive, and... anything but "in vain".

And so hear these words once more with a new ear, "You'll not use the name of the LORD your God in vain."

Awesome.

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