|Series Theme: Meditations in Lessons from the Law of Moses|
Meditation No. 5
Meditation Title: The Name of the Lord
Ex 20:7 You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
Truth is about what is. Behind everything else, God is! Without doubt, the most important thing we can ever learn in life, is the fact that God is, and who He is. We have observed, in the first two of the Ten Commandments, that we are only to recognise the one true God and that we are not to make idols or images less we get seduced away from worshipping the one true God alone. Why all this? Because there is only one Supreme Being, only one worthy of our worship! That is the truth, that is the reality and we are to hold on to that and not let go of it. All of these first commandments are about recognizing and honouring the Lord for who He is. Thus when we come to the third of the Ten Commandments, the same intent is there.
It sounds such a simple command but it still reveals the same truth: “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God” . How do we misuse the name of the Lord? By, negatively, not giving Him the honour that is due to the one Supreme Being who is Creator of all things, all-powerful, all knowing, all wise – perfect. Yes, those are the descriptions of the Lord that the Bible shows us and when we realise this – and the whole of the Bible is about revealing this – then we can only fall down and worship Him, for worship is the recognition by an inferior being of a superior being, and you can't get any more superior than God! But we can also, positively, misuse His name by speaking of Him as less than He is, and modern atheists who denigrate His name will find themselves being held to account for that. It is one thing to ignore the Lord; it is another to speak abusively of Him.
Now misusing His name also infers speaking the name of the Lord for wrong purposes. Now in the New Testament we find the name of Jesus referred to again and again, for example, “Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38 ) as a recognition that it was in and through Jesus that forgiveness comes. Indeed the recognition of a name as an authority to do something was common: “They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: "By what power or what name did you do this?” (Acts 4:7) Indeed it was using the name of Jesus that brought deliverance: “Finally Paul became so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!" At that moment the spirit left her.” (Acts 16:18 ) Furthermore, abuse of the name is seen: “Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, "In the name of Jesus, whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.” (Acts 19:13 )
Now the prohibition on misusing the name of the Lord similarly excludes ‘using' God's name for wrong ‘authority' or ‘power' purposes. Although the Jews refused to speak the holy name of the ‘I AM', they nevertheless came to rely upon it in wrong ways, as Jeremiah pointed out: “Do not trust in deceptive words and say, "This is the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD !” (Jer 7:4) Because it was ‘God's' temple, they reasoned it was sacred and safe. Not so, said the Lord. They trusted in the name and in that sense, while in reality they disregarded the Lord, they misused the name. Do we sometimes misuse the name by tagging on to self-centred prayers, “in Jesus' name”? We can only pray that when we know we are praying specifically in line with Scripture and clearly in line with God's revealed will. To use the name to make valid our own good ideas, is to misuse the name.
Honouring the Lord's name is linked with blessing: “Wherever I cause my name to be honoured, I will come to you and bless you.” (Ex 20:24 ) What this suggests is that wherever people come into a good relationship with the Lord where they will, as a sign of the reality of that relationship, respect and honour His name, then quite naturally, as an outworking of that relationship, blessing from the Lord will follow. The opposite is also true: abuse of the name indicates an absence of relationship with the Lord and the blessing will similarly be absent.
Honouring the name means not going the way of those who honour other names: “Do not give any of your children to be sacrificed to Molech, for you must not profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.” (Lev 18:21). Having a relationship with the Lord meant honouring the name of God in the eyes of the rest of the world, and they could not do that if they went the way of other false religions. Similarly, “Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD,” (Lev 19:12) indicated the sin of trying to justify or give credit to something by an oath involving the Lord, when it was clearly a wrong thing. The same applied to the way the priests carried out their duties: “The LORD said to Moses, "Tell Aaron and his sons to treat with respect the sacred offerings the Israelites consecrate to me, so they will not profane my holy name.” (Lev 22:1,2) Bad behaviour would bring the Lord's name into disrepute.
On a positive note we find, “At that time the LORD set apart the tribe of Levi to carry the ark of the covenant of the LORD , to stand before the LORD to minister and to pronounce blessings in his name .” (Deut 10:8). We can speak no blessing over someone except that which comes from the Lord, for a blessing is a prophetic declaration from heaven of God's decree of God. Thus we find use of God's name is all to do with the reality of the Lord and the reality of our relationship with Him. Let's be careful!