The finger of God wrote these words, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Taking God’s name in vain is a large subject. Analyzing the details of “taking His name in vain” is an exercise in Old Testament theology. Any treatment of the third commandment leads the Bible student into the world of oaths, vows, what constitutes blasphemy, false worship, and so on. Perhaps one day if I preach a series on the Ten Commandments, we will go into all that detail.
For now, let me point out two things from the commandment. God values His name. His name reflects who He is, His character, His glory. He loves His name. His name is majestic (Psalm 8:1, 9). His name is holy (Psalm 33:21). His name is to be praised, feared, thanked, and rejoiced in!
The second obvious point is that God does not want His name misused. The misuse of His name prompts God to threaten punishment upon the offenders. If God’s name is valued by Him, He wants it honored, not defamed. Revering God’s name is revering God, and God does not want anything about Him taken lightly. “The commandment prohibits any misuse of the Lord’s name, from making light of it to blatantly mocking it. Every mention made of the Lord with our mouths is to be made with the highest sincerity and reverence.”
In our culture, the misuse of God’s name in cursing is terribly common. People use God’s name and Jesus’ name as curse words. They invoke God to damn. They use the blessed name of His only-begotten Son as an expletive. These uses are blasphemous and a flagrant violation of God’s commandment. These will not be small sins on judgment day.
However, I want to point out a misuse of God’s name which many Christians are guilty of. I am not saying that Christians consciously blaspheme God or invoke God’s damnation. But there is a subtle way the third commandment is violated and that is by simply using the name “God” as filler or an expletive. It is common to hear Christians say, as an interjection, “Oh my God!” Or “Oh God!” A somewhat more pious approach, “Oh good Lord,” or “Oh Lord.” And in our technological age, let me quickly add that “OMG” is the same thing.
Dear Christian, we struggle enough with our words (Eph. 4:29; James 3:2). Let us not add violating the third commandment to our sins of the tongue. Let us guard our mouths to make sure that we do not use the majestic name of our God as filler, as a comma, as an interjection. His name is glorious. The word “God” is weighty, it is one of the titles of the most important Person in the universe. The word “Lord” expresses His power, His might, His right to rule over our lives. It is an absolute contradiction, albeit often an unconscious one, to claim faith in God and reverence for His name and then misuse His name. When we use His name, let’s make sure we use it in the ways that Scripture commands and commends, not forbids and threatens punishment. May we use His name in a way that is fitting for the Lord of all.
For the sake of His name,