Making God’s Name Holy (the third Commandment)

If you identify with Christianity, call yourself a Christian, or call Jesus your God you will undoubtedly know the Lord’s Prayer. Each denomination has a slightly different variation on the same thing based on which Biblical translation of the original Greek text taken from Matthew 6 they use. It starts in verse 9, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Why do you think Jesus started out like that? “…hollowed be your name.” What exactly does that mean? “Hollowed.”

The Greek word is “hagiazo” which means to make venerable or respected. It means to clean out and make pure. It means to separate from profanity. We know God is holy but what about His name? Jesus is asking that we first ask that the first Person of the Godhead’s NAME be made respected, that His NAME be made pure, that His NAME is not to be profaned. The world we live in is so far from that, so much so, I even catch Christians saying “Oh my G-d” often. Not only is the desire to make God’s Name respected the first thing Jesus told us to pray for, but it is also commanded of us in the third commandment to not use in vain.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” ~ Exodus 20:7

God’s name is to be respected and it is not. God’s name is to be upheld as pure and it is not. God’s name is to be separated from profanity and it is certainly not. When a great king or our president enters a room, we all stand up out of respect. If you stayed seated most everyone around you would either guilt you into standing by their glares or someone would grab your elbow and make you stand. How often do you correct someone when they profane God’s name? How often do you get jealous for the name of God?

I admonish you to not let it go when you hear the Lord’s Name taken in vain. Stand up whenever you can on this major issue that the world and even the church has taken a lighter view on. I’ve even heard a pastor from the pulpit say “Oh my G-d” when as he was recounting a story. I was so shocked I did a double take. I thought, “Did he actually just say that?” I looked around and oddly no one caught it. I had to re-listen to the tape to see if I was hearing things and sure enough, there it was, plain as day. That is how subtle this sin and issue is in this world.

There is a second way in which the third commandment is meant. It is not one that is often thought of but I fear that because of that simple fact, it can seep in more easily and cause us to get caught in sin and not even know it. When you speak to someone do you constantly say their name over and over during that conversation? I doubt you even say it once. They know you are talking to them. But how do we pray? We say “Lord Jesus.” “Father God.” “Oh God.” “My Father.” “God, just.” “God, just.” “God, just.” That last one I said three times, because it is the one I hear most often. Just…just…just.

First off, we are using God’s name in vain by continually using it as padding during our prayer to him. Second, we are speaking in such a disrespectful way when we keep saying “just” as if we could speak down to him and he would do what we ask. Think about it. Who do you ever talk to that way? “Would you just do this?” “Just help in this area.” Usually we use that word in the question form to our children. Not only is it another filler word when you pray, it is also a very disrespectful way of speaking to God Almighty.

Finally there is a third way in which we break the third commandment. This one is the most insidious. When we do anything in our life there are always motives behind them. When you brush your teeth in the morning, we say we do it because we want to take care of our teeth and not get cavities or get any pulled out. However realistically the real reason we brush them in the morning is because we don’t want anyone to smell our bad breath. Of course we brush them twice a day so we don’t loose them, but our motives are usually tainted with self preservation based on what others will think of us. Our actions may be righteous in light of our teeth, but our motives are not pure. Have you ever done something for God or in his name? We do things all the time for God. We serve in our church, we discuss his Word in small groups, we give money to the poor, plus a whole host of other things we would consider as “good” or “righteous” deeds.

God has said in Isaiah 64:6 ESV, “all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” Many translations state it as “filthy rags.” The term for “polluted” and “filthy” is “iddah” which is the feminine noun describing a woman’s menstruation. This is how graphic and to-the-point our God is! Our deeds, that we consider righteous, anything you do or have done that you can claim as being good or in the name of God, is counted as dirty, disgusting, used, feminine hygiene products. You don’t ever hear this preached from the pulpit so please don’t take my word for it. Be a good Berean and look it up. Find out what the original text said and meant. It is clear as day. Our motives are stained, soiled, and ultimately disgusting to God in comparison to what pure righteousness actually is.

This is not to say you should hold up in your home and do nothing good. Quite the contrary. The Bible is clear all over the place that we are to do as many good deeds as we can so others might praise our Father in Heaven. It is our motives that trip us up. Sadly we may not even clearly see our motives and our brains can deceive us fully. The saying “hindsight is 20-20” is so true for anyone who has claimed Christianity as their path in life and then became actually saved later in life. I am one such person.

I can look back and literally laugh at how blind I was to my righteous deeds. Every single one of them was polluted. Everything I did in God’s name was nullified by my selfish motives that are only clear now. I was a leader in my church and loved the respect I got from others. I was the pianist on the worship team and loved the praise from adults and peers. I was a missionary and loved the pats on the back I got from going to serve. I was a prayer warrior and loved when people in the church came to me first. I was even a harmonizer who loved to get compliments on my voice after worship. How disgusting! How deplorable! How dishonest!

An area that I see most often in the church or in Christian circles is people trying to make a profit off of each other by joining various groups and then promoting their business or service. I am guilty of it myself. What are we to do? Not let people know what we do for a living? Christians love to help each other and we would rather use the products and services of fellow Christians than buy from someone else. So, here is where it gets tricky. I have seen time and time again wolves in sheep’s clothing so to speak. People who come into churches and Christian circles with an underlying motive to make a profit. They may not be doing it consciously but subconsciously they know how easy it is to sell to “Christians.” Even the Christian magazines and radio stations state why Christians like buying from within the “family” as a part of their marketing materials to get you to advertise with them. Before you try to sell anything to any Christian, check your motives.

So what about now? Now that I am actually saved? That is the catch-22 I suppose. Now the Spirit convicts me of my motives either before I do them, during what I am doing, or very VERY soon after I do them. My heart weighs heavy when my motives are wrong. But, even now my righteous deeds are STILL like filthy rags. No one does good, no not even one as stated in Romans 3:10-12 ESV as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Remember what Jesus says in Luke 18:19 ESV “And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

How do we process all of this then in light of our salvation? Are your motives tainting your good deeds? Do you find yourself doing things “in the name of God”? Do you constantly say His name over and over again in prayer without a thought to it’s weight. Do you find yourself using the Lord’s Name in vain? Do you say OMG as your “Christian” way of fitting in? I know that this world has desensitized us to it. We see it everywhere in hashtags, on billboards, in texts, even on TV show title sequences. Can I tell you something? It breaks my heart. Seriously. Every time I see it or hear it, my heart crushes into my chest a little deeper. There are variations too on the same thing: Oh Em Gee, Oh My Gosh, Jeez, Jesus, they all stem from the same deplorable thing: breaking the third commandment. This is not a joke. It is a serious thing. Taking the LORD’s name in vain should not be a product of the time we live in. Be clear on this, it is a product of the deceptive design of Satan.

You may have been a Christian for a while and have possibly gotten desensitized to this. It is possible that this has never been an issue for you until now because it never occurred to you that it is considered a sin (one of the top 3 by the way). But maybe, just maybe you are not fully saved. OK, now before you get defensive consider this: I spent 25 years thinking I was saved. On this topic I pretty much steered clear of saying “Oh my God” but occasionally I’d say it. Jeez was a regular statement for me. Then, I actually got saved. I was 39. Instantly my spirit was crushed every time I heard or saw any of the phrases taking the LORD’s name in vain. It was like the moment you decide you want to have a baby all you see are babies everywhere. It was all I could do to stop my ears with earplugs. No one told me this, it was the Spirit inside me that was grieving what my own spirit never grieved before.

I am not saying that you definitely are not saved if you say or use any of those statements, however you may not be. Check yourself. While I am not God and do not know your heart, and I clearly do not have it all worked out, I do know the God’s law is written on my heart and without any warning or theological training, this specific thing was so palpable when I got saved and still is that I cannot help but think it should at least be viewed as a red flag and worth digging deeper to see if you are truly saved.

Our View of God (The Second Commandment)

Most people when they read the second commandment think, “I have no problem with that one.” They read it to mean we should not have any idols, like the carved statues of Bible times. We even go into understanding the concept of what our idols are of today, like worldly things, money, or even ourselves, plus a potential plethora of other items that we can easily place as an “idol” over our love for God. While this is all true it is not the whole of what the second commandment means.

Here is the text of the second commandment as seen in the ESV version of Exodus 20:4-6 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

It is curious that the first commandment is simple and straightforward, yet the second commandment needed 3 distinct directives. It is almost as if we wouldn’t get it and need a little extra explanation. He knows we are dust and in that I find great relief in His mercy, however we are to be good Bereans (Acts 17:11) and study the Word of God by searching for answers and understanding. Read the above verses from Exodus 20 again and ask yourself, “What could I be missing?”

God tells us not to create idols or symbols that we would worship such as worshiping a cross or praying to a statue in a church as a method to help us get in the “mood” to worship. However God also tells us to not make any likeness of who we may think God looks like. There is a great deal to learn about our own salvation based on how the significant full meaning of this commandment plays out in our lives. While this may not be a salvific issue in and of itself, I often consider that the number one issue when it comes to why people may think they are saved when in fact they may not be is their view of God.

Ask yourself these questions: When you think of God, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Who has He been to you over the years? Daddy? Friend? Helper? Disciplinary? Do you think of him as your Co-pilot? When you imagine seeing Him for the first time what is it like in your mind’s eye? Is He a big Santa Claus type that you imagine yourself crawling up into His lap and having Him hold you tight?

Everyone has a different “picture” of who God is and what He looks like. Naturally they are based on who we are and what we have learned and experienced God to be. Interestingly enough our views are not right at all. They are offensively wrong. Consider this: if you asked me to show you a picture of my husband and I showed you a picture of a snail, you might laugh or think I was nuts. What if I was serious and said to you “Isn’t he the most gorgeous man on the planet?” You might start to feel sad for me. You might pity me. But more importantly it would be an offense to my actual husband. He would surely ask me to stop representing him in that way.

This is how it is to God when we conjure up images in our mind of what God looks like. When we see him for the first time we won’t be cuddling in his lap, we will assuredly be in shock and awe at how wrong we were and we will forever be amazed at the glory that is his alone. Consider that the homecoming you have imagined will more likely start with your body swiftly slamming to the ground with your face firmly planted as low as you can get in the presence of your Maker as a form of humble worship so humiliating that we will only but desire to worship and adore him like never before. Oh the day! As you study the Bible and learn of any account where a human sees God, or fully sees the Deity of Jesus, you see statements such as “I am ruined.” or “Woe to me!” or “Depart from me, I am not worthy!”

All of these statements used to utterly confuse me. Why were they so ruined? Because in the presence of a holy God their wretchedness was made fully and overwhelmingly crystal clear. They understood, at that moment, that they were wrong, dead wrong, in there original assessment of who God was. In his excellent work “Knowing God” J. I. Packer states, “We were made in his image, but we must not think of him as existing in ours. To think of God in such terms is to be ignorant of him, not to know him.” With that in mind, we may then conclude that it could be salvific. If our view of God is so low then we may be worshiping something fully and wholly NOT God at all.

After all, in the second part of the second commandment God states, “for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me,” That is a very harsh reality and one I would surmise is not something he is saying about those whom are saved. The last part of that sentence is: “but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” As Christians we consider us to be part of that last part and not the former.

When you fall in love with someone the very first desire we all have is to find out everything we can about that person. We want to know their soul. We want to know their passion. We even want to know their mundanity. Every little thing, no matter how frivolous it may be. If you consider yourself a Christian but perhaps find yourself not knowing that much about God, I encourage you to start your study today. Research his attributes. Discover who He is based on what He has revealed to us and not what you feel He is like based on your own ideas. Search Him out and if it is at all possible that you are not saved then perhaps in your study of God and the heightening of your view of Him, He may be gracious and merciful to you by drawing you closer to Him and bless you with an unquenchable thirst to know everything you can about Him as he has revealed in the Scriptures.

“a true image of God is not to be found in all the world; and hence that His glory is defiled, and His truth corrupted by the lie, whenever He is set before our eyes in a visible form…Therefore, to devise any image of God, is in itself impious; because by this corruption His Majesty is adulterated, and He is figured to be other than He is.” ~ John Calvin in his Commentaries of Exodus 20

Satan’s Crafty Distractions

Jesus came and lived among us as a man. Think about that. Would the President of the United States ever decide to go live in the slums of New York? Or would the Queen of England give up her comforts in the Royal Palace to live with the servants? NEVER! But God did just that. He gave up everything, EVERYTHING, to live a life we could never live and die the death we deserve. In an effort to continually dedicate our lives to God it is common for people to “take stock” of their lives and really think about the things that might be taking them out of the game or distracting them from Kingdom things.

As I mentioned, Jesus came and gave up everything. Satan tried to tempt him over 40 days with all sorts of things. He is the great deceiver. For us Christians he is no longer the great deceiver, but is most definitely the great distracter. He has figured out how to get us distracted from our work, distracted from our first love, distracted from serving God only. What is your distraction? TV? Facebook? Instagram? Strava? Sports? iPad Games? General Cell Phone Use? What takes your time? Look at your days and your week. You sleep 8 hours, you work 8 hours or are a full time mom, you do other life things like commute, eat, shower for about 2-4 hours. What do you do for the other 4-6 hours a day? Only you can answer the item that is a thorn in your side at this moment. What is your distraction? What do you tend to get sucked into? OK, do you have it? Write it down right now. Stop reading and write it down. (PAUSE)

I challenge you to give up something that has become a distraction to the relationship between you and your Creator. Replace it with time with God in prayer, reading His Word, serving or in outreach. If you are giving up a large chunk of time, like 3 hours a day of TV, then break it up. Read your Bible for an hour a day, read a book about theology, and pray more. If this is too large to handle, then take the 3 hours and give half to God. Watch TV for only an hour and a half, and spend the other time with God. Same with athletic training. If you still need to train, consider taking a portion of that time and giving it to God. Figure out something that is doable but that is still a sacrifice to you. It should not be easy. Then do it! Constantly remind yourself of all the things Jesus gave up for all of us. Let’s honor God in our sacrifice. Let’s not allow Satan to win his war on the saints by his tactic of distraction warfare. Place God first! Resolve to become a better ambassador, a stronger believer, a more faithful Christian.