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The 10 Commandments #3 - There's Just Something About That Name

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Text: Exodus 20:7


Thesis: To stress the importance of reverencing God & His name.


(1)  What’s in a name? Think of Jezebel, Hitler, etc.

(a)  No wonder we read: “A good name is more desirable than riches” (Prov. 22:1).

(b) One wrote: “Names represent character, and they also represent authority” (R. Atchley, Sinai Summit 67).

(c)  “When you say that someone has “a bad name,” you’re not criticizing what’s written on his birth certificate. You’re warning me that the man can’t be trusted” (Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Commentary).

(d) Illustration – A young soldier was causing problems among the other soldiers was brought before Alexander the Great.  Alexander the Great asked the soldier: “What’s your name?”  The young soldier replied: “Alexander.”  Alexander the Great then said: “Either change your name or change your conduct.”

(2)  Today, we will study the why and how of reverencing God’s holy name.


I.                   Why should we reverence the name of God?

A.   God’s name “summarizes and stands for everything God is and has done”   (R. Shelly, Written in Stone 73).

1.     He revealed Himself by the name of YHWH in Exodus 3.

2.     “Literally God’s name means ‘I am who I am’ or ‘I will be who I will be.’ It speaks of God’s self-existence, self-sufficiency, and supreme sovereignty. As the events of the exodus unfolded, it also testified to his saving power. The Israelites learned from their deliverance that the God who revealed his name to Moses is a God who saves. As we start unpacking the meaning of God’s name, it quickly becomes obvious that Yahweh, or ‘Lord,’ is much more than a name. It is God’s identity. This was the whole Hebrew understanding of names. For us a name is a label; it is something we have, not something we are. But for the Hebrews the name was inseparable from the person. It expressed a person’s inward identity. When we use the name of God, therefore, we are referring to the essence of his divine being” (P. Ryken, Preaching the Word).

3.     God’s name is synonymous with His nature … “Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psa. 9.10).

4.     Therefore, disrespecting the name of God is disrespecting the nature of God.

B.   Further, God will punish those who misuse His name.

1.     “God will not allow the deed to go unpunished even though it may go undetected or not be actionable in a human court of law” (JPSTC).

2.     As for the punishment …

a.     “Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death.  All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death” (Lev. 24:16).  

b.     “But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, blasphemes the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people.  Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him” (Num. 15:30-31).

c.      Cf. 1 Kings 21:10-13 – Naboth stoned for accusation of cursing God

d.     Cf. 2 Kings 19:1-6 – King of Assyria would die because of his sending Rabshakeh to mock God

II.                How do we reverence the name of God?

A.   First, let us look at ways that we must never use God’s name.

1.     Perjury

a.     “Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:12).

b.     “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matt. 5:33-37).

c.      “A deeper reason for the prohibition may be seen in the fact that God is the one living reality to Israel.  That is why His name is involved in oaths, usually in the formula ‘as surely as YHWH lives’ (2 Sam. 2:27). To use such a phrase, and then to fail to perform the oath, is to call into question the reality of God’s very existence” (Alan Cole).

2.     Profanity

a.     “To use His name to invoke an opposite fate on anyone dishonors Him, His actions, and His motives” (Shelly 75).

b.     Colonel Sanders, founder of KFC, said: “Becoming a Christian cost me half of my vocabulary.”

c.      Isa. 52:5 – “All day long my name is constantly blasphemed

d.     “Profanity literally means ‘out of the temple.’ A person profanes something when he takes a holy thing and uses it out of its holy context. Of course, when questioned, most people respond, ‘I didn’t mean anything by it.’ But the point of the third principle is that we shouldn’t utter God’s name unless we do mean something by it, because his name does mean something. We must respect what is holy” (Atchley 70).

3.     Pretense

a.     “To use God’s name to cover up an evil heart or to make oneself appear to be something one is not is … a violation” (Shelly 76).

b.     “Invoking the holy name without pursuing a holy life is mere pretense; some of the harshest words of Scripture are reserved for such person (cf. Matt. 23:1ff.)” (Shelly 77).

c.      “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness” (2 Tim. 2:19).

4.     Presumption

a.     To credit certain things to God

b.     E.g., the crusades, inquisitions, slavery, televangelists

c.      Cf. Deut. 18:20 – False prophet, presumes to speak in God’s name = death

B.   Second, let us look at ways that we must use God’s name.

1.     His name is to be reverenced at all times (cf. Matt. 6:9 – “Hallowed be Your name”).

a.     “Hallowed” (Gr. hagiadzo) means “to treat as holy, reverence” (BDAG).

b.     The Jews took this to an extreme and would not pronounce “Yahweh,” but replaced it with “Adonai.”

c.      However, “reverence for the name of God does not preclude pronouncing the tetragrammaton (YHWH) or require a special set of pronouns in prayer” (Shelly 70).

2.     We must:

a.     “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness” (Psa. 29:2).

b.     “Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of his name; make his praise glorious! Say to God, ‘How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies cringe before you. All the earth bows down to you; they sing praise to you, they sing praise to your name’” (Psa. 66:1-4).


(1) We must honor God and His name with our words and with our actions.

(2) Merv Griffin once interviewed Charlton Heston about Heston’s experience playing Moses in the movie, The Ten Commandments. Griffin asked, “Charlton, has making a religious movie impacted your spiritual outlook?” Heston looked at Griffin and replied, “You can’t walk barefoot down Mount Sinai and be the same person you were when you went up.”

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