Names are important, aren’t they? They form part of our identity; when someone asks, “Who are you?” The first answer people will generally answer with is their name.
We also get annoyed or even angry when people misspell or say it wrong. The reason why is because our names mean something to us.
For example, if I said the name ‘Adolf’ the first thing you are likely to think of is the horrific persecution which happened during World War 2, and that’s without a surname.
Interestingly the forename Adolf, whilst incredibly popular in Germany before World War 2, is now more or less extinct. Adolf Dassler the founder of Adidas, ended up using his nickname ‘Adi’ in his professional life and in the name of his company to avoid the stigma attached to it.
As you can see, if you have a ‘bad name’ people will think negatively. It’s not just our own name that we are careful to protect.
When Lance Armstrong was found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs for most of his career he lost every single one of his sponsorship deals. In addition, his name and image are being removed from the packaging of speciality foods manufactured by Honey Stinger, a company he partially owns. He also stepped down as director of Livestrong the charity he founded.
Not only can our own names be misused but also the names of people we are associated with.
When you are born, your parents give you a name. This is so they can identify you and bring you in closer to them.
Adam was given dominion over all the animals and it says in Genesis 2:20 that he named all of them. There was one being in the garden of Eden he didn’t name though; that was God.
Adam was given dominion over the animals and he was given the right to name them. But no- one has dominion over God. No- one has the right to name God.
To be honest, even if we did, what we call him? Take a cup of coffee, have you ever described the smell of coffee- it’s really difficult! If we can’t even describe the smell of coffee, how are we ever meant to come up with a name for God which can do him justice?
It’s because of his love that he discloses his name to us so we have something to call him and so we can draw closer to him.
To understand the seriousness of taking the Lord’s name in vain, we must first see the Lord’s name from His perspective as outlined in the bible. God’s nature and attributes, and His glory are reflected in His name.
In Exodus 3, we read that Moses asked God for his name so that he could go to Pharaoh and tell him to release the Israelite slaves.
God responds, “I am who I am, tell them I am has sent you”
The name I AM shows us that God is completely independent of any entity or force, he is uncreated and relies on nothing for life or existence – life is in Himself.
It also shows us that God is able to become whatever is lacking in our time of need. The name I AM means God can fill any need in our life – when we are in darkness, Jesus says I am the light; when we are defenceless, He says I am the Good Shepherd. God is our guide, protector, saviour and friend. However, we also need to know that he is an all-powerful God and one we need to revere.
The fact that we are even allowed to come before His throne is due only to His gracious, merciful love for us. We must never take that grace for granted.
People in old testament times understood what a privilege it was to know God’s name and went to great lengths to preserve the honour of God’s name.
“When people came to write out the name of God, they never wrote it out in full, but only the four consonants. And when they did come to write the Hebrew letters ‘YHWH’ they would wash, put on new clothes, use a new quill, write the name and then throw the quill away. When they came to read the word aloud, rather than pronounce it they substituted the word ‘the LORD’.
It may seem ridiculous to us but they understood how great it was that the all-powerful God has made himself known to them and they were careful not to mess with such an honour.
So, we know we are not to misuse it but how do we do that? I believe there to be 4 ways we can honour God’s name.
The first way is to not blaspheme. Blasphemy has been defined as being “A contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God.”
Traditionally blasphemy has been considered as using the phrase “Oh my God!” because it is using the name of God in a way which is not giving him glory.
Blasphemy is more than that. We live in a fast-paced society where everyone wants everything to be shortened. People often use ‘OMG or ‘geez’ or ‘gosh’ instead. Many people use these because they’re quicker or they don’t know/understand the meaning.
OMG is a shortened version of ‘oh my God’, Geez is a shortened version of Jesus and ‘Gosh’ is a modified version of God.
I think we all need a reminder that ours words have meaning. If we are people who follow Christ, then we care deeply about helping others and honouring God. We must ask ourselves, “Do these words help others and honour God?” If we are honest, we will probably admit that words such as gosh do not.
Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” Does using words such as ‘gosh’ and ‘geez’ give “thanks to God the Father”? If not, then we need to start to remove these words from our vocabulary in order to honour God “in word and deed.”
Give him due praise
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Did you give glory to God for this? Did you praise God for this? When we take the glory for ourselves and starve God of his, we are not bringing honour to his name.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work hard or acknowledge our successful. However, we must acknowledge that it is God who works in us to fulfil his good purpose.
In the film Evan Almighty, the main character, Evan, is seen praying to God before he goes to bed. Evan thanks God for his house, even though he worked hard to pay for it, because, well, God created matter. Evan understood that neither he, or his house, would even exist were it not for God. That’s the difference between taking the glory for yourself and giving it to God. It is sinful to refuse to recognize God’s sovereign role in everything. However, you can honour God by recognizing that apart from Him, you can do nothing and, therefore, giving God the glory for the things that you accomplish.
Blaming God/Not trusting God
The story of Job is about a man who was blameless in the sight of God but things started to go downhill for him for him. First all his animals were stolen or killed by thunder and the servants tending to them were all killed, next his ten children were killed as a powerful wind knocked their house on top of them. He still got up and praised God.
If we’re honest, how many of us would respond like that? How many of us when the going gets tough, praises God?
There was a time, about 2 years ago, I was in church and was in worship and singing a song called ‘Blessed be your name’. I remember I was just singing along, not really engaged. Then it came to this verse:
“Blessed be Your name
On the road marked with suffering
Though there’s pain in the offering
Blessed be Your name”
I felt God say “You’re singing that, but do you actually know what it means? Are you going to praise me when pain comes?”
I then thought back to all the hard times in my life and God was right, I didn’t praise him! Sure, I did when life was good and everything was going according to my plan. But pain and suffering didn’t fit into my plan!
I then thought about Job and thought about how a man who has lost everything can say “The lord gives, and the lord takes away but blessed be the name of the lord (Job 1:21).
At the root of blaming God, is often lack of trust. When we suffer tragedies, it reminds us that we are not in control. When things go wrong for, we often think ‘why me?’ and then get angry at God for letting it happen.
That doesn’t mean you should never get angry. We live in a broken world with injustice everywhere and there will be times where we are right to be angry. But where do we go with that?
Do we wallow in it? Do we take it out on others or do we take it to God?
There are many people in the bible who got angry and showed distress.
Job did so without sinning. In the Psalms, David vividly articulates his anger and despair (but nearly always vocalizes his trust in God). And even Jesus cries out on the cross “My God, my God why have you forsaken me? “But despite His feelings, He submitted to God’s plan and resigned Himself to the cross.
We must remember that God is sovereign and makes everything work together for good of those who love him.
The fourth and final one is not the most obvious but to me is the most interesting and most challenging. I believe it underpins every other action you can take to honour God’s name because you can do it even before you open your mouth:
One of the main reasons why people distrust Christianity is because so many ‘Christians’ don’t live consistent lives. At the start of the talk, I talked about how even the names of people we are associated with can be brought down by our actions. When we break God’s commandments, we bring his name down. When we fail to practice what we preach, non-Christians see this and they see the God we are reflecting, not as a loving and powerful God but a God is who is irrelevant and useless to our society.
If we are true followers of Christ then we need to do what he tells us. God has been used as an excuse to commit horrific crimes and form hate groups; the apartheid in South Africa, The KKK and the crusades in the middle ages to name just 3. Every single one said they were doing God’s work what they were doing was the opposite of what the bible teaches! Now my guess (and hope!) is you will not be involved with lynchings and ‘holy’ wars. However dishonouring God’s name isn’t just about big wars and acts of violence it’s also how we think and act in our day to day life.
There is a story of a man of who was interested in Christianity but the one thing that put him off was the hypocrisy of many Christians he had heard about. So, what he did, was hire a private detective to check out the pastor of the church he had been attending, to see if his life matched his sermons. Several weeks later, the detective reported that the pastor did in fact practice what he preached and the man became a Christian not long after.
If we really want to honour God then we will not just turn up to church, or pray or read the bible but we will listen to God and then obey what he tells (these are vital to our faith and they honour God too!). Because every time we do or say something that gives others a false representation of the glory, holiness, authority, and character of God, we misuse God’s name. Every time we misrepresent our position as children of God, we are damaging His reputation. Fortunately, Jesus can forgive all sin, even the sin of misusing his name.
If you want to read more on subject, I highly reccomend “Ten: Living the Ten Commandments in the 21st Century” By J. John