So what’s in a name? How significant is it that God revealed His name and expects His people to live up to it? Names are a serious business. Whether it’s choosing the name of a child, even of a pet, we had better remember how important it is. It’s because names should reflect who we are and what’s in our hearts. Well God chose to reveal His name to Israel and then told them to respect it. That’s because respect for God’s name reflects our respect, our reverence for God Himself.
A couple of weeks back we began looking at Ten Words that Will Change Our Lives. We’re examining what the Bible calls, The Ten Words or what most English translations call the Ten Commandments. The first word that we talked about was Believe as in Believe in the One true God! And the second word was prioritize, remember to put the Lord first in everything. And today, we’ll look at the third word to change our lives: Respect!
Exodus 20:7 reads, “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.” To take God’s name in vain means to take it lightly, as nothing, as insignificant. Well if we’re NOT to take God’s name lightly, then obviously, we need to take God’s name seriously. We should show God the respect and honor due Him, by respecting His name.
So how do we misuse God’s name? How do we take it lightly? One way we misuse God’s name is by swearing. This may include swearing falsely, like taking an oath in God’s name to tell the truth and then telling a lie. Or it might be swearing an oath in God’s name lightly, without thinking about it or truly meaning what we’re swearing. If we swear in God’s name, God expects our words to be faithful and true. By the way, the Lord Jesus said that our words should be faithful and true even without swearing, that our yes should be yes, and our no, no (Matt 5:37). We also misuse God’s name by using it irreverently, as an exclamation. People tend to shout God’s name as casually and thoughtlessly as Homer Simpson exclaiming, Doh! Another misuse of God’s name is cursing in His name or using His name insincerely. What I mean by using God’s name insincerely is when we say “God led me” or “God’s will for me” and what we really mean is, “This what I want to do but I’m making it sound spiritual.”
So how can we show respect for God’s name? To begin, we can show respect for God’s name by reverencing His name, ascribing glory and honor to His name and thereby, to glorify and honor Him. That’s what Psalm 29:1-2 means when it says, “Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the LORD, glory and strength, Ascribe to the LORD, the glory due His Name, Worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness.”
A second way we can show respect for God’s name is by relying on it. We can depend on His name for security. As Proverbs 18:10 says, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower, the righteous runs into it and is safe.” Another way to rely on God’s name is for joy. It says in Psalm 33:21, “In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.” And most importantly, we can rely on His name for redemption. Acts 4:12 tells us, “there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” It is only in Jesus’ name that we are forgiven and become part of God’s family.
Besides reverencing God’s name and relying on it, a third way to show respect for God’s name is by representing God’s name well. That’s why Paul wrote, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17). Wherever we go, whatever we do, remember we represent the Lord Jesus. We are acting in His name.
I heard a professor of mine tell a story of a time, when as a teenager, he stole a car. After being caught by the police and having his dad called to come and get him from the station, this prof of mine said he then had to face the really scary part of this story, he had to face his dad. What his dad told him actually changed his life. He said, “Son, you carry my name. Either change your name or change your behavior.” Remember, as followers of the Lord Jesus, we bear His name. Let’s reflect that in all we do, and then we’ll be showing God’s name the respect it deserves.