Commandment 3

Respect the Name of God

“Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7 RVIC).

Commandment 3 – Respect the Name of God

The word “vain,” as used in Exodus 20:7 (S7723), is translated from the Hebrew word shav. It means desolating; (destructive) evil. In that sense, ruin. Its root is from the word show (S7722), meaning, by implication, devastation.

After examining the meaning of the Hebrew, God’s command impresses upon the hearer that His name is holy. Though no one is capable of committing “destructive evil” to Jehovah Himself, they can bring dishonor to His name by unrighteous words or deeds committed in His name. One aspect of this command then, relates to making an oath in the name of Jehovah. Naturally, all oaths should be kept, but especially when made in the name of God. This is clearly stated in Leviticus 19:12. “Ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.”

Adam Clarke comments on this command. “This precept not only forbids all false oaths, but all common swearing where the name of God is used, or where he is appealed to as a witness of the truth. It also necessarily forbids all light and irreverent mention of God, or any of his attributes; and this the original word [la shav, in vain] … particularly imports: and we may safely add to all these, that every prayer … etc., that is not accompanied with deep reverence and the genuine spirit of piety, is here condemned also.”

This description illustrates the sanctity of things associated with Jehovah. Every invocation of His name, either in word or silent prayer, is to be done with great reverence. It is interesting that this is the only commandment that adds consequences for its violation. “For the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” No further elaboration is offered regarding any punishment. However, this subject is clearly important to God.

The Name Jehovah

The meaning of God’s name is significant. Strong’s concordance (S3068) defines it as “self-existent or eternal.” Because God has existed from eternity past, and will have no end, He is superior to all the remainder of creation. His actions and plans add to His sanctity. They reveal a loving, benevolent God, one who greatly cares for the uplift and blessing of all.

When Moses inquired about His name, God answered, “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14). The RVIC adds another possible translation, “I CONTINUE TO BE THE ONE CONTINUING EVERMORE.”

This description suggests that He is unchangeable. He will never vary in applying His righteous laws and principles. As He guides His plan into eternity, His very nature guarantees a peaceful universe full of love and kindness. Therefore, His unchanging values are inherent in His very name, and it should never be taken lightly or used in vain. The underlying principle then, of Commandment three, is that Jehovah is worthy of honor and praise. All who understand this are glad to offer it up at every opportunity.

Educating Children in Reverence

One of the most important lessons Christian parents can convey to their children is the place God should have in their lives. They should be taught to honor and respect God. By doing so, His principles will become visible to them and help set a standard for their own lives. Teaching that God is available for guidance is part of a parent’s obligation as they follow the advice conveyed in Proverbs 22:6. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Such training must impact every aspect of life, from the way we spend our time, to the words we speak and how we treat others. It is unacceptable to honor God in one situation and dishonor Him in others. The most effective technique is to model the lessons taught to us by God. Observing how parents honor God in their own lives will likely plant the same desire in young minds.

After giving Israel the Ten Commandments, God offered this reminder. “These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7).

The Name of Jesus is Also Holy

The name of Jesus is often misused when an individual is angry or frustrated. But, just as this practice should be avoided when using the name of God, so it must be avoided when referring to our Lord. It should go without saying that his many sacrifices should elicit within us a deep gratitude and a desire to honor him. As the name of God leads to thoughts of praise, so it should be when considering the one Jehovah entrusted with the salvation of the world.

The most meaningful honor anyone can offer is to study and adopt our Lord’s character and lifestyle. The Psalmist wrote, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints” (Psalms 116:15). What makes them precious to God is the fact that they have emulated His son and followed in his footsteps of love and self-sacrifice.

“I will give thanks unto Jehovah according to his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of Jehovah Most High.” (Psalms 7:17 RVIC)

“Make a joyful noise unto God all the earth, sing forth the glory of His name: make His praise glorious.” (Psalms 66:1, 2 RVIC)