Growing up in church, I couldn’t help but learn the Ten Commandments. They are pretty basic rules for living. Don’t kill. Don’t steal. Don’t covet, etc.
But what if their meanings go much deeper than what we learned in Sunday school? What if each one is like a geode just waiting to be broken open? Geodes look like plain old rocks on the outside, but when you break them open, they are full of breath-taking gems.
In Ephesus, Paul earned a reputation for performing amazing miracles in Jesus’ name. God even removed diseases and evil spirits at the touch of Paul’s handkerchiefs. Calling that amazing is a gross understatement.
It’s not surprising that people wanted to tap into this amazing display of supernatural power. Seven sons of a high priest attempted to cast an evil spirit out of a man “by Jesus whom Paul proclaims”. The evil spirit retorted that he knew Jesus and Paul, but not these guys. He then stripped their clothes and beat them. The priest’s sons ran away in terror.
This story reminded me of one of the Ten Commandments:
“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 ESV
I have always heard that this verse tells us not to use God’s name as profanity.
But is that ALL it means?
Could there be more to this commandment?
What if the story of the priest’s sons illustrates another dimension of this verse?
I grabbed a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
to dig a little deeper. I wanted to know what “take” and “vain” really meant in the Hebrew, their original language. I’m not a Hebrew scholar, but this is what I was able to piece together….
“Take” is from the Hebrew word nacah, which means “to lift”. It is translated as many different words. The ones that stood out to me were take up, take away, wear, bear, advance.
“Vain” is from the Hebrew word shav, which means “desolating, evil, guile, and idolatry”. It is translated as lie, lying, vain, and vanity.
Let’s put those definitions and alternate translations back into the verse…
You shall not wear or take up the name of the LORD your God deceptively or destructively.
Now THAT’s not the sanitized Sunday School version I grew up with!! This commandment is much more than a prohibition of profanity!!
God was commanding us to use His name honorably. He warned us of grave consequences if we wear His Name dishonestly. When we call ourselves Christians, we are wearing His name and taking it up.
Think about it…
By wearing His name, we imply that we have a relationship with Him.
By wearing His name, we claim that we are in a position to use the power of His name.
By wearing His name, we bear a great responsibility to represent God accurately.
We do not want to be like the priest’s sons who carelessly used Jesus’s name without first having a meaningful relationship with Him.
Let’s take this a step further. Look at the damage that has been done by those who use God’s name as a whip to keep people under submission. Or by those who speak in His name, but allow their teaching to be tainted by tiny falsehoods.
How on earth do we keep this commandment? How can we bear such a responsibility?
Seek Jesus first…above all things.
Go to the source of truth, His Word, and ask Him to teach you.
Don’t be satisfied with being spoon-fed by others. Dig in for yourself!!
Dear God, I repent for all the times I have disobeyed this commandment, not understanding what it meant. Help me to accurately bear Your Name. Enable me to use Your Name with the utmost of care and reverence. Amen.