At the time of the giving of the Ten Commandments, God was establishing the basis of a covenant relationship with Israel. A covenant, unlike a contract, cannot be broken or set aside just because circumstances have changed. A covenant is a holy agreement. Verse 7, our text, deals not only with cursing using God’s name or proclaiming God’s word without actually having it, but also making vows or promises with God and not keeping them. We may flippantly make a promise to God or invoke His name into a promise to another, with no intention of keeping it. We have no reverence or respect for His holy name and toss it around like a seal of approval for our own devices.
The only solution to deal with our vain statements is repentance. To restore our relationship and receive forgiveness, we must repent! To break a covenant will always result in consequences. Take seriously your covenant relationship with God and avoid using His name in vain.
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.”
There’s a difference between magic and prayer. Magic relies on mechanistic recitations of formulas whose only purpose is get done exactly what you want to get done. Prayer is a kind of life in which you and God have access to one another, and the purpose of that life is not to get stuff done—though that might indeed occur—but to transform you into the kind of person who lives like God lives. In which of those contexts are you speaking about God and to God? The answer to that question will tell you whether you are using the name of God in vain.
“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.
Words matter. Choosing the way to ask for something can move from a simple plea to a dogmatic demand with a turn of a phrase. I often lament that we don’t exercise our linguistic muscles as a society anymore, and therefore lose the ability to accurately communicate our intent. When we reduce our language to sound-bite worthy statements we lose something of what it means to express ourselves in a meaningful way. How we talk about God and communicate His love and plan is mission critical for all believers, but we are not to wield His name or authority like a blunt instrument. God does not speak idly, and nor should we. Let’s think about praying before speaking on God’s behalf. We may find it better to say nothing at all.
Idols promise to enhance the worship experience. The craftsman imagines that if you enshrine the person of God in some visible form then every element of worship will reach new heights. However, you do not need one more thing for worship. Everything we need for worship and all that we need for relationship with God has already been given.
The best thing you can do today to enhance your worship is to prepare your heart in repentance and focus your attention on the Lord. Gilded external stimuli is unnecessary to accomplish this, you have the Holy Spirit. There is no need to wait on a craftsman or rely on a minister, God is creating in you a new heart honed for worship this very moment.
It’s not only punitive, it’s reality. Growing up in west Africa there were a
number of things that were essential to living a healthy life, like malaria medicine, or filtered water. To remove either one of these, especially filtered water, you would avail yourself to all sorts of disastrous results. Removing God and erecting an idol in your life is very similar. You cannot expect your life or family to function in a productive, healthy way when you take God out of center.
That’s exactly God’s warning in the second commandment-your family will go awry for generations if you worship idols.
“but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
This week I am accompanying my son as he attends college orientation. One of the things pressing on my heart is the prayer and hope he finds believers who will provide fellowship, accountability, and community. These days on college campuses it seems that finding believers is more and more difficult. Much like the workplace, and neighborhoods . But there is a great hope and promise in verse 6 They ARE here. They are there. They are in offices, schools, and neighborhoods. AND, God has promised His faithfulness and loving kindness to those who love Him and keep His commandments. I am grateful for God’s reminder this week. I am also thankful that my son has already verbalized this same need and desire to find a community of believers on campus, but more importantly in a local church.
The first and second commandments are very similar…one almost an extension of the other. Together, they define the starting point of all worldviews. Either you believe in God or you do not. Your worldview is then established off of these premises. These commandments demand ultimate allegiance to God whose existence defines all reality. Theologian James Orr said, over a century ago, “This explains the radical antagonism between the two worldviews, one believing in God and one not. Two different starting points for all thought, two different realities—on the one hand silence, on the other hand speech; on the one hand, nihilism, on the other hand, theism, and those in the end are the only two great alternatives.”
These commands also demand exclusivity in worship. In our politically correct society, exclusivity is not a popular thought. Tolerance is the word of the day. Jesus also claims to be exclusive. Acts 4:12 says, “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” God is not saying I am the best among many…He is saying no other gods, I am the only one!
There are some things, like the second commandment, that are not self-evident, and therefore warrant an explanatory passage—hence Moses’s presentation to Israel of God’s reason for the injuction against graven images. Idolatry is not a neutral phenomenon. Its effect is a closing of the mind and of the will to the unseen side of reality, the spiritual realm. It will never be the case that where idols exist they will not overtake the thinking and the affections of the human person. In a matter of three or four generations, one’s descendants aren’t just uninterested in God, but outright hostile to all things divine. These verses encapsulate the history of Egypt in a few words. In the land of idols, Pharaoh set himself up as an enemy of the Almighty. A destitute people resulted.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
This command has a very contextual to its original audience, and a broader application for the rest of us. The Lord was speaking directly to a people who had come from a land filled with images, statutes, monuments all with some imbued power the Egyptians believed they possessed. The people of Israel were being cautioned away from that type of worship. God will not be contained in a object.
Our warning is simple, and yet we still are in the idol business today. It may not look as overt as a golden calf, but how we idolize fame, fortune, possessions. They very quickly take the place that should be reserved for God. Don’t miss the promise of God’s lovingkindness promised to us that obey. Keep focused.