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July 27, 2020

Ep.1136: What Does It Mean to Take God’s Name in Vain?

Finding the deeper, more damaging meaning of misusing God’s name

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What do the first 3 commandments teach us about the slippery slope of doubt?

Do we ever take God's name in vain in our church environment?

How does our ego contribute to our taking God's name in vain?

What does it look like to reverence God's name?

Theme Scripture: Exodus 20:7

Our society is so advanced we can access the world from the palm of our hand.  It is so sophisticated we can communicate our thoughts globally in an instant.  But it is so self-absorbed we can design a reality with our own ego at its center.  In the ancient history of the Jewish nation, the third of the Ten Commandments said not to take God’s name in vain.  We typically think of people using the name of God in a flippant, careless or disrespectful way as taking His name in vain.  While this is true, it is NOT the point of the Commandment.  On the contrary, all of what society has become presents a much more accurate picture of what taking God’s name in vain is all about.  The fact is, it has become painfully easy to disrespect God.  What should we be looking out for?

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Taking God’s name in vain is not about words.  That would be too shallow, and frankly, too easy.  When we think about the Ten Commandments, we need to realize they were given to God’s chosen people as a primary guide for living.  The first three are all about how His people were to perceive God and what God was to expect of them.  The first commandment, to have no other gods in life but God himself, was about an internal decision of loyalty.  The second, to not have any idols in one’s life, was about external actions of allegiance.  The third, to not take God’s name in vain, was about a lifestyle of genuine godliness.

It's way more than just OMG

The phrase “take God’s name in vain” has the meaning of carrying the name of God as a label for your life in an empty or hollow way.  It means you talk about upholding God’s name, but what you do does not fulfill your words.  You are essentially leading others to see you as godly when in fact your priorities are far from God.  To Israel it meant to live under the Law of God but not to live by the law of God.

To be blunt, taking God’s name in vain is to be a hypocrite.  This is a serious charge.  It is easy to look at biblical examples in both the Old and New Testaments and point out such hypocrisy.  It is much harder to just stop, look in the mirror and start asking ourselves about how we personally handle God’s name.  And how does our church handle God’s name?

Ten words of Jesus

Check out our July 27, 2020 podcast, “What Does It Mean to Take God’s Name in Vain?” for more.  We examine several biblical examples of failure along these lines and look for lessons.  We ask the hard questions about the details of our own lives as we cope with the godlessness of 21st century living.  Most importantly, we look for solutions.  We reveal ten words of Jesus that put this whole treatment of God’s name issue in perspective.  Ten words of Jesus. Don’t you want to know what they are? Study the rest of the Commandments with us to see how they are still valid for Christians today.


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2 replies
  1. Millie
    Millie says:

    You are not actually explaining what you set out to explain, to take ‘on vain,’ is to use out of context in a disrespectful way…not about how you live your life. I am a Christian ( a believer in the teachings of Christ with regard to his holy father) and I respect Gods true name not his title….God is a title…Yahua is his true name, it is not spoken unless necessary to speak of his greatness, almighty power or ruler of all that is in existence. If I were taking God’s name in vain I would be using that name in an insulting way , using it out of context or using it as an expletive. Living in this world as a Christian or not has nothing to do with taking God’s name in vain! You are either confused , require support with clarity or do not express your meaning clearly.

    • Christian Questions
      Christian Questions says:

      Hi, Millie – thank you for asking for clarification. To “take” God’s name in vain does mean to carry it in vain and not merely speak it in vain. Speaking God’s name as you explained certainly fits into what the Third Commandment is saying, but the Commandment is expressing more than our words; it is expressing our actions.

      The Hebrew word for “take” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance #5375) is the key to understanding the meaning of the Third Commandment. The words for “speak,” “utter,” and “declare” are entirely different words that have to do with spoken communication. “Take” has a much broader definition, and is used here for a reason.

      The following are the uses of the word (it is used over 600 times) within the few chapters before and after Exodus 20:
      Exodus 18:22: And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear #5375 the burden with thee.

      Exodus 19:4: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare #5375 you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.

      Exodus 20:7: Thou shalt not take #5375 the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh #5375 his name in vain.

      Exodus 23:1: Thou shalt not raise #5375 a false report: put not thine hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness.

      Exodus 23:21: Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon #5375 your transgressions: for my name is in him.

      Exodus 25:14: And thou shalt put the staves into the rings by the sides of the ark, that the ark may be borne #5375 with them.

      Here is the word from the Hebrew English Lexicon:
      05375 נשׂא nasa’ naw-saw’ or נסה nacah (Ps 4:6) naw-saw’ a primitive root; v; [BDB-669b] {See TWOT on 1421 } AV-(bare, lift, etc … ) up 219, bear 115, take 58, bare 34, carry 30,

      (take, carry) … away 22, borne 22, armourbearer 18, forgive 16, accept 12, exalt 8, regard 5, obtained 4, respect 3, misc 74; 654

      1) to lift, bear up, carry, take

      1a) (Qal)

      1a1) to lift, lift up

      1a2) to bear, carry, support, sustain, endure

      1a3) to take, take away, carry off, forgive

      1b) (Niphal)

      1b1) to be lifted up, be exalted

      1b2) to lift oneself up, rise up

      1b3) to be borne, be carried

      1b4) to be taken away, be carried off, be swept away

      1c) (Piel)

      1c1) to lift up, exalt, support, aid, assist

      1c2) to desire, long (fig.)

      1c3) to carry, bear continuously

      1c4) to take, take away

      1d) (Hithpael) to lift oneself up, exalt oneself

      1e) (Hiphil)

      1e1) to cause one to bear (iniquity)

      1e2) to cause to bring, have brought

      We hope this helps with your studies of this important topic. – Christian Questions


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