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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:God's Great and Awesome Name
Text:LD 36 Psalm 99:3 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 3rd Commandment (God's name)
 
Preached:10/05/2014
Added:2014-10-20
Updated:2014-10-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Pastor Ted Gray
10/05/14 – p.m.


“God’s Great and Awesome Name!”
Exodus 20:7; Psalm 99:3; Lord’s Day 36, 37

We have become so accustomed to hearing God's name taken in vain – misused – that it almost seems surprising to be reminded by the catechism that Old Testament law required the death penalty for anyone who misused the name of the Lord. The catechism (in Q&A 100) gives the example drawn from Leviticus chapter 24. A young man, who was the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father, got in a fight with another young man, and in the course of the fight the first young man blasphemed the name of God with a curse.

He was taken outside the camp and stoned to death. That was the penalty under Old Testament law for anyone who misused God’s holy name. Leviticus 24:16 states: “Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.”

Can you begin to imagine how many people would have to be put to death, if that Old Testament law was in effect today? How often do you hear on any given television show the Lord’s name used – not in reverent praise – but as an exclamation mark?  The usage of God's name in a casual manner has become so common that the three letters, OMG, are used in countless text messages as a vain repetition of God’s holy name. That constant repetition of God’s name is one way that the third commandment is broken. It is in the words of the catechism and Scripture, a misuse of the name of God by using it in vain.

Further Misuses of God’s Name

God’s name is also misused by common cursing. Cursing is most often used in a time of anger. Someone stubs their toe or has something go wrong that they are working on and what do they do? They use God’s name as a curse word. They use God’s name to show that they are angry and upset. In effect they are blaming God for their stubbed toe or whatever they are upset with.

The catechism also lists perjury as another way that God’s holy name is misused. Perjury is using God’s name to give credence to a lie that has been spoken. As an example, when Jacob deceived Isaac in order to get Esau’s blessing he used the name of God to deceive his father. In Genesis 27:20 Isaac asked Jacob, “How did you find the game so quickly, my son?” Jacob replied, “The Lord your God gave me success.”

In that instance, Jacob perjured himself because he used God’s name in order to make a lie look like it was truth. In Leviticus 19:12 the Lord says: “Do not swear falsely by My name and so profane the Name of your God. I am the Lord.”

Another misuse of God’s holy name is the taking of unnecessary oaths. As question and answer 101 points out, there is a proper time to take an oath, and oaths are approved in God’s Word, but we must always guard ourselves from unnecessary oaths. 

The catechism illustrates a proper use of the oath by referring us to the example of Abraham and his promise to Abimelech. When Abimelech asked Abraham to swear that he would not deal falsely with him or his descendants, Abraham replied, “I swear it” (Genesis 21:24). That was a proper use of the oath, showing that by God’s enabling power, Abraham would treat Abimelech and his descendants kindly.

Likewise, in 1 Kings 1:29-30 David took an oath that Solomon would follow him as king. That was right and proper. Similarly, the catechism also lists examples of New Testament oaths that were taken reverently and properly in God’s name. 

This is most often done in our day in a court of law. As the catechism points out, we may swear an oath in God’s name if we do so reverently, “when the government demands it or when necessity requires it in order to maintain and promote truth and trustworthiness for God’s glory and our neighbor’s good” (Q&A 101).

However, the catechism and Scripture remind us not to take oaths unnecessarily. As Jesus Himself warns, in Matthew 5:33-37: “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.

 “And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”
   
Those words are also echoed in James 5:12, where James writes: Above all, my brothers, do not swear – not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.

Silent Bystanders

As the catechism points out various ways that God’s name is misused and used in vain, it also strikes conviction into our hearts by saying that we are not to “share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders.”  I don’t know about you, but I know that those words of the catechism, drawn from Scripture, often cut me to the heart.

When we hear God’s name misused and don’t speak up against the misuse of that Name we are breaking the third commandment. Admittedly, there may be times where we would not speak up because to do so would be, in the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:6, “throw(ing) your pearls before pigs.” For instance, in the curses of a drunk it may be wise to wait until the drunken person sobers up before speaking to them about their drinking and the effect it has on their language.  But there are many other times when we must indeed speak up against the misuse of our God’s holy name. If we do not speak up, then we are breaking the third commandment with our silence.

However, not only is there the negative aspect to the third commandment by what is prohibited by it, but there is also a positive aspect. We are to “use God’s name with reverence and awe so that we may properly confess Him, pray to Him, and praise Him in everything we do and say.”

Using God’s name with reverence and awe, so that we may properly confess Him, fits in with speaking up when we hear the misuse of God’s holy name. Some of you may have heard about, or perhaps read, the commentary on Romans written by Robert Haldane. Robert Haldane was brought to salvation by the Holy Spirit’s gracious work through the witness of his brother, James Haldane.

James Haldane, in turn was saved during his younger years when he was the captain of an English battleship named The Melville Castle. On one occasion, during intense fighting, many soldiers on the deck were killed. Haldane commanded replacements to go on deck to take their place. The replacements saw all the blood and the dead bodies on deck. They hunkered down below and refused to go on deck. Haldane swore profusely and told them all to go to hell.

Later, after the skirmish had been won, a Christian soldier stepped up to Haldane and said, “Sir, if God had done what you said to those men, - had He sent them all to hell - just where would we be now?”

That question, driven home by the Holy Spirit’s conviction, led not only to the conversion and future ministry of James Haldane, but also James witnessed to his brother Robert. Both James and Robert Haldane became ministers. They wrote extensively, including some well known commentaries, established a seminary, and planted 85 new churches in Scotland and Ireland. 

How did it all come about? It came about because a Christian soldier stepped up to his officer, respectfully yet boldly, and pointed out the sinful foolishness of misusing God’s holy name. That is part of what the catechism means when it says, “we use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe so that we may properly confess Him.”

The catechism also teaches that we are to prayerfully use God’s name with reverence and awe. How do we come to the Father?  How do we enter into His presence? It is through the name of His Son, Jesus Christ. He is our Great High Priest who ever lives to intercede on our behalf. Because of His intercession the author of Hebrews writes: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). What a great privilege and blessing is ours when we use God’s name with reverence and awe to call on the Father in the Name of His Son, Jesus!

Many of the songs that we have sung this evening stress the name of Jesus and extoll the name of our God. There is great power in the Name of our Lord when it is used properly, with reverence and awe. It brings great comfort and strength to true believers and is a powerful witness to unbelievers.

And then also the catechism, in the answer to question 99, “What is God’s will for us in the third commandment?” goes on to say that we are to praise Him in everything we do and say. The catechism cites Colossians 3:17, And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Holding No One Guiltless

From Question and Answer 99 we see the importance of the third commandment, and in Question and Answer 100 we hear the seriousness of the sin of misusing God’s name. As we saw earlier, it is such a serious sin that in the Old Testament those who misused God’s name, such as the young man in the fight with another young man, were stoned to death because they cursed with God’s name.

But why is that? Why is God so concerned that His name is not misused? Why will He not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His holy name? The reason is that God’s name reflects His character and identity.

Our names today do not really reflect our character, but in biblical times names almost always reflected the character of the person who was given that name. For instance, a Abram’s name was changed to Abraham to show that he would be the father of many nations.  Jacob’s name was changed to Israel to show that he had wrestled with God. In the New Testament a man by the name of Joseph had his name changed to Barnabas because he was such an encouragement to others. (Barnabas means “Son of Encouragement”).

In a similar way, God’s names reveal His character and His identity. As an example, Moses found out something of the character and identity of Almighty God when he approached the burning bush.

There at the burning bush the Lord told Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt. Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  (Exodus 3:13-14).

The name of the Lord is a name so sacred that Jewish scribes were afraid to write that name and thus gave only the consonants and not the vowel points in the Old Testament scrolls. The consonants are YHWH, translated as Yahweh. In most English Bibles God’s unique name, Yahweh, “I AM WHO I AM,” is translated with small capitol letters as “THE LORD.”  When you see “THE LORD” in small capitol letters in your Bible it is showing you that this is the name God used to reveal Himself to Moses – and to us – in His Word.
         
The Lord’s name, Yahweh, reveals His immutability, that is, that He does not change. He is who He is. In the words of James 1:17, He does not change like shifting shadows. Or, as Balaam expressed it, “God is not man, that He should lie, or a son of man, that He should change His mind. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19).

God’s unique name given to Moses also reveals that He is eternal, self existent, not dependent on anyone else for life but rather is the Giver of life and Creator of the cosmos. As Paul explained to the philosophers at Athens, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24, 25).

By that sacred name we also see the covenant loyalty of God. Before God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM,” He had described Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He had said to Moses, from the burning bush, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”  Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:5b-6a). As such His name teaches us the faithfulness of God to His people in every age. 

At the heart of God’s covenant is this promise: “I will be your God and you will be My people.”  That was true for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all the Old Testament believers. It was true for the disciples and apostles. And it is true for all of us today. And it will be realized in its fullness and truth in the life to come. 

Although there are many things we don’t know about our future glory, we do know this: God will be our God and we will be His people. Why? He is the great I AM who does not change like shifting shadows; He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8).

The names of God are worthy of a whole separate study for they do reveal His identity in innumerable ways. The Father is revealed as the great provider. He is Jehovah Jireh who provided the ram to sacrifice in Isaac’s place (Genesis 22:13-14). Or consider how the name “Jesus” reveals His identity as our Savior. The angel said to Joseph, “You are to name Him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Or consider how the Holy Spirit’s identity and character are reflected in His names: our Counselor, our Comforter, our Helper (John 14:16, 17, 26; 16:7) who lives within us and makes our frail, sinful bodies His very temple.

Through His names God reveals Himself – His character and identity. As such any misuse of His name, taking His name in vain, is a great sin. That is why the Lord takes the misuse of His name so seriously. That is why He will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name (Exodus 20:7).

Jesus Christ Charged with Our Blasphemy

Unfortunately, this commandment - like all the others - has been broken by all of us in so many ways. Those words that we read from James 3 are so convicting: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. (James 3:8-9). But as with all the other commandments, when our sin is revealed to us we also see by the Holy Spirit’s convicting power and grace, our Savior.

We have all broken the third commandment, along with all the others, but Jesus took the charge of blasphemy to the cross for us. Do you remember the charge that was brought against Jesus by the Sanhedrin?  In Matthew 26 Caiaphas, the high priest, said to Jesus, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

Then they spit in His face and struck Him with their fists. Others slapped Him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit You?”  (Matthew 26:63-68).

Jesus bore for us the curse that we deserve for our curses. Jesus allowed Himself to be accused of blasphemy, even though He spoke the truth, so that we would be innocent of the misuse of God’s holy name that has often been in our hearts if not on our lips.

There is no greater love than that: That He who is perfect and without sin would be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God, and be presented before the Father spotless and without blame in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. There is no other sacrifice that begins to compare to the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross.

If you and I have any inkling whatsoever of the greatness of our salvation, then we will use our tongue to praise our God, from the heart with reverence and awe, as we use His commandments to express our gratitude for His redeeming grace in Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.

 

 

- bulletin outline -

Let them praise Your great and awesome name! Holy is He! -  Psalm 99:3


“God’s Great and Awesome Name!”
Exodus 20:7; Psalm 99:3; Lord’s Day 36, 37

I. The third commandment includes:
   1) The negative aspect: cursing, perjury, unnecessary oaths and being silent when we hear God’s name misused. God will not hold  anyone guiltless who misuses His name (Exodus 20:7b)

 

   2) A positive aspect: using God’s name with reverence and awe to confess Him, pray to Him, and praise Him (Colossians 3:17)

 

II. The importance of the third commandment: God’s name reflects His character and identity (Exodus 3:13-14)

 

III. Application: We have all broken the third commandment, along with all the others (James 3:9-10), but Jesus took the charge of blasphemy to the cross for us (Matthew 26:63b-68). In saving faith, we are to use His name in reverent, yet joyful praise and gratitude (Psalm 99:3)


10/05/2014 – p.m.

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 10/0, Rev. Ted Gray

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