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Author:Rev. Mendel Retief
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Kelmscott
 Kelmscott, Western Australia
 frckelmscott.org
 
Title:Fear the Lord
Text:LD 36 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 3rd Commandment (God's name)
 
Added:2015-08-15
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

(Old Book of Praise)

Ps. 146: 1 – 3

Ps. 29: 1, 3

Ps. 99: 1 – 3

Hymn 47: 2, 3, 9 (Lord's Prayer)

Ps. 111: 1, 5

 

Scripture reading:       Rev. 4: 8 – 11; 5: 8 – 14

Text:                          LD 36

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


Fear the Lord

 

Ps. 146: 1 – 3

Ps. 29: 1, 3

Ps. 99: 1 – 3

Hymn 47: 2, 3, 9 (Lord's Prayer)

Ps. 111: 1, 5

 

Scripture reading:       Rev. 4: 8 – 11; 5: 8 – 14

Text:                         LD 36

 

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 

The Lord said to Israel:

 

“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (Ex. 20: 2)

 

He gave His law to Israel with these words: I am Your God, and Your Redeemer.

That is the introduction to the law.

 

This afternoon the Lord addresses us with the same words.   This introduction to the law applies also to the church in the New Testament.

The Lord redeemed us from the world, and from slavery under the bondage of sin.

It is still the same covenant God, our Redeemer, who addresses us in the Ten Commandments.  

 

From the very introduction to the law it is clear that God did not give this law in order to condemn His people.  

The law was not given for the sake of our condemnation.

Instead, we receive this law from the hand of our Redeemer.

 

Yes, without Christ this law would indeed terrify us, for who is able to keep this law perfectly?

But now, through Christ our Mediator, we receive this law not unto condemnation, but as the most perfect rule for all of life.   What the law demands is the very life unto which Christ saves us.  

And thus we receive this law with thankfulness, and we listen to its instruction with eager expectation, like someone who discovers pure gold.

 

Someone may ask:  “Why then is the law given in the negative: you shall not do this, and you shall not do that?   ‘You shall have no other gods before Me.   You shall not make for yourself a carved image…’   And again here in the third commandment: ‘You shall not take the Name of the LORD your God in vain…’  Why do we have to listen to these do’s and don’ts?   And why does the law come with threats to punish the transgressor?   Why are the commandments not rather positive invitations?”  

Would that not be a sweeter and better method of education?   

Should we not maybe change the do’s and don’ts of the law into positive invitations without threats to fit the sweetness of the gospel?

 

Brothers and sisters, many have tried to do so.   But their effort was not of God.

We should not try to be wiser than God.

Our covenant God is a good Teacher; the only good Teacher.

He knows how to instruct us.

He also knows the best way of instructing us.

 

When He gave His covenant law to us in this format, with strict do’s and don’ts, with both the promises and the threats of the covenant, He knew what He was doing.   And He knew why He was doing it in this way.

The do’s and don’ts of God’s good and holy law are part of His eternal and unchangeable covenant.   They are determined by the very nature and being of our God; for He, the Holy One, hates and punishes sin, and He loves righteousness.   Blessed are those who keep His commandments, and cursed are those who transgress it.

 

Dear congregation, Christ did not come to redeem us from the law, but from the curse which our transgressions deserve.   He saved us in order that we may now live according to these commandments.

 

Yes, these do’s and don’ts were also necessitated, partly, by our sinful nature.   God takes our sinful nature into account when He instructs us.   God takes our sinful nature seriously.   Yes, He comes with these strict do’s and don’ts to restrain our evil inclinations.  

 

Anyone who tries to delete these do’s and don’ts,  does so in arrogance, belittling the fact that we still have sinful inclinations which need to be crucified, and to be put to death.   We are still inclined to all kinds of evil.   We are in desperate need of these do’s and don’ts of God’s law.

God gave it for our good.   

It is our God, our Redeemer, who speaks to us this way in His holy law.

 

Moreover, we also have to remember that there was already a strict “you shall not” in Paradise, before the fall, including the thread of death:

 

“…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” – Gen. 2: 17

 

The do’s and the don’ts were there even before the fall, functioning in a perfect Paradise without sin.  

There is nothing wrong with these divine do’s and don’ts.   They come from God who alone determines what is good and what is evil.  

Our God has the right to command obedience; and He surely does command obedience also from us.

 

If anyone does not like these do’s and don’ts of God’s law, he simply has no respect for God our Lawgiver.

 

Brothers and sisters, God’s covenant law is of course much more than a list of do’s and don’ts, it spells out true life in communion with God and our neighbour.

But let us not try to change God’s law to suite our own taste.   Let us continue to confess with the words of LD 44 that God’s law has to be preached strictly, and that we need the strict preaching of His law.   That is our confession.

 

We need the strict preaching of His law not only once in wile, or once a year when we deal with the Ten Commandments, but constantly as often as we listen to the preaching of the gospel; for there is no gospel without law, just as the law of God was not given apart from the gospel, but was given to us by our covenant God, our Redeemer, in the context of our adoption as children and our redemption.

 

Dear congregation, as beloved children through Christ, redeemed and washed by His blood, we now turn also to the third commandment with eager expectation, that we may be instructed in the way of life.

 

God spoke these words, saying:

 

“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” (Deut. 5: 11).

 

What does it mean?

It is a command to honour and to glorify God’s name in all that we do.  

 

This commandment applies to all of life.  

In fact, all things exist with this purpose: to honour and to glorify God’s Name.   That is the purpose of all creation.  

 

That is the purpose of our being and of our very existence. 

All our thoughts, words and deeds should ultimately be directed to this one purpose: to honour and magnify God’s Name. 

It is the purpose and end of all things, and it should become our sole desire in all of life: “Hallowed be your Name”.  

 

By the grace of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, the fulfilment of this commandment becomes all our desire: to hallow God’s Name, to honour and glorify Him in all we do.

And in short that is what God commands in this commandment.

 

This afternoon I proclaim God’s Word to you with the theme:

Fear the LORD

 

We note…

  1. The glory of His Name
  2. That we are called to protect the glory of His Name
  3. That we are to seek the glory of His Name

In the first place we note…

The glory of His Name

 

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain…”

 

To take His Name in vain, means: to use His name lightly, without due respect.  

The opposite is to use His Name only with the highest respect; to honour and revere His Name, and to glorify His Name.

 

But what is meant with His “Name”?

God’s Name is everything that we know about Him.

 

God made a Name for Himself by revealing Himself to us.

He revealed Himself to us in all His words and deeds.  

We know Him, and we know His Name, because of His self-revelation.

Apart from His revelation we cannot know Him.

We are only able to know that which He decided to reveal to us, and only in as much as He revealed it to us.

 

Now, because He loved us He did reveal Himself to us.   God made Himself known to us.   He disclosed Himself to us in order that we may rightly and truly know Him.

To know Him is to have eternal life – John 17: 3

And for that very purpose, to place us in a living and intimate relationship with Himself, He made Himself known to us.

 

Now, everything that He revealed to us concerning Himself: that is His Name. 

His Name is the sum total of His self-revelation to us.

 

He made His name known especially to His covenant people.

There is a sense in which only His children know His Name.

 

God made a name for Himself by creating the heavens and the earth out of nothing.  

He spoke and it was.   He commanded and it stood.

He made a name for Himself when He destroyed the world with the flood, but saved Noah with his family.  

He made a name for Himself when He established an eternal covenant with Abraham.

Yes, He made a name for Himself by all His words and deeds by which He revealed Himself to us.

 

And we shall revere this Name.

We shall not take His name in vain.  

We shall not regard Him lightly.   We shall think of Him, and speak of Him, and obey His Word with holy respect, fear, and reverence.  

 

In the first place He revealed Himself as God, the Almighty, who created the heavens and the earth.   All men have to acknowledge Him as such.   Before we know Him as our Saviour we first know Him as God, the Creator.  

And we worship Him, first of all, as our Creator.

Even if we would know Him in no other way, the knowledge that He is our Creator is enough reason to compel us to worship Him.  

 

By the very fact that He is our Creator, we owe Him everything. 

 

Everything that we may enjoy in life comes from Him alone.

He is the fountain of all good.

And thus, to honour His Name, is first of all to honour Him as the Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, who gives life to all.

 

This did not change in the New Testament.   When the apostle John sees the living creatures gathered before the throne of God, they – together with the twenty four elders – fall down before God to worship Him.   And what do they say?

 

“You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” – Rev. 4: 11.

 

There we see how all of creation worships Him for this reason, because: You created all things; by Your will we exist.  

 

That is the first reason to honour and worship our God.

It is the very purpose for which all creatures were created: to glorify their Creator. 

Yes, it is the ultimate reason why we exist: to glorify God.   As the apostle Paul says:

 

“…of Him and through Him and unto Him are all things, to Whom be glory forever…” – Rom. 11: 36.

 

So then, we know God’s Name.   We know Him first of all as the Almighty who created the heavens and the earth.

 

But, in addition to this revelation, the Lord revealed Himself – yes: revealed His Name – in a special way to His covenant people, as we sing in Ps. 147:

 

            “…The LORD His statutes has provided,

His steadfast love to Jacob showing,

His word on Israel bestowing.

He dealt thus with no other nation…”

 

Only to His covenant people did He reveal Himself as their God, as He said to Moses:

 

“Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.   This is My name forever, and this is My memorial to all generations’” – Ex. 3: 15.

This is My Name forever: The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

He revealed His Name to His covenant people.  

They know Him as their God.  

They know His promises and His faithfulness in keeping His promises; they know His mighty deeds of deliverance.   They know His holiness, His justice, His goodness and mercy.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: the God of the covenant, who keeps His covenant throughout all generations.  

 

Dear congregation, this God made His covenant also with us, and sealed it with the blood of Christ.

Thus we know Him, our God and our Redeemer through Jesus Christ.

 

Our covenant God made a name for Himself when He delivered His people from Egypt with mighty wonders and signs.   He made a name for Himself revealing His steadfast love to Israel.  

His self-revelation reaches its fullness in the New Testament.

He made a Name for Himself when He gave us His only begotten Son.

It is the Son who reveals to us the Father.

 

While all men are commanded to honour and revere God’s Name, it is especially the obligation of His covenant people, the church of Christ, who know His Name.  

He redeemed us from sin and death and clothed us with the perfect righteousness of His Son.   He adopted us as His children and gave us His Son as our eternal King and High Priest.   But for what purpose?   The apostle Paul says: He adopted us as His sons “…to the praise of the glory of His grace…” – Eph. 1:6

He predestined us to be “to the praise of His glory” – Eph. 1:12.

He sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise… “to the praise of His glory” – Eph. 1:14.

And so he repeats it over and again.    Our whole salvation has one ultimate purpose: that we shall glorify our God and Redeemer.

 

We know His Name, therefore we revere and glorify Him.

 

It is the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who declares and reveals the Father to us.   It is in and through Christ that we see God’s glory.

“No one has seen God at any time.   The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him” (John 1:18).

And so the apostle John, when he sees the throne in heaven, and how all of redeemed Creation gives honour to their Creator, he adds also another reason why we should honour and glorify God’s Name.   He sees the living creatures and the twenty four elders falling down before the Lamb, saying:

“‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing!’   And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:  ‘Blessing and honour and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” – Rev. 5: 12, 13.

It is by the blood of the Lamb, it is through Him, that we gather before God’s throne to honour and praise Him, not only as our Creator, but also our Redeemer.  

Now, here in the third commandment, God demands that we receive His self-revelation with awe; that we tremble at His Name, that we hallow the majesty of His Name and that we be zealous and careful to honour His Name with godly reverence.

The third commandment demands that we respond to God’s self-revelation with holy fear and trembling. 

Scripture refers to this as “the fear of the Lord”.

The third commandment is a command to fear the Lord; to revere His holy name.  

Without this fear and holy respect for the Lord there can be no true worship.

  

Brothers and sisters, if anyone thinks that he can worship God in a casual and cool way, then even his worship is blasphemy.   If God is not worshipped with fear and reverence, then He is not worshipped at all.  

Where the fear of the Lord is absent, worship is absent.

 

God made a Name for Himself, a Name before which every knee has to bow in worship.   He made the heavens and the earth that we may fear Him; He redeemed us with a mighty hand that we may honour and glorify Him.

Now, to understand God’s law we have to remember that the law is spiritual.   The law judges, in the first place, our heart and mind.   Each commandment reaches to the heart.   For the Lawgiver Himself is spiritual, and He is not first of all interested in our outward conduct, but first of all concerned about the purity of our heart and mind and soul.  And so also the third commandment requires from us a new heart in which God is hallowed, revered and glorified.

The third commandment does not teach us only to refrain from certain words and unnecessary oaths, but to hallow God in our heart and mind and in everything that we do, that all our thoughts and all our words and all our actions shall be directed to hallow the majesty of His holy Name. 

This commandment applies each moment to every aspect of our life.

When our ears are open to hear His Name, our heads will bow in worship.   When our eyes are open to see His glory, our necks will no longer be too stiff to bend in worship.

Whenever God reveals His Name, honour and praise is His due.

We know His Name, therefore we revere His Name.

That is the third commandment.

How then does this apply to our daily life?

 

We note that in the second place: that we are commanded to…

Protect the holiness of His Name

 

As we mentioned before, to use God’s name in vain, means to use it lightly, without thinking, or without respect; that is: in a casual way, or: without fear.   If we may not use His Name lightly or casually, the meaning is that we should know the fear of the Lord, and use His name only with the highest reverence.   

But, brothers and sisters, we live in a society in which God’s Name is constantly abused, as if His name is merely an exclamation mark to express man’s filthy emotions. 

Or His Name is used merely as gap filler in conversations, throwing it in between.   

That has become characteristic of TV programs and films, but you will also hear it in the shopping centre or over the radio, or at the workplace.

 

In the Old Testament such abuse of the Lord’s name was punished with death.   We read that for example in Lev. 24.  

There is no sin greater than to use the Lord’s name in vain.  

To use His name lightly, or without reverence, is despising Him.  

 

In the New Testament one who uses God’s name in vain is not stoned to death with stones, but, if someone hardens himself in this sin, he will be excommunicated; and finally, in the final judgement, such a person will be thrown into the eternal fire of God’s wrath.

 

We have to keep this in mind all the more in our own day.   For, it may seem to us as if this sin remains unpunished in our day.   The blasphemer is not thrown into jail, no, he is the hero in the film.   The blasphemer is not even rebuked; instead, he is cheered by the crowds.  

Yet, God is in heaven and He will not let this sin go unpunished.  

As Judge of heaven and earth He will avenge this sin even in the generations.

 

Now, the Catechism states that we can also become guilty of this sin if we remain “silent bystanders”, and that God’s wrath is also on those who do not prevent and forbid this sin as much as they can.  

It means that we have to address those who use the Lord’s name in vain.   We may not be silent bystanders.  

With meekness, but also with the fear of the Lord in our heart, we have to admonish and rebuke those who abuse His Name – on the playground, at a barbeque, at a social; but also in the chopping centre, at the workplace, or wherever we move. 

It does not mean that we have to grab each man on the shoulder that passes us by, but it does mean that we will speak up, as much as we can, whenever the majesty of God is openly despised in this way.

Or else, if we remain silent, the salt has lost its saltiness.  

When you are a silent bystander you share in the same sin, as your silence is an approval allowing it to continue.  It does not mean that it is in our power to stop it, but we should speak up for the glory of our Father’s Name.

The sin of being a silent bystander increases when someone watches a program on TV in which the Lord’s name is abused.   And on how many programs are His name not abused?  If anyone has a TV in his house and watches a program in which the Name of the Lord is abused, and he does not stand up and switch the TV off, then he himself has become a blasphemer.  

A Christian may not watch something for his own ipleasure and entertainment that dishonours God.   How can you allow something in your house that blasphemes God’s name?!

Does it still shock you when His Name is abused and blasphemed?  Is it like a blow in your own face every time that His Name is used in vain?  

Do you still fear His Name?

If someone is no longer shocked by the abuse of God’s Name and silently allows it without reproof, or even watches such programs for his own amusement, he himself has become a blasphemer.

However, this commandment is not concerned about words only.  

It reaches to our heart. 

To use the Lord’s name in vain is an extreme example of the transgression of this commandment.   Just as murder is an extreme example of breaking the sixth commandment.   Or just as adultery is an extreme example of breaking the seventh commandment.   So also is blasphemy an extreme example of the transgression of this commandment to fear and honour God.

 

The transgression of the third commandment is already present in the heart when the fear of the Lord is lacking.   Then it will, as a result, also show in words and in deeds.   But the words and the deeds will only be the outward symptoms of sin in the heart; in this case the sin of not fearing God; the sin of being cool and casual in the presence of God; the sin of making light of His holiness.

Dear congregation, the Lord’s Name is most often misused by religious people in their prayers and in their singing.   If you pray to God as if He is your playmate, then you are using His Name in vain.   It would be better for a man not to worship God at all, than to try and worship Him without fear.  

But, brothers and sisters, to instruct ourselves, how do we sing the Psalms?   When the name of the Lord repeatedly occurs in a psalm, and the psalm itself is a prayer in which we address God, what are you doing if you sing it without thinking?   If you do not mean the words that you sing – are you not using His Name in vain?

What is supposed to be worship is then changed into the greatest sin: disrespect for God.

This also happens at the dinner table when people allow small children to pray and then afterwards smile and laugh for the cute mistakes they made.  

In all these things we should be more than careful.

 

Brother, sister, can the fear of the Lord be seen in the way that you come to hear His word?   Did you come this afternoon in prayer and in holy fear to receive God’s Word?  

Yes, the fear of the Lord is the most basic of our religion.  

If someone does not fear the Lord, it simply means he does not know the Lord.

 

In our day it is necessary to add that “cool and casual” worship is blasphemy.

 

Dear congregation, if this command applies to our daily life, much more to our worship!

 

Let us protect the holiness of God’s name starting with our own heart. 

Let us have open ears to hear His Name proclaimed to us in all His majesty and glory.

 

We have to protect the holiness of God’s name especially in our worship; but, on the other hand, we are not to separate worship and religion from our daily life.   We have to honour the Lord not only with our mouths, and not only certain hours of the week, but in all that we think and do.  

If we would say: “Lord! Lord!”, but do not obey, that is abusing His Name.   If someone calls himself a Christian while he lives like the world, he is abusing God’s Name; as the apostle Paul says that God’s Name is blasphemed among the Gentiles when His covenant people are disobedient – Rom. 2: 24.  

 

There are a vast number of ways in which religious people abuse the name of the Lord.   To mention only one further example: when people say: “The Lord has said to me!” or: “The Lord has revealed to me!” while the Lord has not spoken.   In the Old Testament that was an abuse of the Lord’s Name by false prophets, but we find this abuse very often in our own day when people ascribe their own dreams and experiences to the Lord, saying that the Lord has shown them this, or told them that, while the Lord has not said that. 

 

We are taught by this commandment to be very careful, thoughtful and sober whenever we use the Lord’s name.   Let us not try to use His Name to give authority to something which is simply our own opinion, or imagination.  

And so we could continue to mention a hundred transgressions of this commandment in our day, but let us search our own heart whether the fear of the Lord is present.  

Let us first of all hallow the Lord’s Name in our own heart, and then we will no longer be silent bystanders when the Name of our God is used in vain.

 

In the last place we note that we are commanded to…

Seek the glory of God’s name

 

So far we focused much on the negative side of this commandment: that we may not use the Lord’s Name in vain.   The negative side of the commandment is that we shall guard against all sorts of misuse of the Lord’s name.   But this commandment, as the rest of the commandments, implies also a positive command.   The positive side of this commandment is that we shall seek the honour and glory of God’s Name.

 

Positively this commandment teaches us to call on His name with reverence, to call on Him as our God and Saviour, to marvel at His greatness and His mighty works, to speak about His goodness and to confess Him before men.

 

Yes, positively, not only our mouth, but our whole life, should be directed to the glory of His Name – here in the worship service, but also when we relax together with friends having a pleasant social.   Our conversations shall be holy, as men and woman who fear the Lord; not by having only religious conversations, but by fleeing from sin in all our words and deeds, by living constantly before His face, by living in the fear of His Name.

 

It applies to the normal course of daily life.   When the Lord says:  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt. 5:16), He does not mean that we should do goods works in order to be seen by men.   That is what the Pharisees did.   They did all their works to be seen by men.  

No, we must not do good works to be seen by men; but, when our whole life is directed to glorify God, it will be evident.   It will be seen in all that we do, and not only when we try to do some special “kingdom project”.  

 

No, it will be seen in the ordinary life of every day.   It will be seen when you wash the dishes, it will be seen in your attitude, and it will be seen in the clothes that you wear.  

The fear of the Lord will be seen in the way you raise your children.

It will be evident in the ordinary life of every day, whatever you do and wherever you are.  

Our good works are not to be an outward show, but the result of a new heart that loves and honours and fears the Lord.

 

The same applies when the apostle Peter says:

“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against your soul, having your conduct honourable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation” – 1 Peter 2: 11, 12.

 

He does not mean that they have to go and do something special in order to be seen by men.   Instead, he says that by our abstaining from fleshly lusts, by fleeing from sin and temptation, by crucifying our sinful desires, and by obeying God’s Word, God’s Name will be glorified when people see our holy and obedient lives.

 

Dear congregation, when we look at ourselves in the light of this commandment, we have to acknowledge our sin.  

We can only blush when we think of the dishonour that we often bring on the Name of the Lord.  

We are again reminded of our sin and misery.  

Therefore, let us flee to Christ.   Let us trust in Him alone for the forgiveness of all our sins, and ask forgiveness.

 

But, dear congregation, the instruction of this commandment is also given for another purpose; not only that we may know our sin and misery, but that we may be instructed in the new life of obedience.   Through Christ our Lord, who has set us free from slavery to sin, who has reconciled us to God to live in communion with Him, we now rejoice in this commandment.   

We rejoice in the holiness and greatness and majesty of our God.  

We also long for that day when we will reach the goal of perfection: the day of Christ’s coming!   Then we will praise and glorify the Name of our God and Saviour with the full measure that God demands, always and completely, forever and ever.

 

But we also thank the Lord for His salvation as we experience now already the beginning of this obedience; although it is but a small beginning.  

We trust Him, and we ask Him, that He may complete the good work that He has started in us.

Brothers and sisters, we shall not use God’s name in vain; we shall honour and praise Him with fear, for in Christ we know Him: our Creator and our Redeemer.  

We know Him; therefore we serve Him with fear and reverence.  

We know His Name; therefore we worship.

 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Mendel Retief, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Mendel Retief

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