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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The Name of the LORD is a Strong Tower
Text:LD 36 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 3rd Commandment (God's name)
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-06-18
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 144:1                                                                                                                                        

Hy 6:1,2  [after Nicene Creed]

Reading – Proverbs 18

Ps 71:1,2

Sermon – Lord’s Days 36-37

Ps 61:2,3,4

Hy 65:1,4

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


Beloved congregation, when there was an earthquake near Japan back in 2011, and then that massive tsunami hit the coastline, on the news you could see some terrible scenes. People were desperately trying to escape the onrushing water: running up small hills, climbing to the rooftops of houses, standing on the balconies of apartment buildings, holding onto anything solid so that they wouldn’t be swept away. But unfortunately many thousands were killed.

Those images remind us about our one sure hope as the people of God. In the Scriptures we’re pointed to a fortress that will never wash away, even if all the waters of the ocean rise against it. There is a place that we can run to in every storm, and always be secure.

It’s in Proverbs 18:10 where Solomon teaches his son this vital truth, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” This is a tower that will not fall. It’s a refuge that will always be high enough, strong enough, and secure enough. It’s the Name of God, a Name that we his people may confess and believe. For the LORD God has revealed his Name to us as dependable and true, firm and faithful.

And in the third commandment of his law, the LORD has taught us how to use this Name in our lives, for our benefit and blessing, and to his greater glory. This is the theme of the preaching, based on Lord’s Days 36 and 37,

“The Name of the LORD is a strong tower.” This means we can:

  1. confess his Name with certainty
  2. vow with his Name carefully
  3. trust in his Name completely

 

1) confess his Name with certainty: Why is God’s Name so very important? We ask that, because it’s obvious that God is concerned about his Name. We have the third commandment, “You shall not take the Name of the LORD your God in vain.” Then we also have the first petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be your Name.” These two precepts alone tell us the LORD is very protective of his Name. Yet we might still wonder: Does it really matter? Isn’t a name “just” a name?

But it’s more, much more than just a label or a tag. For example, this is what Proverbs teaches us in chapter 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.” There Solomon praises the value of “a good name.” He tells his son that a good name is worth far more than heaps of money or lots of success.

That verse is all about our reputation with others. “He’s made a name for himself,” we say today. Our “name” is how others view our character and reputation, what kind of person we are. It’s the quality they place on the thing that really counts about us: our moral fibre, our conduct and spirit.

And Proverbs tells us how to get a good name. That’s really the subject matter of this whole book: How can you become a person of wisdom? How can you have your life governed by the fear of God?

Proverbs describes such a person. If you fear the LORD, then you’ll be faithful to your friends. You’ll be honest in your business dealings. When you say something, people will know it’s true. When you commit to something, people count on you to follow through. You care for others, especially the less fortunate. If you fear God, you work hard, and plan with care. You’ll also keep in check whatever passions might ruin you, like your anger and jealousy and lust and greed. You’ve got your priorities figured out, and you strive to act all times with discretion. Yes, when you honour God and keep his commands, you will be known as a person of integrity.

Having this kind of name, this kind of reputation is worth so much, even more than great riches. Isn’t that an obvious truth? Maybe we’d all like a bit more money in the bank, but at the end of the day, it’s our honour and reputation that we’re most protective of. And rightfully so, says the Bible. What irritates and upsets anyone is a false report going around. It can eat away at us, the thought that others don’t accept our word, but that they’ve come to doubt us and question our integrity. “A good name is better than great riches.”

That’s how it is for humans, and that’s how it is for God. His Name is important to Him. It’s his reputation. It’s the way that we think about God, his character, his worth, the whole nature of his spirit and conduct.

Because that’s the case, we start to see why God is so zealous for his Name. For God too, “A good name is better than great riches.” The LORD wants people to recognise his integrity. He wants us to understand that He’s faithful—that when He says something, it’s true. His reputation as God is that He cares for the weak, that He shows compassion to the lowly, that He forgives the repentant. God isn’t known for being unpredictable or unfair, but for always acting in righteousness and truth.

That’s the Name of God which his people may know with all certainty. We may know his Name, because from the beginning, God has revealed it! In the Scriptures God is called by different names, each speaking of a different quality He has. “This is my Name,” says God, “this is who I am.” “I am your Redeemer” (Isa 63:16). “I am the Rock” (Deut 32:15). “I am your Shepherd” (Gen 49:24). “I am your Father” (Jer 3:4). “I am your Husband” (Isa 54:5). “I am Saviour” (Isa 43:3). “I am the first and I am the last” (Isa 44:6). We could go on… Altogether they make the one Name of our God—who He is, what He can do.

So it is that Nehemiah offers this prayer of praise to the LORD, “You [have] made a name for yourself, which remains to this day” (9:10). By Word and by deed, God has established his reputation. In the lives of his people—in our own lives, year after year—God has made a name for Himself, by being constant toward us, by showing mercy, by acting in justice, by bestowing his goodness.

This is the great shame when so many people take God’s Name on their lips as a curse or as an exclamation. They cry out God’s Name, but how little they know of who He is! How little they understand of his splendid character, his majesty. For to really know the Name of God is to love him in his beauty. To really know his Name is to adore his splendour.

Indeed, knowing this Name of God has consequences. It’s not like looking at the checkout lady’s name-tag—you read her name for interest, but then you forget it as quickly as you’ve read it. A name without consequence. But once we know God’s Name, we have to do something! We’re called us to confess Him with our mouths, and to praise Him with our whole lives. Because if God has one purpose, one goal, one aim, it’s his own glory. He wants the glory, because He’s so worthy as the holy God.

So bring praise to his Name, confessing Him, worshiping Him, praying to Him. And let this fear and reverence also come out in your life. This is why the Catechism speaks of praising God “in all our words and works” (Q&A 99). As Christians, we’re all saying something about God every day; by our actions, we’re saying how much this God is worth to us—or how little He’s worth.

Later on in Proverbs there’s a negative example of this. There Agur prays that God would keep him from being too rich, or too poor, “Lest I be full and deny you, and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (30:9). If we make outward things our treasure, we’ve denied God’s great Name. And if we break his law by stealing (or in some other way), we also bring dishonour to the Name of the Lord.

More positively, we have constant opportunities to glorify God. Not just when you’re in church, or busy with “Christian things,” but at work and at school and in the home: our life can become an holy advertisement for the LORD. It is when we show that we’re willing to obey Him. That we want to thank Him in all things. That we’ll trust in Him, no matter what happens. Even if we don’t say a word, such a confession is heard by others, loud and clear.

 

2) vow with his Name carefully: Once you know it, a person’s name can be used in many different ways. We use someone’s name to greet them, or when we compliment them for a job well done. A person’s name might be whispered in gossip, or shouted in anger. That’s how it goes with God’s Name too—it can be used in different ways. We just spoke of the good activities of confessing his Name, calling on it in prayer, and praising it in worship. But the Catechism mentions negative uses of the divine name too: blasphemy, cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths (Q&A 99). The Catechism highlights that last use of God’s Name, devoting all of Lord’s Day 37 to the matter of making oaths.

Here too, Proverbs offers some helpful commentary on God’s law. It observes in 20:25, “It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, and afterward to reconsider his vows.” It may be good to take a closer look at this practice, because making an oath—or making a vow—isn’t something we think about very often.

An oath is a calling on God’s Name with a special purpose. When we make an oath, we’re asking God to hold us to the truth. We ask that He who is righteous and holy will hear our words, and make us follow through. This means there’s great power in an oath. It obligates a person to be faithful and honest. No matter how difficult is the task promised, or how unbelievable is the claim made, the speaker means what he says. He has to, because he’s sworn it in the Name of God Almighty!

The way of making an oath has changed a little bit from Bible times. But the core of it remains the same. We still call upon God, “who alone knows the heart, to bear witness to the truth, and to punish me if I swear falsely” (Q&A 102).

Today not only Christians, but also unbelieving people will swear an oath. The Catechism explains that these kind of oaths are used “to maintain and promote fidelity and truth” (Q&A 101). For example, in a court of law people will swear an oath to tell the whole truth. When new officers join the police force, they too, swear an oath. Same for those in the military: they make an oath to serve their country faithfully.

It’s good that oaths like this are still used. In this world, there’s a lot of confusion and chaos. There’s uncertainty when people feel that they can’t trust their fellow citizens, or can’t even trust their leaders. So in our society a public oath can confirm the integrity of those who speak. It vouches for their honesty and faithfulness. So the oath is a gift of God. It’s given to restrain wickedness and to make our society more stable. An oath is a quiet reminder that there is a God up above, there’s Someone to whom all people are responsible.

The Catechism also mentions that an oath can be taken in times of necessity (Q&A 101). This kind of promise is usually made in times of distress. A person is getting desperate, so he says: “Lord, if you get me out this, I vow that I’ll give you this, or I’ll do that.” There’s nothing wrong with it when we make this kind of vow before God. In a time of need, it can express our deep dependence on the Lord.

Only let’s be aware of how it’s easy to promise great things to God when we’ve run stuck, and we’re ready to do anything to change our circumstances. We can make a vow, but only after careful thought and prayer. Remember what Proverbs 20 said, “It is a snare for a man to devote rashly something as holy, and afterward to reconsider his vows.” Don’t forget it later, and don’t back out and say you weren’t serious. Remember that we’re calling on God himself to hold us to what we’ve said.

This is why Jesus warns us against making any oaths or vows in God’s Name. He says that our “yes” must really mean “yes,” no matter who it’s spoken to. In his day oaths were being abused—people would add escape clauses to anything they promised, lots of “fine print”—so Jesus said that it was better not to make them. Not because oaths were wrong in themselves, but because people then had this idea that God could be kept out of certain transactions and conversations, that there were serious promises, and less-serious promises. Not so. Whenever you open your mouth, whether you’re swearing an official oath, or you’re making a public vow, or you’re chatting with your friends—whenever you speak, God is near. And your words must always carry weight.

Think of what it says in Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” You could rephrase that to say, “The ears of the LORD are in every place, listening in on the wicked and the good.” Every word that we say—publicly or privately, officially or confidentially—is spoken in the hearing of God Almighty!

Sometimes we have one kind of language for at church (fully sanitized and quite holy). We have another kind of language for when we’re with our friends (highly embellished, lots of joking). And then there’s another kind of language for home (sometimes rude, sometimes sweet). This is not right, for our words should always be honest, and always truthful, and always holy. God is everywhere already, listening and holding us to account. This means that we must be faithful in all our words and deeds. People should see in us a reflection of the God who never lies, the God who never breaks his word.

 

3) trust in his Name completely: We spoke earlier about not profaning God’s Name but bringing it glory through our conduct. There’s another way to glorify the Name of the LORD, and that is, very simply, by trusting in Him. Remember our theme text, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Prov 18:10).

Let’s explain that image a bit. In a land like Palestine, you could never take security for granted. Things were better in the days of King David and King Solomon, but for such a long time, the Israelites had lived in fear of marauding tribes and invading nations. You could be out in the field, minding your own business, when all of a sudden there’d be a cloud of dust on the horizon, moving quickly toward you. You listened for the hoof-beats, you watched for the flash of swords, and you knew at once when you needed to head for shelter. It could be the Midianites or someone else. Out in the open, you were in grave danger of being cut down. But in that nearby city, behind its stone walls and up its high towers, you could find your safety. So you ran!

So when Solomon used this image, his son knew exactly what he was talking about, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” With God we have a shelter from every attack. When you run to the LORD God, you can trust in Him completely. With Him, you’re always secure.

And see that it’s his Name that is so strong. His Name is a tower! Because his Name is who He is. It’s his nature and his ability. God won’t do anything that is out of keeping with his character. God’s good reputation will always be intact. As David says in Psalm 20, “May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob defend you” (v 1). His Name will defend you, for He is constant. He is Almighty. He’s unchanging, unfading, and unwavering.

Like David sang of God in Psalm 18, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (v 2). Listen to all those words of strength: God is a rock and fortress, a strength and saviour, a shield and stronghold! David is saying most emphatically, “This God is a God we can trust, in all things, at all times. He’s a tower and fortress we can run to, and never be swept away.”

Which means that we have every reason to use God’s Name in prayer; in the words of the Catechism, “[calling] upon Him” (Q&A 99). Call on God in your times of trouble. Call on Him in those sudden moments of crisis. And not just then, but all the time, may that be our first impulse, our instinct: to call on God’s Name!

Notice that the righteous run. That’s what Solomon teaches us. When it comes to trusting in God, there shouldn’t be any delay. It should be the first thing we do—we shouldn’t call on God after we’ve tried everything else, but first! That glorifies Him, when we recognize the LORD’s greatness and we flee to him at once. We may not understand how it’ll all work out. We may not see how it’s possible that He can help, but we can trust this God all the same. So run to Him! Find shelter in Him, because with Him you’re safe!

And then don’t run to shelters that are sure to collapse. Don’t find security in things that are going to fade and fail. That’s the contrast we find in the very next verse of chapter 18, “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own esteem (vv 10-11).

We’ve said before that anyone of us might be tempted to trust in our wealth. Or we trust in our friends, or our spouse, or our earthly position, or we trust in our own intelligence and charm. But all our security can crumble. That “tower” can burn, that “strong city” be swept away, and in a moment we’re left with nothing.

But for the righteous, there’s a strong tower. For God’s people, there’s a stronghold that won’t ever be washed out, a fortress that won’t ever be knocked from its foundations. When we run to the LORD and Him alone, we’ll be safe. When we call on his Name in true faith, He’ll always answer us, for the sake of his beloved Son.

Solomon said it this way in Proverbs 14:26, “In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence, and God’s children will always have a place of refuge.” So may the Name of the living God be your confidence and your refuge each new day—may He be your strong tower always: confessing Him, calling on Him, and praising Him in all your words and works.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2017, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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