Order Of Worship (Liturgy)Singing: Ps. 8:1,2; Ps. 54; Ps. 66:1,7; Hy. 3; Ps. 87:1,4; Hy. 2:1,5
Reading: Lev. 24:10-23; Acts 4:1-12
Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:
When we read through LD 36 a minute ago, the thought may have slipped through the minds of some of us that we might just as well skip this Lord's Day.
Why bother having a sermon on the third commandment?
We don't break this commandment.
If there is one of the ten which we obey, it is this one.
We don't curse.
We don't use the Name of God in vain like many around us do.
We don't use the Name of God loosely, as an expression, like we hear many doing at work or on TV.
But let's not forget what we confessed in LD 23.
There we admitted that we have grievously sinned against all God's commandments, have never kept one of them, and are still inclined to all evil.
All God's commandments -- also the third commandment.
We are also guilty of taking the Name of the LORD God in vain.
The Lord Jesus Christ also had to die for this sin committed by God's people.
And He has also redeemed us from this sin.
He has redeemed us from it and, by the power of His Holy Spirit, He teaches us how to obey it.
He also writes this commandment on our hearts.
I proclaim to you the Word of God under this theme:
WE ARE TO USE GOD'S NAME ONLY WITH FEAR AND REVERENCE
We will consider: 1. The significance of His Name; 2. The abuse of His Name; 3. The proper use of His Name.
1. The significance of God's Name.
"What's in a name?" asked Juliet.
A name is just a group of letters, isn't it?.
Nothing more than a label to distinguish one person from another.
One person's name is Tom Montague; another's name is Susan Capulet.
These are just labels to help us identify these specific people, aren't they?
"That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
Or is there more to it?
Ah, dear Juliet, there's more to a name than you think.
A person's name tells us who that person is.
If I mention The Right Honourable Jean Chretien, then immediately a picture of Mr. Chretien jumps into our minds.
Likely, you can even hear his voice.
Things which he has said and done in the past come to mind.
Mr. Chretien's name and his person are so intimately bound up with each other that we cannot separate the two.
And this is true for each of us.
Our names are important to us.
No one likes to have fun made of his name.
Even if someone inadvertently mispronounces your name, you don't like it.
If someone pulls the name of someone you love through the mud, you can't stand it.
You will defend that person's name.
Because his name is his reputation, his honour.
It is that person himself.
This is true in our society today, but it was even more true in the time of the OT.
You see, today we do not usually consider naming our children a prophetic exercise.
When we receive a child, we give it a name we really like, or we name the child after a grandparent or parent.
The meaning of the name is usually not the foremost aspect in our minds.
In the OT, it was different.
Children were often given a certain name because of events surrounding their birth.
Jacob was born hanging onto the heel of his brother Esau.
They called him "Jacob" which means, "he grasps."
Esau was born with hair all over his body and so they named him "Esau" which means hairy.
Or names were prophetic.
Think of Hosea's children.
God told him to call his children "Not-Pitied" and "Not-My-People" to express to the people of Israel that God was turning His back on His people who had turned their backs on Him.
God changed Abram's name to Abraham to signify that He would be the father of many nations.
Names were very important in the OT.
A person's name said a lot about the person himself.
This was and still is also true for the LORD God.
The Name of the LORD God tells us a lot about the LORD God Himself.
It tells us who He is.
God reveals Himself to His people through His Name.
When He appeared to Moses in the burning bush in Ex. 3 and told Moses to lead Israel out of slavery in Egypt, then Moses said, "Yes, but, who are You? And what shall I tell the children of Israel? Who shall I say sent me?"
Then God answered Moses and said, "I AM WHO I AM. Tell Israel, `I AM has sent me.'"
God revealed His Name to Moses, and through Moses, to Israel.
He revealed Himself as YHWH, which means, I AM WHO I AM.
God revealed Himself as the God of Israel's fathers, as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
He is the God who is faithful to His covenant promises.
Israel had forgotten about God, but God had not forgotten about them.
Then, in His love for them and in faithfulness to the promises He made to their fathers, he came to them to save them from the cruelty and slavery of Egypt.
He is the One who acts in history to redeem His people.
He is the One who is.
He is the living God, the saving God.
As Ps. 54 says, God saves His people by His Name.
Prov. 18 says that the Name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
The Name of God encircles His people and protects them.
When God's people call upon the Name of the LORD, then God comes close to them.
He puts His Name at our disposal.
We may call upon God by His Name.
Just like a friend says, "Call me John," so God said, "Call me YHWH."
He revealed His personal Name to His people.
That personal name which we translate from the Hebrew into English with the Name LORD (with four capital letters).
The priests of Israel were to put the Name of the LORD on the people of Israel.
When they blessed them with the very same blessing we hear at the end of every Sunday morning worship service, then the priest laid the Name of God on the people of God.
When we hear those words: The LORD bless you and keep you ..., then we too know that God is placing His Name upon us.
God Himself is coming right to us.
For there is no separation between the Name of God and the person of God.
The LORD God is His Name.
Ps. 103:1 says: Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy Name.
Dt. 28:58: ...fear this glorious and awful Name, the LORD your God.
These texts equate the Name of God and the LORD God Himself.
In the OT, only Israel knew God by His Name.
God had revealed His Name only to His special, chosen people.
But the prophets prophesied the coming of the day when all who called upon the Name of the Lord would be saved.
The apostle Peter, in his Pentecost sermon, said, "... whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
The apostle Paul said the same in Rom. 10: Are you a Jew? Call upon the Name of the Lord! Are you a Gentile? Call upon the Name of the Lord, and you will be saved.
God had revealed His Name to His people in the OT already, but He revealed it even more fully in His Son Jesus Christ.
Locked up in the Name YHWH lies the gospel that God is the Redeemer of His people.
This came out fully in Jesus Christ.
In Jn. 17, the Lord Jesus said to His Father, "I have revealed Your Name to the men whom You gave me."
The Lord Jesus is the highest, the most wonderful revelation of the Name of God.
In Jesus Christ, the person, the love, the faithfulness and the saving power of God are made perfectly clear.
And because the Father and the Son are one, we cannot separate the Name of God from the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ nor from the saving work He performed.
It is by the Name of Jesus Christ that we are saved.
Acts 4: And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Paul wrote to the Philippians that God has highly exalted the Lord Jesus and has given Him a Name which is above every Name that at the Name of Jesus every knee in the universe should bow.
Today we are baptized into the Name of the Triune God.
The Name of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) comes upon us.
We are encircled by God's Name.
We are take from the world and placed in the depths of the Name of God.
His Name is our strong tower.
We hide in it.
We are safe in it.
Do you see now the glory of the Name of God?
The Name of God is His revelation to us about Himself.
His Name speaks of His mercy, His love, His faithfulness.
And more specifically, it speaks to us of the salvation we have in the Name of Jesus Christ.
2. The abuse of His Name.
Because the Name of God is so glorious, because it speaks to us so loudly and clearly of His love and of His free salvation in Jesus Christ, it is so awful when His Name is abused or misused.
If we were to translate the third commandment very literally, it would say, "You shall not lift up (or pick up) the Name of the LORD your God for a vain (or an empty) purpose."
We are not to pick up His Name as if it were a mere tool or instrument to do something with it which He does not allow -- to use it for our own purpose.
If we use the Name of God in any other way than God has commanded, we abuse the Name of God.
God's Name is, sadly, abused in many different ways.
There are those who swear and "cuss" like storm-troopers.
They have to underline every word they say with an oath.
For them, the glorious Name of God is nothing more than an expression to give their words some sort of emphasis.
For us who love the Name of God, such careless use of that Name makes our hair bristle.
It makes our skin crawl to hear the Name of God and of Jesus Christ thrown around like that.
We cannot stand it; it makes us angry.
These people take the Name of God and lift it up for an empty purpose, for vanity.
We have the responsibility to tell such people that they are abusing the Name of the God of the universe.
Lest we share in this horrible sin by being silent bystanders.
Another way of abusing the Name of God is by thinking the Name as such has magical powers.
We have an example of that in Lev. 24.
The story about that half Israelite and half Egyptian man who had an argument with an Israelite.
This half Egyptian was a real child of His time.
He held to the ANE idea that the name of one's god acts as a magical shield.
As they were quarreling, he blasphemed the Name of the LORD, and cursed.
Literally it says that he pierced the Name.
By cursing the Israelite's God, He tried to kill God.
He thought that if He could pierce (kill) his enemy's God, then his enemy would have no more protection.
The magic would be gone and he could beat the Israelite.
By blaspheming the Name of God, He blasphemed God Himself.
And He blasphemed, he slandered the whole work of redemption -- the love and the mercy of God.
This young man experienced the ultimate penalty for this horrible sin by being stoned to death.
Anyone who blasphemed the Name was to be driven from the camp and stoned with stones by the whole congregation.
As QA 100 says, there is no sin that provokes God's wrath more than the blaspheming of His Name.
That is why He commanded it to be punished with death.
A NT example of thinking that the Name of God is magical is found in Acts 19.
Paul was in Ephesus.
God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul.
Even if a handkerchief that had touched Paul was laid upon someone who was sick, that person would be healed.
If it was brought to someone who had an evil spirit, that person would be cleansed.
The seven sons of a priest called Sceva thought that this was pretty neat.
Without believing in the Name of Jesus Christ, they tried to cast out evil spirits by the Name of Jesus and the Name of Paul.
They thought these Names had some sort of magical power -- that if one uttered them like some sort of abracadabra, he could do amazing things.
Well, it backfired.
A demon said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"
The evil spirit made the man and jump on the seven sons of Sceva so that they fled the house wounded and naked.
These men belittled the Name of Jesus.
They tried to use it for selfish purposes.
They didn't glorify the Name of God; they tried to glorify themselves in their attempt to do wonderful miracles.
If what we have just described could be called malicious abuse of the Name of God, there is another kind we might call "pious" abuse.
There's an outstanding example of this in Church history.
In 1572 the RCC and the RC authorities murdered thousands of French Protestant Christians in, what is called, the St. Bartholemew's Day Massacre.
The next day the pope held a special mass in Rome to praise and glorify God that so many "heretics" had been put to death.
The choirs sang in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, "We praise Thee, Lord our God, We magnify Thy Name" (the Te Deum; our Hy. 2).
The Name of God was used to serve the pope's and the RCC's goals.
Another example of "pious blasphemy" is that of the TV preacher who, in 1987, said that the Holy Spirit told him that if his supporters didn't raise 8 million dollars before a certain time, his work on earth was finished.
Again, utter and complete blasphemy.
He used the Name of God to serve his own materialistic goals.
But the money came in!
Sometimes God's people cause others to blaspheme the Name of God.
King David was guilty of it when he killed Uriah the Hittite and took his wife Bathsheba.
According to Nathan the prophet, this action made the enemies of the LORD heap contempt on Him.
In the NT, we are warned not to live in such a way that the Name of the LORD is discredited.
The apostle writes to both Timothy and Titus that Christians are to work honestly in their daily occupation so that the Name of God and Jesus Christ will not be blasphemed.
We, ourselves, run the risk of blaspheming the Name of God when we simply take our religion for granted.
When we go through the motions of speaking and singing about the great things God has done for us in Christ Jesus while our hearts are cold, or at best, lukewarm.
We can let ourselves get so used to it all, that we get a little bored by it all.
During Bible reading; during the preaching; during the catechism lesson: honestly, we are somewhat bored.
We have heard it all so many times.
Let's get on with it.
How dare we?
If speaking about our faith and what Christ has done for us on the cross is boring-all I can say is: Woe to us.
3. The proper use of His Name.
How do we use the Name of God properly?
In the way that QA 99 says.
There it says that we must use the holy Name of God only with fear and reverence, so that we may rightly confess Him, call upon Him, and praise Him in all our words and works.
In other words, we are to use the Name of God in the same way our Lord Jesus Christ did.
We can, because the Lord Jesus washed us clean also from our sin against this commandment.
By His Holy Spirit, He has also written this commandment upon the tablets of our hearts.
The Lord Jesus Christ was persecuted falsely as a blasphemer.
In Jn. 10 when the Lord says to the Jews, "I and the Father are one", the Jews picked up stones to kill Him.
They said, "You are a blasphemer. You make yourself equal with God."
He also died because the Jews found Him guilty of blasphemy.
We read about that in Matt. 26.
The high priest put the Lord Jesus under oath.
He said (63), "I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."
And Jesus answered, "Yes, it is as you say. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven."
The high priest tore his robes and screamed, "He has uttered blasphemy... You heard him. What is your judgment?"
The Sanhedrin said piously, "He deserves death."
The Lord Jesus got the death penalty in accordance with the OT law because the council found Him guilty of blasphemy.
Of course the Lord Jesus was never guilty of blasphemy.
He always upheld the Name of God.
He taught His disciples to hallow the Name of God.
"Hallowed be Your Name" He had taught them to pray.
Even when He was in the depths of anguish in the garden of Gethsemene, He revered His Father.
He prayed, "My Father, not my will be done, but Your will which alone is good."
When He was hanging on the cross, when God had closed the doors of heaven to His Son, when the Lord Jesus was not allowed to call God Father anymore, even then Jesus did not blaspheme the Name.
He did not get angry at God.
He prayed, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
How valid the question!
Why did the God of Jesus forsake Him?
Why did Jesus die on the cross?
Why was He falsely condemned for committing blasphemy by a bunch of pious hypocrites?
To save you from dying for committing blasphemy.
He took upon Himself the curse, the anger, the wrath of God that we provoked because of all the times we belittled the Name of God.
For all the times we did not use the holy Name of God with fear and reverence.
For all the times we did not confess the Name of God boldly, but hid, not wanting anyone to know that we do bear the Name of God.
For all the times we did not call upon God when we should have -- when we thought so much of ourselves that we didn't need God in our lives.
For all those times we did not praise God in all our words and works.
That's why God forsook Jesus Christ.
That's why our Lord Jesus died on a cross.
The Lord Jesus did so to redeem for God a people who would again reverence and fear Him.
We are that people, beloved.
The Lord Jesus has poured out His Spirit so that we might be able to show the beginnings of obedience also to this command.
Let us do so.
Let us confess the Name of God within the communion of saints, but also outside in the workplace, in the neighbourhood, at school.
Let us confess the Name of Jesus Christ, that Name which is sweeter than honey to our taste, which is more melodious than the most beautiful piece of music.
Let us confess the Name of Jesus, that Name which is unique, for it is the only Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
Let us call every knee in the universe to bow at the sound of this Name.
Let us call upon the Name of God as our Lord Jesus taught us to.
Let us call upon God as our Father -- our Father from whom we expect all good things, whom we trust and love.
Let us call upon Father with a childlike faith.
And let us praise Him in all our words and works.
Let us praise the Triune God in heaven above with hearts and hands and voices.
For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.
To Him be glory for ever.
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service. Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://www.ancasterchurch.on.ca/sermons/nov0903pm.html
(c) Copyright 2003, Rev. George van Popta
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