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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Melville
 Melville, Australia
Preached At:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
Title:Live to the honour of God's holy name
Text:LD 36 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic: 3rd Commandment (God's name)

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 2010 Book of Praise

Bible Translation:  NKJV

Psalm 96:1,2

Hymn 4:1,2,3

Psalm 99:1,2,5,6

Psalm 115:1,6 (after sermon)

Hymn 63:2

Read: Leviticus 24:10-16; 1 Peter 1:13-21

Text:  Lord’s Day 36

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I preach to you the Word of the LORD concerning the third commandment under the following theme:

Live to the honour of God’s holy Name.

  1. Honour God’s Name with your lips.
  2. Honour God’s name with your lives.


1. Honour God’s Name with your lips.

From the 3rd commandment we can see that the LORD is very particular, very jealous concerning the use of His Name.

“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.”

“The LORD will not hold him guiltless.”  In other words, to take the name of the LORD in vain is a very serious sin in the eyes of Holy God and if you do so you can expect God to be angry about it.  As it says in answer 100 of the Heidelberg Catechism,

“No sin is greater or provokes God’s wrath more than the blaspheming of His name.”


But why is this?  What is it about God’s Name that causes Him to be so very jealous about it? 


To take God’s Name in vain literally means to use His name as if it was nothing, empty and without worth.  To take God’s Name in vain is to misuse it through swearing and using profane words, but it also includes all other things that defames or degrades not just His name but our Most Holy God Himself! 

  We need to understand that God’s Name is not just a name.  In giving us His Name, the LORD reveals Himself to us and so how we treat God’s Name is how we treat Him.  This is clear from the first chapters in the book of Exodus.  In Exodus chapter 3 when Moses spoke to the Lord at the burning bush on Mount Horeb, He said to God in verse 13,

“Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?”

And then the LORD said to Moses in Exodus 3:14,15

“I AM WHO I AM.”  And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

  Moreover God 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.”

Then in Exodus 6, after Pharaoh had refused to let God’s people go and the suffering of the Israelites had increased, the LORD promised Moses making an oath on His own Name saying in verse 3-6,

“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them.  I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers.  And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant.  Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.”


And then in Exodus 9:16 the LORD spoke to Pharaoh through Moses saying,

“But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.”


So God’s Name is His person, and it was through His work of salvation, of redeeming His people from Egypt that He made known His Name not just to Israel but to the world.  And there we see a very close link between the words of God spoken before the commandments were given,

“I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage”

and the third commandment,

“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.”


To misuse the name of the LORD, to take His name in vain, is to make light of who the LORD is, to deny His great works of salvation.  It is in effect to say “He is not my God, I have no respect for Him and I care nothing for what He has done.”


But now we come to Leviticus 24 and in this Bible chapter we read of a man who had an Egyptian father but an Israelite mother, who entered the Israelite camp and blasphemed the Name of the LORD.  He was a man of mixed descent and it appears that he was aligned not with his mother and the tribe of Dan but mostly with his father and the mixed multitude of non-Israelite people who camped separately from the people of God.  Exodus 12:38 says that this mixed multitude went up from Egypt with the people of Israel.  Some, no doubt, loved the LORD and feared His name, but not all.  In fact Numbers 11 tells us that there were times when this multitude had a negative influence on the people of Israel. Numbers 11:4-6 says,

“Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded [better: lusted intently] to the intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: ‘Who will give us meat to eat?  We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes.”

It was “the mixed multitude” who stirred the people up, who caused them to doubt God’s greatness.  In their grumbling they may well have challenged God’s people:  “What sort of a God is this, anyway?  You say His Name is great, that He can do all things, but all He seems to be able to give us is this manna – and we’re sick of it!  At least our gods in Egypt knew how to care for us!  Don’t you remember the fish and the cucumbers and onions and the garlic?”  And so in their grumbling and discontent God’s Name was not honoured with their lips: to the contrary, His name was dishonoured, taken in vain.


And now in Leviticus 24 it is one of these men of the mixed multitude, a man who had an Egyptian father but an Israelite mother, who left his own camp on the outskirts and came in to the camp of God’s people.  And there in the camp he fought with a man of Israel.  And then it says this in Leviticus 24:11 -

 “And the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed. . .”

So here was this Egyptian-slash-Israelite man who it appears was counted as one of the mixed multitude.  He went into the Israelite camp, a place considered holy since the LORD Himself was with His people in the camp, he then gets into a fight and he blasphemed the Name of the LORD and he cursed.  He was trying to get at this man of Israel by attacking Israel’s God.  And he did it right there in the midst of the camp, right there before the LORD and His people.  This was shocking!  This was blatant sin against the 3rd commandment and a public mocking of the LORD god Himself.


So they took the man who had blasphemed, put him into custody and then asked the LORD what should be done.  And then the LORD told Moses in verse 14-16,

“Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him.  Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin.  And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death.  All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land.  When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death.”


And it is this command of the Lord that we can find echoed in answer 100 of the Heidelberg Catechism,

Is the blaspheming of God’s Name by swearing and cursing such a grievous sin that God is angry also with those who do not prevent and forbid it as much as they can?


Certainly, for no sin is greater or provokes God’s wrath more than the blaspheming of His Name.  That is why He commanded it to be punished with death.


The death sentence for this man and for all who blasphemed the name of holy God was just.  The LORD had revealed His Name to His people, He has shown Himself to be “I AM WHO I AM” in redeeming His people from Egypt and He would bring them in to the Promised Land.  But those who cursed the Name of God were rejecting Him as their LORD and Saviour and so they had no right to enjoy the blessing of fellowship with God in the Promised Land.


But we do not kill people today for the sin of blasphemy, nor does the LORD command us to do so.  The death penalty for the blaspheming of God’s name by swearing and cursing was only for Israel in the time of the Old Testament.  One way to understand why this is so is to realize that God’s law for Israel had three aspects.  He gave us His moral law, the 10 Commandments.  These laws are applicable for all time – and therefore it is right that we hear them every week and have the preached each year.  There are also, however, ceremonial laws which teach about the Old Testament sacrifices, the feast days and the laws regarding that which was clean and unclean.  These laws were clearly fulfilled with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, who came to fulfill the law.  And then there were also civil laws, laws for the nation of Israel, to teach them how they were to live in the Promised Land prior to the coming of Christ.  But now we as God’s people do not live as one nation in one land but we live, as 1 Peter 1 teaches us, as exiles and pilgrims in this world.  And so these civil laws are to be seen as laws for Old Testament Israel, not for us to literally follow today.  In fact in the New Testament the Lord has given us a different way to keep His church holy, and that is to use the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, the preaching of the gospel and church discipline. 


But just because we are not to physically stone or kill one who blasphemes today, this does not make this sin any less grievous than in times past.  The Third Commandment still stands for us today:

“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.”


Let us take note of the serious command to only use the Name of God with fear and reverence.  Let us be careful that we fear God’s name with fear and reverence, that we rightly honour God’s Name with our lips.  Negatively that means that

“We are not to blaspheme or to abuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor to share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders.”  (Answer 99)

We must uphold God’s honour at all times, in how we speak, in the oaths that we take in His name and also in calling others also to respect the holiness of God’s name.


But more positively answer 99 of the catechism adds,

“Rather, we must use the holy name of God only with fear and reverence, so that we might rightly confess Him, call upon Him and praise Him in all our words and works.”


You see, we too must remember the Third Commandment in the context of those words, “I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt out of the house of slavery.”  But for us we remember not just the redemption of God’s people from bondage in Egypt but we remember the redemption of God’s people from sin and bondage to Satan!  Since we, God’s children, have been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ we belong to Him.  And we must acknowledge this and confess His name with our lips.


And so let us be reverent in the manner in which we speak to God, in our praying, in our singing and in our worship.  Psalm 29:2 says,

“Give unto the LORD the glory due His name; worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.”

Our worship of the LORD must be reverent, we must speak of the LORD and to the LORD with the awe and the reverence that His Name deserves.  And so our prayers and our songs to Him must also reflect this.  Colossians 3:16,17 says,

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing on e another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

But not only should we see that the Name of the Lord is honoured in our worship, it must also be honoured in our witness.  In Exodus 9:16 the LORD told Pharaoh that though the things that He would do to Pharaoh and all of Egypt, He might show His power in him and that the LORD’S Name might be “declared in all the earth.”  And so we, the children of God, are called to see that His Name is declared in al the earth – and declared in such a way that His Name is never blasphemed because of us but always honoured and praised.  1 Peter 3:15 says,

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

Sanctify Him.  Or as it says in other translations, “In your hearts honour Him.”  And do this in such a way that those who do not know the Name of the LORD might learn of Him from the manner in which we speak and praise His Name.  And so we must ask ourselves, How do we speak of God not just to Him but also to one another and to the world around us?  How do we give that defense of the gospel?  How important do you think it is that individually and as God’s Church we reach out to those who do not know the LORD as He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, that we be engaged in the work of evangelism and mission and that we support this as God’s church?  Do you see the importance of this not just because God commands it, not just because we want to see more people come to faith in Christ, but especially for the glory of God’s holy Name?  May we always use God’s Name with fear and reverence, rightly confess Him, call upon Him, and praise Him in all our words and works.


2. Honour God’s Name with your lives.

When in the time of the Exodus the LORD redeemed His people from the land of Egypt, He gave them His Name, Yahweh, the One who is “I Am Who I Am”.  God’s people knew Him as the God who saves, as the God who is true to His promises, as the God who is King over the whole earth.  But with the giving of that name came the responsibility to use it rightly, to never make light of it, to honour God’s Name with their lips and with their lives.

  But if that was true for God’s people in the Old Testament, it is certainly true for us today!  For we have been redeemed not from Egypt but from bondage to sin.  Indeed as it says in 1 Peter 1:18,19

“. . . knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

And having been redeemed at such a great price, our Lord takes His Name and He gives it to us!  Indeed He baptizes us in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit! 

  And now He calls us to live in the knowledge that we have been baptized into that name.  He calls us to live in the knowledge that we bear the name Christian for we belong to God in Jesus Christ.  And because of that we must be very careful that we honour God’s Name not just with our lips but with our whole lives.  As the apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:15,16,

“. . . . But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Do not be like the world and do not be conformed to the pattern of the world, but may our lives always reflect the glory God, may our lives be to the praise of His great Name.


So how is that with you and how is it with me?  We may be shocked at that man who in Leviticus 24 entered the camp of the LORD and blasphemed the Name, but how is it in our lives?  How do we speak of God and give witness to His holy Name?  Are we ashamed of Him or of the gospel?  Are we living in reverence to God, seeking to be holy just as He is holy?  Do we speak with reverence and respect not only about the LORD but also about His Church?  Do we conduct ourselves at all times knowing that we, as God’s image bearers, bear His Name so that God’s name is either praised or reviled because of us?


Let us beware.  Hebrews 12:28,29 says,

“. . . let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.”

Yes, let us only use the name of God with reverence and with godly fear, for the Lord will not hold Him guiltless who takes His Name in vain.


And on the other hand, when we are convicted of our sin, also against the 3rd Commandment let us take comfort in the very Name that we took in vain.  Let us take comfort in the fact that the Name of the LORD reveals His character, His holiness, His love and His compassion.  He is

“. . . the LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”

He will not wink at sin nor leave it unpunished, but He has punished the sin of His people in the one sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.  Let us therefore repent, grieve with a heartfelt sorrow that we have offended God by our sin and more and more to hate it and flee from it; and let us then live out of that heartfelt joy in God through Christ and a love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works to the praise of His great Name.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2014, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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