Exploring the 10 Commandments: The Third Command

Contributing Writer
Exploring the 10 Commandments: The Third Command

“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” (Exodus 20:7).

My sweet niece is just shy of three years old. She recently heard someone use God’s name as a curse word. Her mom quickly tried to recover the situation by telling her, “We don’t say God.” The ever-popular phrase, “Oh my - - -” has become all too common and accepted, even among believing Christians.

This precious little girl took what her mother said quite literally and whenever they talked about God or wanted to pray to God she would respond, “We don’t say God.” Her mom was mortified, she wanted her daughter to learn and love God, but she did not want her taking His precious name in vain. My niece is now beginning to learn the difference in her toddler mind.

This comical story sets us up to ponder the holiness and beauty of our Lord’s mighty name. We will now take a deeper look at the third commandment: You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

What Does “in Vain” Mean?

Hopefully we are using God’s name all of the time. Ideally, we are praying to Him and talking about Him in our daily lives. Using His name is not a sin, unless it is in vain. Strong’s Hebrew Concordance tells us that shav is the Hebrew word translated “in vain,” in Exodus 20:7. The meaning is, “Evil, idolatry, uselessness.”

Evil: How do we use God’s name for evil? I think about cursing. There are so many phrases people like to use to cuss that include one of the names of God. Jesus’ name, too, has power in it. God’s name has power in it. People know that and pair His name with evil to accomplish sin.

Idolatry: In thinking back on the first two commandments, we take God’s name in vain when we call something else god that is not Him. He is the only one true God (John 17:3). When we dumb Him down to our manmade religions, it is in vain because calling on any name other that Jesus our Lord is useless. You might see temporary demonic or fleshly results, but true eternity weighs on Jesus alone.

Uselessness: This is an important point as well. The term “useless” reminds us that we should not talk about God in ways that are pointless. We should remember Who He is and what He has done for us. We should be considerate to speak positively of Him and respectfully of Him. He is also in relationship with all who believe in Him, and so we should be careful not to ignore that relationship, but to cultivate it with purpose and speak to Him and about Him with intent.

Is This More Than Using God as a Curse Word?

This is more than just avoiding cussing. As we have seen from the Hebrew, we are to avoid evil, idolatry, and uselessness when it comes to the name of God. I believe the concept of this commandment can be seen in other places in Scripture.

“God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’ And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you’’” (Exodus 3:14).

“I am the Lord; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols” (Isaiah 42:8).

“And My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).

“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” (Acts 4:12).

“So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

The names of God (Jesus, Holy Spirit, Father, Lord, Yahweh, I Am, etc.) need to be revered. He is our Savior. He is our Creator. He is our Redeemer. He is our King. Our mindset when it comes to Him should be loving, respectful, and treasuring His name because of who He is and has always been.

The Holy Name of God

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus provides the model prayer for us. He begins in Matthew 6:9 with, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’” To be hallowed is to be holy. The name of God is holy. Do we see His name as precious and worthy of our praise? Do we speak about Him in a way that honors Him? Do we use His name to bless or to curse?

When we have the Holy Spirit, there should be a very real conviction in our hearts if we misuse the name of our Lord. Maybe we just have not been truly appreciative of His name? Is so, we can repent and turn towards Him and away from apathy. Lord, forgive us for ever dumbing down Who You are by Your name.

He has the name that can save. At the sound of His name demons flee (Luke 10:17) and the sick are healed (Mark 16:18). He has full power and authority. He is worthy. May we not water down His holiness by tossing around His name inappropriately.

The Ten Commandments List

Commandments 1-4

Thou shall have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3)

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images. (Exodus 20:4-6)

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. (Exodus 20:7)

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. (Exodus 20:8-11)

Commandments 5-10

Honor your father and mother. (Exodus 20:12)

Thou shalt not murder. (Exodus 20:13)

Thou shalt not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14)

Thou shalt not steal. (Exodus 20:15)

Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Exodus 20:16)

Thou shall not covet your neighbor. (Exodus 20:17)

Jesus summed up all of the 10 commandments. As we look at commandments 1-4, they are vertical, about our relationship with God. (Love the Lord your God.) As we look at commandments 5-10, they are horizontal, about our relationship with others. (Love your neighbor as yourself.)

This week, may we live in His power to use His name properly. May we confess any ways in which we have used His name for evil, idolatry, or uselessness. Only He is the One who can help us to turn from our sinful ways. He sees our hearts and He knows our genuine desires. With His Spirit’s help, we can live out the third commandment with confidence in Him.

Related articles:

The First Command
The Second Command

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Studio Grand Web

Emma DanzeyEmma Danzey’s mission in life stems from Ephesians 3:20-21, to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. She is wife to Drew and mom to Graham. Emma serves alongside her husband in ministry, she focuses most of her time in the home, but loves to provide articles on the Bible, life questions, and Christian lifestyle. Her article on Interracial Marriage was the number 1 on Crosswalk in 2021. Most recently, Emma released Treasures for Tots, (Scripture memory songs) and multiple books and devotionals for young children. During her ministry career, Emma has released Wildflower: Blooming Through Singleness, two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, and ran the Refined Magazine. You can view her articles on her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com and check out her Instagram @Emmadanzey.