Do You Ever Use God's Name in Vain?

Do You Ever Use God's Name in Vain?

Author: Dr. Guy Jackson
June 10, 2020

This morning my Quiet Time was from Exodus 20:7, which is the third of the Ten Commandments. It says, “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.”

I’ve always wanted to understand this passage better, so I pulled out my favorite word study tools and really dug in. Here is what I discovered…

First, the Hebrew word translated as “take” has the idea of “to carry, bear or represent.” It is in the Imperfect "tense," depicting continuing or ongoing action. It is actually referring to our entire lifestyle, including not just our speech, but also our behavior and everything we do, “24/7.”

Next, “name” refers to the core identity, the unique personhood and the inner character of, in this case, the LORD, “Yahweh,” in the Hebrew. This is the only name for God (all other designations for God in the Bible are actually titles). It is used only by believers in the Bible. This is His sacred covenant name by which His children know Him. This central name for God is about an honest, sincere covenant relationship.

The verse goes on to say, “…your God…” Here the word is “Elohim,” (Yahweh’s chief title). This title identifies Yahweh as “the Strong One” Who is sovereign as “the Circumstance-Maker.” The LORD is always in control of our circumstances. This word is in the plural, but only occurs with a singular verb when referring to Yahweh! Thus, it alludes to the Trinity and has the idea of a plurality of majesty and glory, value, and worth.

The next key phrase is, “…in vain…” The word vain means “useless, worthless, or evil.” It has the idea of something that is unsubstantial, of little value, and thus is disappointing or even deceitful.

Our verse goes on to warn that anyone who violates this command will not be cleared or acquitted. They will be held accountable and will receive the appropriate judicial punishment.

So let’s put it all together. We could paraphrase this verse as, “You will not misrepresent the character of the LORD in any way that detracts from His glory and thus makes Him seem of little value.” Or it could be rendered, “You will not live in such a way that causes the identity and character of the One and Only God to seem worthless or evil.”

So how do we apply this? Well, hopefully, we can see that this command goes far beyond just using God’s name in a curse or expletive-laced verbal tirade! It would also certainly include any conversation or statements that do not show an appropriate reverence and respect for God.

But it also includes our very lifestyle, our behavior, and our daily activities. It includes anything we do, any actions we take or engage in that would misrepresent Him before others. To state it in positive terms, we are to both speak and behave in ways that always show proper value, worth, respect, and honor to our LORD. Anytime we behave or speak in any way that disparages or detracts from His full worth, glory, or true identity we are “taking His name in vain.” May this never be!

Dear LORD, may I never speak or act in a way that diminishes Your full glory. May my lifestyle and conversations always honor You…”

To learn more about how to do word studies for daily WORDview Quiet Times or Bible Study, check out this article on our website: Introduction to Word Studies