The second word in the gracious law given to the Israelites at Mt. Sinai during their wilderness wanderings is found in Exodus 20:7,

“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.”

If you have gone through the American church system, this commandment is solely restricted to the infamous “OMG”; so conditioned have we become, we blush when we read King David’s words in Psalm 25:2, “O my God…”.  No, King David is not using God’s name in vain.

If it is acceptable for David to say “Oh my God”, then perhaps we need a reorientation around what this commandment is saying.  The Jews understood the commandment, but were somewhat misguided in their understanding.  They understood that we are never to speak, carry, or bear the Lord’s name irreverently or without consideration of His glory.  Their solution? Never say His name!

This is tragic because God had graciously revealed His name to the Israelites, intending for them to know their God.  Exodus 3:13-15 tells this story, basically God says, “I AM WHO I AM…this is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”  Essentially, there is a big and persuasive justification that isn’t really fit for a blog post that shows that this self-disclosure in Exodus 3:13-15 says, “my name is Yahweh”.

Then, we start seeing manuscripts from the Jews that substitute YHWH with a different word, adonai, which means lord or master.  Our translations indicate that this is a special substitution for YHWH by putting it in all capital letters, LORD.  God’s name was considered too holy to pronounce, so when Scripture was read, adonai was substituted for Yahweh.  Now, if that totally bores you and seems irrelevant–bear with me.

The goal behind the commandment, and the motivation behind the Jews’ substitution, is that Yahweh does not want His name to lose its weightiness to the world.  Unfortunately, we often misuse it–even if you never drop the OMG.  Fact is, we bear His name just by being Christians.  When we tarnish our witness through judgmentalism or hypocrisy, we wrongly bear God’s name.  When we sing worship songs without worshiping, we make God’s name common and without weight.

God graciously revealed Himself to us– his name, his character, his standards.  Even more so by becoming flesh and dwelling with us in the person of Jesus, by whom “there is no other name under heaven…by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When we are in view of the character and standards of Jesus Christ, we bring honor to his name.