09/27/2015 – Deuteronomy 5:11 – “Hallowed Be Thy Name”

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Mark Wheeler

Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11; Matthew 22:34-38; Mark 12:28-30

“10 Rules for Faithful Living: Hallowed Be Thy Name”

September 27, 2015

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came here today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen. 

Last Sunday the Green bay Packers quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, walked over to the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, Russell Wilson, and said, “Knock-knock.”

Wilson said, “Who’s there?”  


“Owen who?”  

“O and 2, Loser, that’s who!”

 OK, that didn’t really happen – I’m sure Aaron Rodgers is a better sport than that. But it plays into the importance of names.

 Names are super important. Choosing a name for a new baby can occupy a couple right up until birth – sometimes even beyond. Jennifer and I had agreed on Caitlin’s name fairly early on, but Brianna’s was not really decided until her actual birthday, and we’re still not agreed on Angus’ – er, Andrew’s – name.

And it seems that names come in cycles. When I was a kid, you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting some boy named Mark – but that is way less true today. And I had only heard the name Caitlin once in my life (and loved it), but when we told the hospital nurse our first baby’s name, she said, “Oh good, another Katelynn.”

It seems that Madeline is making another comeback, and maybe Henry…. Dweezil and Moonbeam may never make the top ten American names (I can only hope)….

In some cultures, names are meant to actually mean something. Do you know what your name means? What language it comes from? Last names, or family names (sir names), are different. They tell us where we came from (Johnson, McNeil, Wheeler), but not necessarily where/who we are today.

I’ve heard that in Iceland people are listed in the phonebook by their first names because all the last names simply indicate who their father was.

Names are important. They identify us with a community and a place. We can all tell an Irish name from a Russian name. I’ll bet many of us have been quizzed by new acquaintances about our relations to someone else they know with our last name.

And sometimes names are just fun. In Tacoma our pediatrician was named Dr. Hurt. Here at LPC we sit and worship with a Jack Kennedy every week.

Have you ever done any name-dropping? You know, dropping the name of someone famous or important that, maybe, you had an accidental meeting with? I had a pastor once who sat next to Muhammed Ali on an airplane from NY to LA. 5 hours of conversation with “the greatest”. You can bet he dropped that name as often as he could.

In today’s passage from Deuteronomy 5 (and from Exodus 20) we hear a Commandment about God’s name. Remember how and why God gave us these Ten Commandments? ·

Israel in Egypt for 400 years·

Egyptian kings forgot how valuable Israelites had been to Egypt’s economy·

New Pharaoh, out of fear of the large number of these immigrant people, becomes a tyrannical power player and puts the Israelites in poverty·

God gives the Israelites Moses as a deliverer·

Moses meets God in a burning bush, and God tells him His name is YHWHI am who I am (whenever we read the word Lord in all caps, that means the Bible actually says YHWH [or Jehovah], but God’s name is too holy for the Jews to actually utter, so they say Adonai which means Lord

Moses rescues them from Egypt and they wander for 40 years in the Wilderness on their way to the Land God had Promised their forefathers

While in the Wilderness God gives these delivered Israelites a new way of living from what they had known under the power-broker Pharaoh – the Ten Commandments Listen to the Word of the Lord from Deuteronomy 5:1-6, 11…. —-

Moses summoned all Israel and said:

Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. …

11 You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

This is a Commandment that declares the importance of God’s name! It is Holy! Hallowed be Thy name!

Middle Eastern cultures know the importance of namesMoses’ namedrawn out” from the Nile like Noah was drawn out from the great flood, like the Israelites were drawn out from the Red Sea. God’s nameI amalways present tense. God is inescapable. King David asked, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:7-12)

That’s all right there in His name!

The Israelites knew that. You can’t separate the name from the person. You can’t just use someone’s name without having the person it belongs to dragged along behind it, willy-nilly. So before we start tossing anyone’s name around in conversation, we better know what we’re getting into. Don’t do it carelessly, and don’t do it ignorantly.

That’s what the 3rd Commandment is all about. “You shall not take the name of YHWH your God in vain: for YHWH will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.”

Remember why God gave us these Ten Commandments:

  1. to show us we need a Savior (just like the Israelites needed a savior from Pharaoh),
  2. to keep us from killing each other (restrain evil-doing),

3.                to tell us what God’s character is (and therefore as people created in the image of God what our character ought to beguide for living the Christian life as we grow to resemble our Lord Jesus Christ) – sanctification

So, what does this Commandment mean? What does it mean to “misuse” YHWH’s name (NIV)? What does it mean to “take YHWH’s name in vain” (KJV)?

The Hebrew word “shav” that is usually translatedin vain” means “emptily”, or falsely, or without substance. What are some ways we use the Lord’s name emptily or falsely or with substance lacking?

God gave His name to the Israelites as a gift. God gave His name with the understanding that along with His name He was giving them the right to call upon Him and in some sense YHWH God now belonged to them as they belonged to Him (I will be their God and they will be my people). This gave them the right to call themselves the people of the Lord, and invoke His name, claim His power – for protection and justice and wisdom. But there are limits to the ways we can use His name! “Not in vain!

Can you name some ways you have heard othersmisuse God’s name”? Not you, of course, but people you might know of? How do people break this Commandment?

  • Use God’s name to curse with (“Gol durn it!”)
  • Use God’s name to validate a false statement (“I swear to God”)
  • Use God’s name to make an oath (“on God’s honor, I will …”)
  • Use God’s name to argue something against God’s Word (“No one will go to hell, because God is love”)

Remember the three reasons why God gives us these Commandments? One of those reasons is to reveal God’s character. His character is wrapped up in His name, and we human beings, all of us, including you and me, will start using God’s name for our own purposes; we’ll borrow a little power, appropriate a little authority, grab a little glory. Little by little, we human beings will substitute our own agendas for God’s – thus breaking the First and Second Commandments as well.

How do we gain victory over our natural tendency to misuse the Lord’s name? One solution would be to follow the Jewish Rabbis’ rule: never ever say the Lord’s name at all. Remember when I told you about why the word “Lord” is in all caps? But that doesn’t seem like the right way to use a precious giftGod did not give us the gift of Himself, either in the form of His name and the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, or in the form of His Son Jesus Christ, so that we might just tuck Him away in a safe place and only bring Him out when the pastor visits or our Mom is coming over. He gave Himself to us for everyday use, for all of life.

So, it seems, the only real solution is to learn how to take care of this gift.

Almost always, the first example people give of “taking the Lord’s name in vain” is to use it as a cuss word! Why is it such a common cuss word? My theory is that it is because it is a name with power – it is used to damn people to hell! What is more powerful than that?! But I believe that some of the other ways we mentioned as misuses of God’s name, while more subtle, are even more common and dangerous.

How do we properly use the name of God? Look with me again at the Call to Worship, from Deuteronomy 6. In that passage who is expected to learn the Law of God? Who was expected to know the Ten Commandments? Who does this say should meditate every day, all day, on the Word of God?

This is super-key! The answer is everyone! From the richest to the poorest, from the oldest to the youngest, from the most influential to the ones with the least impact. Everyone is meant to study God’s Word so that everyone, from the greatest to the least, can know God personally and grow in His character traits – we are, after all, created in His image; we should start to look and sound and act more like Him!

This was very different from the Pharaoh of Egypt (or the kings of any of the other neighboring great nations). The more you know, the more power you can wield – therefore they did not want anyone to know their law – that way they could punish you for breaking it, thus creating more power for themselves and more poverty for the rest.

Shema Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu, Adonai Ehad: Hear, O Israel, YHWH our God is one Lord; and you shall love YHWH your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Israel’s God, our God, does not play favorites. Israel’s God, our God, calls each one of us to responsibility in the covenant relationship we have been called into. The study of the Word of God is a major priority and a serious faith-duty. Spending time in God’s Word is the only way we can keep our faith-lives consistent with the character and purposes of God. It is too easy to slip into a way of life that has more to do with our own desires than the nature of God, and the requirements of discipleship.

The name of God is more than just a sound. The name of God is the whole person of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The name of God is the whole history of God with his people; the name of God includes His requirements for and promises to all those who love Him. God’s name is never empty. Let us never act as if it is empty by trying to fill it with anything other than His own truth.

Our challenge today is to ask ourselves how full of God’s truth, God’s Word, our own lives are. How much time do you invest in learning the Word of God, in meditating on it, in making sure that our lives as Christians conform to the purposes and character of our Lord? Do you spend time daily in the Bible? Do you meet with fellow Christians, helping one another to be accountable?

If the Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, today and foreverPsalm 119:20 proclaims: “My soul is consumed with longing for Your Laws all day long.” Amen. 

Let us spend a moment in silence asking God to give us a hunger for His Word, and to give us the discipline to make regular time for Him. When you claim God’s name as your own, is it empty or full?


Bucklin, Alison; “A Full Name”; Vashon Presbyterian Church (USA); Vashon Island, WA; January 1998.

 The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; P. 5.


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