Taking The Lord’s Name in Vain
One of the many misconceptions held by Christians throughout modern history is their interpretation of the third of the Ten Commandments, which reads:
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
Historically in English and American culture, this was interpreted to mean using the Lord’s name while cursing or as an exclamation of disgust. You all know what I’m talking about without me having to give examples here. And, of course, using the name of Jesus or God the Father in such a manner definitely qualifies.
However, the verse has a deeper meaning and there are a significant number of so-called and even sincere, but mis-taught, Christians who would never in a million years use the Lord’s name in profanity or vulgarity, yet regularly use the Lord’s name in vain in other ways.
So let’s explore what this verse truly means. Here are some Hebrew word definitions from this verse:
- name (shem)
- name, reputation, fame, glory
- in vain (shav)
- emptiness, nothingness, vanity, worthlessness of conduct.
- guiltless (naqah)
- to leave unpunished
So, based on these definitions, a totally accurate alternate translation of the verse would read as follows:
You shall not consider the name, reputation, fame and glory of God to be empty or worthless, for the Lord will not leave those who do so unpunished.
The Holy Sign-Off
A classic case of taking the Lord’s name in vain is the “holy sign-off,” adding “in the name of Jesus” at the end of a prayer without regard as to why we are saying it. Many Christians handle this in exactly this way, with no thought of why they are or should be saying it other than, “Well, that’s what Christians say when they pray” and treat the phrase as if it’s part of a recipe.
In reality, we are supposed to be praying in Jesus’ name because that’s where our spiritual authority comes from. Furthermore, there are several promises in the Gospels where Jesus personally promised that our prayers would be answered whenever we prayed in His name. For example:
And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. — John 14:13-14
And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full. — John 16:23-24
So we pray in the name of Jesus because we are:
- Operating in the authority given to us as believers by God Himself over this earthly realm, the circumstances we face, and the powers of darkness we oppose;
- Commanded to by Jesus, and;
- Promised positive results if we do!
In Exodus 3, God reveals His name to a human being for the very first time we know of:
Then Moses said to God, ‘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 God said to Moses, ‘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.”‘ — Exodus 3:13-15
So God here establishes His identity with mankind as I AM, the self-existent God of the eternal present tense. Then there are several other places in the OT where God identifies Himself so strongly with a particular concept or principle that He declares those aspects as part of His very name. These have been termed by theologians as the “covenant names” or “compound names” of God.
The Covenant Names of God
- Jehovah-Ha Tsur
- God Is Our Rock
- God Who Sees & Makes Provision
- God Our Healer
- God Our Victory Banner
- God Our Peace
- God Our Shepherd
- God Our Righteousness
- The Lord of Hosts
- The Lord Who is There
As my subhead above would indicate, we’re going to focus on the 3rd item in that list, Jehovah-Rapha (an analysis of the other names will have to await a later article, Lord willing). Here is the verse where He identifies Himself by that name:
…If you diligently heed the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, give ear to His commandments and keep all His statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you which I have brought on the Egyptians. For I AM the Lord who heals you. — Exodus 15:26
Please note that since this verse relates to the physical diseases of the Egyptians, the promise of God’s healing must also be for the physical body, as well.
Here we read that God’s very nature and attributes include the ability and willingness to heal the sick, so strongly that He has declared His name to include it.
Taking Jehovah-Rapha’s Name in Vain
So another way we can take the Lord’s name in vain is to consider His covenant name as Healer to be empty or worthless. How do people do this?
One way is believing the false doctrine of “cessation theology,” that is, trying to explain away divine healing as something that went away with death of the original 12 disciples, an argument that holds no water historically or theologically.
Another is to embrace the Calvinist and Buddhist concept that “everything happens for a reason,” so the health challenges we face are caused by God Himself to bring about some positive spiritual result, such as humility, patience, etc., all according to some divine plan that is beyond our understanding, but ultimately for our good. Again, there is no historical or theological support for this concept to be found in Scripture. As we have discussed elsewhere, nowhere in the NT do we see God inflicting His children with disease or death.
These two erroneous concepts are held tightly by many, however. But because they have absolutely ZERO support from ANY verse in the NT, they can safely be relegated to “the traditions of men.” Jesus justly condemned those who adhered to such traditions, saying:
‘For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men — the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.’ He said to them, ‘All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition. For Moses said, “Honor your father and your mother;” and, “He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.” But you say, “If a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban’ — (that is, a gift to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the Word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down.” And many such things you do.’
While admittedly this passage is speaking to a different issue, the principle remains the same: our traditions should never, never, EVER contradict the Word of God. It is a fundamental tenet of Christianity that God’s Word is the sole arbiter of faith and practice and many sincere believers claim that they would rather die than deny this principle, yet they indeed deny it every time they choose their religious traditions over the Word.
And the result? They receive to themselves the consequences of their choices in that they and their children constantly deal with frequent and chronic illnesses — some of them fatal — without hope of relief or a cure from the one Person in the universe Who is not bound by the limitations of this planet and human medical knowledge. And, as much as my heart grieves for those so bound, I can only imagine the limitless grief of the Holy Spirit at their plight.
Here’s the bottom line: healing is not an optional doctrine within Christianity. It is intrinsic to and inseparable from the very name and character of God the Father as well as the finished work of Jesus Christ in His torture, death, burial, and resurrection from the dead.
Thanks for reading!