You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.
I. The first expression to which I refer is, "THE NAME OF THE LORD THY GOD," or strictly, "the name of Jehovah thy God." The name of the Lord is not, on the one hand, the mere articulate sound by which the mouth expresses the idea of Deity, nor is the phrase, on the other hand, a simple synonym for God. It holds up God in His special character of Jehovah, the covenant-making and covenant-keeping God of His own dear people. "The name of Jehovah" means God, known and served under His revealed aspect of mercy, God appreciated as the pardoner of sin and giver of the Spirit, the Jehovah or keeper of His precious promises to His people. For example, of the antediluvian piety it is said: "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord" — i.e., it was then that distinctive recognition was made of God's special provision of mercy for sinners. His name of Jehovah was received as indicating His relation to His believing people. A name is an expression of the personal substance — an exhibition of the essential character. God's name by which He delights to be known among men, is Love. His character of compassion is especially displayed in His Word, and hence the Psalmist says: "Thou hast magnified Thy Word above all Thy name" — that is, of all revelations of God's character, all expressions of His being, the written Word is most full and complete. Here is the way of pardon and acceptance clearly portrayed. Another conspicuous display of God's character, but only local and temporary in its personal contact, while universal in its possible application, is in the Lord Jesus Christ; and so Jesus is in a high sense "the name of Jehovah." If. The second expression to which our attention should be directed is the phrase, "TO TAKE IN VAIN." The literal rendering is, "Thou shalt not lift up the name of Jehovah thy God lightly. Taking God's name in vain is the flippant and thoughtless use of God's name. It is the taking up the name in the vacant, purposeless way in which we pluck off a leaf as we pass along the road — the use of the name, not only where the purpose is evil, but where there is no defined purpose at all. Again, there may be not only an absence of evil purpose, but, beyond an absence of all purpose, there may even be a purpose of good, but this purpose may be seized upon in so rash and ill-advised a way that the use of the Divine name in it is a taking the name in vain, just as Uzzah's touching the ark of God, even to stay it upon the cart and prevent its fall, was a sin of profanity, and called for the Divine punishment.
1. In respect to God's verbal name, we are not to be satisfied with our freedom from the coarse profanity which culture and good breeding forbid, but we are to remove the habit of using the holy name in ordinary conversation in which the use has no religious character. We are not to call a wretched and forlorn person or thing "God-forsaken," or to hail a gift as a "God-send," when, in using these epithets, we have no design to use their full meaning, and therefore have not the proper attitude of mind for their utterance.
2. In respect to God's written Word, we are to take it up with reverence both in our hearts and on our tongues.
3. But chiefly, in relation to Jesus and the great eternal truths which the Holy Spirit introduces to the soul. To each man comes through his conscience a summons from God to give heed to his future spiritual and eternal condition. If you slight that summons, given to you in the gospel, you are taking God's name in vain.
(H. Crosby, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.