Hallowed be Thy Name
The third commandment 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. - Exodus 20:7
I remember when I was a kid and I knew that I was pretty good on this one. I never used the Lord's name as a swear word. I was incredibly careful about how I used words like Jesus, God, and Lord. They were used in the context of worship or talking about God, but never to curse. However, when I wanted to use the Lord's name as a cuss word, I often would just change the word. It is interesting how we so quickly look for ways to get as close to the line as possible.
As I have grown, so has my understanding of the third commandment. You see the commandment is not just about invoking the Lord's name flippantly or as a curse. The third commandment at its core is about how we, as Christians, live. The third commandment calls us to make a true profession of our faith. The third commandment tells us that our religion is not just one of form (which would be hypocrisy) but one of heart. This commandment forbids what comes naturally to us. J.C. Ryle said, "the majority of mankind will always like a religion of form far better than a religion of heart." We would much rather just go through the motions than see our lives changed. Paul knew that there is a proclivity in people to just go through the motions and he warns us against associating with people like this. In 2 Timothy 3 he says the hyprocite has "the appearance of godliness, but denying its power." Then he tell us to "Avoid such people."
Now how can I say that this commandment is about how we live? Or better, how is this commandment about having a true profession of faith? Well, it all goes back to the opening of the Law. You see, the Lord has placed his name on us. When he saved us from slavery, he gave us a new name. He gave us a new identity. He adopted us into his family. We have been given the name of Christ. This means that every time we do not live up to this new name, we take the Lord's name in vain. Thomas Watson said that to pretend to be holy is actually a double evil because not only are we not being holy, but we are taking the Lord's name in vain as well.
The Christian life's high water mark is not perfection but repentance. When we get this point of realizing daily that we break this commandment, our only response can only be humble repentance. It is going to the Lord and asking him to change our wicked hearts, to give us a heart religion. The Christian life is about taking this commandment seriously. We are to "walk worthy of the calling" (Eph. 4; Col. 1).
This is the prayer that we pray when we come to the Lord's Prayer and say, "hallowed be thy name." We want to see the Lord's name made holy. How does that happen? It happens when the church and individual Christians take seriously the name that has been placed on them, when they understand the calling that they have been given. We make the Lord's name holy as we live consistently with the new identity that we have been given, and when we fail we run to the mercy seat of the Lord and confess our sins. J.C. Ryle notes that this is hard for us:
Heart-religion is too humbling to be popular. It leaves natural man no room to boast. It tells him that he is a guilty, lost, hell-deserving sinner, and that he must flee to Christ for salvation. It tells him that he is dead, and must be made alive again and be born of the Spirit. The pride of man rebels against such tidings as these. He hates to be told that his case is so bad.
Our pride rebels against this type of change. However, when we are confronted with our sin, when we are struck with the fact that we do not define our reality anymore (as if we ever did), then the proper response is to run to the mercy seat of Christ for our salvation. The proper response is to ask the Lord to conform us even more to the image of his Son.
The third commandment is just not solely about some isolated moments in life when I may want to use the Lord's name inappropriately though it definitely is not less than that. The third commandment is the call that we see over and over again in the Scriptures, "walk in a manner worthy..." The third commandment is about understanding that our identity is no longer about us but about Christ. We have been clothed in his righteousness. Our lives are to be part of the answer to our petition, "hallowed be thy name."
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