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The Third Commandment

In Exo 20:7 of the KJV, regarding the third commandment, God commands us not to take His name in vain. In the New International Version, which I will mainly use for this sermon, He says:

"You shall not misuse the name of the LORD (Adonai) your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

The CJB uses the words "use lightly" instead of "misuse."

In Deu 5:11 He repeats His command again:

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

As I said, the KJV states: "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."

What does the third commandment really mean? Does this commandment simply tell us not to use God's name in any way that dishonors Him? And what does the KJV mean by 'in vain?' Is this swearing?

Today I want to discuss the third commandment and swearing.

There are 2 kinds of swearing.

Most people agree that Exo 20:7 and Deu 5:11 prohibit swearing. But in Lev 19:12 we are admonished not to swear falsely.

Lev 19:12 "'Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD."

So can we swear truthfully? With two kinds of swearing, what can we do and what can we not do?

The Old testament describes the two kinds of swearing: One is taking God's name in vain and the other is making an oath or vow, either with or without the use of God's name. The Hebrew uses different words to differentiate the two uses of the word 'swear'. The word for taking an oath, like a vow, is Aw-law', H423 from H422. It may or may not be taken against God's name. There are several words for making a curse or invoking an evil on someone.

The New Testament (NT) shows only one word for swearing. It is om-noo'-o or om-o'-o, G3660, and from what I can determine, it only pertains to taking an oath. Most Bible Commentaries, however, disagree. They feel that in the NT, 'swear' means taking God's name in vain. We'll get into that later.

There is a relation between the two types of swearing as used in the Old Testament (OT). If you take a vow by God's name with no intention of keeping it, you are obviously taking God's name in vain. Take for instance the verse I just read :

Lev 19:12 "'Do not swear falsely by my name and so profane the name of your God. I am the LORD.

To more fully help us understand what God means by 'profane the name of your God,' let's look at some more OT examples of profaning God's name:

In Lev 21 and 22, God insists we not profane His name. Let's look at these verses.

Lev 21:6 They must be holy to their God and must not profane the name of their God,...they are to be holy. ["Profane" is from H2490, chalal, to defile someone or something.]
Lev 22:32 Do not profane (same word, H2490) my holy name. I must be acknowledged as holy by the Israelites. I am the LORD, who makes you holy

In other words, do not defile or lessen God's name by anything we do or say.

Jer 23:10 (KJV) The land is full of adulterers; because of swearing (H423, aw-law', taking an oath or vow) the land mourns; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up and their course is evil, and their force is not right. [They apparently did not keep their word after taking an oath to do so.]
Hosea 4:2 There is only cursing (H422) ( the CJB uses the more accurate word "swearing" implying perjury), lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. [Is this referring to events today?]

Prohibitions of cursing, calling for or foretelling miseries against someone or something, is specified in Ex 21:17, in Ex 22:28, and in Lev 19:14. Let's take a moment to read these three verses. As we read them, notice how the same Hebrew word, qalal, is translated into both revile and curse.

(Exo 21:17 NKJV) "And he who curses (reviles, H7043, qalal) his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
(Exo 22:28 NKJV) "You shall not revile (H7043, qalal) God, nor curse (bitterly curse, H779, Arar) a ruler of your people. [Does this include the President?]
(Lev 19:14 NKJV) 'You shall not curse (H7043, qalal) the deaf, nor put a stumbling block before the blind, but shall fear your God: I am the LORD.
In Psa 139:20 David says:
They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name.

As we shall see, this verse does condemn those who break the third commandment.

Isa 52:5 "And now what do I have here?" declares the LORD. "For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock, " declares the LORD. "And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed" (or insulted) H5006, Na-ats meaning to blaspheme. (We'll talk about blaspheming later.)

What about the New Testament?

As I mentioned earlier, the NT only uses the word om-noo'-o, G3660. From its usage, I think you will agree with me that its meaning is to take an oath.

Let me give you some the scriptures in the NT which contain the word 'swear' (om-noo'-o): Keep in mind these all have the same meaning of the word 'swear', which is, to make a vow or oath.

Mat 5:33-37 "Again , you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath (G1964 commit perjury), but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' {34} But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; {35} or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. {36} And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. {37} Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

This is talking about taking an oath to speak honestly or do something, but limiting your response to yes or no is a good habit anyway - keeps you from adding words that can get you in trouble.

In Mat 23:16-22, we see another example of how the Pharisees, the forerunners of today's Rabbis, attempted to change God's laws to their laws.

"Woe to you, blind guides! You say, 'If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.' {17} You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? {18} You also say, 'If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift on it, he is bound by his oath.' {19} You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? {20} Therefore , he who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. {21} And he who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. {22} And he who swears by heaven swears by God's throne and by the one who sits on it.

In Mat 26, starting with verse 69, Peter denies Christ three times. In verse 74 Peter swears that he doesn't know Christ, which brings down curses on himself.

Mat 26:74 Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed.

Mat 26:74 in the KJV says:

But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom you speak.

But this is a mistranslation. He called down curses on himself by denying Christ and swore that what he said, i.e. his denial, was true.

Mark 14:71 repeats Mat. 26:74 which we just read:

He (Peter) began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, "I don't know this man you're talking about."

In Mark 6:23, King Herod swore to give the maid almost anything she asked.

And he promised her with an oath, "Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom."
Acts 2:30. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. (Christ)

This verse is talking about David.

Heb 3:11 So I declared on oath in my anger, 'They shall never enter my rest.'"

This verse is a quote from God to Moses and Psa 95:11, talking about the Israelites in the desert.

Heb 3:18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed ?
Heb 6:13 When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself,

Did God here break His own Commandment by taking His name in vain? Impossible! God cannot sin!

Heb 6:16 Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.
Heb 7:21 but he (Christ) became a priest with an oath when God said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.'" (Melchizedek)
James 5:12 Above all, my brothers, do not swear--not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your "Yes" be yes, and your "No," no, or you will be condemned.

This is the most quoted of NT scriptures allegedly prohibiting swearing.

But this does not tell us that James is here talking about profanity. He is talking about taking an oath to affirm something or other. How do you take God's name 'by earth or anything else'? But one might say 'Yes, and I will give you my car if I don't do whatever.' James says don't do that. A Christian's word should be dependable and true without any need to take an oath or affirmation or swear by anything. A simple "yes" or "no" will do.

Rev 10:6 And he swore by him who lives for ever and ever, who created the heavens and all that is in them, the earth and all that is in it, and the sea and all that is in it, and said, "There will be no more delay!"

There are several occasions of the word 'curse' in the NT, but they refer to 'speaking evil of' something.

I have found nothing in the NT that talks about swearing (making a vow) being a violation of the third commandment. The use of 'swear' in the NT seems to be limited to an oath or promise. However, it appears to me that if you break an oath taken on God's name, you are guilty of breaking the third commandment by lessening God's name. And certainly, the fact that the NT does not seem to specifically condemn taking God's name in vain does not invalidate the third or any other commandment. Let me repeat: The fact that the NT does not seem to specifically condemn taking God's name in vain does not invalidate the third or any other commandment. Christ confirmed that OT law is still in effect.

(Mat 5:17 NKJV) "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.

There are other NT scriptures which talk about cursing God but here the KJV uses the word 'blasphemed', G988, blasphemia. What does blashemia mean? It means speech injurious to another's good name. Let's look at some examples:

Mat 12:31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
Mat 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander (blasphemies in KJV).
Mark 2:5-7 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son , your sins are forgiven." {6} Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, {7} "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Is blasphemy equating God with man? Does the third commandment, then, mean that we must not say anything which says God is anything less than omnipotent? If God is omnipotent and jealous, don't we break the third commandment by saying His name without a deep sense of reverence and respect?

Mark 3:28-30 I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. {29} But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." {30} He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit." (They were criticizing the Holy Spirit in Jesus Christ.)

Doesn't this verse also prove that the Holy Spirit is not a separate member of the God Family? Christ was pointing out that He was influenced by the Holy Spirit tho' it was Christ who was doing the talking. As we see here, blasphemy can be compared to criticism, slander, and speech injurious to another's good name.

Luke 22:63-65 The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. {64} They blindfolded him and demanded, "Prophesy! Who hit you?" {65} And they said many other insulting (blasphemous in KJV) things to him.
John 10:33-36 "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." {34} Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I have said you are gods' ? [Psa 82:6] {35} If he called them 'gods,' to whom the word of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broken-- {36} what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, 'I am God's Son'?
(Psa 82:6 NKJV) I said, "You are gods, And all of you are children of the Most High.
(1 John 3:1-2 NKJV) Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. {2} Beloved, now we are children of God; . . .

Blasphemy, then, is also equating yourself to God. That is either claiming you are more than you are, or claiming God is no better than a mere human.....or less if He doesn't exist! People who claim that God doesn't exist are blaspheming God!....and teaching it to our school children.

Acts 6:9-13 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freed Slaves (as it was called)--Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, {10} but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. {11} Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God." {12} So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. {13} They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.
2 Tim 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. {2} People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, blasphemers (in the KJV), disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, {3} without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, {4} treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-- {5} having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

These sound like the planks in a liberal party platform.

Titus 2:2-5 Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance. {3} Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. {4} Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, {5} to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign (blaspheme in the KJV) the word of God.
Rev 16:9 They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed (blasphemed in KJV) the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.
Rev 16:11
and cursed (blasphemed in the KJV) the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done.

Now, let's look at OT Examples of Blasphemy

As we just read, there are quite a few NT references to the word 'blaspheme', meaning 'to disrespect or slander another's name by injurious speech'. In the OT 'blaspheme' does not always mean 'to disrespect God'. But let me give you a few OT examples where it does:

Lev 24:16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.

In 2 Sam 12:14, David is told that the enemies of God will speak critically of Him.

But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the LORD show utter contempt, the son born to you will die." (His son bore the penalty...He died.)
1 Ki 21:13 Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, "Naboth has cursed both God and the king." So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death.

This is the penalty for cursing God (blaspheming).

Psa 74:10 How long will the enemy mock you, O God? Will the foe revile (blaspheme in KJV) your name forever?

But God is love and is extremely patient.

Psa 74:18 Remember how the enemy has mocked you, O LORD, how foolish people have reviled (blasphemed in KJV) your name.
Isa 37:23 Who is it you have insulted and blasphemed? Against whom have you raised your voice and lifted your eyes in pride? Against the Holy One of Israel!
Isa 52:5 "And now what do I have here?" declares the LORD. "For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock, " declares the LORD. "And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.

But notice verse 6.

Therefore My people shall know My name; Therefore they shall know in that day That I am He who speaks: 'Behold, it is I.'"

God's people praise God and His power.

Ezek 35:12-15 Then you will know that I the LORD have heard all the contemptible things (blasphemies in KJV, H5007, ne'atsah) you have said against the mountains of Israel. You said, "They have been laid waste and have been given over to us to devour." {13} You boasted against me and spoke against me without restraint, and I heard it. {14} This is what the Sovereign LORD says: While the whole earth rejoices, I will make you desolate. {15} Because you rejoiced when the inheritance of the house of Israel became desolate, that is how I will treat you. You will be desolate, O Mount Seir, you and all of Edom. Then they will know that I am the LORD.'"

These verses are directed at Edomites who, I believe, are the so-called Palestinians. And there can be no doubt that these people constantly blaspheme the God of Israel. Mountains are symbolic of government. Blasphemies against God are a violation of the third commandment. As I said before, if we use God's name in a manner which does not praise or honor Him, we are taking His name in vain.

Lev 24:10-15 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. {11} The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother's name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) {12} They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them. {13} Then the LORD said to Moses: {14} "Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. {15} Say to the Israelites: 'If anyone curses (H7043, Qalal) his God, he will be held responsible;

But what about euphemisms?

Back to the third commandment. God says not to misuse His name by using it in vain or using it lightly. Can we then make substitutes for His name to use in vain? When someone refers to Bayne Wedwell, is there any doubt that they are referring to me?

Euphemism is defined as the use of a mild or vague or periphrastic expression that is less expressive or direct but considered less distasteful or less offensive than another. My sources are: The Faber Dictionary of Euphemisms and Webster's New World Dictionary. I want to give you a list of euphemisms that are commonly used by the world but which should not be used by Christians trying to obey the third commandment. Some are too repugnant and you will have to figure those out for yourselves. Instead of using the word "God," I will try to use the expression "G"under score "d," as used by Judaism to avoid pronouncing the word "God."

Gosh G_d
Oh my gosh or Oh my God Oh my G_d – a very common expression. It is used everywhere. Will God be listening to the constant users of this term when thy really need Him?
Golly, Gad G_d
Gosh awful G_d awful
Gee, Gee whiz, Gee Willikers Jesus
Jeepers Creepers Jesus Christ
Jimminy Cricket or other JC expressions Jesus Christ
Criminy, Cripes Christ
Dog Gone GD
Great Scott Good G_d
Goodness Sakes Good G_d
Good Grief Good G_d
Gracious (used as an exclamation) Good G_d
By jingo By Jesus
Judas, also Judas Priest Jesus
Jumping Jehosaphat Refers to Jezebel
Deuce Satan
Darn, dang Damn
Heck Hell
Sam Hill Hell
A blankety blank You fill in the blanks.
Suffering cats Suffering Christ
Son of a gun Actually a British naval term. Not a bad term.

I think that's enough of that. These are euphemisms that specifically break the third commandment because they misuse God's name or use it lightly. There are hundreds of euphemisms around, many sexual in nature, which Christians should not use either.

Col 3:8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

But, you may say, what about using only part of the obscenity? For instance, what about the word damn, or darn to use the euphemism. If you know the full obscenity, is there any doubt what the partial obscenity refers to? If God is offended by blasphemy, won't He be offended by partial obscenities?

In the 1939 film classic "Gone with the Wind," Clark Gable stated the line "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." That was the first time these words were used in a movie and it was considered shocking. Today, seventy-three years later, these and much more shocking words are used in movies and on TV. In fact, in 2005, this quotation was voted the number one movie line of all time by the American Film Institute. Since 1968, films are not judged by whether their language conforms to God's word and the mores of society, but rather by rating them according to the recommended minimum age of the viewers. Man has replaced God's laws by man's laws. Have we replaced God's laws with man's laws too?

Final thoughts:

If you think this sermon stretches the point, let me give you a few things to think about:

1 Cor 8:9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.

A word is wrong to use if it might be a stumbling block for others who do not associate it with real Christians. There are many crude words in common usage which should not be used by real Christians. We all need to avoid hearing or even reading these words as much as possible.

And finally:

1 Thes 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.

Brethren, the world is crumbling around us. We have all grown used to having the government, including the military, there to protect and support us when necessary. The time is rapidly approaching when neither will be able to help us. We saw this happening in New Orleans and other areas of destruction. The pride we have always had in our country may soon turn to shame and sorrow. The government upon which we depend, may in fact, even become our enemy. If we are to survive, we will have to become totally dependant upon God. Let's not offend God by our careless or emotional speech. Words which might impress the world do not impress God.

Brethren, let's keep the third commandment as God intended.

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell
24 November 2012
Copyright 2012, Wayne Bedwell

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