“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.” (Deuteronomy 5:11)
Jehovah has supreme authority over all that we do. This would certainly include our speech. This third commandment seems to cover this area.
The “name of God“ is a phrase referring to Jehovah himself. It stands for much more than just speaking of God. The “name of God” represents God’s very essence and character – his omnipotence, wisdom, love, and justice. All of these things are included in God’s name.
We commonly use this passage as a warning against profanity. Some may warn of using God‘s name flippantly and irreverently. Or, some speak of those who viciously scoff at God and impugn his character. Others warn of vain worship where God’s name is spoken of thoughtlessly in song and prayer. The Bible certainly warns of all of these transgressions.
Some apply this verse in regard to our relationship with others such as making promises that we never intend to keep. Making oaths rashly are forbidden by God. One must never use God‘s name to persuade others of a conclusion that is not true. Jesus said, “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37)
However, these typical applications miss the true intent of this commandment. Literally, the Hebrew translates “you shall not bear/carry the name of God emptily.“ The idiom derives from the ancient practice of claiming ownership and was commonly used to brand slaves. The real issue here is a claim of ownership.
Truly one must not claim Jehovah as their covenant Lord and live as if they belong to false gods. “One will say, ‘I am the Lord’s’; Another will call himself by the name of Jacob; Another will write with his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ And name himself by the name of Israel.” (Isaiah 44:5) “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Deuteronomy 5:7) Jehovah will not allow for dual allegiance (Colossians 3:5) It is God only or nothing!
Jehovah would have us to stand in awe of him. We must look up on heaven as His throne. We are to honor His word, and His people. Consider how you stand in relation to him. Have you made him your king? And, have you made fellowship with him all that matters?
By George Slover