Most of the commandments are pretty clear; don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t worship idols. Don’t worship other gods. Some seem more important than others and some are easier to follow than others – but there is one that no one even understands. No one even has a clue what God MEANT when He gave it, so how can they possibly obey it?? And of course I’m talking about number 3;Exodus 20:7 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.
Now what does that mean? If you don’t know, then how can you be sure you’re not breaking it as we speak? Most people assume that it means saying things like “God ___ it” or “for Christ’s sake!” or “holy ___”. But that’s not it at all. While that is not something you should be doing, that’s not what God was most concerned about when He penned this command in that tablet of stone. The words “in vain” come from the Hebrew word “shav” which basically means emptiness, or making devoid of value. For just two examples:
Jeremiah 2:30 In vain [shav] have I smitten your children; they received no correction: …
Jeremiah 46:11 … in vain [shav] shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured.
Here you can see that the word means that it was pointless, a waste of time, for Him to do those things, because nothing happened; for they weren’t corrected and they weren’t cured. So how can you take the name of God and make IT pointless, and “a waste of time”?
Before we can explain that, we have to briefly explain what “God’s name” means. When God says “my name” He doesn’t mean “God”. Or, for that matter, Jehovah, Yahweh, or Elohim. He’s talking about a CONCEPT, not a title. To come in someone’s name means to come with that person’s AUTHORITY. For example, when God sends someone a prophet, that prophet comes in God’s name – so when he speaks, he’s speaking in God’s place, as if God were there speaking….
Deuteronomy 18:18-19 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which HE SHALL SPEAK IN MY NAME, I will require it of him.
And people are obligated to listen to that prophet, just as if they were listening to God, Himself, for that prophet comes in God’s name, with His seal of approval. But men also come in the name of other men:
1 Samuel 25:5,9 And David sent out ten young men, and David said unto the young men, Get you up to Carmel, and go to Nabal, and greet him in my name: And when David’s young men came, they spake to Nabal according to all those words in the name of David, and ceased.
See, David wasn’t going to meet Nabal himself; so David sent his men to talk to Nabal IN HIS NAME. So they went, in the name of David, and talked to Nabal. These men were carrying a message. A message that David had said. And they carried it, and told Nabal “This is what David said”. And when Nabal responded, he wasn’t responding to the messengers, he was responding to DAVID, because the messengers were there IN DAVID’S NAME!
But consider for a moment what would have happened had they gone and gave Nabal a message in David’s name that David HAD NOT SAID! What if they came and told Nabal that David said “your mother wears army boots”? They would have been taking David’s name and making Nabal hate it! And any respect he might have had for David would be destroyed. And so they would have made David’s name empty, unworthy of respect, by telling LIES about David, saying he said things that HE DID NOT SAY!
Ezekiel 22:28 And her prophets have daubed them with untempered morter, seeing vanity <shav>, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith the Lord GOD, when the LORD hath not spoken.
They “saw” VANITY – the exact same word used in the third commandment – and they came in the name of the Lord, saying “God sent me to tell you that you will have peace and safety!” – when in fact, God said nothing of the kind!
Jeremiah 14:15 Therefore thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that prophesy in my name, and I sent them not, yet they say, Sword and famine shall not be in this land; By sword and famine shall those prophets be consumed.
These prophets come in God’s name, saying that God gave them this message, BUT GOD DID NOT GIVE THEM THAT MESSAGE! But when the people listen to that message they say God sent, and that message does not happen, the people think that GOD – and people who come IN GOD’S NAME – cannot be trusted, and it makes Him worthless, and empty in their minds! It makes His name VAIN! And NOW we can look at the commandment again and truly UNDERSTAND IT!
Exodus 20:7 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.
If you speak in God’s name, saying that God sent you to say this, when God has done no such thing, you make God’s name USELESS! And if you do that, God will NOT hold you guiltless, and will punish you thoroughly. God really, REALLY doesn’t like false prophets!
Deuteronomy 18:20 But the prophet, which shall PRESUME to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
But hold on a minute. So I’ve explained the commandment at last. It looks like I’ve only succeeded in proving that this commandment is outdated, for we don’t have false prophets today, and YOU surely aren’t in any risk of breaking this commandment!
Like all the commandments, this commandment is just a rule; a rule that must be magnified to appreciate the full affect. Just like “thou shalt not steal” is a rule that must be magnified to include cheating on your taxes, overcharging a customer, borrowing something and never returning it, and so on. And this commandment magnifies to cover several things that you might do.
The most obvious one is swearing. This is amply covered in the Bible and most people understand it at least partially, but basically if you swear “by God” – and then don’t do what you swore to do – then you will be taking God’s name in vain by making what SHOULD be a very grave oath MEANINGLESS.
But a less understood, and far more important, aspect of it involves what you believe. If you say “God loves everybody” – when in fact, God does NOT love those who hate Him, as the Bible clearly shows (Psalms 11:5, Romans 9:13) – then you are taking God’s name in vain. If you say “God wants you to keep Christmas” – when God does NOT (Jeremiah 10:1-4), or that “God commands you to keep Easter Sunrise services”, when God did NOT, and in fact He HATES IT (Ezekiel 8:15-18) – then YOU are taking God’s name in vain!
Every time you say that God or the Bible says something they don’t say, you cheapen God’s name just a little bit more. Every Sunday morning preachers talk about God this, and God that, and say that God thinks this and God thinks that, and every one of those men is taking God’s name in vain, preaching things that God does not preach!
Ezekiel 13:6-7 They have seen vanity [shav] and lying divination, saying, The LORD saith: and the LORD hath not sent them: and they have made others to hope that they would confirm the word. Have ye not seen a vain [shav] vision, and have ye not spoken a lying divination, whereas ye say, The LORD saith it; albeit I have not spoken?
Anything that you tell someone about God that isn’t true takes God’s name in vain – just as surely as saying you had a vision or a dream that God sent you. Which brings me to my next point, an even MORE important point… people who have things “laid on their heart”, and whom “God tells things”.
Now I won’t deny that God has used dreams before, and that God talks to prophets both directly and indirectly in the Bible. I won’t even deny that things like that can happen today. HOWEVER. The vast, vast majority, 99-followed-by-a-bunch-of-nines-percent, are taking God’s name in vain, saying God said things when God wasn’t even there!
God laying something on your heart is a concept that is not even IN the Bible! And so if you are one of the people who “has things laid on their heart” on a regular basis, you need to consider the seriousness of what you do. When you say God told you this, or God wants you to do that, you set yourself up as a PROPHET!
A prophet is just someone who SPEAKS for someone else – a spokesman! If you say that God LAID something on your heart, or told you to do that, you are saying that YOU are a spokesman for God for those things! If you said “God told me…”, then YOU ARE A PROPHET! That’s ALL a prophet is! And this sets you in a COMPLETELY NEW BRACKET! A VERY, VERY SERIOUS BRACKET!
When you take it upon yourself to speak for God, you had better make THOROUGHLY certain you know what you’re doing. Because if you’re wrong, you set yourself up for a completely new and much worse punishment than just an average person has – you will be punished as a FALSE prophet…
Jeremiah 23:30-32 Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the LORD, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the LORD.
I’ve known a lot of so-called Christians, people who didn’t keep the commandments nor know the first thing about God, who had “visions” and “dreams” and whom God “laid things on their hearts” all the time. And they were ALL FALSE PROPHETS!
When you have this “feeling” come over you, the one you claim, absolutely without proof, is God talking to you, it is almost CERTAINLY a conclusion which you arrived at solely on the basis of a VAGUE feeling – the type of feeling that even absolute PAGANS have on a regular basis, which is nothing more than what YOUR OWN HEART THINKS IS RIGHT. And when you have these feelings, and then say “God told me this” – when God DID NOT TELL YOU ANYTHING – YOU TAKE GOD’S NAME IN VAIN, saying “God spoke” – when GOD WAS SILENT!
Jeremiah 23:25-26 I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart;
Now pay very close attention; if you are wrong – and, in my experience, you almost certainly are – and God is NOT speaking to you, and He is NOT giving you dreams, or visions, and He does NOT “lay things on your heart”, then every time you open your mouth to tell someone what “God” has supposedly told you, YOU BREAK THE THIRD COMMANDMENT!
The commandments are set in order of IMPORTANCE! God starts at the most important and works His way down. So understand the DEADLY SERIOUSNESS OF THIS! If you take God’s name in vain in any one of these ways, YOU ARE BETTER OFF COMMITTING ADULTERY!
If you take God’s name in vain, JACK THE RIPPER will get a softer punishment than you will! Because Jack The Ripper merely MURDERED people – Commandment number six – and you are breaking commandment number THREE.
Think it through very carefully before you speak to someone else in God’s name, because you are far better off visiting a whorehouse than telling people God said something that He didn’t say. Why, you ask? Visiting a whorehouse, committing adultery, murdering, these things only affect a small group of people. And only in a physical sense. You might wreck a few marriages or take a few lives. But speaking falsely in God’s name destroys ETERNAL SPIRITUAL lives. It makes people follow emptiness and lies.
No matter how well intentioned you might be, it will lead them away from what God wants, and closer to what Satan wants. It will give them a false idea about God and what God expects, and it makes God’s name worthless – so that when God DOES send a prophet in His name, these people will think he’s just talking in his own name, making up stuff as he goes, just like you were.
You will hurt far more people, far more seriously, and far longer than Ted Bundy ever could. So think about that next time you talk about what “the Lord told you”.
Psalms 34:13 Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile.
I don’t know whether or not God talks to you. Based on statistics, I doubt it, but I don’t know you, so I can’t be sure if He does or not. But before you open your mouth again to talk about it, YOU had better be certain that He does. And tremble at the thought of breaking the third commandment yet again.
Ezekiel 13:9 And mine hand shall be upon the prophets that see vanity, and that divine lies: they shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel, NEITHER SHALL THEY ENTER INTO THE LAND OF ISRAEL; and ye shall know that I AM THE LORD GOD.