The third statement (commandment) is this:
“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 (ESV)
Okay, this begs the question, “What is His name?” If you answered, “Lord”, “LORD”, “God”, “Adonai”, “Jesus”, “I am”, or a variety of other possibilities, then you aren’t correct. God gives us His name in Exodus 3:16. Unfortunately, English translations hide His name with the word “LORD”, and Christian English translations further confuse His name with “I AM”.
The word “LORD” is used to hide the Hebrew word that has the four letters, yud, hey, vav, and hey. This is known as the ‘Tetragrammaton’ and is used over 6800 times in the Tanakh (“Old Testament”). It is His name and basically means, “I was, I am, I will be”; an ‘impossible’ combination of past, present and future. (On a funny note, the fact that Christianity chose to obscure His name by using “LORD” is showing that even though Christianity is, at its core, anti-Jewish, it copies some things Jewish).
Why is His name so hidden? One reason is a literal understanding of this verse. Over the decades and centuries, the Jews were using His name less and less so as to avoid accidentally using His name ‘in vain’. As time went, His name was used less and less.
However, in the past, His name was used in greetings (see the book of Ruth) and in taking vows (Deuteronomy 6:13), such as when saying, “as the LORD lives… .”
But what does it mean to take His name in vain?
One understanding is “don’t make His name common.” In other words, don’t make His name a common word in your speech. If you consider the word “God” or the name “Jesus Christ” to also be addressed by this command, then our culture’s prolific use of the two terms would be a perfect example of making a name common.
Another understanding in Jewish thought is that the command has to do with vows made unto Him. It is an injunction to don’t make foolish, spur-of-the-moment vows to God, and be sure to fulfill the vows you do make.
“If you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay in fulfilling it, for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from vowing, you will not be guilty of sin.” Deuteronomy 23:21-22 (see also 23).
When we take a vow “unto the LORD”, God takes it seriously.
Even Yeshua (Jesus) refers to this.
“Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. … Let what you say be simply ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ anything more than this comes from evil.” Matthew 5:34-37 (ESV)
So, before you ‘swear’ to do something (or not do something), think about this. God takes such oaths very seriously. Yeshua (Jesus) pointed out that it applies even when we don’t explicitly use His name!
Let your speech be always edifying of others, and stick with ‘yes’ and ‘no’.