10 Commandments Series – 3: “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.”

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’.

Shalom,

  • Yosef

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10 Commandments Series – 2: “You shall have no other Gods before me.”

“You shall have no other gods before me.  You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I Yehovah (the LORD) your God am a jealous God…” Exodus 20: 3-5 (ESV)

Without knowing who is speaking (see part 1) the above statement would be fairly useless.  But we know who is speaking because He just told us.  And it is followed by this:

“…visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:5-6 (ESV)

Well, there is a quite a bit in these verses.  This post will deal with the ‘have no other gods before me’ part.  The rest of the verse, in my opinion, deals with a culture and how it raises its children.  Back to ‘not having any other gods before me.’

If you have been in Christian circles for any length of time then you have most likely heard this verse quoted and then everyday activities listed that can become as ‘other gods’ in our lives.  That is not how I am going to approach the subject, though there is validity to much of what is said in those discussions.  Rather,

Tradition!  Tradition.  (pause)  Tradition!!! Tradition.  (think “Fiddler on the Roof” and the song “Tradition”.  If you haven’t seen the film, you are missing an excellent film.)

There is nothing wrong with traditions as long as they are honoring to God, either directly or indirectly by not going against His word.  God left us a huge amount of room to make our own traditions around His word.  If you study God’s “Appointed Times” (the “Feasts” – see Leviticus 23)), you will see only a few things that are required.  The rest we get to make up!  And boy have we!  (Unfortunately, much of what was ‘made up’ is ‘get rid of it all together – but that is for another post.)

When the Israelites were entering the promised land, God made it very clear that they were not to copy anything the peoples were doing.  They weren’t even to look into their practices (see Deuteronomy 12:29-32).  God repeatedly stated that He did not want the Israelites to copy anything the peoples of the land were doing, nor worship Him in that way.

“And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation that I am driving out before you… ” Leviticus 20:23 (ESV)

“Learn not the way of the nations…” Jeremiah 10:2 (ESV)

“… and that you do not inquire about their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? – that I also may do the same.’  You shall not worship Yehovah (the LORD) your God in that way…” Deuteronomy 12:30-31 (ESV)

To put that in today’s language, the verse says,

Don’t bring any part of pagan practices into your worship or traditions, and then think that I’m okay with that simply because you put the phrase, “In Jesus’ name” on the practice; or think that I’m okay with it because I have been silent about it for generations.  It’s not okay. Time and phrases do not change the Word of God!

We need to check our own traditions and practices and, whenever it stems from pagan practices, get rid of it!  God gave us already a bunch of ‘holidays’ around which we can form all sorts of traditions, and when we do so, the nations will see that we are ‘set apart’ (holy).

Honoring God is also a form of worshiping Him.  Obeying is a form of worshiping Him.  Be like Yeshua (Jesus) and only follow those traditions that truly honor God the Father!

So, can you think of any traditions that are common in Christianity (or Judaism) that violate this command of God?  I can think of quite a few…

  • Yosef

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10 Commandments Series – 1: “I am the LORD your God”

In the typical Christian tradition, the first ‘commandment’ is, “you shall have no other God’s before me.”  However, that is the wrong place to start.  The first statement that starts off the “10 Statements” is,

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

The list must start with an explanation of who is giving the list.  Otherwise, there is no foundation for authority.  It could be anyone giving a list of rules if there is no authorship attributed to the list.  Perhaps this is a good part of the reason why the ‘battle’ for displaying the “10 Commandments” was so easily lost here in the USA.  Also, perhaps leaving out the authorship also points to an endemic problem in Christianity where the word of God receives less and less attention.

But the list does start with claiming who the author is.  He starts by naming Himself.  In most English translations, one wouldn’t even notice this as the word “LORD” is used in place of his name (this is true in both Christian and some popular Jewish translations).  But that is not His name.  That is a deliberate obfuscation of His name.  His name is clearly spelled out in the original Hebrew and is the four Hebrew letters, “yud hey vav hey”.  (See this post about His name).

In this beginning statement, we see both His name, and what He has done.  Both are important and foundational to our faith in Him and our obedience to Him.  Knowing His name is great, but what dos that mean to us?  Thus He clarifies even more and says that He is the author of salvation.  Author of salvation?  What?

God states that He brought us out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  Most think only that this is talking of what He did for the Israelites.  But it is so much more.  Elsewhere in scripture God tells the Israelites to think of these words as if they were the ones personally brought out.  That injunction stands for us today.

Think of it this way: ‘house of slavery’ as in slavery to sin;  ‘land of Egypt’ as in the world’s ways.  In other words, God is the one that brings us into His kingdom, freeing us from the slavery to sin and freeing us from the bondage to the ways of the world. 

If this foundation is not present, the foundation of who God is – YHVH – and what He did for us – freed us from bondage to the ways of this world, and from slavery to sin.  We are now free to serve Him!  Without knowing this, Yeshua’s (Jesus’) sacrifice would not have the meaning it has.  Without the foundation of who God is and what He has done, the 10 statements become the 10 commandments, and they become just part of the “dead” law God gave, instead of being the living, active words they are.

  • Yosef

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10 Commandments Series – Intro

This is the first entry in a series looking at the 10 “commandments”.  I’ll go through all the “commandments” and discuss their meaning and their application to us today, and look at their context in the Bible.  I’ll try to keep each posting short, so there may be more then one posting for each “commandment.”

The 10 “commandments” are perhaps the greatest things ever written.  They are the only words directly written by God Himself, and that in stone.  This alone makes them special and unique and worth looking closely at.

The phrase “the 10 commandments” does not actually appear anywhere in the Tanakh (“Old” Testament).

Rather, they are called the 10 statements.  The Hebrew word used for “statements” means words or things.  (The fact that in Hebrew, the word for “words” and “things” is the same word is a hint at how the Hebrews looked at life – but that isn’t for now).

The 10 statements appear in two places in the Bible.  In Exodus 20:1-17 and in Deuteronomy 5:6-21.  Both lists are nearly the same, but the differences that do exist are quite interesting to look at.  For example, in the Exodus version, we are told to “remember” and in Deuteronomy we are told to “observe” the Sabbath.  The two different words imply different action and give rise to some fun understandings and traditions.  (More when we get to that commandment.)

Interestingly, Christianity lists as the first commandment something different then Judaism.  I’ll go with Judaism’s numbering as it frames all 10.

The first statement starts with “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”

Without this statement being first, there is no foundation for the following statements (commandments).  Leaving this statement out allows the idea that that there are no absolutes, as, without a foundation, things can change.  One must start with God stating who He is and what He has done, otherwise its just a list of rules that anyone can (and has) change.

In the next posting, we’ll start looking at the text closer and see what gems we can get out of it.  And we’ll start with “I am the LORD.”

I’ll close with this question for each of you reading this.  Do you have the 10 statements (commandments) posted somewhere in your house or memorized?  If not, I’d encourage you to do so.  Remember, these are the only words God ever wrote, and He wrote them in stone, implying permanence.

  • Shalom from Yosef

P.S.: I know that many people believe that the 10 commandments, or some subset thereof, have been ‘fulfilled’ and no longer need to be followed (the Sabbath command is typical of those called ‘fulfilled’).  If anyone wants to discuss that, leave a comment and I’ll start a new blog thread.

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