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

If Pigs Could Be Clean – Deuteronomy 14

In Deuteronomy 14 we are given a list of animals that God says we can eat and some general rules with which we can determine ourselves if an animal can be eaten.  This list gives rise to the ‘kosher’ food industry, but really the section is about clean and unclean animals.  Kosher takes in much more then that and isn’t the topic of this post.

In the passage, pigs are singled out as one of the animals that meet half the requirements needed to be clean (and therefore eatable).  And throughout history, eating pork has been one of the activities used as a measurement to show that one is not Jewish.  (Another is not keeping the Sabbath, but that is for a different post.)  And, judging by most Christian breakfasts or pot-lucks, I wonder if that isn’t still true today.  I digress.  Here are a couple comments on the topic of whether or not Christians should pay attention to the ‘kosher’ laws.  This is not meant as a counter argument against all the reasons Christianity has for eating pork.  Just a couple things to think about.

  • The idea of clean and unclean animals predates the giving of the ‘Law’.  Noah took on two of each animal and 7 (pairs) of each clean animal.  See Genesis 7:1-3.
  • In defense of eating anything, people like to point out that God gave ‘all things’ for food.  And this is true.  However, near the end of the ‘clean animals’ (kosher) lists (Deut. 14 and Leviticus 11), God makes the comments that we are to be holy for He is holy, and that the list is for us to learn to distinguish between clean and unclean.
  • Peter also tells us to be holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:16).  One way of being holy is to only eat ‘clean’ animals.
  • Learning to distinguish between clean and unclean is training for leaning to distinguish between Godly and ungodly.

I realize that the whole issue of eating clean seems an anathema to Christians as Christians are ‘under grace, not under law.’  Well, that saying will be discussed later as it is a greatly misunderstood statement.  Mostly, though, I will just point out that neither Yeshua (Jesus) nor the apostles, nor anyone in the early Jerusalem church, ate pork or taught that it could be eaten.

However, before even discussing the ‘kosher’ laws with Christians, the question, “do you eat blood?” should be asked.  And when it is asked, a reply such as, “I’m not under the law!” is inevitably given.

There is a much ignored verse in the book of Acts.  In Acts 15 there is the account of the ‘Jerusalem council.’  The results of that council is a letter written and agreed upon by all apostles, elders (of the Jerusalem church) and Paul.  It is address to all Gentile churches.  Part of that letter states:

“…but [we] should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.”  (ESV) Acts 15:20

So, before even wondering about clean / unclean, one needs to learn what is meant by not eating meat from a strangled animal and refraining from blood.

  • Yosef

 

 

 

Deuteronomy 4 and 5: Hearing and Doing

In Deuteronomy 5, we have Moses retelling about both the giving of the “10 Statements” (10 commandments) and the 10 Statements themselves.  About the only time one hears about the “10 Commandments” in our culture now is when some people get upset that a government institution is removing them from public view.   Are they even important any more?  Should we pay attention to them?  Here are a couple points to ponder.

The 10 Statements themselves are the only words written by Yehovah (the LORD) Himself!

That fact should make them very, very important in your thinking.

How the 10 were given is also significant.  God’s voice was heard by several million people.  Group psychology would dictate that out of such a large group, if the event didn’t actually happen, someone would have said so.  Yet nowhere in any historical accounts is this episode doubted.  This is a powerful testimony to the truth of the Bible!

The 10 can be summed up, but not replaced, by this statement from Yeshua (Jesus). The 10 build on this statement.

“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:37-39 (ESV)

Further on in Deuteronomy 5 we see the Israelites responding with the comment, “we will hear it [God’s words] and do it.”  This is, unfortunately, a far cry from how Christianity looks at God’s word.  If this statement were to be uttered by many in the churches today, it would read like this:

We’ll hear it [God’s words], and if we understand it and agree with it, and we don’t consider it ‘law’, then we might do it if it fits into our “statement of belief.”

When did God ever say that we had to understand and agree with what He asks before we should obey it.  Every chance we have of doing something commanded in His word is a chance to worship and love Him!  Let’s start with obeying the 10 Statements.  Read them (found in two places, in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5).  Think about them!  Discuss them with others (comment in the blog)!

When we hesitate to ‘do’ the Word of God, or talk with others about it, we are robbing ourselves of a chance to worship God and of a chance to grow in sanctification. 

Nowhere in scripture, be it the “old” or the “new testament”, does God ever get upset with someone who is following His word!  Nowhere!  We do, however, find Yeshua (Jesus) getting upset at those who were ‘adding’ to His word.  What do you think Yeshua (Jesus) would say to those subtracting from His word?  Here is what God says:

“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it…” Deuteronomy 4:2 (ESV)

I think Yeshua (Jesus) would be just as confrontational with Christian leaders who subtract from God’s word just as he was confrontational with the Pharisees who were adding to God’s word!  Christianity as a whole takes away from God’s word!  Am I wrong?  Think “Old” Testament.  Even that name, “old”, implies it should be disregarded.

… Oh, and to those protesting the removal of the 10 Statements (commandments) from public view, I ask, are they posted in your church?  Your house? Anywhere you abide?  If the answer is ‘no’, then you have no business protesting or being surprised that the government is removing them from public spaces!

– Yosef

(Okay, this post is a bit confrontational.  It’s not meant to offend, but to challenge!  If you have a different opinion on the topic, please share it!  Or if you agree, let me know!)

Yes, Yes; No, No; Men are men; Women are Women. Numbers 30 – part 1

(Due to the length of this post, it is split over two postings.  This is part 1.)

Numbers chapter 30 is perhaps one of the more ignored chapters of the Bible.  In our culture today this chapter is considered antiquated and degrading to women.  Why?  Because it makes a clear distinction between men and women, and there can be no argument about it.  But this distinction between the roles of man and woman is not a new topic for this chapter; it occurs throughout the Bible.  Many will try to discount such chapters by saying that it was for those cultures back then when women were viewed as under men.  One commentary (Mathew Henry Commentary) even goes so far as to say that women didn’t own anything, so they couldn’t be held to a vow.  Oh, I forgot to mention, Numbers 30 has to do with taking vows.  This chapter makes a big deal about taking vows.  Why?  This first part of the post deals with vows.  The next part deals with why men and women are treated differently.

Yeshua (Jesus) makes the statement, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”  Matthew 5:37  (ESV)

Taking a vow (in colloquial language, ‘swearing to do something’) is taken very seriously by God.  One of the “10 Statements” (10 Commandments) states, ‘do not take the name of Yehovah (the LORD) your God in vain.’  I know most of Christianity views this as only having to do with saying His name (which most Christians don’t actually even know), but this statement has long been viewed as having two separate meanings.  The first is that if you take a vow, be sure to keep it!  (Numbers 30:2).  [The second does have to do with misusing His name.]

If you make a vow to Yehovah (the LORD) your God, you shall not delay fulfilling it, for Yehovah (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 (ESV).

Yeshua (Jesus) was simply restating what was already written: don’t swear to do something and then don’t do it!  God does not like that.  Better not to swear (vow) at all.

This command has nothing to do with being unsure about doing something (and I have heard people use those words of Yeshua (Jesus) to try and say that you can’t ever be unsure or doubt).  No! The words have to do with taking vows (swearing).

It is such an important topic to God that many of the sacrifices that God proscribed have to do with completing vows (and weren’t for sin).  In “those days”, a vow would often sound like, “As Yehovah (the LORD) lives, I …”.  People would use His name in their vow.  Today, the equivalent would be something like this, “I swear to God …” or “I promise to do…”.   So, don’t do it!  Simply let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no’.  To vow (swear / promise) and not do it is a sin against God!  It even applies to how we speak to our children.  So let’s watch our speech for this reason (as well as other reasons highlighted in scripture).

This may not seem like an important topic for today, but that is only because it is ignored, and as seen in Numbers chapter 30, the vow topic highlights the difference between men and women.

The fact that men and women are being treated differently in this scripture section is dealt with in part 2 of this posting.

  • Yosef

(Part 2 will show up in a couple days.)

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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