Welcome to the Cornerstone Baptist church podcast. My name is Justin Wheeler, I am the preaching pastor for Cornerstone and today we are in week 36 of our journey through the Heidelberg Catechism. Today, I will be talking to you about questions 99-100.
Over the last two weeks we have been studying the 10 commandments one at a time. We looked at the first commandment and learned that it is sinful to worship the wrong God. Yahweh alone is worthy of our worship because He is our Creator and the only true God. So, the first commandment was about Who we should worship, and the second commandment was about how we should worship Him.
Since Yahweh is God, He has the right to determine how He desires to be worshipped. He forbids us to use any graven image, any image at all to represent Him in our worship. These first two commandments make sense in a way that we might expect the law of God to make sense. But this third commandment seems simple by comparison.
The first commandment is God saying worship me only and have no other gods before me. The second commandment is God saying worship me only in the way that I have told you to worship me. The third commandment is God saying don’t mess around with my name. Surely there is more to this third commandment than the fact that God doesn’t want us to make fun of His name…and there is.
Here is the third commandment:
Deut 5:11 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.
Lord’s Day Focus...
When you think of taking the Lord’s name in vain, what ideas come into your mind? One of the first things that comes to mind is the way people use our Lord’s name to curse or swear. I was taught at a very young age not to use the Lord’s name in the same breath with foul language. I absolutely believe that when we do this, we are violating the third commandment.
When I was in seminary, I remember a professor making the claim that we often take the Lord’s name in vain when we pray and use his name repetitively as though it were nothing more than a comma at the end of our thought. “Lord God, we just come to you today, Lord God, and we ask you, God, to just be with us, Lord God, and help us, Lord God, to feel your love in this place, Lord God…”
Of course, a person’s heart may be sincere when praying this way, but this may also reflect a lack of reverence and respect for the name and person of God. And that is what the third commandment is all about, it’s about the connection between the name of God and the person of God and the appropriate amount of respect that should be shown to our Creator.
Question 99: What is God’s will for us in the third commandment?
Answer: That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders. In a word, it requires that we use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe, so that we may properly confess Him, pray to Him, and praise Him in everything we do and say.
And let’s go ahead and read the next one…
Question 100: Is blasphemy of God’s name by swearing and cursing really such serious sin that God is angry also with those who do not do all they can to help prevent it and forbid it?
Answer: Yes indeed. No sin is greater, no sin makes God more angry than blaspheming His name. That is why He commanded the death penalty for it.
Blaspheming the name of the Lord is a serious offense to God, but why? Well, in order to answer this question thoroughly we need to see how this commandment is violated in the rest of the OT. So, let’s look at a couple of passages that expand our understanding of what it means to use the Lord’s name in a vain and empty way.
In the middle of Leviticus 24, a fight broke out between a young man, whose father was an Egyptian and whose mother was an Israelite, and a man of Israel. We don’t know what the fight was about but we do know that at some point in the skirmish, the young man cursed the name of God in blasphemy. Maybe, like many of us he lashed out in anger and evoked God’s name in a way to threaten or mock his opponent. But the people took it seriously and took him into custody until the will of Yahweh was clear.
In the very next section we read this,
Lev 24:13 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. 15 And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.
God is serious about His name and He wants His people to understand that His name is holy, it is not to be blasphemed under any circumstance. To take the Lord’s name in vain is to treat it as empty, worthless, and of no importance. God forbids his name to be dishonored but again the question is why? What’s so important about God’s name?
To answer this question I want us to look back at Exodus 33. This chapter is a turning point in the history of Israel because both God and Moses are fed up with the people. They had just come out of the golden calf incident and God said to Moses, “You go ahead and lead these people on, but I will not come with you.” What follows is a dialogue between God and Moses that is amazing, but near the end of the discussion Moses makes a request.
He asks God to go with them and to be their God, but he also asks God to show him His glory. And God agrees. God says to Moses,
Exo 33:19 “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’
Then in the next chapter we see this happen.
Exo 34:5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” 8 And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped.
I love this passage because of what it tells us about God. but the thing that I want us to see in regard to the current discussion is that the glory of God’s person is directly tied to the holiness of God’s name. When God allows His glorious presence to be revealed to Moses, He connects His presence with His name. To see God’s glory is inseparably linked to hearing His name.
There is no way to disconnect the person of God from the name of God, so when we set His name apart in our hearts as holy, we are reverencing Him as holy. Conversely, when we devalue His name by uttering a hateful curse and attach His name to it, we are not just cursing His name we are cursing our God.
The name of God is worthy of praise and honor and reverence just as the person of God is worthy of praise and honor and reverence.
From a practical perspective we need to take the name of the Lord seriously and avoid using it in a vain or irreverent way. We shouldn’t use His name to make jokes. We shouldn’t use His name to curse. We shouldn’t use His name in order for personal gain.
Instead, we should praise His name, we should understand that the speak the name of God is to speak of God Himself. We should seek to honor His name, bring glory to His name, and recognize that whatever we do, whether we eat, or drink, we should do it all for the glory of His name.
Col 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Next week, we will continue to study these 10 commandments by looking at the fourth commandment, which focuses on the sabbath day and keeping it holy. I hope you will join me for that discussion as we look at Lord’s Day 37 and questions 101-102.
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Thanks for listening.