hugh’s news & Views
The third of the Ten Commandments says, “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). The moral force of that commandment continues in effect under the New Testament law of Christ, but apparently it has become a forgotten commandment in our day. God’s name is taken in vain and spoken thoughtlessly, irreverently, and profanely in countless ways every day. The vocabulary of some otherwise intelligent people is so limited that they cannot express themselves without using God’s name in the most impious ways imaginable. Comedians, lacking of any real talent, have to depend on profanity and vulgarity to produce laughs from their mentally challenged audiences.
Today, peoplem including many teenagers, react to the least surprising or unusual event with a flippant “O my God” (OMG). The expression falls thoughtlessly from the lips of countless millions of people every day. Some are so in the habit of using it that they are not even aware of what they are saying.
Bible scholars tell us of the respect the ancient Jews had for the name of Jehovah. For instance, the Zondervan Pictorial Bible Dictionary (Merrill C. Tenney, General Editor) states: “The Jews took seriously the third commandment ‘Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehavah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7) and so, to keep from speaking the holy name carelessly, around 300 B.C. they decided not to pronounce it at all; but whenever in reading they came to it they spoke the word adhonai which means ‘Lord.’ ” (page 408).
There is something to be learned from the above if we will learn it, and that is that God and His name are to be reverenced. “Holy and reverend is his (God’s) name” (Psalm 111:9 [KJV, ASV]). This is the only time in the English Bible the word “reverend” is used and in that one instance it applies to God, a fact of which the so-called “clergy” might well take note.
In what is commonly called “The Lord’s Prayer” but more correctly designated “The Model Prayer,” Jesus instructed His disciples to say: “Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9). The word “hallowed” means “to make holy or sacred, to sanctify or consecrate, to venerate.”
We Southerners have our mild forms of profanity: “God a’ mighty”; “Good God”; “Good Lord”; “My Lord”; “Lord, have mercy”; “Lordy mercy”; etc. Likely, most of those who use such expressions do not think of themselves as taking the name of the Lord in vain, but “vain” means “useless, futile, idle, unavailing, empty.” A vain word or expression conveys nothing of substance; it is empty of any real meaning. The above expressions are sterling examples of such vain use of the Lord’s name. We all need to remember that Jesus said, “But I say to you that for every idle word that men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). We would do well to call this verse to mind the next time we are tempted to speak the name of God or the name of Christ in a thoughtless, careless, and irreverent manner.
And then there are our euphemisms: “Gosh” and “Golly” for God, “Gee” and “Jeez” for Jesus, “darn” and “dang” for damn, and “heck” for hell. Call me old fashion, but early in life I was taught by my parents (later reinforced by Christian teachers) that such language was not appropriate for one who sought to honor the name of God and of His Son, Jesus Christ. (The preceding is not written from a self-righteous standpoint, but simply as a statement of fact.) And, yes, I knowpeople don’t think of it as being irreverent. But that is precisely the problem, people often don’t think, either about their words or their actions!
- March 31: Cullman Church of Christ, Cullman, AL (a.m.)
- April 4: Memphis School of Preaching Lectures, Memphis, TN
March 26, 2013