The Third Commandment

George Stiekes

Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain (Exodus 20:7).

The Hebrew word translated “in vain” can refer to something evil, useless, unreal or without substance. To use language that takes God’s name in vain is to mock God by indicating that He does not exist or at least has no place in our world. God has revealed Himself to us in His word through a number of descriptive names that also declare His nature and His care for us. He wants us to know Him (John 14:21).

We need to recognize here that the commandments were given to God’s people, not to the pagans that worshipped mythological gods in ancient times or to nonbelievers today. The instruction in the commandment is that we must never act as though God is irrelevant in our lives. As Christians, we know that God is real and that He is directly involved in our lives, even to the place that His Holy Spirit indwells every believer. We must never live as though He does not exist.

While the command is not actually dealing with swearing, it does indicate that we ought to reverence God’s Holy name. We should be careful not to profane or abuse His glorious name. Even more, when out in society and you hear pagans taking His name in vain and using it as a curse word, it ought to cause us to cringe and even be offended as a result of our love for God and the recognition of His Person. The psalmist rejoiced in the name of God (Psalm 20:5) and declared His name to others, something we ought to be doing as well (Psalm 22:22; Hebrews 2:12).

Let us be careful to Give unto the LORD the glory due unto His name (Psalm 29:2).

Further on God’s Name

And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty (El Shaddai), but by My name JEHOVAH was I not known to them. Exodus 6:3

Above, it was stated that the real sin of the Third Commandment was that of living as though God did not exist. How often have we been guilty of this sin? When people take His name in vain, without realizing it, they mock Him, considering Him to be useless, unreal and even without substance.

It was also stated that God has revealed Himself to us through His names. El Shaddai, for example, describes God as the Almighty loving provider of all His creatures. Romans 1:21 of those who take His name in vain – Because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. They are unthankful to the point of living as though God did not exist.

There are a host of other names and titles of God by which He has chosen to reveal Himself to us. Elohim, for the most part is simply translated God in our Bibles, but describes God as the Strong and Mighty One, One Who is to be feared and worshipped. Adonai is translated Lord, meaning Master. Elyon is translated, The Most High God, referring to the fact that He is the possessor of heaven and earth (Genesis 14:19). Jehovah is noted in our Bibles as LORD, with all the letters in capitals, signifying the eternal I AM. This is the covenant of God to His chosen people Who keeps all of His promises (Exodus 3:6, 13-15).

As I considered this, I began to think about how we address Him. Is there any one particular title by which we should approach God in prayer? The Israelites considered His name so holy that they were fearful to call Him Jehovah. When I pray, I find myself addressing Him, most of the time, as Loving Father. Jesus taught us to pray, Heavenly Father (Matthew 6:9). When Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, he prayed, Abba, Father (Mark 14:36). This was the way young Jewish children addressed their own fathers. It is word of intimacy, a word He probably used often when He prayed. Christ must have felt this relationship hindered when our sins were placed upon Him at Calvary (Mark 15:34). We should recognize that it is because of what Christ did for us on Calvary’s Cross that we also can call God, Abba Father (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6).

How do you address God when you pray? Look at the possibilities:

  1. Loving Father or Loving God
  2. Heavenly Father
  3. Almighty God or Mighty God.
  4. Sovereign Father
  5. Holy One or Holy God
  6. Creator God or God of all Creation, Blessed Creator
  7. Life-giving God or God of breath and life
  8. Gracious Father or Gracious God or even Gracious One,
  9. Faithful God or Faithful One
  10. Our Ever Present God, Present One, or Father
  11. Oh God Who remembers His promises
  12. Ever-knowing God
  13. All Powerful God
  14. Patient Father
  15. Merciful Father or God
  16. All-Knowing Father or God
  17. God of the Past, Present and Future
  18. Eternal God
  19. Beloved Father, One or God
  20. Supreme Authority over all creation
  21. Protector God
  22. Great and Wonderful God
  23. God of Hope
  24. God of righteousness
  25. Savior God or Redeemer God
  26. God of all history
  27. Living God
  28. God of miracles
  29. Caring and Understanding God
  30. God of all Blessings
  31. God of Majesty and Glory
  32. Three-in-One God
  33. Great Physician
  34. God of Justice
  35. Abba Father

The goal in relationship to the title you use is to reverence His name as He is described in His Word and at the same time make it personal. For example: When going through some great difficulty, it is reassuring to refer to Him with a name that reminds us that He is loving, caring and has the ability to assist us in what we are experiencing. For with God nothing shall be impossible (Luke 1:37).

He is our Creator and loves us perfectly as our great Parent, even demonstrating it in giving His own Son to die on Calvary’s cross to pay our sin debt that we might live with Him in glory forever. He has adopted us into His very family allowing us to call Him Abba Father, a name that reminds us that we can share with Him our deepest feelings, thoughts, joys, trials, and questions. We are His children by faith in Christ Jesus. Wow! Give that some thought today. When you use these titles, think seriously about their meaning and how each is related to your own life.

Well, this is already way too long, but hopefully, it will cause you to think about how you approach Him. Also, give some consideration as to how you might use His name in daily conversation. You want to be certain that you are not using His name in vain but in a way that will exalt and glorify Him.

George Stiekes held successful pastorates in churches in Michigan and Washington among other places. He currently resides in North Carolina and blogs at Reverent Reflections. We recommend his ministry and republish his material by permission.