Honoring God’s Name

Welcome to the fourth week and the third command in our study of the Ten Commandments. Have you ever quietly discarded a name tag without wearing it when someone spelled your name incorrectly? If you have a unique spelling of your name, you’ve probably at least considered doing this. We want to be known by the correct name — and have it spelled correctly! Our names are part of our identities, so naturally they become a topic of conversation. This week we’re going to discuss names, specifically how we honor the name and character of the Lord.

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Exodus 20:1-17
Ten Words to Live By Chapter 3 (audio download available through Crossway)
And God spoke all these words, saying,

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

“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 the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

“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.

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
“You shall not murder.

“You shall not commit adultery.

“You shall not steal.

“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

“You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.”


What is the story behind your name?

How has your name been discussed with others?

In the decade that my husband and I reviewed baby names, we often eliminated perfectly good names because we had once had a negative encounter with someone with that name. So often names become associated for better or worse with character traits. We ended up choosing most of our children’s first and middle names in honor of godly role models or the biblical meanings of their names.

Think about someone you greatly admire. Does his or her name bring to mind godly character traits that you wish to exemplify?

As Jen Wilkin in her book Ten Words to Live By says, “Any time we hear ‘the name of the Lord’ in a verse or passage, we can substitute ‘the character of the Lord’ in its place. God’s name represents the sum total of his character.”

In Exodus 20:7, God gave His people the third command in this timeless collection given to guide a people out of slavery and into freedom. He declared:

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.

The word vain, which is used twice in this command, means “a great emptiness” and is often equated with lying. When we fling around God’s name in careless ways, we are essentially lying about the character of our God. Wilkin suggests we do this not only in swearing but in four other ways — inconsistency, misattribution, lip service, and informality.

How might you summarize these four ways for someone who isn’t in this study?

Which one of these habits of speech do you struggle with the most?

In this week’s chapter from TWTLB, we’re introduced to a repeated theme — expansive obedience — that calls us to not just avoid sin but to live in a way that God’s character is magnified through us.

How can we speak the name of the Lord and accurately represent His character?

Praying from Scripture

One way that we learn to pray is to use the words of Scripture as prayers. Provided below are some Scriptures that we can pray this week to remind us we are God’s image bearers and we need Him to help us reflect His image well. A few of these verses have been personalized for prayer.

  • Lord, may I be blameless and innocent in this world accurately representing as Your child and image bearer. May I be without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation. May I shine as a light in the world. I long to hold fast to Your words of life, to these commandments, that my life will not be characterized by vain words or actions. Philippians 2:15
  • Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. Oh that You would slay the wicked (the sin in me), O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against You with malicious intent; Your enemies take Your name in vain. Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139:4, 19-21, 23-24
  • Let my prayer be counted as incense before You, and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice! Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies! Psalm 141:2-4
  • Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14
  • Let no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking come from my mouth. Instead, Lord, may thanksgiving be always on my lips. Ephesians 5:4
  • May I be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger. James 1:19b
  • A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise one quietly holds it back. Lord, I want to hold back. It’s so hard at times, but through the power of Your Spirit, grant that I may learn to do so. Proverbs 29:11
  • Every one of Your words, God, proves true. You are a shield to those who take refuge in You. May I not add to Your words. I want to be truthful. Remove from my life falsehood and lying. Proverbs 30:5-6, 8

MEmorizing Exodus 20:7

— jls