Edgar Lungu says “the word of God is our anchor in decision-making and many other undertakings”.
How can all these injustices and crimes of his regime be said to be anchored in the word of God?
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. We must not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord our God is the fourth of God’s Ten Commandments to us.
It is a prohibition of blasphemy, specifically, the misuse or taking in vain of the name of the God or using His name to commit evil. Exodus 20:7 reads: “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”
Based on this commandment, Second Temple Judaism by the Hellenistic period developed a taboo of pronouncing the name of God at all, resulting in the replacement of the Tetragrammaton by “Adonai” (literally “my lords”) in pronunciation.
In the Hebrew Bible itself, the commandment is directed against abuse of the name of God, not against any use; there are numerous examples in the Hebrew Bible and a few in the New Testament where God’s name is called upon in oaths to tell the truth or to support the truth of the statement being sworn to, and the books of Daniel and Revelation include instances where an angel sent by God invokes the name of God to support the truth of apocalyptic revelations.] God himself is presented as swearing by his own name (“As surely as I live …”) to guarantee the certainty of various events foretold through the prophets.
A lot of people when they hear this commandment think it only has to do with using God’s name as a swear word. That is part of it, as we will see, but there is so much more to it than that. But before we can even get into the commandment itself, we must first understand the importance of a name, and particularly, the importance of God’s name.
What’s in a name?
So what’s in a name? Why is God’s name so important that God includes this commandment as part of the Ten Commandments? We must understand that a name is more than just a label. A name signifies one’s character, reputation and authority.
First of all, a name signifies one’s character. When we think of God’s character we think of how God has revealed himself to us: through his word, through his titles in Scripture, through his attributes, his law, his works and his deeds. All of this is wrapped up in Gods’ name. In John 17 Jesus prayed to the Father about his disciples. He said, “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. . . I have made you known to them.” (John 17:6,26) In both of those verses what Jesus literally says is this: “I have revealed your name to them. I have made known your name.” God’s name signifies God’s character.
Secondly, a name signifies one’s reputation. In Biblical times people chose names for their children very carefully. They considered the meaning before they gave it. We also see the significance of reputation when we think about the importance of the family name. When one family member does something dishonorable, it brings disgrace on the whole family. Why? Because they share a name, and names signify reputation.
And then a name also signifies one’s authority. It is significant that we did not name God, but God revealed his name to man. When man gave names to the animals, it was a sign of man’s authority over the animal kingdom. Man gives names to false gods and in the process shapes that god’s character, reputation and authority (e.g. Greek gods). But God revealed his own name to man, because God has absolute authority, and that authority is signified by his name.
Think about a messenger for a king. The messenger has no authority on his own, but when he comes in the king’s name, the people better listen. That’s why when David came against Goliath in battle, he said to him, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied” (1 Samuel 17:45). David recognised the authority behind God’s name.
The two most important names of God are “Jesus” and “Lord.” The name “Lord,” is the Hebrew name, “Yahweh.” This is the name by which God revealed himself to Moses at the burning bush. It is a name that literally means, “I am who I am.” It speaks of God’s self-existence, eternity, and sovereignty. (Exodus 3:13-14) Yahweh, Lord, is the name specifically mentioned here in the third commandment. The name Jesus means “salvation.” Acts 4:12 says, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The apostle Paul combined both names when he wrote that “God gave [Jesus] the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11). God’s name is important because it signifies his character, his reputation and his authority. And that is why God commands us to use his name properly.
What does it mean to misuse God’s name? You’re probably more used to hearing this commandment phrased as “taking the Lord’s name in vain.” That’s the way the more literal versions translate it. The word translated “take” means to carry or bear something. The word translated “vain” means emptiness or worthlessness. So to take God’s name in vain means to empty his name of content or to make it irrelevant. Taking God’s name in vain would mean any empty, frivolous or insincere use of God’s name through blasphemy, irreverence, cursing and profanity.
We can also misuse God’s name with our actions through hypocrisy, ungodly lifestyle, using God’s name for our own ends, praying for our own benefit, praying but not believing.
So, we can misuse God’s name with our words, with our actions, and then the third way is with our oaths or with our vows. Now there is a place for oaths and vows in the believer’s life. Jeremiah 4:2 says this, “If in a truthful, just and righteous way you swear, ‘As surely as the LORD lives,’ then the nations will be blessed by him and in him they will glory.” So there is a place for oaths, but we must be truthful, just and righteous in what we vow.
What are the consequences of misusing God’s name? Simply put: God’s judgment. Back to Exodus 20:7: “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
God will judge those who take his name in vain.