This is the most unique word in all of scripture, indeed, in all of language, and God has confided to us as this gift to those of us who believe in him.
What’s in a name? In this case, everything. God’s name is holy. This name, the most unique word in all of scripture, indeed, in all of language, God has confided to us as a gift to those of us who believe in him. In doing so he has revealed himself to us in the most intimately personal way imaginable. This gift of his name is, then, to be respected, honored, and spoken only with the deepest reverence.
The Second Commandment tells us that, because this name is holy, it is never to be misused. It must be kept in our minds with awe and adoration. We must not use it in our speech except to bless, to praise and to glorify the name. We must foster within ourselves a sense of reverence for the name of God, the name of Jesus. Yet how often, in a pique of anger or frustration, have we spoken the name of God, the name of Jesus in vain? As we see in the Commandment, “the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” Thank God for his mercy. For he can even forgive this breaking of the intimate trust between us.
We do not give another person our name frivolously. Our name is personal. It is our unique name. We give it to others only out of trust, or affection. We expect it to be honored and respected. When the one we have given our name to dishonors it, or abuses it, we feel a hurt like no other. God has given us his name. This is a sacred sharing between us. Every name is sacred. Each of our names demands respect as a sign of our dignity. If this is so for us, how much more so is it for God’s name. His name is owed a respect far beyond our own.
To misuse God’s name in any way is a serious, mortally dangerous sin. We can do this by making false promises in his name. To make a promise using God’s name, without the intention of honoring that promise, or with the intention of misleading another for our own purposes, is to make God out to be a liar. To swear an oath in his name is to take him as a witness to what one is affirming. Since God is Truth itself, it is our duty to reject a false oath. When an oath is true and legitimate it highlights the connection between human speech and God’s truth. A false oath, on the other hand, calls on God to be a witness to a lie. This must never be done, for it is a great sin. When we are baptized, it is in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. His name sanctifies us. It is his name that calls us to our natural holiness. It is in that name that we, and all things were created. It is in his name that we were saved, freed from the slavery of sin and death. To misuse God’s name is to dishonor his holiness and his love for us. To do so diminishes us, not God.
Lord, help us to discipline our tongues so that we may never again use your name in vain. Increase within us a love and a respect for your name that is so profound that we only use it in blessing, in praise, and to glorify you before all others. Help us to bear witness to your holy name fearlessly, and let others be drawn to honor your name with due awe and respect through our words and deeds. We pray these things in the Holy name of Jesus. Amen!
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