A Holy God and a Holy People

Good Afternoon Church,

Of all the Ten Commandments, the third is probably the one which is most neglected. Exodus 20:7 tells us, “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.” We might have been told that this means we shouldn’t use the Lord’s name as a four letter word (or any other four letter word, for that matter!), and we leave it at that. Now, don’t get me wrong-that IS wrong and a violation of the commandment. But it is also a bit more expansive than that.

The third commandment is about setting aside the LORD and his name. So, not only should we be careful to refer to God in a reverential way, we also should not think or say anything untrue about God (i.e. false). In other words, we shouldn’t talk about God as if he were someone who told lies, or acts unjustly, or was limited like we are. We should think and speak correctly about him. In essence, we should preserve, in thought and speech, God’s Godness. There is a Lord and he is he and not we! We should speak about, think of, and praise him in a way that is fitting to who he is.

But, it also means that those things which are the Lord’s also ought to be set aside as Holy. This is why all the ritual laws exist in Leviticus (see, for example, Lev 19:7-8). This is also why Leviticus tells us in Lev 19:2, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” And, of course, here is the rub; because we identify ourselves as God’s People, every time we sin or reflect poorly on the Lord, we are implying that is who and how he is. In essence, our failure to live in a way that befits the name of God is itself a violation of the third commandment. Now, maybe we have hope that this will get better in the New Testament, but Jesus sinks that ship dead in the water. He says in the Sermon on the Mount, “You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). If anything, this is a harder burden!

What hope is there for such a people who profanes the name of God nearly constantly then?

I think the only hope there can be is in Christ. 1 Cor 1:2 tells us that the Church are “those sanctified in Christ Jesus.” He is our wisdom, righteousness, redemption, and sanctification (1 Cor 1:30). He is our only hope for holiness. In him, the profaner can be purified. Hebrews 10:29 tells us that the blood of Christ sanctifies us.

So Christians, let us think and speak of God in a way that is fitting to him. Let us live in a way that is fitting to his holiness. And let us rest in the knowledge that every sin has been washed away by the precious blood of our Lord.

In His Holy Name,

Pastor Matt


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