Water from the Well: October 11, 1995

The Second Commandment: You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God.

One day in confirmation class we discussed the fact that some of the people of the Bible have very strange names. "Strange" is a matter of opinion. The names in the Bible didn't sound strange to the people who owned those names. Even though today we don't know many people named Obadiah, Nahum, or Zephaniah, those names held meaning for those who spoke the Hebrew language. Obadiah means "servant of the LORD"; Nahum means "comfort" and Zephaniah means "the LORD hides." In the days of the Bible, people often gave their children meaningful names just as we often do today.

In the Bible God tells us about his own name. He calls himself "God Almighty" (Genesis 17:1) and "the LORD" (Isaiah 42:8). God Almighty tells us, "Walk before me and be blameless" (Genesis 17:1). As the almighty creator of the entire universe and of us, God tells us to be blameless--always obey him perfectly. Yet as human beings none of us can live up to that standard of perfect obedience. Each one of us has a sinful nature which tempts us to disobey God and to go our own way--we walk away from God and toward an eternity of punishment.

God shows us in the Bible that he is a loving, merciful God who doesn't want sinners to spend eternity in hell. Instead he "wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). He reveals that love and mercy to us in his name "LORD". "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." God saves us from our sins through Jesus, "who gave himself as a ransom for all men" (I Timothy 2:6). Jesus gave up his own perfect life as a ransom for our sinful lives. He suffered our punishment in our place so we could have forgiveness. Because Jesus suffered and died for us, God promises us life forever in heaven.

When we talk about God and use his name, we remember his love and mercy. When we talk about God, we talk about the almighty, holy creator who forgives our sins through Jesus. God doesn't want us to misuse his name. He tells us, "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God" (Exodus 20:7).

Martin Luther explains some of the ways human beings misuse God's name: "We should fear and love God that we do not use his name to curse, swear, lie or deceive, or use it superstitiously." It is inappropriate for us to use the name of our loving, merciful God to express our hatred for others. God doesn't want us to tell lies and then attempt to give them the look of truth by swearing "so help me God." We misuse God's name when we teach or tell others anything which contradicts the Bible.

God wants all people, especially Christians, to use his name properly. Martin Luther gives us some examples: "call upon God's name in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks." God has already rescued us from our greatest trouble--our sinfulness. By making us his children, God lets us know that we can call on his name--in other words, call on him--in every trouble we may have, earthly or spiritual. We use God's name properly when we pray to him and when we praise him and give thanks to him for the amazing grace he has shown us through his son Jesus.

What does God's name mean to you? To many, God's name is simply another word to use when cursing. Make God's name more important than that in your own life. Consider how you use God's name in your own life and make every effort to use God's name reverently. Use God's name in praise and worship, thank him for his great mercy, and to tell others about his saving love.