Hush Your Mouth
We had a wonderful birthday for Mary Beth last Sunday; we went up to Wesleyan to have birthday with Miriam. Everything was going fine after a nice meal together with Miriam and Devin – we picked up our favorite donuts at the Donut Shop; they are great donuts. I filled the car up with gas at Sheetz and the message came up to get a receipt I had to go inside. No problem I was going to go in and get a Pepsi. I stood in line for about 3-5 minutes and explained to the lady that I needed a receipt – she wanted to know what pump – gee I hadn’t looked at the pump number apologized to her and told I had already move the car.
The guy behind me – about 25 with a woman standing next to him said rather emphatically that I was “gd” stupid for not remembering the pump number and that I need to get the _______ out of the road. Now most of the time I wouldn’t respond to a person that called me stupid because in some ways it was rather dumb of me to not look at the pump number – believe me I won’t do that again. (I was at pump 6 at the Go-Mart in Elkview). But using “gd” is not a good idea around me. So I turned around and asked him “What did you say to me?” He repeated himself – now the young lady was trying to shut him up which would have been nice. He also told me to get the “gd” out of the road. Normally I come back with something like “I personally know Him and God doesn’t appreciate you using His name that way.” Instead I said in a loud enough voice all 6 or 7 people in line could hear me tell him that he was rude and that he needed to grow up.
After the fact I wonder what I would have done if he was waiting for me outside, gee I was old enough to be his grandfather. Now listen to the 3rd command given by God Himself in various versions and paraphrases:
NIV – “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”
KJV – “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.”
MSG – “No using the name of God, your God, in curses or silly banter; God won’t put up with the irreverent use of his name.”
AMP – “You shall not use or repeat the name of the Lord your God in vain [that is, lightly or frivolously, in false affirmations or profanely]; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”
My approach today is simple. We’ll start with interpretation and then we’ll move to application. We’ll look at what this command means and we’ll end with what it means to us.
I. Let’s use the New American Standard as our base line because of how literal the translation is. Let’s walk through God’s Word phrase-by-phrase from Exodus 20:7: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”
A. “You shall not take” – Like the first two commands, this one also begins with a very strong negative command: “Absolutely do not do what follows…”
1. The word “take” means, “to lift, to carry, to take up, bear and to raise.”
B. To raise “The name of the Lord your God” – In the Bible, a name was not only identification but an actual identity. It represented one’s entire reputation.
1. We could say that a name stood for the nature of someone. To know someone’s name is the first step in beginning a relationship with him or her. That’s why Jacob wrestled until he knew his opponent’s name (Genesis 32:29).
2. Look back at verse 2 where we see God declaring who He is: “I am the Lord your God” and in verse 5: “…For I, the Lord your God…”
3. The first name in verse 7 is Yahweh and means “I am who I am.” Yahweh is translated as LORD (with capital letters in your Bible), it’s used over 6,500 times in the Scriptures.
4. God introduced himself by this name to Moses in Exodus 3:14-15.
C. The second name is Elohim, which refers to the “One Supreme and Faithful God.”
D. God invites us to call Him by name and we can find safety in the shelter of His name as stated in Proverbs 18:10 (NIV) The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.
1. There are at least 300 different names for God. Here are some that come to mind:
a. Jehovah - Lord,
b. Adonai - Master,
c. Elohim – Supreme & Faithful,
d. El Shaddai – the Almighty,
c. Jehovah-Rapha – The Lord Heals;
d. Jehovah-Shalom – the Lord will send peace
e. Jehovah-Jireh – the Lord will provide.
2. Ancient scribes so feared misusing God’s name that when they came to “Yahweh” they would take a bath and use a new pen before writing the word, leaving out the vowels.
3. The word Jehovah which means LORD could only be uttered by the high priest only on one day of the year, the Day of Atonement. Orthodox Jews today don’t write out the name God.
4. This shows the reverence for God that is due His name, but we are invited throughout the Bible to call Him by name. God does not forbid the use of His name but He does prohibit its misuse.
E. “In vain” – The word “vain” means “empty and useless, nothingness, wasted, with a worthless purpose.” We take God’s name in vain when we use it in a casual and careless way. In many ways we are casually saying, “Your name is worth nothing in my estimation.” Or to give a more literal translation, “You shall not lift up the name of the Lord your God for nothingness.”
F. “For the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” This phrase refers to “being made clean” or “to lay bare.” There is a threat attached to the third command because God wants us to know how serious He is about His name. Here are a few examples:
1. My mind goes to the story of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6. When King David told the men to bring the Ark of God, which incidentally “is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty” back to Jerusalem, they carelessly put it on a cart, which was a clear violation. The Levites were to carry the Ark using two poles that went through rings on the sides. When the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out to steady it and was immediately struck dead. We see this in verse 7: “The Lord’s anger burned against Uzzah because of his irreverent act; therefore God struck him down and he died there beside the ark of God.”
2. Taking the Lord’s name lightly could result in severe and swift divine retribution. For a New Testament example consider what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5.
3. When Jesus taught His followers to pray the first thing he said was, “Hallowed by your name.” God will not allow His name to be misused even though some seem to get away with it…for now.
II. Now let us to consider how this commandment affects our lives and our mouths. It’s common to think that this command just has to do with cursing or cussing, which it does. But the misuse of His Name goes beyond what we say – it speaks to our whole lives. Let’s look first at our lives.
A. Check this out. God’s name can be taken in vain even when His name is not mentioned. Hypocrisy breaks the third commandment and gives God’s name a bad reputation. I profane the name of the Lord when my life does not match the majesty of the Lord. Jesus had some pretty harsh words for hypocrites because while they claimed God’s name, their lives did not match up.
1. Mark 7:6 (NIV) He replied, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.
2. One of my dad’s favorite stories was about a soldier in the army of Alexander the Great who deserted his post in battle. When Alexander asked his name, the soldier stuttered in fear: “Alexander, my Lord.” To which Alexander the Great said: “You have three choices: Fight, get out of the army, or change your name.”
3. I sometimes wonder if God is thinking something like this: “How dare you use my name on a life like yours?”
B. Claiming to be a Christian and not living like one is a dangerous deal. Check out Titus 1:16: “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Here are some ways that we’re prone to be pretenders:
1. When we live in conflict with another Christian and refuse to follow Biblical peacemaking to resolve it.
2. When we have a cold spirit or a hard heart toward God.
3. When we don’t give God our time, talents and treasures.
4. When we allow a root of bitterness toward God and others.
5. When we break our marriage vows.
C. Taking up the name Christian is a big deal because it means “little Christ.” When we are called Christian it means that we are called by Christ’s name to follow Him and we now represent Him to a watching world. We are the keepers of God’s reputation in this community, in this county, in this country, and on the continents.
D. In those that call themselves Christian - God’s name is trademarked property. We could say that He has licensed the use of His name to anyone who will use it reverently.
1. I like how one author puts it: “God retains legal control over His name and threatens serious penalties against the unauthorized misuse of this extremely valuable property.”
2. One of the most chilling verses in this regard is found in Romans 2:24: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” May that not ever be said of you or me.
And so let’s watch our lives so that we don’t take God’s name in vain. We also need to watch our lips.
III. Now let’s look at our words – we need to watch what we say and how we say it - PROFANITY. But never ignore the life we live.
Profanity can be understood as taking lightly that which ought to be taken seriously. To profane is to “treat something sacred with neglect or disrespect.” “You shall not use the name of the Lord without meaning something by it.” Here are a few ways our words offend God:
1. Outright Blasphemy: Merriam-Webster offers this definition: “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.” The guy that used God’s name in the inappropriate way toward me was basically telling God to send me to hell. His comment was both blasphemous and cursing.
2. Common Cursing: When we tell someone to “go to hell,” or “damn you” we’re sending them to a place that they’ll never get out of. Why would we ever want to call down divine damnation on anyone? Isn’t it our job to share the good news of Jesus Christ so that they won’t be damned?
3. Careless Conversation: How often do you use God’s name in a conversation that really doesn’t need His name. Like: “Oh God!” or “God that was really great!” Some of us aren’t technically swearing or cussing but we don’t think anything of adding God’s name to our conversations.
4. Singing Songs: It’s very easy when we sing to just mouth the words and not realize that we may have just declared our willingness to do whatever God wants. One commentator said, “It has been well said that Christians do not tell lies, they just sing them in their songs.” Be careful about sinning when you’re singing.
5. Gossip about other Christians: When we pass along gossip about another Christ-follower or listen to someone else who is dragging a believer’s name through the mud, we’re party to denigrating God’s name. Someone has said, “A gossip is just a fool with a keen sense of rumor.” Remember this rule about gossip: “The more interesting it is, the more likely it is to be false.” When you hear gossip, stand up for the other person’s name by saying something like, “Oh, I like Ray. He’s a good guy. Kay is a super woman. I can’t imagine she would do that.”
6. Sneeze Blessings: Don’t get me wrong, I like it when someone asks God to bless me when I sneeze, but I wonder if we’re really serious about seeking God’s blessings on sneezers. I guess if we really mean it, it’s a good thing.
7. Avoid Irreverent Titles for God: God is not the “Man Upstairs” or “Big Daddy in Heaven” or the “Big Guy” and He’s much more than “Someone who must be watching over us.”
8. Shortcuts and Abbreviations: OMG is a shortened way to take God’s name in vain. With texting, Twitter and Facebook, we must avoid these abbreviations that belittle God.
9. Substitute Swearing: While many Christians don’t use God’s name in vain outright, some of us have simply substituted words like “gosh” and “golly,” “what the heck” or “jeez.” These are really polite ways to be profane. According to the dictionary, these kinds of words are euphemisms or even “nicknames” for God.
10. Jettison Christian Clichés: Some of us love to say, “Praise the Lord” but do we really mean it. Or how about “I’m praying for you” – are we? I had a person who asked me if I was seriously going to spend time in prayer for him. So I take the time to pray for that person immediately.
IV. Action Steps
A. Every now and then someone is caught saying something when they didn’t know a microphone was on. It’s happened to presidents and politicians. Would you be embarrassed to hear a recording of every word you have spoken this week? I am not really good at reading lips but I can tell you that when I can read a coach’s lips and it is not repeatable in here – they need to hush their mouths.
B. Jesus said this in Matthew 12:37: “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”
C. Here are some action steps that we can put into practice.
Watch what you watch and listen to. Change the channel when you hear cussing or cursing – we copy what we hear.
Reserve words like “awesome” and “glorious” and “amazing” for God alone. Let’s take back these weighty words by refusing to use them for ice cream or a sporting event or a concert.
Stop complaining. While many Christians don’t cuss or curse, we sure do complain, don’t we? To read more about the seriousness of this, see Numbers 14.
Start praising. The best way to stop profaning is to start praising. Do a study on the names of God as found in the Book of Psalms. Fill up God’s name with meaning and you’ll be less prone to be profane. Get lost in the magnitude of His majesty and you may find yourself worshipping God’s name instead of treated it as worthless. When we see Him as weighty we won’t want to take Him lightly ever again. 1 Chronicles 16:28: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.”
D. Because we live in a society that is permeated with profanity, I thought it would be helpful to give some suggestions on how to respond to someone who takes the Lord’s name in vain.
1. Don’t be surprised when sinners sin.
2. Watch your words and attitude. Be gentle. Don’t be self-righteous or spiritually smug: Colossians 4:5-6: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
3. Try using some clever comebacks to spark conversation:
a. “I didn’t know you were so religious. I heard God’s name and Jesus’ name and you even talked about hell.”
b. Or, “Do you really want God to answer your prayer? Are you serious about wanting Him to send that person to the fires of hell?”
c. Or, “Hey I know Him on a personal basis and He doesn’t like what you just said.”
4. Point people to Jesus Christ. Bad language shows how far away someone is from God but it also proves the existence of God, otherwise they wouldn’t use His name so much.
E. One of the hardest things I had to do after committing my life to Christ was committing my mouth to Him. I am still working on it from a positive side – using words of edification and gentleness
The name of Jesus is a big deal:
Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
Romans 10:13: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Philippians 2:9-11: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him 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.”
When all else fails hush your mouth.
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.