************ Catechism Sermon on Lord's Day 36 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on June 24, 2018

Lord's Day 36
Leviticus 24:10-23
"The Third Commandment"

Sound doctrine is our theme as we look at the Catechism this time. Sound doctrine is reliable doctrine, trustworthy doctrine, believable doctrine. Sound doctrine is doctrine that is based upon the Bible and not upon what man's itching ears wants to hear.

Sound doctrine tells us Christians do good works. Not only do Christians do good works, but it is impossible for those grafted into Christ by true faith not to produce fruits of gratitude.

Now, don't make the mistake of limiting good works to helping little old ladies cross the street or helping a neighbor cut the lawn or visiting the elderly in a nursing home. The sound doctrine of the Catechism teaches that good works includes three things. First, good works includes repentance -- that is, a daily turning from sin to God. Second, good works includes obedience -- that is, a daily effort to obey God's Law. Third, good works includes conversation with God -- that is, the daily offering of prayer.

We've already looked at the good work of repentance. And, we've already looked at the good work of obedience to the first two commandments. Today, we look at what sound doctrine says about the good work of obedience to the third commandment: namely, "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God."

I Trouble in the Camp of Israel
A The book of Leviticus is all about laws concerning worship and holiness. Yet, for the second time in this book the revelation of God is interrupted by an ugly story.

The first time the narrative is interrupted by the sin of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron. They offered unauthorized fire so fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed them.

Aaron's sons had distinguished themselves in God's sanctuary. They had committed their whole lives to the service of God. And now, there they were laying dead in front of the Tabernacle.

What was Aaron's response? Scripture says, "Aaron remained silent." He had nothing to say. Aaron just lost his sons but he was speechless before the Lord because he knew. He knew how seriously God takes His name and His worship. He knew that God is holy and His name is holy and to enjoy God's presence His holiness needs to be observed.

After this sad story the narrative continues with additional teaching on worship and feast days and rules for the tabernacle and the holiness of God. And, again, the revelation of God is interrupted by a sad, tragic story -- the story in front of us of the sinfully defiant behavior of one member of the congregation. And, as in Leviticus 10, the matter is dealt with decisively to the glory of God and the good of His people.

I called both stories an "interruption." That is not really correct. It is better to call them an illustration. Leviticus is all about the fear and holiness of God and people who blaspheme God's name or worship Him in an unauthorized way have no fear of God in their hearts.

B There is much we can learn from our Bible reading. But the main point is that God's people are to guard the sacred name of God. Or, to put it another way, we need to grasp and understand and see and realize the evil of blasphemy.

Think about the first petition of the Lord's Prayer. We pray, "hallowed be your name." Let me emphasize that this is the first petition. The first petition. Telling us the priority God puts on His name. God's name is to be glorified. So the Christian's passion should be that God's name is honored in all that we do and all that we say.

I will admit that in some ways I lead a very sheltered life. The people I am in regular contact with -- whether it is people in the church, at Rotary, the cycling club -- do not use God's name as a swear word. Many of them don't go to church yet they know there is something special about the name of God. So, it is especially jarring when I hear God's name taken in vain -- by adults and children. It bothers me when I hear God's name taken in vain on a TV show. And, according to the Catechism, that is a good thing. I am not to be a silent bystander when God's name is being misused.

C Our Bible reading begins with the word "now." "Now" points us to the context. The sin that took place has a connection with what immediately precedes. The Lord has just emphasized holy days, holy feasts, holy furniture, holy supplies, holy living. And it turns out someone in the camp was not paying any attention. In fact, he ignored what was said by God.

In our Bible reading we are told that two men -- most commentators presume they were both young men -- were fighting. In the heat of the moment, one of the young men "blasphemed the Name with a curse" (Lev 24:11). This is treason against God. This is betrayal of the highest order.

We don't have a great deal of information concerning the young man who sinned. We aren't told his name. We are told his mother's name: Shelomith. I feel so bad for this mother. Imagine that for all of history you are known for only one thing: your son blasphemed the name of God. Shelomith -- people said her name and shook their heads.

Scripture does tell us that the young man was the son of an Israelite mother and Egyptian father. I have a number of questions. Why was an Israelite woman married to an Egyptian man? Where is the father; did he remain in Egypt? Why was she unequally yoked? The Lord tells us this fact because He wants to make a point about the danger of a mixed marriage. We are to realize this is what happens when one of the parents does not love the Lord! When a daughter of Israel marries an idolatrous Egyptian, the children will sooner learn from an Egyptian father to blaspheme than from an Israelite mother to pray and praise. So let me warn the young men and women in the congregation to date and marry only in the Lord. And, parents, this is your job too. None of you want to be the next Shelomith. Where people say your name and shake their heads because your son or your daughter or your grandchildren blaspheme the Name.

Anyways, in the heat of conflict the son of Shelomith exposed his true character and true beliefs. It is possible that up to this moment he had walked like an Israelite, talked like an Israelite, worshiped like an Israelite. He was there at Mt. Sinai when God gave His Law. He must have resisted the temptation to worship at the golden calf. It is possible that he and his mother participated in the special offering for the tabernacle; maybe they even labored in its construction. But now his true colors are exposed. And we see he is Egyptian through and through. What do you expect when your marriage is a mixed marriage?

II The Holiness of God's Name
A God's name is holy. God's name stands for His person and His character and His attributes and His deeds. God's name is the revelation of who God is. He reveals Himself in His name. God is His name.

That's not really the case with our names. For instance, at Synod last week I introduced myself to someone from Hamilton, Ontario. He checked my name tag and wanted to know if I was related to Adrian Dieleman of Brampton, Ontario; that Adrian is an uncle. Later I was talking to someone from the host consistory of Synod. He wanted to know if I was related to the Adrian Dieleman who lives in Chicago; that Adrian is a cousin. I believe I have at least one cousin in the Netherlands with the same name. My name can refer to me but it can also be used for a number of other people. God's name can refer only to God and to no other. He is the one only God.

A growing crime today is identity theft. We have learned the hard way not to give out our social security number and mother's maiden name. I have an aunt whose identity was stolen and it cost her thousands of dollars to clear up the mess. I'm afraid the devil also engages in identity theft -- we will see that tonight as we look at King Saul and the witch of Endor. The identity the Devil tries to steal is that of God's. And, many people fall for his lies.

So God is really protective of His name.

B Tonight, as part of our confession of faith, we are going to read the names of God and Christ throughout the Bible. This morning, let me mention the main names of God.

The first Hebrew name for God is "El" or "Elohim." It means mighty or almighty. Telling us what? Telling us God is the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth. Telling us God is the sustainer and upholder of the universe. Telling us God is worthy of our trust and praise and faith.

God is "YHWH," what the King James translates as Jehovah. This Hebrew name means "I AM." Telling us God is self-sufficient, independent, unchangeable, eternal, faithful, and loving.

God is "Adonai." This Greek word means "Lord." He is the One we serve. He is the Master. We are His servants.

God is "Father." This name reveals His care, His love, His compassion.

The greatest revelation of God's name is in Christ Jesus. Because God is Spirit, no one has ever seen God, but Jesus, Who is at the Father's side, has made Him known. To know Who God is, we must look to Christ. The apostle Paul writes that we are given "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Cor 4:6).

III The Profaning of God's Name
A Let's go back to the camp of Israel, to the son of poor Shelomith. Her son "blasphemed the Name with a curse" (Lev 24:11). A curse is an evil word. It means to speak evil of someone of something. How awful to speak evil of God. The very idea ought to make us shudder.

An older translation of the third commandment says we are not to take the name of the LORD our God in vain. Vain means empty, light, unsubstantial, unimportant. Don't treat God's name like it is vain, empty, light, unsubstantial, unimportant. God's name is God. There is nothing light or empty about His name.

B I rarely hear God's name taken in vain. I rarely hear God's name used as a curse word. But that does not mean the third commandment is never violated in my presence. And, it does not mean I always keep the third commandment.

In our circles, I suspect the most common way for us to break the third commandment is by the careless use of God's name. Can you say you always use the holy name of God with reverence and awe? Can you say that you always properly confess Him, pray to Him, and praise Him in everything you do and say? Do you let your mind wander and waver when we pray? Do you pay attention to the whole sermon? Or when the Ten Commandments are being read? One time I skipped one of the commandments and no one said anything. Ouch. That hurt my soul. Can you honestly say you pay attention during every Bible reading and devotion at home?

IV Punishment for Profaning God's Name
A Poor Shelomith. Her son blasphemed the Name. And the Israelites did not know what to do. She had to suffer as her son was put in custody and as she waited for the will of the Lord to be made clear.

Everyone knew God's name was not to be blasphemed. But no one knew the punishment. So the people needed to know from God what to do with the offender. They needed a word from God on the appropriate punishment.

We aren't told how long the people waited for the Lord to answer. We aren't told how the mind of the Lord was communicated. Perhaps they used the Urim and Thummim (cf Ex 28:30). We are told the Lord's answer to Moses. The offender was to be taken outside of the camp. Those who heard him blaspheme were to lay their hands on his head. And he was to be stoned to death.

No pun intended -- but isn't this overkill? However, we need to look at this sin the way God looks at this sin. Did you catch what the Catechism says? "No sin is greater, no sin make God more angry than blaspheming his name. That is why he commanded the death penalty for it."

I am sure you realize the secular world hates and despises the passage in front of us and uses it to discredit the Bible and the Christian religion as being barbaric. They think it ironic that verses 17-22 speak against murder and the sanctity of human life while verse 23 speaks about the stoning of the young man. Murder is not the main point of my sermon nor is it the main point of our Bible reading. However, as an aside, let me say this: under the inspiration of the Spirit, Moses is telling us there is a difference between legal execution and murder.

B Why the laying on of hands? Blasphemy is such an evil sin that those who merely hear it are contaminated. The sin is so horrible that even witnesses deserve death. They therefore need to identify with this sinner. They need to transfer their contamination back upon the sinner.

C Finally, note the corporate responsibility. All the congregation must stone him. Telling us everyone in the covenant community is expected to support the mind of God. The blasphemy of God's name is not to be tolerated anywhere in the covenant community. It defiles God's name. It defiles the community. It defiles the church. So the guilty party was taken out of the camp. Why? To show he was literally cut off from the congregation.

Does this frighten you? This story? This third commandment? I hope so. I hope it frightens you to flee to Jesus Christ. All the commandments must do that. We must see our failings when we look at the Law and we must go directly to Jesus.

Flee to Jesus, congregation. Because, remember, He was accused of blasphemy though He was innocent of all sin. They laid their hands on Him and sent Him to die outside of the congregation. He hallowed the name of God like no other. And because of this He can save us from our sin.
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