************ Sermon on Heidelberg Catechism Q & A 99-100 ************

By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman

This sermon was preached on August 7, 2011

Q & A 99-100
Exodus 3:13-15; Leviticus 24:10-16,23
"The Third Commandment"

"You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name" (Ex 20:7). This is the third commandment.

We are not just talking about the name of God revealed to Moses in our Scripture reading from Exodus. We are talking about any and every name of God.

Now, this commandment does not seem very relevant in our circles. After all, most of us admit to breaking the first and second commandments but few of us consider ourselves guilty of ever breaking the third commandment. Furthermore, the third commandment raises no big social issue unlike the sixth commandment which raises the issue of abortion and the death penalty; or, unlike the seventh commandment which raises the issue of divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, and sexual abuse.

When we look at the Catechism's explanation of the third commandment we see that there is far more in mind than cursing, swearing, or profanity. The Catechism tells us the third commandment has both a negative and a positive dimension.

I Use God's Name With Reverence and Awe
A Negatively, according to the Catechism, we are to "neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders."

Let's take a closer look at the sins mentioned by the Catechism.

Cursing is an uncomplimentary way of using God's name. Usually, the word "damn" is said along with the name of God. At other times the name of Jesus is used as a swear word. Some people are continuously swearing and cursing; so much so that they no longer hear it, even from their own lips. Profanity is for emphasis only or because of a very limited vocabulary.

For the Christian, perjury is when a lie is said under an oath made in the name of God. Under oath you promise in the name of God to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. When you lie under oath you blaspheme and misuse the name of God.

An unnecessary oath is when you try to back up everything you say with an oath. It is not necessary to preface every remark with: "as God is my judge," or "I swear on a stack of Bibles." Jesus says let your yes be yes and your no be no (Mt 5:37). A Christian's word should be so trustworthy that it is not necessary for him to swear an oath except when demanded by the government or required by necessity (but more on this next week).

The Catechism also mentions that God's will for us in the third commandment is that we not "share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders." If someone blasphemes or misuses the name of God we sin if we remain silent about it. This, it seems, is an especially hard thing to do. If someone curses in our presence we are usually embarrassed into silence; we don't want confrontation; we don't want to start a fight. But, if your are at the store or sales-yard or gas station or office or restaurant and someone next to you starts to curse, you cannot remain silent. For if you remain silent you share in that horrible sin.
I remember with shame a time I was at the beach. Some teens laying out on the sand were cursing; they were blaspheming and misusing the name of God. I thought of saying something because it bothered my soul but I kept quiet; I did not want to create trouble. Someone else on the same beach spoke up. I was like Lot who was bothered by the lawless deeds he saw and heard in Sodom but did nothing about it (2 Pet 2:7-8).

Of course, it is not always possible to speak out immediately. Sometimes the time and place are inappropriate. For instance, it is no use telling a drunk to stop misusing God's name until he or she has sobered up. And, Jesus does warn us against throwing pearls to pigs (Mt 7:6).

B There is also a positive side to the third commandment according to the Catechism. We are told to "use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe, so that we may properly confess Him, pray to Him, and praise Him in everything we do and say." Remember what we pray about God's name in the Lord's Prayer? We pray, "Hallowed be Your Name." By using the holy name of God only with reverence and awe we are being the answer to our own prayer.

Notice, the third commandment means God's name is to be praised "in everything we do and say." We bear the name of God. We bear the name of Christ. We are called Christians. Everything we do and say reflects on God: what we do, where we go, how we spend our money, the schools our children and youth attend, the TV we watch, the magazines and books we read, the web-sites we surf, the stuff we post on Facebook it all reflects on God and Christ.

C The requirements of the third commandment are broken by foul-mouthed truck drivers who try to make their speech more emphatic by slipping God's and Christ's name into what they say. This commandment is broken by politicians who try to win votes by making reference to God in campaign speeches. This commandment is broken by radio and TV preachers who use God's name in order to make themselves rich. This commandment is broken by TV personalities and others who cannot talk without having an "Oh God!" slipped in somewhere. This commandment is broken by mandatory Bible reading and prayer in our public schools because we are forcing unbelievers to use God's holy name.

D I said earlier, that most of us admit to breaking the first and second commandments but few of us consider ourselves guilty of ever breaking the third commandment. Let's rethink that statement.

How many of us, for instance, haven't kept silent when we heard someone blaspheming or misusing the holy name of God?

We also break the third commandment every time we break an oath or promise made in God's holy name. Think of the promises we make before God:
-When we get married we promise before God and His people to love each other until death do us part; therefore, Christians whose marriage ends in divorce are breaking the third commandment.
-When we get our children baptized we promise before God to do all we can to instruct our children in the Christian faith and to lead them by our example to be Christ's disciples; how many of actually live up to this all the time?
-When we join the church we promise before God to do all we can to strengthen our love and commitment to Christ by sharing faithfully in the life of the church; therefore, Christians who neglect worship or involvement in the church are breaking the third commandment.
-When we install office bearers and when we make public profession of faith, we promise before God to submit to the government of the church; therefore, those members who refuse to submit to the elders are guilty of breaking the third commandment.
Do you see where I am going with this? Anytime we break a promise made before God and His people, we break the third commandment.

We are to use God's holy name only with reverence and awe. Therefore, we break the third commandment anytime we thoughtlessly mumble off a prayer. And, we break the third commandment anytime we read His Word and allow our minds to drift. And, we break the third commandment when we yawn our way through songs about God and His church. And, we break the third commandment when we approach devotions with a "let's get it over with" attitude.

As I already said, we bear the name of God and of Christ. Therefore, the name of God is blasphemed or misused if we don't live up to the name above all names.
Topic: Witness
Subtopic: Ineffective
Title: Fewer but Better

The story is told of a soldier by the name of Alexander who was ordered to appear before Alexander the Great because he showed great cowardice on the battle field. The king told the soldier either to change his name or to act differently because he was bringing dishonor on the name "Alexander."
Does Christ need to say the same to us? Does Christ need to say, "Either change your name or act differently because you are bringing shame on My Name?"

The third commandment is not an easy commandment to keep, is it? It is not easy to keep because it demands our life, our all.

II God is Angry When His Name is Misused
A When we looked at the second commandment, I said God is a jealous God. God is jealous of His worship. God is jealous of His image. God is also jealous of His name. God does not want anyone to misuse His name and becomes terribly angry if someone does.

Think, for a moment, about how sensitive you are of your name. If someone keeps forgetting your name, you feel slighted. If someone constantly miss-spells or miss-pronounces your name you eventually set them straight.
I remember the time I was serving a church in Blyth, Ontario. I was asked to speak at a youth convention. I felt very foolish when I was introduced as "Rev. Blyth from Dieleman" though the person introducing me probably felt even more foolish.
None of us appreciates it if someone messes around with or messes up our names.

God feels the same way about His name as we feel about ours. He becomes angry if His name is blasphemed or misused.

Have you ever paid careful attention to the final line of the third commandment? "The Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name" (Ex 20:7). This is the only one of the Ten Commandments which speaks of guilt.

Notice the language used by the Catechism. It calls cursing, perjury, and unnecessary oaths "horrible sins." And then it adds this: "No sin is greater, no sin makes God more angry than blaspheming His name. That is why He commanded the death penalty for it."

Our Bible reading from Leviticus tells us the sad, sad story of a young Jewish boy who became angry and cursed the name of God. The congregation had to lead him outside the camp and stone him to death.

You and I deserve the same punishment as the Jewish boy. The good news of the Gospel is that God does punish us in Christ. Christ took our place, our sin, our shame, our punishment.

B Why does God insist on this third commandment? What is so special about His name both the name He revealed to Moses as well as every other name by which we know Him?

For most of us, names are nothing but a convenient label, something by which we can get called, get mail, and so forth. They don't mean or reveal anything about ourselves.

In the Bible, names are symbolic and filled with meaning. For instance, Eli's daughter-in-law called her son "Ichabod" because the glory was departed from Israel when the ark of the covenant was captured by the Philistines. "Abraham" got his name because he is the father of many nations or peoples. The Son of God is called "Jesus" meaning Savior because He will save His people from their sins. Simon had his name changed to "Peter" for he is the rock on which Jesus will build the church.

God's name is the core of His revelation to us. In revealing His name to us, God is revealing Himself to us. God's name is how God will be remembered and known among men. Before Moses, God said His name is "I AM WHO I AM." This name means God is the source of being and existence. God is the absolute and unchangeable One. God is the ever-living One. God is the self-contained, incomprehensible One. "I AM WHO I AM."

Don't forget the setting of the Ten Commandments and the Catechism. We are dealing with the life of gratitude. We are talking about those who have been born-again by the blood and Spirit of Christ. We are talking about those who are saved from their sin and misery.

Those who are saved by the blood of the Lamb use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe. So, then, let us confess Him, pray to Him, and praise Him in everything we do and say.
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