Re-Examining the Third Commandment

Have you ever wondered why the Third Commandment has such a penalty enacted by God?  Doesn’t it seem a little extreme?  Let’s examine Exodus 20:7:

“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.”

Think about that.  You swear just like millions of others, and the Name of God or Jesus slips your lips.  You’ve uttered an expletive deleted, or maybe not deleted these days in which few words other than one that starts with ‘n’ are disallowed.

So, you and a zillion other people are held by God in contempt.  You’re guilty.  Period.  Just for having said a word—a Name—that hardly anyone cares about with any reverence.

Does that really make sense in and of itself?  I would argue that’s not the case.  I think we have to look deeper than that.  In fact, the giving of this commandment goes all the way back to Genesis 11:1-2,4:

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there…Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

Once again, we find ourselves back in the Ancient Near East, this time at the Tower of Babel incident.  God had directed Noah and his descendants after the flood to go out to all the earth, subdue it, and multiply; just like He had originally commanded Adam and Eve.

But, what do these stubborn humans do?  They tell God to stick it.  They have free will and have got different plans.  In the zeitgeist of the day, they choose to remain together.  There’s power in numbers.  “Hey,” Nimrod says, “let’s build a ziggurat, a tower, by which we can approach God, and perhaps He’ll come down to us and do what we want.”  And that’s what they do.  Because, what is their grand purpose?  “Let us make a name for ourselves.”

In making that name, where does that leave God?  Playing second fiddle.  Nimrod and his crew wanted to elevate themselves above God.  Even though the Commandments hadn’t yet been given, they were already trespassing the First and Second.  God wasn’t supreme; man was in their eyes.  In fact, the idea of man above anything else had already become an idol for these people.

The Hebrew word for “takes” or “takes up” in the Third Commandment is nasa.  It means to bear or to magnify or exalt oneself.  In other words, the Third Commandment could read a little differently, such as:

“You shall not bear the name of the Lord your God or exalt yourself with His Name, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in this manner.”

What God was telling His people, then and now, is that we are not God.  We have no right to think in any way that we can take His place.  If we lift up ourselves to His level, we’re committing a heinous offense.  God wants all to know that He alone is God and no one who presumes upon His sovereignty will escape unpunished.  In fact, what did God do to Nimrod’s people for this offense?  He scattered them.  In so doing, He placed His divine sons over them so He wouldn’t have to deal with them directly (Deuteronomy 32:8).  All mankind other than Israel at that point (Deuteronomy 32:9) was in outer darkness with no more direct contact with their Creator.  God effectively divorced all nations other than Israel until He was ready to bring them back to Him.

Let’s briefly think about how this Babel incident and taking up God’s Name plays out today.  What is the objective of Eastern religions—of New Age thought?  All is one.  Everything is composed of the same spiritual matter.  We are all God because our essence is that of all things in the universe.  There is no separation between a transcendent God and man.  Through a little work, and several million incarnations, we, too, can achieve or ascend to that position of God and actually realize it like Jesus, the supreme ascended master.

Those who follow this hollow occult philosophy have taken up the Name of God, bearing it and magnifying themselves above the One true God.

Should we avoid using God’s Name as a curse?  Of course, because it’s dishonoring to Him.  But the deeper implications of this Commandment reflect the world as it is today.  Jesus is indeed a cuss word and self is exalted.  God warned Ancient Israel against this heresy, and He warns us today.  Let us not magnify ourselves over Him.  He will not hold us blameless.

Instead, may our heart position be one of lifting up the Name of God through His Son Jesus Christ, for He alone is worthy.

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