“You shall not take the name of the LORD Your God in vain.”
“In vain” means without purpose. It is okay to use God’s name for a good reason but not without a good reason. That would be a misuse of God’s holy name.
Another translation for this verse reads:
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” (Exodus 20:7 NIV)
God wants us to honor His name. He is holy and special. His name is holy and special.
It may surprise you that the word “God” is not a name. “God”, with a capital “G”, is the word for the Supreme Being. There are many false gods (lower case “g”) in the world. There are many beings that want to be supreme. They want to be king, to control others and to be adored and thought of as better than everyone else. They want to be God with a capital “G”! But there is only ONE TRUE CREATOR-GOD and His name is YHWH!
God revealed His name to the Prophet Moses as “YHWH” (or “YHVH”). “YHWH” means “I AM that I AM”. God has also revealed to us in the Bible some of His other names, Many of these names are based on His primary name YHWH. For example, He is “Yahweh-Shalom” which means “I AM Peace”.
The “name that is above every name” is YAHSHUA, or “YAH saves” which in English is “Jesus”. (Philippians 2:9)
Sadly, this “name which is above every other name” is probably the most misused name in the world!
MISUSING GOD’S NAME
God does not want us to swear by or with His name. That is a misuse of God’s name.
“But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath…” James 5:12
You may hear people yell “Jesus!” when they are angry. We misuse God’s name when we use it to express anger or frustration.
Television shows, movies, and even some books sometimes misuse the name of God. They misuse it because they do not respect God. This is, of course, a sin against God’s Third Commandment. It would be honoring to God to avoid shows that disrespect Him and His name.
You may hear other kids say the name of the LORD as a mere exclamation. Unfortunately, they may have copied this language from their parents or friends. That does not make it right. It is a misuse of God’s name to use it as an exclamation unless it is intended for Him. Better to say, “Wow!” or “Yikes!” or some creative adjective.
Interestingly, one seldom hears people misuse the names of false gods. You don’t normally hear people cursing buddha or Zeus! Perhaps this is because the devil only encourages disrespect of the ONE TRUE GOD! The devil is out to smear and misrepresent Jesus Christ! Don’t agree with the devil. Honor God and His name.
WHEN TO USE THE LORD’S NAME
Some people who love God won’t even use God’s name for fear of misusing it. But God does want us to say His name for good.
The LORD said to call upon Him. How can we call on Him, if we don’t use His name? We use His name to call for His help and guidance.
The LORD said to praise His name. We use His name in praise and worship.
Jesus said to pray in His name. We use His name in prayer and when we talk to Him.
God wants us to tell people about Him in which case we should speak His name. We use His name in teaching and preaching and witnessing.
And when we are joyous, it is wonderful to express thanks to God with a heartfelt “HalleluYAH!”