25 October 2007

"Blessed Be"--the name of the LORD (part 1)

Today we begin a brand new series, entitled “Blessed be…” I was going to call it “Blessed is the Man…” but these blessings are for women as well, so. We use that word so often. “Bless”, or “blessed.” We hear people say they're too blessed to be stressed. We may tell someone, “May God bless you and keep you.” Or, when somebody sneezes, what do we say? Even though many people don’t know why. The story I always heard was that when you sneeze, your heart stops and saying “God bless you” gets it going again.

Well, what does that word “bless” really mean? It can mean several things.
  • To pronounce a wish of happiness—“May God bless you and keep you.”
  • To make happy; to make successful—“This country is blessed with abundance.”
  • To praise; to glorify, for benefits received—Psalm 103:2Bless the LORD oh my soul, and forget not all of His benefits!
  • To praise; to magnify—Psalm 104:35Bless thou the LORD, oh my soul! Praise ye the LORD!
Just from a quick glance through Scripture, I have found at least 50 times where the Bible says, “Blessed be…” And today we’re going to start where all blessings should begin. With God. You know, you could start out trying to make a list of all the reasons we should bless the LORD. And that would be a wonderful thing to do. And we could fill up page upon page, and book upon book, and volume upon volume—and we would not even begin to scratch the surface. Consider this—the last thing that the apostle John wrote in his gospel, in John 21:25, that Jesus did so many wonderful things, that if you tried to write them all down, …even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. And these were things that Jesus did in the 33 or so years He walked the Earth. And this Earth has been around for about 6,000-10,000 years.

What is the most important thing we possess? Apart from salvation, that is. What is the one thing we possess that is more important than almost anything else? Our name. Our name is more than just a word we use to identify ourselves. Your name is more than just the word… Your name opens up a whole encyclopedia of who you are. If I were to mention the name Charles Manson, you would immediately get this picture of an evil, psychotic serial killer. If I were to mention the name General William Sherman, there are many people, in the South, to this day, who despise that name because he pretty much won the Civil War for the Union. If you were to mention the name Martin Luther King, many people would think of the great civil rights leader that he was; others would just as soon string you up from a tree.

The way we live, and the things we do in this life determine what people think when they hear our name. I know one boy, he’s about 24, and around Knoxville, his name is mud. He’s left every job he’s ever had—just up and quit. He’s been kicked out of every place he’s ever rented from because he didn’t pay the rent. He has ruined his name. So that whenever he goes to look for a job, or an apartment, he will most likely be turned away because he has brought dishonor to his name. A good name is something you cannot buy, it cannot be just given. It has to be earned. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 22:1—A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.

But let us consider the name of the LORD. In Isaiah 6, the prophet is taken up into heaven. And he sees the angels—specifically a group of angels called ‘seraphim’—fly around day and night, worshiping God. That’s their job! That’s the only thing the seraphim were created for! And they never stop, and they are always crying out “Holy! Holy! Holy! Is the LORD God Almighty!” That’s another word we need to look at. What does it mean to be “holy?” Many people consider the Qur'an to be the Muslims’ “holy book.” Many people look at a Buddhist monk, or a Hindu priest, and consider them to be “holy men.” Then there’s the Dali Lama. I have no idea what he’s supposed to be. But many people think of him as a “holy man.” Folks, there is only one who is “holy.” That is the LORD our God. Because that word “holy” means, “set apart [sanctified], perfect, blameless, free from sin and sinful affections.”

These men I just listed—the monk and the priest, the Dali Lama—these men have no right to be considered holy. Because they were born into sin, and because they do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and for that reason alone, God looks at them as sinful and wicked, no matter how pure and holy and blameless they try to be. Because they still have the stain of sin on them. God, and God alone, is holy. Blameless. Perfect. Now, since God is holy, His name is holy. Blessed be His name!

How do we bless His name? First, His name is to be SANCTIFIED. What does God have to say about His name? Well, just look at the Ten Commandments. #1—"Thou shalt have no other gods besides Me." #2—"Thou shalt not make any graven images, nor bow down to them." And #3, 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.” I’d say that’s pretty important. The first thing He tells us after warning us not to worship any other gods, and not to make any idols for ourselves, He says, “You better watch how you use My name!” Now, I ain't gonna lie. Before I came to know Christ as my Lord and Savior, I used to have certain phrases in my vocabulary. I think you know which ones I’m talking about. There was this certain two-word phrase, with words that started with a ‘G’ and a ‘D’. And every time I used these phrases--if the day had ever come that I would have breathed my last, I would have stood before the same God whose name I blasphemed time and time again. And He would have called me to account for it. What would I have had to say for myself? I could have said NOTHING.

Leviticus 18:21—"And you shall not let any of your descendants pass through the fire to Molech, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD." Molech was a pagan god, and those that worshiped him would place their children in the belly of this bronze statue where they would be burned. Notice how God considers profaning His name to sacrificing one’s child to a pagan god? What happened to someone in the Old Testament law who blasphemed the name of God?
Leviticus 24:16—“And whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the LORD, he shall be put to death.” It didn’t matter whether you were an Israelite or a stranger passing through. If you stubbed your toe and—well, used His name in vain—the entire congregation was expected to take you outside of the camp and you were stoned to death.

Yet how casually do we use His name today. You can't watch a movie, or listen to the radio without hearing people use the name of God as a vulgarity. And yet God considers His name to be so holy that if someone in the OT profaned it, that person was to be crushed under a pile of stones. And he doesn’t take it any less serious now. But now, He reserves that person’s judgment for the day they stand before Him. And let me tell ya my brothers and my sisters, the punishment is a lot worse than a simple stoning.

Once in a while on Sunday nights, after my wife and I get home from church, we'll be flipping through the stations, and we’ll come across that Extreme Home Makeover show. You know, the one with the guy that has chronic bedhead and talks like Sylvester the Cat. (just kiddin'!) And almost every week—now, don’t get me wrong. If someone wanted to build me a big honkin’ 5000 sq. ft. house, with a lake-size pool in the back, and pay off my mortgage--hey, be my guest! But then I hear these people, as they go from one room to the next, gazing in wide-eyed awe at this building, that was built by human hands, conceived by human minds, and they shout, “Oh my...God!” And they say it and they don’t even think twice about it. As if the name of the LORD is just some kind of everyday expression of “Wow! We've got a new toy!” And what’s so scary is that some of these people—I’m not going to say all of them, but at least some of them—don’t know the LORD. I'm sure some do, and I’m sure some don’t. And they exclaim “Oh my God!” as if using His name as some simple way of expressing their happiness is pleasing to God.

My friends, His name is not to be treated lightly. His name is not to be used in such a flippant manner. His name is to be used and cherished in the most reverent and respected way possible. When we speak His name, let us do so with honor, and reverence, and awe, and even with trembling! The name of the LORD is to be feared by all who fear Him! And it will be dreaded by those who don’t! How much more dreadful will it be for the one who uses His name in a shameful manner, as a common word, and as a vulgarity! Psalm 74:10—O God, how long shall the adversary reproach? Shall the enemy blaspheme thy name forever? Let that be our prayer today! That even the ungodly and the heathen will use His name rightly! For as it says in Proverbs 18:10—The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.

Part 2 tomorrow.

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