18 February 2011

A Survey of the Old Testament Law------- Taking the name of God in vain (PART 3)

How we end our prayers? “In the name of Jesus.” But how many times do we really grasp what it means to finish a prayer with that little phrase? Because to say that is a whole lot more serious than we think it is. If a person says that they are praying “in the name of Jesus”—in the name of the Lord Jesus, who is fully God—is to say that they are praying in the name of YHVH—the LORD. And there are many who are praying things that are clearly contradictory to the ways of the LORD YHVH, but they will claim that they are praying in the name of the LORD YHVH. Now, let me make a distinction here. If you are praying for your Aunt Hildegarde, that God would heal her cancer, and you ask this “in the name of Jesus”—even though it may not be God’s will to cure her cancer, but if you are praying out of love for your Aunt Hildegarde, then that is not necessarily taking the name of the Lord in vain. However, if a person feels like they don’t own enough stuff, and they are ripping out verses from the Bible and claiming that God “owes them” a big-screen TV and a house in Sequoia Hills , and they are making these demands “in the name of Jesus”—then it’s a whole ‘nother matter altogether. And there are folks who do this. Listen to this gem from Kenneth Copeland:
"As a believer, you have a right to make commands in the name of Jesus. Each time you stand on the Word, you are commanding God to a certain extent, because it is His Word" (Kenneth Copeland, Our Covenant with God, p. 32).
He is saying that you have the right to command God in the name of Jesus. Which brings us to today’s text. 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.” If someone is declaring that they are making a demand on God “in the name of the Lord” then they are standing on thin ice, because God considers His name to be held in the highest esteem and reverence possible. Look at the last part of this verse: “The LORD (YHVH) will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” This is what Keil and Delitzsch had to say about Exodus 20:7
“[This commandment] prohibits all uses of the name of God for vain and unworthy objects, and includes not only false swearing, which is condemned in Leviticus 19:12 as [profaning] the name of YHVH, but trivial swearing in the ordinary [conversations] of life, and every use of the name of God in the service of untruth and lying, for [cursing others], witchcraft, or [séances]; whereas the true [use] of the name of God is confined to ‘invocation, prayer, praise, and thanksgiving,’ which proceeds from a pure, believing heart. The natural heart is very liable to transgress this command, and therefore it is solemnly enforced by the threat, ‘for YHVH will not hold him guiltless’.”
If I'm trying to convince someone that I'm telling the truth, I may finally come to the point where I say “I swear to God I'm telling the truth!” If I do that, I had better be telling the truth. And that’s what is spelled out in the Law. Exodus 22:10-11“If a man delivers to his neighbor a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any animal to keep, and it dies, is hurt, or driven away, no one seeing it, then an oath of the LORD shall be between them both, that he has not put his hand into his neighbor's goods.” In other words, if I ask Yitzhak to watch my goats while I go out of town, then I come back and my goats are gone and Yitzhak tells me that someone stole them, and nobody saw it, then we would take an oath in the name of YHVH, and Yitzhak would swear by the name of God that he didn’t do anything mischievous to my goats. But Yitzhak had better be telling the truth, or he will have taken the name of YHVH in vain, and as God says in Leviticus 19:12“You shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.” If Yitzhak has sworn that oath to God—by doing that, he has called God as a witness. So, basically, what I do, being the offended party, is to say, “OK, you’ve said it. You’ve taken an oath to God; you are in His hands now.” And what that means is, if he did indeed pilfer my goats, then the responsibility for punishment has been taken out my hands, and placed it into God’s hands. And if Yitzhak lied, then he will receive punishment directly from God. Romans 12:19Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. So if we take an oath in the name of the LORD, and we are taking that oath in vain, then God is the one who will take vengeance on us. Not a very pleasant proposition.

But listen to the goodness and faithfulness of our God, when He swears an oath and makes a promise. Hebrews 6:13-16When God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, "Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you." And so, after [Abraham] had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. Like we just saw, if you swear by the name of God—it’s out of my hands, you are now in God’s hands. But we don’t have to worry about whether or not God is telling the truth because it goes on to say, Hebrews 6:17-18--Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath—there is nothing greater than God, so He swore by Himself—that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. God IS truth. As we talked about last week—not only is He true, He is truth. When He promises to do something, He will swear an oath by HIMSELF to do it. And because He CANNOT lie, if He makes a promise, He will do it.

Men, on the other hand, aren't always so honest. And many times, men will not hold the name of God in such high regard. And not only will they swear an oath in the name of God—an oath they never meant to keep—they will simply toss around the name of God and use it in some of the most despicable ways possible. The first example of this is in Leviticus 24, so let’s turn there. Leviticus 24:10-12Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the children of Israel; and this Israelite woman's son and a man of Israel fought each other in the camp. And the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed; and so they brought him to Moses. (His mother's name was Shelomith the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan.) Then they put him in custody, that the mind of the LORD might be shown to them. In much the same way that it didn’t take the children of Israel very long to construct an idol and say “this is YHVH, who brought us out of Egypt,” it didn’t take long before we have an example of someone using the name of YHVH as a cuss word. And as God promised, He will not hold that person guiltless who takes His name in vain. We see that as we look down in Leviticus 24:13-16And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. 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…You shall have the same law for the stranger and for one from your own country; for I am the LORD your God.'…Then Moses spoke to the children of Israel; and they took outside the camp him who had cursed, and stoned him with stones. So the children of Israel did as the LORD commanded Moses. Before we go any further, remember last week, what were the Jews going to do when Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I AM?” They took up stones to stone Him. What were they going to do when He said “I and My Father are one?” They took up stones to stone Him. They took outside the camp him who had cursed, and stoned him with stones. Seems a little harsh, doesn’t it? Well, to us it seems harsh. But we’re not talking about just anybody’s name here. We are talking about the name of God Himself. And God guards His name above everything else. And while we may think this was going a bit overboard, God does not think it too great a punishment. And when you get right down to it, whose opinion matters more? Blaspheming His name carries with it a much harsher punishment—either in this life or the depths of Hell—than nearly any other sin. Because His name is not like any other name.

Is it hard to find a movie these days—or even a TV show for that matter—is it hard to find one that uses God’s name as a profanity? “Get out of my G.D. house” Or they’ll use the name of Jesus Christ as a profanity? Now, the culture we live in may not think there’s anything wrong with that. But does our culture determine what is and is not acceptable to God? God does not say “Culture will determine whether you can use My name as a curse word.” He says “I will not hold him guiltless.” Another way to say it is “I will hold that person personally accountable to Me for how they use My name.” Now, not only is this degree of punishment fit for those who blaspheme the name of the Father, it is also true of those who blaspheme the name of Christ—because He was the manifestation of God’s name. John 17:4“I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world.” He has been given the name that is above every name. Philippians 2:9-11Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. And also, He bears that name upon His thigh and upon His robe. Revelation 19:13, 16He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God…And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. And if we honor the name of Christ, we will enter into eternal life. John 20:31These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. Acts 4:12“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” So the name of God is not something that is to be trifled with. Now, we see a couple other places where punishment is dealt out to one who claims to be speaking in the name of the Lord.

Turn to Deuteronomy 18:20-22“The prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.' You may say in your heart, 'How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?' When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.” And what will happen to that prophet? He will die. If a prophet was going around claiming to be prophesying “in the name of the LORD” and what he was prophesying did not come to pass, he was taken outside of the camp and stoned to death. Again, let’s shine spotlight upon TBN. So many of them call themselves “prophets.” And they go around saying things like “God spoke to me and said…” If God did not speak to that person—and just for the record, He didn’t—and yet they are standing there saying that “God told me…” then they are claiming to speak in the name of God, and what would have happened to that person under the Law of Moses? Their body would still be rotting under a pile of rubble in the Middle Eastern desert.

Let me put it to you this way: if I'm going around saying that I'm speaking on behalf of Grace Community Church, and I'm saying that we believe some sort of goofy, off-the-wall doctrine, what am I doing to the name of GCC? I'm bringing shame and reproach on the name of GCC. Now, take that principle and apply it to the name of God Himself. Suppose some lunatic were to stand before a crowd in the Orlando Civic Center on December 31st, 1989 and say that “God told me that Fidel Castro will die sometime in the 1990’s” and that a major earthquake would devastate the east coast of the USA, and that God would destroy the homosexual community with fire somewhere around 1993-1994—and yet Fidel Castro is still alive to this day, there was no earthquake and homosexuality is still running rampant—then what kind of reputation does that give of God? At best it says that God just kinda guesses at things. But at worst, it says that God is a liar. (BTW, those were actual "prophecies" delivered by Benny Hinn on December 31, 1989, at the Orlando Civic Center) Now, we may hear someone try and wiggle out of this by saying, “Well, yeah, but that was just in the Old Testament”—think again. What did Jesus say? Matthew 5:17-18“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” We don’t stone false prophets these days—we leave them in the hands of God. And we let Him deal with them as He will. And He will.

And we see that, as we finish up with a New Testament example of someone claiming the name of Christ in vain. Turn to Acts 19. The name of Jesus is not some kind of magic incantation that a person can simply spit out of their mouth and make demons disappear. Demons are spiritual beings and they cannot be overwhelmed by physical acts. As Paul says in Ephesians 6:12We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. But in Acts 19, we see a fellow who has heard of this Jesus guy, and has taken it upon himself to try and fight a demon-possessed man using the name of Jesus—a name he had no right to use. Acts 19:13-14Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches." Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?" These guys had no idea who Jesus was, but they had heard Paul preaching about some guy named Jesus and thought they could simply toss out His name, and the spirits would leave.

Only those who are known by Christ can call upon the name of Christ. And the thing about demons is, they know Jesus. Mark 1:23-26Now there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, saying, "Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us?" But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" And when the unclean spirit had convulsed him and cried out with a loud voice, he came out of him. They know Jesus. And they can spot a phony. And only Christ—and His apostles—had that kind of power over demons. Not even angels did this. Jude 1:9Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" So, what happened to these sons of Sceva? Acts 19:15-16Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. We also see from this what Jesus meant when He said in Mark 3:24-26“If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.” You had the demon possessed man on the one side; you had the Jewish exorcists—who were deceived by Satan—on the other. This kingdom is divided against itself, Satan has risen up against himself, and God gets the glory. Acts 19:17This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

This is really an important event in the Bible. It shows us just how dangerous it is to throw around the name of our God, and the consequences that come from doing so. Now, next week, we’re going to get a glimpse of the other side of the coin—that is, the blessings that come from using the name of God properly, and keeping a vow even if it does us harm.

Jesus is Lord. Amen.