When I was a kid, I thought the command to not take the name of the Lord in vain was about cussing. It isn’t. It’s about marriage.
God’s commands are never the arbitrary rules of a temperamental old man in the sky who likes things a particular way. They are always relational. This is seen in the way God describes His relationship with His people by saying, “I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself” (Ex 19:4). God wants a relationship with His people, and every command He gives points to this.
God’s commands are not given to stifle us, but to lead us into the life we were meant to know —one of drawing close to Him. Since we’re all law-breakers, they are also given to awaken our worship of Christ who kept the Law perfectly for us.
It’s easy to reduce God’s commands to a list of rules, but they are so much more than that. They are not just a call out, but a call in. For every negative command, there is a positive one implied. For example, when God says “have no other gods before me,” He’s saying, “You were made to worship Me alone. Have Me as your only hope and treasure in this life.” And when He says, “You shall not take my name in vain,” what lies beneath that prohibition is the invitation to take His name as our own. He is saying, “Take my name.”
The Ten Commandments are not simply negative statements about what we’re not to do. They are incredibly positive statements as well, centered on who we are called to be and the life we were intended to know and enjoy forever. These commands are about what it means that God has called us as His people to take His name.
God commands us to take His name as our own—to know ourselves as His people and to be known as His people. If you are a Christian, there is only one way you can take up the name of Christ. Take it in earnest, with everything you have and are. We must not take it insincerely, pretending we deserve it. But if we are Christians, we must take it up as our name—as the most important name we could be known by. His name is the name we will be known by for all eternity: Christ’s beloved.
This is who you are if you are a Christian. So take the name of the Lord. Don’t take it in vain, but in earnest, because He has carried you on eagles wings, brought you to Himself, and made you His own.
Written by Russ Ramsey