The third commandment was taken so seriously by Israel that at one time the scribes wouldn’t even write the name Yahweh (Jehovah) until they had first taken a bath and changed their clothes. Then after they had written it, they would take another bath and change their clothes again.
Their focus on the word itself, however, often overlooked the broader implications of the commandment. J. I. Packer says, “What is forbidden is any use or involvement of God’s name that is empty, frivolous, or insincere.” This includes any kind of irreverence, because it fails to take seriously God’s character and reputation which is represented by His name. Nor are we to use the name God or Jesus Christ as profanity, because this expresses neither praise, worship, nor faith.
The commandment also relates to breaking a promise when God’s name is used to back one’s word. But even when no reference is made to God, every promise we make to another is done in God’s presence and is therefore as binding as if we had invoked His name.
How the third commandment condemns us all! But thank God for the name Jesus, which means Savior. He provides the forgiveness and help we need to keep the third commandment and become men and women known for being true to their word.
• In what ways do I hear people misusing God’s name?
• How am I guilty of breaking this command?
If you care about God, handle His name with care.