Posts tagged ‘Name’

Bearing God’s Name

The Second Commandment is not just a prohibition, but an offer. God says to Moses:

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)

Famously, the ancient Jews became so concerned with misusing God’s name that they would not even speak it. Instead of calling God “Yahweh,” the name God gave to Moses to share with Israel when He appeared to him in a burning bush (Exodus 3:13-15), they instead referred to God using a title of respect – “Lord.”

Though this instinct not to misuse the name of God is commendable, it does beg a question: Though we should not misuse God’s name, does this mean that there is no good use of God’s name? It is this question that brings to the forefront God’s offer in this commandment. Because there are most certainly many good uses of God’s name.

We can use God’s name to bless. (Numbers 6:24-26)

We can use God’s name to call to repentance. (Acts 2:38)

We can use God’s name to call to faith. (Acts 10:43)

We can use God’s name to baptize. (Matthew 28:19-20)

We can use God’s name to offer salvation. (Romans 10:13)

God’s name – even though it can be misused – is still quite useful.

In Hebrew, there are two words behind our one English word “misuse” in this commandment. There is the word sawe, which means “vanity” or “emptiness.” There is also the word nasa, which means to “take up” or “to bear.” This is why many Bible translations will render this verse: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” We certainly want to avoid sawe. But we also want to embrace nasa. We want to bear the name of God in our lives and through our lives. As one of Jesus’ followers, Peter, reminds us: “Praise God that you bear that name” (1 Peter 4:16).

To whom is God calling you to bear His name this week? It’s a name worth sharing because it’s a name that our world needs to hear.

July 11, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Name-Calling

Credit: Craig Adderley / Pexels.com

One of the most common responses to last week’s vice-presidential debate that I heard was that of a sigh of relief. It was noticeably mild-mannered compared the first presidential debate held a week earlier. Both President Trump and Vice-President Biden came under sharp critique for their name-calling of each other. Check out these headlines:

‘Will you shut up, man?’: Debate devolves to name-calling as Trump derails with interruptions

First Trump-Biden Presidential Debate Devolves Into Interruptions, Name-Calling

First Presidential Debate Turns Into Fighting and Name-Calling

Quite apart from politics, name-calling, in general, concerns me. As anyone who has been badgered or belittled on a school playground knows, sticks and stones may break some bones, but names can also hurt you.

Last week, as I was preparing to lead a study on Isaiah 1, I came across this passage:

Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the instruction of our God, you people of Gomorrah! “The multitude of your sacrifices – what are they to Me?” says the LORD. “I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure.” (Isaiah 1:10-11)

Isaiah encourages the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah to hear the word of the Lord. Historically, the prophet writes these words around 740 BC. The towns of Sodom and Gomorrah, however, were famously destroyed by fire and brimstone some 1,300 years earlier. They no longer exist. So, to whom is Isaiah speaking?

Here, the famed cities are being invoked metaphorically to refer to the rebellious people of God – the Israelites. Isaiah is making the point that the wickedness of the Israelites has become so great that they might as well be the people of Sodom and Gomorrah – cities renowned for their depravity. In other words, Isaiah is calling the Israelites names.

Name-calling seems to be an awfully unbecoming behavior for a prophet of God. And yet, what sounds like disrespect at first is actually an act of desperation. He asks earlier:

Why should you be beaten anymore? Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted. (Isaiah 1:5)

Isaiah longs for the Israelites to repent before they become afflicted by God. Isaiah’s name-calling, then, is not meant to insult, but to implore. The prophet is imploring people of Israel to understand just how precarious their spiritual situation really is. So, he uses the most jarring example of systemic and sanctioned sin he can think of: the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Of course, this is not the only time Isaiah calls the Israelites names. Later in his book, he writes:

But now, this is what the LORD says – He who created you, Jacob, He who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

God calls the people of Israel names to help them understand their sin. But He also calls them a name to promise them redemption from their sin:

Mine.

I’m not big on name-calling, but that’s a name I’d love to be called by God any day. Because of Christ, I know I am. And because of Christ, you are too.

October 12, 2020 at 5:00 am Leave a comment


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