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Mar 05, 2023

Honoring God's Name

Passage: Deuteronomy 5:11

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Deuteronomy

Keywords: prayer, god's name, honor, exaltation, reverence, blaspheming


Bearing or taking God's name in vain is much more than referring to God in cursing. This message looks at what we may need to stop doing to not break this 3rd Commandment and what we will need to engage in to truly honor God's name which is above every name.


Honoring God’s Name

Deuteronomy 5:11


  • Lent: An opportunity to encounter God afresh.
  • In our study of the O.T. book of Deuteronomy, we’re slowing down our coverage significantly and taking time to drill into why each of the Ten Commandments is so vital to our lives as followers of Jesus Christ. And today we’re camping on the 3rd Commandment found in Deuteronomy 5:11: “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.”

            Just a few observations about exactly WHAT this verse is saying and not saying.  To do this, you may think I’m getting a little “technical” for a few minutes.  We’re going to have to talk a bit about how God’s name occurs in the Old and New Testaments, i.e. the Hebrew and Greek languages.  Don’t glaze over!  Just think of it as talking about someone you know who may have a name that uses two different languages, like English (John) and German (Repsold). 

  1. “You shall not take the name….” The Hebrew word for this command can mean “carry, take up, bear” even “exalt” in some contexts.   We all “take” or “carry” certain names throughout life, don’t we?  ILL: 
  • From day 1 of my birth at Deaconess Hospital 3 blocks from here, I’ve carried the name “Repsold”. Thankfully my parents had good reputations in this town.  Growing up I could go into a bank or store and when they asked for my ID to cash a check, they would often comment, “Oh, you’re a Repsold?  I know your father/mother.  You’re good to go.” 
  • When I joined the Boy Scouts, I took up their name. When you said you were in scouting, it usually meant you were a certain kind of young man.  (Sadly, not so much anymore.)
  • I’ve carried the title “cellist” for most of my life. If I’m true to the “name”, what does that mean?  (That I know how to play the cello, hopefully in a way that is usually pleasing to the ear.)
  • The same could be said for other names and titles I’ve carried or ‘taken up’ at various times in my life: beekeeper, Reverend, Doctor, Pastor, Chairman, Dad, Papa…Christian.

This command is warning us against taking up God’s name in wrong or improper ways.  We’ll look at HOW we might be doing that more in-depth in a moment.  But for now, just know that it matters to God when we who claim to be His children aren’t living, speaking, acting and being what His name is about. 

  1. “…the name of the Lord your God….” When God revealed His name in various forms to His people, it wasn’t just because He liked the sound of a name (like we so often do in America when naming our children).  It was because He wanted His name to remind people of His character or qualities of His nature that were imbedded in a name.

Notice that it is singular—“THE name”.  The reality is that the Bible uses various names for our English word “god”.  All of them mean significant things and focus on different aspects of the God behind each name.  Unlike our generic term “god” in English which gets freighted with every possible use and abuse of ideas about god, the O.T. uses 3 primary names and many variations of those three:

  1. Elohim: plural form. It emphasizes authority, power and majesty.  It is the first name used for God (Gen. 1:1).  It’s used about 2,570 times in the O.T. (Later on when people forgot its true meaning, it was used of other false ‘gods’.)

The striking thing about this name for God in Gen. 1:1 is that it is in both the plural noun and singular verb form. Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God (Elohim, plural) created (“he created”, singular) the heavens and the earth.”  

The singular form, El, is used with descriptive terms like Shaddai (Gen. 17:1, Ex. 6:1) which our Bibles translate “God Almighty” or “El Olam” (Gen 16:13)—the Everlasting God. 

  1. Yahweh/YHWH/ Jehovah (yeh-ho-vaw); used in our passage today: It is the Hebrew name behind every O.T. usage of “LORD” in your English Bible.  (Used with capital letters.)  Comes from a verb which means “to exist, be.” This, plus its usage, shows that this name stresses God as the independent and self-existent God of revelation and redemption ( 3:14--  “I Am” to Moses). 

NOTE:  The word Jehovah is actually an artificial English word put together from four Hebrew consonants, YHWH, and the vowels (a,o,a) from another name for God, Adonai.

This name first appears after the creation of man, in Genesis 2:4.  Jehovah emphasizes God’s personal relationship with man and special care for him. This name is used of God in His covenant with His people in redemption and personal revelation. It speaks of his “faithful presence” It occurs about 6,000 times in the Old Testament.

Jehovah also is used in compound or descriptive forms:

  1. Yahweh Jireh (Yireh):“The Lord will provide.” Stresses God’s provision for His people (Gen. 22:14).
  2. Yahweh Nissi:“The Lord is my Banner.” Stresses that God is our rallying point and our means of victory; the one who fights for His people (Ex. 17:15).
  • Yahweh Shalom:“The Lord is Peace.” Points to the Lord as the means of our peace and rest (Jud. 6:24).
  1. Yahweh Sabbaoth:“The Lord of Hosts.” A military figure portraying the Lord as the commander of the armies of heaven (1 Sam. 1:3; 17:45).
  2. Yahweh Maccaddeshcem:“The Lord your Sanctifier.” Portrays the Lord as our means of sanctification or as the one who sets believers apart for His purposes (Ex. 31:13).
  3. Yahweh Ro’i:“The Lord my Shepherd” (from root word ra’ah—to feed or tend). Portrays the Lord as the Shepherd who cares for His people as a shepherd cares for the sheep of his pasture (Ps. 23:1).
  • Yahweh Tsidkenu:“The Lord our Righteousness.” Portrays the Lord as the means of our righteousness (Jer. 23:6).
  • Yahweh Shammah:“The Lord is there.” Portrays the Lord’s personal presence in the millennial kingdom (Ezek. 48:35).
  1. Adonai: 456 times. Like Elohim, this too is a plural of majesty. The singular form means “master, owner.” Stresses man’s relationship to God as his master, authority, and provider (Deut. 10:17). 

God is the One who told the Israelites His “name.”  They didn’t just invent it to be what they wanted it to be. 

ILL:  When I call Sandy, “Love” or “Dear”, it’s primarily an expression of what I want to express to her—I love you; you are dear to me. But if she were to tell me, “I’d like you to call me Joy…or Grace…or Woman (though I’m not sure what other people would think of me if I did that!), those names would be expressions of who she actually IS. 

            God’s names are more than just words used to distinguish Him from other beings or objects.  They are descriptive of who He is.  And when we use those names…or ‘take up’ those names…we best be sure that we actually believe and are living in relationship to Him according to those names. 

            ILL:  If I address God as “Lord” (Jehovah), then I best be sure that I’m not actually running my own life.  If I’ve not actually given him absolute authority in my life…if I know there are things in my life I’m not allowing Him to lead in or lord over, It would be far better than I not misuse His name, Lord, in my prayers to Him or even conversations about my relationship with Him. 

Which leads us to the last phrase in this verse: 

  1. “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.”  What does it mean to take or use God’s name “in vain”?  Here are some easy-to-grasp usages of this term in other places in the O.T.
  • Jeremiah 2:30: “In vain have I struck your children; but they took no correction.”
  • Jeremiah 4:30: “In vain you beautify yourself. Your lovers despise you.”
  • Jeremiah 6:29: “In vain the refining goes on, for the wicked are not removed.”
  • Jeremiah 46:11: “In vain you have used many medicines; there is no healing for you.”
  • Malachi 3:14: “You have said, ‘It is vain to serve God. What is the profit of our keeping his charge?’”

So what does doing something “in vain” mean, according to these passages?  It means “pointless, useless, ineffective, futile, unsuccessful.”  Discipline that is useless because the child didn’t want to become better.  Makeup that didn’t attract attention or make you look more beautiful.  Refining that didn’t get the dross out.  Medicine that didn’t produce healing.  Worship or obedience to God that didn’t produce closer relationship to God.  It is effectively actions that don’t produce the intended positive effect. 

Q:  When we use or employ God’s name, what is the intended or positive effect?  Isn’t it to do things like draw closer to Him, communicate with Him, appeal to Him for attention or assistance?  Isn’t it to deepen the relationship?  And isn’t it to present Him to others as He truly is?  Demonstrate Him accurately to people who may not know Him? 

So now we must ask ourselves…

#1.)  “How may I be using God’s name in such a way that is ineffective, useless, futile, empty, vain…or worse?”

#2.) “What must I do to instead take up God’s name in a way that is useful, full, meaningful, effective and truly meaningful?”

What are the ways we ‘take the name of the Lord our God in vain’?  Before I dive into this rather large and shark-invested pool, can we all admit that every one of us fails in various ways to “keep” this and every one of the 10 Commandments?  So I’m not pointing out things I haven’t been or may not be guilty of offending God in. Remember, the Law is meant to drive us to Christ and our need of a Redeemer who has fulfilled the Law completely.  So if you spot yourself in any of these sins, run to Jesus, not to shame or defensiveness, please. 

  • Using God’s names as curse words. This is what most people think of when they hear this command, no? As John Piper says, this is the most basic ‘kindergarten level’ of misuse of God’s name.  It is essentially pulling down what is THE most exalted name in the universe, the name that should have the most respect and reverence in hearts and minds, and using it in a common or debased way.  ILL:  Just as I would never want my wife’s name associated with profane words about women, so if we love God, we will love His names and be grieved when we or others debase it or drag it through the mud of gutter-talk.  God’s name should have the best and fondest emotional connection with us. Profanity using “God” or “Jesus Christ” always cheapens and destroys the proper uses of God’s name in the eyes of others and our own souls.

But it is other more subtle and common uses of God’s name in the church and by Christians today that debase His name as much or more than swearing.

  • An over-familiarity, cavalier use of God’s names. This could be anything that treats God as if he is on the same plain as the rest of us…as if His names do not elicit any more reverence, awe, respect or fear than anyone else’s name. 

ILL:  When you or I are called into court to testify or an attorney representing us addresses the judge, we don’t use their first name, “Hey Danny!”  It’s “Your Honor”, right? 

When you are pulled over by the police for speeding, you use either “Sir/Mam” or “Officer _____.”  When you visit the doctor, you hopefully don’t say, “Hey Doc, would you take a look at this?”  You use their full title, “Dr. _____.”  The military is especially sensitive with this as respect and order is vital to a functioning military. 

Our culture is in the throws of a self-destructive loss of respect towards names, titles and offices.  Everyone is being told they should have the same level of respect and honor whether they are the President of the U.S. or a kindergarten student. Addressing people flippantly or without due consideration for who they ARE is not only disrespectful and rude; it is destroying our culture and social fabric. 

Treating God and His unique names that way has the same effect on our relationship with Him and our spiritual life.  It inaccurately represents God as He is—above ALL names, absolute and unparalleled in His power, His knowledge, His wisdom, His presence, His judgment, His grace, His love, His mercy, His holiness, etc. God is so dramatically “other” and “different” from anyone or anything we will encounter every day that our mention of his names and titles should be used with utmost deference.  God is not like anyone’s name or title we will utter in the course of a week or month.  How we address Him must reflect that. 

  • Claiming to do things in God’s name that are not reflective of Him or His will (and instead serve our self-interests).
    1. Calling the Golden Calf Elohim (Ex. 32:4)…
    2. calling for God’s blessing on injustice and evil (slavery, racism, wars, acts of oppression and violence),
    3. cloaking political positions, parties or people in God’s name (“the Christian position,” “Christian candidate,” “Christ-like party,” etc.),
    4. using your Christian/church status/relationships to advance your personal financial or business status. (ILL: I was asked recently by a local professional why soliciting business opportunities with people at church is a problem for me!  God doesn’t come to church to get rich or gain something from anyone other than obedience and true worship.)
    5. Using your God-given roles abusively while claiming you are doing God’s will, i.e. husband as head, parent, sp. leader, boss, sp. gifts, etc.
  • Prayer that…
    1. Makes demands of God rather than submits humbly to God.
    2. Demanding that things be done “in Jesus name” that are not His stated and clear will.
    3. Tacking on “in Jesus name” when what we’ve just prayed was not clearly His will and was probably merely our selfish longings.
    4. Prayer that uses God’s truth-filled names while denying those truths by not living into them/Him.
      1. Father
      2. Lord
      3. Shepherd
      4. Sovereign
      5. Loving God
      6. Almighty
      7. Savior

NOTE:  Having just said all this about prayer, you may be just a bit hesitant to pray.  That’s not all bad if it causes us to pause, listen for God and surrender our desires to God before launching into prayer.  Being still before God and considering who it is we are before may be some of the more ‘holy’ times and uses of God’s name.

Which leads us naturally to the positive side of this command: 

What must I do to take up/carry/use God’s name in a way that is honoring, full, effective and truly respectful of God?

  • Pray…
    1. with REVERENCE.

Hebrews 12:28—"Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe….”

While constant lifting of prayer to God is good and even commanded by God (“Pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks.” 1 Thess. 5:17), coming into His presence respectfully and with reverence should be the norm.  ILL:  Children who naturally burst into a room full of adults talking and interrupt must be trained to respect the adults in the room enough to pause, listen and wait for an appropriate entrance. That applies to us as “little children” bringing our needs to God too.   

STORY of Lindy trying to get her mom’s attention while she was praying in the living room with some other women…about a fire from a candle in the bathroom!.

  1. When we pray about something, remembering the nature of God that relates to what we’re praying about.

EX:  If we’re praying about wounds we’ve suffered from others, reminding ourselves that God is a forgiving God who pardons all our sins, an impartial God who causes it to rain on both the righteous and unrighteous, a merciful God who forgives iniquity, a just God whose job it is to repay in due time, etc.

EX:  If we’re praying about financial or job needs that we are talking with God our Provider.

EX:  If we’re praying about the health needs and physical sufferings of others, that we are praying to Jesus who healed every kind of disease, even death, yet didn’t heal every sick person He met, didn’t avoid death himself and told Paul His ‘grace is sufficient’ for any remaining ailment. 

In short, our praying must be informed by God’s character and nature.

  • Live out the reality that when I carry/claim/take the name of God as a ‘Christian’ or ‘follower of Jesus’, I am surrendering my rights, desires, identity to God’s.

ILL:  Was reminded a few months ago in our Thursday noon Bible study that an “ambassador” to another country is only a fit ambassador insofar as they represent the government of their homeland, not their own interests.  If being ambassador becomes about their comfort, their power, their wealth, they cease to be a legitimate ambassador and should be recalled by their government. 

  • Paul reminded us in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
  • Ephesians 6:19-20—[Pray] also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel,20 for which I am an ambassador in chains…”  When we are literally imprisoned for representing Jesus, we know we’re carrying the name of Jesus in an honorable rather than vain way. 
  • Paul went on to close that request for prayer with these words, “that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.” We can be sure that we are using God’s name in a truly honoring, respectful, appropriate way when we are boldly declaring the Gospel of Christ to a lost world.  Silence about the Gospel in a world that will perish without it is a taking of the LORD Jesus’ name in vain. 
  • Living in holiness and righteousness is truly using God’s name in an honoring, respectful, holy and right way. Paul told young Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:19, “But God's firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”’
  • Living life TRUSTING in God: Psalm 9:10-- And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.  Trusting in God at any time honors his name.  (Conversely, not putting our trust in Him is a vain taking of His name to ourselves.)
  • We carry God’s name well when we relate to Him as Abba Used only 15 times in the O.T. as a name for God, it was Jesus’ favorite name for God.  In the N.T. it is used some 245 times.  When we relate to God as our Heavenly Father, we are living into His heart as the divine Father.  We’re placing ourself within the realm of His loving, protective care.   We’re affirming His provision of everything we need for life and godliness now and everything we’re yearning for in relationship with Him for all eternity.  Submitting to God as Father embraces His patient, usually unpleasant but always personal discipline.  Speaking to Him as Father calls us into the same kind of absolutely dependent relationship that Jesus Christ had with Him while on earth.  Taking up His name Father should lead us into doing nothing on our own and doing only what we hear and see Him doing (Jn. 5:19, 14:24, 15:15).
  • Genuinely worshiping God honors His name. Psalm 148:13 says that “mountains and hills, beasts and livestock, all rulers and all people, young and old” are to “praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.”  Psalm 34:3--Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!  This is what we do when we worship.  It’s about His greatness, not ours.  It’s about getting our spiritual magnifying glass out to fix our gaze on the God who is bigger and greater than any human eye or heart will ever comprehend.  It’s about praising the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, “for His name alone is exalted.” 

Pray together (3x): “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name….”

Sing:  I Love You Lord and I Exalt Thee (2x)



Honoring God’s Name

Deuteronomy 5:11

March 5, 2023

“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”

  1. What it means to “take a name”:


  1. What is God’s name? (Old Testament)
    1. Elohim


  1. Yahweh/Jehovah


  1. Adonai


God’s names reveal what He wants us to remember about Him.


  1. What does it mean to use God’s name “in vain”?



How may I be using God’s name in such a way that is ineffective, useless, futile, empty, vain…or worse?

  1. Using God’s names as ______________________________.
  2. An over-familiar, cavalier use of God’s _________________.
  3. Claiming things in God’s name that don’t ____________ Him.
  4. Prayer that…
    1. makes _____________________ of God.
    2. uses Jesus’ name inappropriately.
  • claims things as God’s will that may __________________.
  1. uses God’s names while denying the truths they represent.


What must I do to use God’s name in a way that is honoring, full, effective and respectful of God?

  1. ___________________________
    1. Reverently
    2. Into the nature of God’s names
  2. Live as a surrendered ________________________ of Christ.
  3. Live in holiness and righteousness.
  4. Live truly ___________________________ in God.
  5. Live relating to God as your Abba
  6. _________________________ God genuinely.