We are in a multiple-part series on the 10 commandments right now, a series based on several
sermons we explored together during our weekly Sunday morning meetings. For more
conversations like this one, join us on Sundays at 10 AM weekly in West Philadelphia.
This week, we are looking at the third commandment from Exodus 20:10. It reads: You shall not
misuse the name of the Lord your God.
At first glance, this commandment doesn’t seem to fit. After all, God only picked ten. This one
doesn’t seem to belong next to commandments like “don’t steal” and “don’t murder.”
What is so important about God’s name?
Made In God’s Image
In early biblical times, kings would have status and portraits made of themselves. They’d place
them all over the kingdom so that anyone who came through would know they were in the
When the Bible describes how God created the universe it talks about humans being made in
God’s image. The command early humans are given is to fill the earth and take care of it for
God and in God’s name. We are meant to be the portraits and status and mosaics that signify
that this is God’s kingdom.
You know how that goes. After creation, things go bad very quickly. Oppression begins, humans
start using the earth instead of cultivating it, and things get dark.
But God won’t let that stand. He promises to renew and restore.
So, after sending all of us out to be his image, God takes a different approach. I will take you to
be my people, and I will be your God,” (Exodus 6:7, NIV).
God chooses a people to help represent him in the world, and not just any people. God chooses
a people who are slaves in Egypt. What better group to understand the oppression and
darkness God wants to redeem?
God’s Name Means Hope
When God shows up in the burning bush and chooses Moses to lead his people out of slavery,
Moses has some concerns:
13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your
fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell
14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. [c] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has
sent me to you.’”
Every great story of darkness has a sign of hope. In King Arthur, it’s the sword Excalibur being
loosened from the stone. In Harry Potter, it’s the jagged scar of the boy who lived.
Moses is asking what sign he can give the Hebrew people to make them believe hope has come.
God offers his name. “I am.”
This is the confirmation that a god exists and is in control. It signifies that even in a dark world,
there is a driving source that will demand justice.
God’s very name is meant to bring hope. That is why it’s so important to him. It’s the sign that
there is a king who is coming to put everything right.
Using God’s Name With Purpose
We spoke last week about the 10 commandments as a kind of love letter that God is writing to
us. The love letter piece of this commandment is God’s deep love for us, and his desire to see
We are meant to be made in the image of God, pointing to the hope God brings. The problem is
that it’s hard to believe God knows what’s best, and even harder to believe that He really loves
us and is acting in our best interest.
The Hebrew people in this passage have been living in literal slavery. And, like us, they have
ideas about how the world works and what will bring them fulfillment.
The 10 commandments are meant to shock them, and us, out of patterns. Our hurt, our
brokenness, feel normal because they’re what we’re used to.
The hope, even of the commandments, is that it reshapes our minds and how we think. They’re
meant to renew us.
When we let God be in control, when we let ourselves be reshaped and renewed, we point to
the hope God’s name brings.
We honor God’s name with our words, but even more importantly, we honor it with our lives.
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