Sometimes a slight change in perspective on a familiar topic manages to change everything! Matthew was great on Sunday, talking about the Lord’s Prayer (lines 1&2)! In particular, his comment about the commandment ‘Do not take the name of the Lord in vain’ (number 2 or 3 depending on how you count them!!) has stuck with me through the week.
You could translate the commandment as: ‘Do not carry the name of the Lord in vain’ and this, to me, makes loads more sense.
‘Taking’ the Lord’s name in vain has usually been described as using God’s name when you are cursing / swearing / using bad language – which we can agree is rude and to be avoided, and clearly not very honouring to God – but to ban it?
If you were God and you were handing out the 10 most important things for your people to know to do or not to do, would you really include that on the list? This version of the commandment seems to me to make God sound petty, and overly sensitive.
Whereas ‘carrying the name of the Lord’ has all sorts of implications: The Israelites were to be God’s chosen people. They were to be the ones who showed the world what God is like, and through whom the whole world was going to be blessed. They were the ones who carried the name of God wherever they went, and he doesn’t want them to do that lightly.
How would anyone know what God was like, except by what they see in the people he has chosen?
A few definitions of ‘in vain’ include ‘empty’ ‘worthless,’ or ‘to no good purpose’ – so He wanted his people to carry his name for a reason, to a purpose. God’s people were going to be a blessing to the whole world.
This all makes much more sense as a commandment, and fits alongside the earlier command – that they should have no other gods, but be set apart as a people of this one God. I can understand why God would feel it important that those who carry his name, would carry it carefully, and ‘effectively’.
As a follower of Jesus, it makes sense that this command applies to me too. If I carry the name of Jesus where I go, I shouldn’t do it lightly. Whatever it means to carry the name of Jesus, it shouldn’t mean nothing!
So how am I carrying the name of Jesus? Do my actions mark me out as one of His followers? (Apparently our love for one another would mark us out to the whole world, so that’s a good starting place!)
And is my carrying ‘in vain’ or is it helping to achieve what God wants for the world? Well, that brings us neatly back to the Lord’s prayer, and the lines:
‘Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’
So I should want to find out what God’s kingdom is like, and what the earth would look like with God’s Kingdom fully come. It would be good to know what God’s will is, so that I could try to ensure it is done on earth, so that the earth becomes more like heaven.
Good thing that Wendy will be telling us more about that on Sunday! Hope you can tune in then!