You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God.~ The Small Catechism 1:3-4
What does this mean?
We are to fear and love God, so that we do not curse, swear, practice magic, lie, or deceive using God’s name, but instead use that very name in every time of need to call on, pray to, praise, and give thanks to God.
Grace to you and peace from the Triune God,
Often when people think of this Second Commandment they think “We ought not to say a vain ‘Oh my God’ or a derogatory ‘Jesus Christ.’” Which, is true. That instinct is correct. God does not want us to use God’s name in an empty manner where it means virtually nothing. Such false use will reflect poorly on who our God is. The use of God’s name is a serious thing.
As we learn, “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name” (Exod. 20:7). Now, why does God take his name so seriously that he will not acquit those who misuse his name? Because when his name is misused and abused the people who hear it will not know the difference between the abuse of God’s name and the true use of God’s name. And thus, they will be mislead in who God actually is.
When we speak for God, and we are called to speak for God (not simply to talk about God), we must be certain that with our words and actions we are representing our God right and well. We must not use our own ideas of God, but be formed by this very God we represent to the world. As things are, there are many more mouths yapping in the world that claim to be God’s voice than there are those who actually are speaking for God. It is egregious. For example, if someone casts doubt on the baptism of infants, we know that it is a lie in God’s name. Or, when someone uses God’s name to justify their bigotry toward gay people, they have broken this commandment.
We do have this promise: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent” (Isa. 55:10-11). We believe God has actually spoken and we can know what he has said and he has entrusted us to be his representative in the world.
What is the proper and right use of God’s name? To call on God’s name in our every time of need. Are you addicted to drugs or alcohol? Call on God’s name. He promises to hear you and give you his Holy Spirit. Have you been wronged by someone you trusted? Turn and look expectantly to God. Are you despairing in your sin? God forgives you, for that is the work of Jesus Christ and his cross. God’s name is used rightly when we use it to pray. God wants us to pray to him. We must not wait until we think we are worthy to be heard, because then we would never pray. We pray because God delights in listening to sinners. He will hear you. Praise God’s name. Every good thing you have comes from him. And give thanks to God. He will work everything out for your good. Then God’s name is used not with empty words, but with filled words.
Peace and joy,
Pastor Levi Powers