“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.”
The third Commandment has do with the name of God; specifically, that we should not take God’s name in vain. I want to make sure that we get this one right, so it will take more than one day to lay out what this one is all about.
First off, let’s ask what vain means. It means “empty” or “worthless.” So, God is telling us that His name should never be worthless to us. Let’s store that away and go to the next question, “What’s the big deal about the name of God?”
To answer that, let’s look at three names in the Bible that have to do with godly people. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are called the fathers of our faith. It is through them that the promise to God’s people came. Interestingly, all three of them were given their names by God.
Abram was renamed Abraham when God promised to bless him. Isaac was given his name by God when his mother laughed at the thought of having a child. But, the story we are after here is Jacob’s.
Jacob was a deceitful man. He had pulled a fast one on his brother and went on the run. After a while, he wanted to return and reconcile but things didn’t look good. He was greatly distressed and afraid for his life and his family. He prayed and acknowledged his unworthiness before God and asked for deliverance.
That evening, God appeared to Jacob and he “wrestled” or “contended” with him. We are not exactly certain how that took place, but during this interaction God asked Jacob for his name.
Now, God knew Jacob’s name. So what was He doing? He was asking Jacob to give up his name. So, Jacob surrendered it. God took it from him and replaced it with a new one; Israel, meaning “God strives.”
Jacob’s new name tells us his story, but the most startling impact of that night comes from what happened next. Jacob had the nerve to ask God for HIS name. What God did in response to that request has echoed for thousands of years since that night in the wilderness with Jacob. That is for tomorrow.