Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Taking a name in Vain

The other night, I read a section out of the gospel of Mark. Mark 4 to be exact. There in the story we find Jesus calming the storm as if it were nothing. The storm was bad enough to have experienced fishermen fearing for their lives and Jesus, once woken up, says only a few words and it stops. Then the disciples marvel at His power.

After reading this I am snapped back to my life. I began thinking about how I claim to follow this man Jesus the Christ. I have even put the label of Christian upon myself to show others that I am a follower of Jesus. I then began to think of how undeserving of that name I am at times.

Taking the name or label of Christian is not something to be taken lightly. This actually reminds me of something I used to hear quite often…”Thou shall not take the LORD’s name in vain.” Preachers pulling out number three on the top ten list. Normally used in context of someone saying things like, “God damn it,” or “Jesus Christ!” as some sort of explicative. How these two different things go together may not seem evident at first. If it does you probably already know where I am going with this.

If you take a close look at Exodus 20 (that is where all ten commandments are listed); it doesn’t begin with “you shall have no other gods before Me.” That is verse three. The very beginning of the chapter says, “Then God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” This is what is called context. It is very important in interpreting surrounding verses, namely for our purposes verse seven.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in Vain.”

So here we are in Exodus 20. You have Moses on top of Mt.Sinai [like any good follower of God he is a climber]. He is chilling on the top of this mountain with God who is giving him the beginning of what will become the Law. Moses and the people of Israel have just been brought out of the slavery of Egypt. God, by doing some miraculous things, has delivered them. Even after crossing the sea of Reeds, the LORD did more amazing things to sustain them. God had made the waters of Marah (Marah comes from the word for bitter) sweet for the waters had been bitter. He had begun to provide manna for all the people. They didn’t know what it was [there is a pun there if you know Hebrew] but they knew it was good. Then God, through Moses’ staff, brought forth water from the rock at Horeb. The LORD had done some amazing things for the people of Israel. This in turn, is why they (read you) should not use His name in vain.

To use it in vain is more than just to turn it into some kind of “cuss” word or explicative when you are angry. To use it in vain is after seeing the power of and the power that is behind that name then using it in any selfish, malicious, foolish, or empty way. For the people of Israel to use His name, יהוה in any of these ways after witnessing what He had just done would take away from the power in that holy name. This is why you will not go unpunished. It is like a child receiving the best gift they ever had then saying it is worthless 5 minutes later. Throughout Exodus God is always doing things for his namesake. There is a power in that name and God does not want it to be desecrated.

This reminds me of a passage in the New Testament that I feel is along the same lines. Matthew 12:31b. “…but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.” I have heard it said and would agree that this basically means witnessing an act of the Spirit of God then denying that it was the Spirit or God that did it. Saying that the Spirit has no power. This verse along with Exodus 20:7 seems to be going along the same lines. Anyways, before I get too off track, how does this fit with the name Christian?

Over the years, I have learned and seen that there is power in the name of Jesus the Christ. We as followers have taken on the title of little Christs or Christians. That in itself is a very honorable and powerful thing. WE have seen and have also been given power from God through Jesus. So the name is very fitting. Anytime that we misuse or misrepresent that name by using it selfishly, maliciously, foolishly, or in an empty way; we destroy the reputation of such an honorable title and we destroy the name of our God and of Jesus.

Granted, we are all not perfect, not yet at least. I thank God for the grace he has offered and continues to offer. If it were not for that grace we would never be able to honor that name given to us as followers. It is at this point that we take on a more honorable name than that of Christian. It is when we are following God closely that we are given the title of a child of God.

You are probably wondering now how this has anything to do with the opening in which I talk about Jesus calming the storm. When I originally wrote this I ended it at the previous paragraph then later realized that the first paragraph is still just hanging there. So I figured I would try and tie it all together. In the Gospel of Mark, this is one of the first miraculous things that the disciples witness after being called out to follow Jesus. They saw the power that Jesus possessed. This was only the beginning. Through the course of the years of His ministry they saw many more miracles and most of all they witnessed the power of life over death in the resurrection. After that, they didn’t look back. Their lives were changed to the point that they didn’t give God a reason to say they took His name in vain. I long to be just as they were.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good, challenging words. Calvinclimber