This is the third part in the Beyond Today Bible study series: The Ten Commandments. Perhaps the least understood of the Ten is the Third. What is in a name? Plenty when it comes to understanding God, His purpose and His plan for each of us. Let’s probe deeper into the command, “You Shall Not Take the Name of the Lord in Vain.”
[Darris McNeely] Well, good evening everyone. And welcome to our Wednesday night Beyond Today Bible study here at the home office of the United Church of God. We have a full house here tonight. It’s good weather here in Cincinnati, and so brought everybody out tonight. Plus I think the taco salad helped, too. That was pretty good. To all of you that are online, welcome. Glad to have you with us as well tonight as we continue this Bible study series on the Ten Commandments.
So at this time, I’ll go ahead and ask God’s blessing and we will get started. So if you would please rise, we’ll do so. Great God in heaven, Father, we bow and come to Your throne of grace in another opportunity to come together in fellowship and study Your Word here tonight at the midweek. We’re grateful, Father, for our calling and that You are our Father and that we know that and that we have a relationship with You through Jesus Christ, Your Son.
And we pray for Your blessing upon the study tonight, the teaching, the hearing as we dig deeper into Your Word and specifically into Your eternal spiritual law, and may that study prove beneficial for all of us tonight, for those who will listen later on as well. We thank You, Father, for Your love and kindness and Your graciousness. You are indeed a very merciful Father. We pray Your blessing and commit this study into Your hands and do so in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
Aaron Booth, one of our media employees, our internet manager, came walking in the building the other day with this plaque attached to this solid piece of wood. Some of you may remember this. Some of you may actually have an exact copy of the Ten Commandments that this is hanging in your home, and how many of you might have had that? Remember, this goes back to a number of years; the church, I think, used this as a fundraiser years ago in the church and yes, it was as I recall. Anyway, Aaron was finding these at the thrift store and making a project out of collecting them as a memento of the past.
It’s the Ten Commandments and it’s engraved. It’s actually, these were done by a church member in Texas as a part of their business and marketed. So you may run across those someplace. If you do, we have a connection to the history of those. So I’ll place it right there. I think it’ll stay. I don’t plan to use the bench tonight, so hopefully, that’ll stay there.
We are into our study on the Ten Commandments and we are at commandment number three tonight. And so each of these bears a continual study. I know someone made a comment after we started this series that they didn’t realize you could talk that long about just one of the commandments, and we could actually talk longer than we’re doing. A number of years ago, I put together a whole series myself in the congregation where I was and did a whole series of sermons, 10 sermons, on each of the commandments. And I think I probably gave that a couple of times, went through that series through years.
So it was a very profitable study myself and hopefully so for the members of the church, to go through each commandment in great detail like that. When David said, “Oh, how love I thy law,” you come to love the law the deeper you go into it and the more you understand its impact upon each of us personally and spiritually in relationship with God, and the impact that it can have in a community, in society at large. It is very, very powerful, which is why they are so important and why they are at the heart of God’s eternal spiritual law.
Tonight, let’s get into the third commandment and let’s talk about that at this time. The first commandment tells us Who God is. The second commandment speaks to the worship of God and how to worship God. No graven images. This commandment, the third commandment, broadens us out after we come to know Who God is and how to worship God. We must then go deeper into what God is like, and the commandment to not take the name of God in vain helps us to understand the personality, the character, the will, the power, the promises and the character of God. The character of God is a very distinct feature from the nature of God. The nature of God is a very, very deep theological study that we can, again, do another 10 series on ourselves. But the commandments, and particularly the third commandment, really speak to the nature of God as we delve into His name.
Let’s go ahead and turn to Exodus 20 and we’ll just briefly read the commandment here. So we can at least set the stage for it. Exodus 20:7 Exodus 20:7You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain.
American King James Version×says, “You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” You will not take the name of the Lord, your God in vain. So we are dealing obviously with the name of God, and I think all of us understand how important a name is, the value of a name. We all have a name. We have a surname; we have a first name. We have a family name, and we’re born into a family. And we’re given a first name or perhaps two names, and those are very important to us.
What’s really important perhaps is certainly that family name. I’m a McNeely. I had a father that I was born into the McNeely family in Cape Girardeau, Missouri 64 years ago. My father Lloyd McNeely came from a very large family himself. He had 11 brothers and sisters. So they were an even dozen in that family. And as I was growing up, one thing I do remember learning very early was to honor my father. And I did honor my father as much as I could, and any time I kind of strayed away from that, he had his ways of reminding me that he was my father.
But I understood that and I understood the name, that the McNeely name in our community was a good name. We were not a prominent family—a middle class, maybe even lower middle class family. My dad and all of his brothers and sisters had worked hard. They came from a very poor background, but each had done well for themselves, owned their own home, a point of pride in their family, worked hard every day, kept their nose clean. As I ran around the streets of my hometown, and I remember very well, it was a small town. I was born in a small town. Did I say that? [laughter] But when people would sometimes ask me, “Who are you?” As a little kid running around, wherever we might be, I would say, “Well you know, I’m Darris McNeely.” “Oh, you’re Lloyd McNeely’s son?” “Yeah, yeah.”
And they would always speak well of my dad. “Oh, yeah, I know him. I know your dad.” He had his own business and was known around that part of the community, but I was always aware that whenever somebody referenced me to my dad, that they spoke well of him. And I didn’t always understand why, other than the fact that, from my point of view, he was my dad. I love my dad. He was a good provider. Not perfect but he was a good man in many ways and he had a good reputation within the community, and his name meant something in the community in terms of just a honest, hard working, dependable individual within that family. I think that they weren’t always conscious to work toward that, but they earned it and it was important, and I knew that.
But I never completely knew perhaps what it was that caused me to recognize that my dad was to be honored beyond the fact that he was my dad. Those are things that kind of grew on me over a period of time. As we look at our Father, our spiritual Father, as we look at God and we look at this commandment to honor His name, to not take it in vain, that brings something home to each of us as we recognize we bear His name and that we are the Church of God.
But we also are Christians. We follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Our Lord and our master, our savior, our God and our Father. The name of the family of God is very important to us, as we work to understand Him in that spiritual sense, and I think that that is a lifetime matter for each of us to come to as well, as we seek to do something to honor our father by our conduct, by our words, by our obedience and the character that we develop.
And perhaps not always, even at that level, understanding the full dimensions of the character of God and the meaning of the name of that God. Just like I didn’t fully understand perhaps the honor that was due my family name into which I was born in the same way that they had at that point in time. I came to learn that over…really I’m still learning it. But there have been some instances that have pointed that out. And so it is with our own spiritual Father through our focus upon this name.
When we look at verse 7, there’s four words to note here. He says, “Do not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.” Don’t take it in vain. To take something means that we bear it. We hold it, we use it. We have appropriated that name. Really, it is a, there is a positive, even though it says, “Don’t take it in vain.” But we are to take that name and we do take that name as we enter the spiritual relationship with God. We bear that name. We should understand that at the outset and that’s a very grave and serious responsibility.
It says don’t take it vainly, in a false way. The word “vain” means that which lacks truth, that which lacks reality. We could lie. We could be false in our use of the name of God, representing God by our conduct and our words. We could make God to look foolish, if we present ourselves as a child of God and, in fact, we don’t live up to the character that God expresses through His name. So He said, “Don’t take it in vain.” But in that, there is a positive injunction to take it, to bear it, which we do with our baptismal vow and with our membership in the body of Christ.
He said, He goes on here to say, “For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” And so guiltless is talking about that He will not leave unpunished any vain use or empty or false use of that name. It will bear a penalty. It will not go unpunished is what He is saying here. Now of course again, we look at the name of God, don’t take it in vain, that name, it’s a word, it’s a symbol, but it is a meaning.
Today, a marketing term is called branding, to basically talk about the promise behind a particular brand, a name, whatever that product or company, service organization might be. That’s a very, very important area of marketing. In a sense, as we take God’s name, we bear the promise of what that name means, and it does identify us in a very large way.
When we look through the Bible, we know very well that the name of God, there are hundreds of names for God in the Bible. One source that I had read said that there’s 250 names for God in the Bible. That should tell us that it takes a lot of different names to convey the character of God. And those names reveal His purpose, His will by which He has chosen through a particular name, to reveal some part of His nature or His purpose or His character. When you look at the names of people, places in Scripture, that also comes out as well. We know that a name will tell us, in the Bible, a lot about a person. The name Jacob, as it was given to Jacob when he was born, was that of a supplanter.
But after he wrestled with God Almighty, God changed his name to Israel, “one who prevails with God.” And a completely different meaning. Sometimes, you and I were given names at birth. We give our children names with hope, with an expectation that might be behind that name. We’ve all done that as we’ve thought carefully about the names we give our children, and circumstance and time bear out whether or not we live up to that particular name.
There is a case to be made, I suppose, for changing that part of the name at a certain time when the true character of our nature comes out. I guess that’s why we have nicknames, don’t we? I don’t know, how many of you were ever given a nickname in your youth? My dad gave me a nickname. He called me Speed. That had nothing to do with anything illegal. But it was because everywhere I went, I was always running. I was in a hurry.
And I kind of got that off of him because he had a brisk walk and he kept going and moving himself, but I would move my little legs to try to keep up with him and run here and there, and he would call me Speed. All right, so don’t hold that against me. I told you maybe too much information, but that was my nickname.
When we give a nickname to, call somebody Red or Beautiful in terms of endearment for a child or whatever, and it may mark some physical feature or part of their personality that begins to come out, and we get those nicknames like that through life. Maybe that’s the closest we have to some of these name changes that we see of individuals within the Bible and the way names are used, but we see that these names are very powerful. They will be attached in the Scriptures to even the events of the birth, when certain individuals are born in the Bible. We find that their mothers give them a name to indicate how severe the birth was. The name Benjamin, son of my right hand.
So there is a lot of meaning that is attached to a name, and circumstances and time will prove that out. When it comes to God, the power of God is something that is very strongly revealed in many different ways in the Scripture. If you turn over to Psalm 8, the 8th Psalm, we will see something here in a very well known psalm to us that speaks to the power of God’s name, beginning in verse 1. “Oh Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth.” I believe we have a hymn made out of this in our hymnbook. “How excellent is Your name in all the earth who have set Your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, You have ordained strength because of Your enemies that they may silence the enemy and the avenger. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained.”
So the power, the majesty, the glory of God is brought out here and revealed in His creation, in His heavens, and bearing up and pointing to a most excellent name for God, the very orderly mind. And it’s interesting that what this does show, even as the psalm starts out with the majesty of the universe, the sun, the moon and the stars, and then it goes into the well known part in verses 4 and 5, “What is man that You’re mindful of Him?” That is quoted by the apostle Paul later in the book of Hebrews.
“What is man that You’re mindful of him? You’ve made him a little lower than the angels and You’ve crowned him with glory and honor.” And this passage that begins to open up the potential and the very purpose for human life, why we were born, created a little lower than the angels but having the name, created in the image of God for an expressed purpose of becoming a part of the family of God ultimately through the process of salvation.
This is brought out and begins to be brought out here within the context, my point is, of His name. How excellent is that name. And so if we bear that name and our purpose is to become a member of the family of God, that name then is something we want to pay attention to and make very, very… be very careful that we not only understand it but we live up to it and that we bear it well, we bear it truthfully. We take it to ourselves truthfully, and we honor God in that way as we observe His name.
There are multiple names, as I said, for God in the Bible. We know the word Lord. We know the word YHVH, Yahweh or Jehovah. We don’t know exactly how it was pronounced because we don’t have the symbols to tell us that. But we have our approximations describing God as the Eternal, an Eternal One in a covenant relationship. Adonai is another name for God that we know, that denotes Him as our Master and that He owns us and we look to Him as our Adonai.
There are, there’s obviously another name, Elohim, the Creator God that is used over 2700 times in the Old Testament to describe and to talk about God as well. That name is broken down in even more attributes. There is a word, Yahweh Ropheka that is used in Exodus 15, where God describes Himself as our healer. That word Ropheka means God or Eternal or Healer. So there are many other names that break down other aspects of God’s name.
It’s interesting that the 23rd Psalm, if you would turn there, we know this. We all know the 23rd Psalm quite well. Many others could even recite it from memory but the 23rd Psalm has multiple names of God embedded in these six verses. One of the sources that I’ve used in researching this brings out, I believe, it’s three, four, five, six, seven, eight, there’s nine different names referenced here about God as this psalm here is put together. He is our Provider, our Shepherd, our Healer. He restores our soul. The God who, in fact, is the God, the Yahweh Ropheka. He is our Banner, our Shield. Another name that is used is Jehovah Nissi. And He is our Peace, the God of the Sabaoth, the God of Hosts. Yahweh Shalom, God our Peace. The word Shepherd here, even in the first verse, is a Hebrew word Roi, which means our Shepherd. He is God our Shepherd. So there are several names of God embedded right here in this well loved and well known psalm that David composed to extol the view of God.
David had a very, very high view of God. We turn over to Psalm 18, we can catch that here in a few verses. Psalms 18:1 Psalms 18:1I will love you, O LORD, my strength.
American King James Version×. David writes, “I will love you, oh Lord my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer. My God, my strength in whom I will trust. My shield and the horn of my salvation and my stronghold. I will count upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised. So shall I be saved from my enemies.” Again, a very, very high view of God that he had acquired through his singing, his reflection, his prayers, his attachment to the soil.
I think also, as he would gaze up into the heavens, what else would have led him to say what he did in the other psalm there that “what is man that You’re mindful of him?” As he looked at the orderly universe and could tell to his degree that it was, “what is this, what are we, God, compared to all of that?” Through that, David came to see something about God’s character and nature that is profound as to who He is and the value of that relationship.
David follows on from another one of the leading figures of the Bible who himself had a very close relationship with God brought on through a different set of circumstances. Where David was a shepherd in the fields reflecting upon God through the experiences of his life, Moses, the man that had a unique relationship above all others, had some encounters with God that taught him some profound aspects about the name of God and what it means.
After Mount Sinai, when you go back to Exodus 33, there is a very interesting passage here that shows us something about Moses and what he wanted to know about God and what God decided to show him. Now, the commandments had already been given on Mount Sinai. Moses had spent a number of years getting to know God from the time of the burning bush, but Moses was human and as he had been with God on that mountain, he too wanted to see something about God because of that proximity and the intensity, no doubt, of the relationship that he was going through, going up and down Mount Sinai, getting the very law on the tablets that he was given. The account begins here in chapter 33 and verse 9, when Moses entered the tabernacle and says “the pillar of cloud descended and stood at the door of the tabernacle and the Lord talked with Moses.” He had a very close relationship. “The people saw the pillar of cloud standing at the tabernacle door. And all the people rose and worshiped, each man. So the Lord spoke to Moses face-to-face as a man speaks to his friend, and he would return to the camp but his servant Joshua, the son of none, a young man did not depart from the tabernacle. Then Moses said to the Lord,” in verse 12, “You see,” he says, “You say to me, ‘bring up these people.’ But You’ve not let me know whom You have sent, You will send with me. Yet, You’ve said, ‘I know you by name, and you’ve also found grace in My sight.’” As God spoke to Moses, He said, “I know you by name.”
Now Moses says, “Therefore I pray, if I’ve found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight. And consider that this nation is Your people.” And God said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest,” and then Moses said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then shall it be known that Your people and I found grace in Your sight except You are with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, and the people who are upon the face of the earth.” The Lord said to Moses, “I also will do this thing that you have spoken, for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.” God knew Moses by his name. And then he said—Moses—“Please show me Your glory.” Show me Your glory. He wanted to see something. Now it’s human to want to see. He wanted to see something about God. Now keep in mind again, Moses had been raised in Egypt. In Egypt, they wanted to see their gods so they erected huge images of their gods, small images of the other gods. All the gods had an image that they could see.
Moses is saying to God here, “I want to see Your glory. Show it to me.” Verse 19. God replies, “I will make all My goodness pass before you. And I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious. I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But you cannot see My face, for no man shall see Me and live.” And the Lord said, “Here is a place by Me, you stand on the rock, and so it shall be while My glory passes by that I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock. I will cover you with My hand while I pass by and I will take away My hand, you’ll see my back but My face, you shall not, will not be seen.”
And the Lord said to Moses in verse 1 of chapter 34, “Cut two tablets of stone and I’ll write on these tablets that the words that were on the first tablets which you broke. Be ready in the morning, come up in the morning and present yourself to Me on the mountain. No man will come with you,” and so Moses did that. In verse 4, “he rose up early the next morning, went up to Mount Sinai as God had commanded. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the name of the Lord. And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.’ And Moses made haste, lowered his head to the earth and he worshiped,” and here is the point. Moses wanted to see an image of God. And he wanted to basically see something, and God gives him a lesson about the third commandment is what he does here. He says, He is proclaimed as the Lord, merciful, gracious, longsuffering.
These are the characteristics of God embodied in His name. Moses is getting a firsthand lesson about the third commandment. And again, being human, he wanted to see something. But God was showing him a lesson that again is embedded in this law, that to see these qualities, to hold dear to these qualities of mercy, of graciousness, of kindness, and yes even judgment, visiting the iniquity upon the children, and certain iniquity has to play out even within the course of life. Even as God is merciful and good, He’s also a God of truth. But these are all the characteristics of God embedded in that name, that we take on and bear as we become His children and are to honor in that way.
So Moses get a very strong dose of the third commandment here that he had not counted on. You see how deep the third and each of the commandments and each of the laws of God. God wanted Moses to understand His glory is in what He is, not in what we see. And to this day, we have to be, in a sense, like Moses. He saw at least the back side of God there, but he didn’t see His face and we haven’t either and we’ve seen less than Moses. But what we do see and should be living by is the character of God and the purpose of God embedded in our life by our character, our decisions, and every aspect of our life. That’s what it’s all about.
Now we have something that Moses didn’t have. He may have had this unique relationship, but we have the Son. When we go back to John 14, we see that through the Son, God gives us what He gave to Moses here. And perhaps more. Certainly in a different way. We have the dwelling of God’s Holy Spirit. We have the revelation of the Word of God, but in John 14:5 John 14:5Thomas said to him, Lord, we know not where you go; and how can we know the way?
American King James Version×, Thomas here said to Him, “Lord, we did not know where You were going, and how can we know the way?” “Christ said to him,” this is after this time with Christ, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also, and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient to us.” Jesus said, “Have I not been with you so long and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father. So how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’” In a sense, again completely different than the experience Moses had, perhaps a little bit less dramatic, you know, being hid in the cleft of a rock with that glory there, but these disciples had seen and been with Jesus for quite a long period of time.
Verse 10, He says, “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you, I do not speak on my own authority. But the Father who dwells in Me does the works.” And so as they saw Christ, they saw the Father, and He came to show the Father in every way. That was His purpose through His life, through His ministry, through His personal example, through the Gospel accounts that we have. We see the character of God through the life and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Christ healed, He cast out demons, He showed mercy, all of which are part and aspects of the character of God that are revealed by His names, and many of these names that we could go through in an even deeper study from the Old Testament. So it is through Christ that we see then how we should live. And as we are His disciples and follow along in His footsteps, as His students, we are following then and seeing the Father and bearing that name and honoring that name and not taking it in vain through any part of our life. And that is how we know that.
Here in later on then in John 17, Jesus went on to talk about this. He said, as He made this last prayer to the Father before He was arrested, the night before He was crucified and killed, He said in verse 3, “This is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You’ve sent. I’ve glorified You on the earth. I finished work to which You’ve given me to do and now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
In verse 6, “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You’ve given me out of the world.” They were Yours, You gave them to me. They’ve kept Your Word. So Jesus says in this prayer, “I’ve made known Your name to those that You’ve given to Me.” How did He do it? By His life, His example, His teaching. The fullness of all of that. His ministry expounded the name of God and He taught the nature, the personality of God by what He did. Down to verse 11, He goes on, “I’m no longer in the world, but these are in the world and I come to You, Holy Father. Keep through Your name, those whom You’ve given Me that they maybe one as We are.” Unity, true unity with Christ and the Father, is found in that name which we have hold in there, that very name into which we have been baptized.
If you go back to Matthew 29, this kind of breaks it down a bit more closely to exactly… Matthew 28, I should say. This breaks it down to us more personally as to what this really does mean. Because when we’re baptized, as we see here in Matthew 28:19 Matthew 28:19Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
American King James Version×, we’re baptized into the name. Okay? Christ gives the commission to His disciples. He says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth,” verse 19. “Go therefore, make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into, in the name,” it should be better rendered, “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teaching them to do, to observe all things that I’ve commanded you. I’m with you always, lo, I’m with you always and to the end of the age.”
Into the name. The Jewish New Testament translated by a man named David Stern puts it this way. He adds a little different wording to it. He says, “Baptizing them into the reality of the Father.” He takes that word, the word “name”, and he translates it to give a little different understanding of the meaning that “baptize them into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.” There is a very real relationship that comes with our baptism through repentance and faith and the actual symbol of baptism that puts us into a unique relationship of oneness or unity with the Father and with Christ by the Spirit.
It’s a very, very profound thought here to realize that this is a very real experience which, again, makes it incumbent upon us to make sure that we continue to think deeply about the meaning of the name of God that we bear as a Christian, as a follower of Jesus Christ, as a member of the body of Christ, as a member of the Church of God, as we look to God as our Father. That we spend our lifetime, really again, seeking to understand why it is that we honor Him and we take that name and we take it in truth and we hold it dear and we don’t bring any shame upon it. We bring no dishonor upon it because that represents a very, very real nature or character of God that is embedded in the Scriptures that comes out in the multi-dimensional, multifaceted stories, examples, life of Christ, teachings from all the Scriptures, about who God is and what He is doing.
We come into that reality. This is what we take upon ourselves willingly through the calling of God and through the acceptance of Christ, and we again spend a lifetime doing that even when we didn’t fully understand it perhaps at our sincerest moment of baptism. The very fact that we might 5, 10, 20, 30 years later look back and realize, “I sure know a whole lot more about faith and this relationship now than I did when I was baptized.” That’s just the way it works out, and we come to learn that and we learn what is the fullness behind that name.
And to go back to a story, another story about my father that I learned after his death. My father was a World War II veteran. I’ve mentioned that several times.
He was on Omaha beach at D-Day, on June 6, 1944. He would never talk about it, as most of those guys wouldn’t. This was years after he died, that I was, I was home visiting one of his sisters, my aunt. And she was my favorite aunt, still is, and she and my dad were close in age and close growing up. And she told me a story that I’d never heard. She was a very good church-going Nazarene lady and she would spend her days through the week taking Meals on Wheels to people in the nursing homes. And she told me one day, she went into this gentleman’s room at a nursing home, delivered his meal, then she turned to leave and he kind of asked her to stop. He said, “What’s your name?” She says, “I’m Carrie Darter.” “What was your maiden name?” “Well, McNeely, Carrie McNeely.” And he stopped and he thought for a minute, “Do you know Lloyd McNeely?” “Yeah, he’s my brother, my older brother.” “Oh,” he said, “well, Lloyd McNeely was with my brother on Omaha Beach when he got shot across the legs by German machine guns and was bleeding out on the beach. Lloyd McNeely took him in his arms and he died in Lloyd McNeely’s arms on Omaha Beach.”
And they were both from Cape Girardeau, from the same town. And here, 40, 50, whatever it was, 50 or more years later, the dead soldier’s brother was telling my aunt a story about my dad that has stuck with him and his family obviously as they had learned about the death of their brother in the war. I don’t know how they learned it. I don’t know, maybe my dad came home and told him. He was the only one of their unit that left that town and went to war…that man was the only one to die and not go back home.
We used to hear my dad talking about him. We got a picture of him from a newspaper clipping. And his name was Dalton. Dalton didn’t make it back home. And he died in my dad’s arms and I remember when my aunt told me that story, I just was kind of stunned, chance finding if something out like that, but told me something about my dad. In the midst of that carnage on that morning on that beach, he held this guy until he died. And the family remembered that. They knew that and told our family, you know, decades later.
My point is that as I honored my dad, I didn’t know always know why, I just as a young boy, you continue to do so as you do with your parents, you learn things later perhaps through the years as to why they are to be honored. And we continue to learn why we are to honor our Father, our spiritual Father. And to bear his name carefully and wisely, reverently, and to seek to never bring dishonor or shame upon our Heavenly Father’s name through our own actions.
You’ve all heard the old song that, if you were charged with being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? You’ve heard that one? It’s a good question sometimes to think about. If somebody laid a charge on you, that we’re going to charge you with being a Christian. Now we’re going to find, now we’re going to search your life and find the evidence, how much would they find? It’s a good question sometimes to ask ourselves. But this is how it comes down in our lives.
We want our children to bring honor to our family name. How much more do you think our Father wants us in our lives to bring honor to His name? Remember God says that He will not hold guiltless any of us for the way we bear His name. And that’s a very sobering thought. Proverbs 22:1 Proverbs 22:1A GOOD name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.
American King James Version×says that “a good name is better than riches.” A good name is better than riches. My dad didn’t give me riches. He was never a wealthy man, but he gave me a good name in our community. And his generation is just about gone from that community, so I wouldn’t run across too many people on the streets of my hometown that knew my father anymore. A few family members still survive, siblings. But he left a good name and I know that.
I had an occasion to defend that once a few years ago, and I made sure that something didn’t happen that could have happened that could have brought remote shame upon just the name, and I made sure it didn’t happen. I got wind of it one time. The thing about a small town newspaper is they put everything in the record sections of the newspapers of these small towns. And my hometown newspaper was like that, and I got wind of something and I won’t go into it all, but I had to take some action just to make sure. It had nothing to do with my father, but I wanted to make sure that our family name was not in any way impugned by anything. So it cost me some money, but I made sure that I could not imagine my dad, the embarrassment he would have had, had he known that his name was associated in some way with something that was not his character. And so he left a good name but not a lot of money.
Now there are other names from modern history experiences that are synonymous with some bad traits. If I mentioned the name Benedict Arnold to you, what do you think of? Traitor. He’s the classic American name that, you look up traitor in the dictionary, Benedict Arnold is, his picture is right there. How many of you remember the name Bernie Madoff? But it was 10 years ago or more, he had ran a ponzi scheme, bilked people out of multiple millions of dollars in New York City. I bring him up because there’s a couple of movies that are coming out about him here right now, telling that story of how he conned people out of his money. Today, you mention Bernie Madoff, and it is a name that took millions, but it is synonymous with falsity, swindling, dishonesty. One of his sons committed suicide, just couldn’t bear being associated with him, the Madoff name anymore.
So a good name is better than riches. Very, very important that we hold that. Among the Jews, they were very, very proud of their name. They were children of Abraham. You remember the occasion where they, some of them got in Christ’s face and said, “Well, we are Abraham’s children. Who are you?” And He said, “Well, before Abraham was, I am.” They were very, very proud of their linage and being children of Abraham, and the apostle Paul had something to say to them in Romans 2, when he writes about the divide between the gentiles and the Jews. Romans 2:17 Romans 2:17Behold, you are called a Jew, and rest in the law, and make your boast of God,
American King James Version×, beginning he says, “Indeed, you were called a Jew and you rest on the law, and you made your boast in God, and know his will and approve the things that are excellent being instructed out of the law.” By this time Paul was writing, they had quite a long history, not quite two millennia but let’s…you go all the way back to Abraham, it goes back quite a long time that they boasted in the law, boasted in that lineage and then the law under Moses in that period of time.
In verse 19 he says, “You’re confident that you yourselves are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,” because they were the chosen people. They had this covenant relationship. “An instructor of the foolish, the teacher of babes having the form of knowledge and truth in the law.” And so again, they were very proud of that. “You therefore who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal?” Now Paul is laying this right square in front of the Jews. For you and I, we should let it speak to us today as those who bear the name of God in a spiritual relationship, not wanting to be held guilty of any part of it. Then we should look at how do we measure up to any of these points here?
He said, “You therefore who teach another, do you not teach yourself? If you say to someone don’t steal, how about you? Is there any part of your life where you’re a thief? You who say do not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? For ‘the name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles because of you,’ as it is written.”
Very powerful passage to the Jews to think, and it should speak to you and I as well today, to think. Is there any part of our life by which we might blaspheme the name of God? Blasphemy is dishonoring or reviling God’s name by word or even by action, where we might not even know about it. And that is something for us to think about.
The name of God is very powerful and it is used in many different ways to denote the character of God, His qualities, His attributes of mercy, of graciousness, of truth, and to tell us then that we are to live up to that name as we bear it, as Paul is saying here in Romans 2. The end result of it is that, in time, as we learn this lesson and embed the Third Commandment in our lives, in time at the point of the resurrection, we have certain promises that God is going to change our name. When you go back to Revelation 2 and 3, you see a couple of occasions where it is mentioned to the churches that are mentioned there in Revelation.
Earlier, within this past year we went through all 12 of the churches of Revelation 2 and 3, and we covered this at the time as we were going through it but a good review and the connection of the Third Commandment of can be good for us. In Revelation 2, the message to the church at Pergamos in verse 17, Christ says, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches, to him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone and on the stone, a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”
So there is a promise of a new name because, to the church at Pergamos, for all the reasons that are stated here but we don’t have the time to go into all of it. Just that there is a new name that will be given. And again a name when it’s done in this fashion will reflect the character of the individual. In chapter 3 to the church at Philadelphia, He says this, verse 8, “I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door and no one can shut it, for you have a little strength, have kept My Word and have not denied My name.”
We don’t deny God’s name by certainly holding it dear and close and being faithful to God, obedient but also reflecting the qualities and characteristics of that name in our own character. And then down in verse 12, He says, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God and He shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem which comes down out of heaven from My God, and I will write on him My new name.”
You see how important the name of God is and the places that He inhabits, a New Jerusalem and again, you go back to chapter 21 to 22, and you see what that city represents and who will be there and who won’t be there, based on again, character, spiritual characteristics that are outlined there. That’s how we will come to that point where we then will be given a new name, the name of God, the name of His city, and God’s new name. What it will be for any of us and how that is going to work through, God knows, and in a sense I can’t wait to find out what it is, as I’m sure you can’t as well.
The Third Commandment then, deals with the quality of our life right now. Think about that. It really deals with the quality of our life, how we live it, how we let that name of God, of graciousness, of mercy, of truth, kindness, of sound judgment, become a part of our life as we relate with each other, as we relate to God, that helps to build a quality life that is spiritual, eternal, that pays big dividends right now in our life. This is how God has chosen to work in us by faith.
We haven’t seen God in the way that Moses did. We didn’t even see God in the flesh as the apostles did and the disciples of that era. But we see God through the teaching that we have in Scripture and through a relationship that He builds with us by His spirit. In 1 John 3:1 1 John 3:1Behold, what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knows us not, because it knew him not.
American King James Version×, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us that we should be called the children of God. Therefore the world does not know us because it did not know Him.” We come to know God, as I said earlier, through a lifetime of growth and grace and knowledge.
And we come to know exactly what it means to honor God, to take that name in full truth and not dishonor it in anyway. And it takes many years for us for God’s grace to be able to do that, and then we come to fully know it. Ultimately, we will know as we are called the children of God, we will come to know this in faith.
I’ll tell you one last story about my father. It was at his funeral. It was a fall evening, very nice evening, our hometown. We were having the calling or the wake, and a lot of people from his past came that I had known in my youth and to pay their respects. I remember stepping out of the funeral parlor to get a little bit of fresh air after a couple of hours, talking to people there as you do in a funeral home, and I stepped out on a porch and it was the back area where they had a handicap accessible ramp coming up from the parking lot. I remember standing there talking to somebody, and I saw this gentleman hobbling along with his wife helping along. He had a walker. He was a heavy-set gentleman and he was hobbling along and making his way slowly as you would with a walker, up this ramp. And he got closer, I recognized him as someone that I knew in my youth. And he got up to me and I called him by name. I said, “How you doing?” And I said, “I’m Darris, Lloyd’s son.” He said, “Oh yeah.” His kids and I were contemporaries. He said, “I had to come tonight.” He said, “Your dad and I grew up together, and one day we were swimming in a big water hole at a rock quarry and I nearly drowned, and your dad saved me.” And I never knew that story. He said, “I had to come tonight to pay respects to your dad.” He hobbled on in.
And I thought, you know, when I look back at that, then that tells me why I honored my father. And you learn things bit by bit, piece by piece through the years. He was a man worthy of honor in many different ways, as are yours. And certainly for all of us God as our Father is worthy of honor, and we learn through the years, we learn through the experiences exactly why.
As we obey, as we bear His name well, and we show Him that. And one day we will be at this point in verse 2, here 1 John 3. It says, “Beloved, now we are children of God. And it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” This is how God has chosen to work through us. And as we are like our Father today, bearing His name and the character of that name and all that it represents, then in time, the fullness of that revelation will come through when we see Him as He is and we will be like Him. Not only through the change from flesh to spirit, but because we have spent a life of coming to know Him, to honor Him as we have put on His character. That’s the Third Commandment. That’s a lot for us to think about. So I leave you with that.
Thank you all of you for coming out tonight, and we will resume our next Bible study in two weeks with the Fourth Commandment, the Sabbath, and I believe Steve Meyers will be conducting that Bible study at that time. So be safe as you travel home tonight and take care.