God’s holy law says, “You shall not take the name of the Yahweh your God in vain; for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” The first thing we need to say about the name of the Lord, Yahweh Elohim, the Hebrew Bible says, that it, like the Lord himself, is holy. It is unique. It is clean. It is pure. It is undefiled. It is set apart. It is not common or ordinary. Believers are obligated to treat that name accordingly. We have two challenges right away. First, we don’t really understand how close that relationship is. In our time, in our culture, in late-modern North America we tend to assume that names, the relations between signs (words) and things signified, are arbitrary. In Scripture, however, they are not. Esau is classic example. It means “red and hairy” and he was named Esau because he was red and hairy. So, the names, God, Lord, Almighty, Yahweh, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Father, are all intimately related to what God is and what and who he is to us. The second challenge is that, in our culture, in our time, we lack a clear distinction between that which is sacred (set apart) and that which is common or secular. Our culture seems to regard it as a duty to rubbish any sacred thing as soon as it’s discovered. If we’re to understand and begin to obey this commandment, we need to learn how to distinguish that which is sacred from that which is not.
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