(Old Facebook Post)
“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7).
“The name is equivalent to the identity of the Deity… We are familiar with identity theft today, when a symbol such as a… social security number can be used to abuse or exploit the economic power or authority of an individual. Commandment three works on the same premise and prohibits divine identity theft.” – John H. Walton
I think the idea here is that we are prohibited from commandeering God (God’s name entails all that God is) for our own selfish purposes. I’m reminded of James: “You ask and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your own lusts” (James 5:3). I think we can even take God’s name in vain in our prayers–perhaps more easily there than at any other time.
And yet… Jesus invites us to confidently pray in his name (John 16:23-27)… and he has been given “the name which is above every name… LORD” (Philippians 2), that is–as a Jewish mind would understand it–Jesus has been given God’s own name, Yahweh. (Re-read Philippians 2:8-11 and let that sink in for a bit.)
So, God has given Jesus the authority to use God’s own name, and Jesus then gives us authority to use Jesus’ name, and… God forbid that we use his name in vain! This makes me aware again what an awesome invitation and responsibility it is to pray.