Commandment #3: What’s in a name?

Commandment #2: No Idols!
May 8, 2012
Commandment #4: The Sabbath Rest
May 17, 2012

Commandment #3

Ex 20:7  “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”


Do you have a nickname? How about a title?
I n 2009,  I won the Toastmasters Region 6 International Speech contest. I can legitimately claim the title of Regional Champion. The title is cool, the trophy is sweet, but the nickname someone gave me is really awesome. My coach, mentor and friend, Darren LaCroix, the 2001 World Champion of Public Speaking, calls me “Champ.” I love it not because it reminds me of my winning past, but because it gives me confidence in my promising future. The name changes how I perceive myself.

There’s power in a name.

W e know the power of a name. When we hear certain names, we have predictable reactions, and create certain mental images. Osama Bin Laden. Michael Jordon. Mother Theresa. We love to hear our own name spoken. We create nicknames for people, both to reflect their character and our feelings toward them. My dad called me WauWau. Nobody else called me that. It was a special name only he used for me. Even now, as I speak that name, I feel a precious connection to him.

We know the significance of a name.

G od knows the power of a name too. In the bible, names were especially significant. They described a person’s character or declared a statement of circumstances.  In the book of Hosea chapter 1 we read that Gomer had 3 children, and all them were given very sad names that reflected Gomer’s very sad circumstances. For example, her youngest was named Lo-Ruhamah which means “not favored.”  What a sad name! Sometimes names were changed as a result of a life-altering event. Sarai was renamed Sarah. Abram became Abraham. Saul became Paul.

O f course, the most significant name in the bible is God’s name. When Moses was told by God to return to the Pharaoh and demand the Israelites be released, Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”
God said to Moses, “I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (Exodus 3:13-14)

The name” I am” (Yahweh or Jehovah) translates to “self-existent one”and was significant and sufficient enough for God to convey his immeasurable and unlimited authority, power and majesty. It defines God as the God of creation, the God of eternity, the God of all holiness. It is a supreme name fit for the supreme God.

W hen God gave Moses the 10 commandments, it’s no wonder that he established boundaries on the use of His Name. Ex 20:7 says “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

There’s power in God’s name.  Look at these other scriptures that confirm this:

“This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” Matt 6:9

“May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you”.  Ps 20:1

  Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” Acts 3:6

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.”  John 14:13

There’s power in the name of God.

Y et we, like the Israelites can be careless with the holy and powerful name of God. Here are some of the ways we are disrespectful.

  1. Swearing and using vulgarity. When someone is mad or shocked, why don’t they say something like “Oh my Maureen!” or “Maureen Zappala?” Why? Because there’s no power in my name. People use the name of Jesus Christ or God as an expletive or curse because it has power. Even if the power is misused, it’s still powerful. Cursing is not a harmless act. It is a colossal misuse of the almighty power of God.
  2. Using God’s name frivolously, irreverently, or jokingly. Even in casual conversation Christians can toss the name of Jesus Christ around in an irreverent way. Saying something  like “Praise the Lord” for comic relief can be offensive. Or using God’s name as a filler word in prayer can be misusing it. Prefacing and punctuating every sentence in a prayer with a phrase like “Father God” or “Lord” or “Jesus”, can be reflective of an mindless or automatic habit, not a reverential prayerful heart.
  3. Living hypocritically, i.e. Talking the talk but not walking the walk. Are you the real-deal Christian? If someone learned you are a Christian, would they be shocked or would they think “Yeah! I knew it! I could tell just from their lifestyle!” If you profess to be a Christian, don’t dishonor the name of Christ by being a lousy testimony. Remember, for some people the only Gospel they will ever read is the one written by the life you live. Don’t be double-minded, don’t have a double standard, and don’t live a double-life.
  4. Crediting God with sin or using God as an excuse. God will never direct you to do something that is clearly prohibited in his Word. Far too often, I have heard people say something like “God led me to do this,” when the “this” is clearly off limits in scripture. Having an affair, lying on taxes, demanding your own way…God won’t honor things like these and you can’t say he’s directing you to do them.  Don’t blame God for your bad choices.


G od’s name reflects holiness. When you use his name correctly, the blessings are abundant. He responds, he draws you nearer, he is glorified. Reflect on His nature and His character, and see how His name is above all others!

“Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise.” Neh 9:5:

“O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.”  Ps 8:1

Maureen Zappala
Maureen Zappala
Maureen is the founder of High Altitude Strategies. She’s an ex-NASA propulsion engineer, turned professional speaker and author. She’s a semi-regular contributor to the monthly Toastmaster magazine. And paradoxically, is co-writing a book about Ohio State Football history, (despite being a graduate of U of Notre Dame). Go Bucks. Go Irish. Go figure.

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