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Catechism Class, LD36, ‘Blessed is the Name of the Lord’

08/08/2020

Catechism Class, Lord’s Day 36. 

Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

In this lesson we are going to look at the Catechist’s instructions on the Third Commandment. Let’s read the commandment itself first, and then the Catechism…   Exodus 20:7 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.

H/C LD36 

Q99. What is required in the third commandment?

We are not to blaspheme or to abuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor to share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders. Rather, we must use the holy name of God only with fear and reverence, so that we may rightly confess him, call upon him, and praise him in all our words and works. 

Q100.  Is the blaspheming of God’s name by swearing and cursing such a grievous sin that God is angry also with those who do not prevent and forbid it as much as they can?

Certainly, for no sin is greater or provokes God’s wrath more than the blaspheming of his name. That is why he commanded it to be punished with death.

Those are weighty words indeed.  Let’s take a few moments to meditate upon them, as we listen to Psalm 8 (Tune: Richmond), where the psalmist reminds us of how glorious God’s name is… 

In all the earth, O LORD our Lord, how glorious is your name!
For you have set above the heavens, your glory and your fame.

2 From infants and from children’s lips. you ordered praise to sound,
To silence all your enemies, the wicked to confound.

3 When I regard the heavens you made, your finger’s work I trace;
I see the moon and shining stars which you have set in place.

4 I ask myself, What then is man that you should give him thought
The son of man, that you to him such gracious care have brought?

5 You made him little less than those who dwell in heaven above,
And you have crowned and honoured him with glory and with love.

6 You gave him charge of all the works created by your hand,
And everything that you had made you gave him to command.

7,8 All flocks and herds, and birds and fish, all beasts both wild and tame.
9 In all the earth, O LORD our Lord, how glorious is your name!

(Sing Psalms – Free Church of Scotland)

-oOOo-

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE

One of my favourite Singer/Songwriters is the late Leonard Cohen.  His gravelly voice and slow rhythms and frequently melancholy themes give his songs a sense of gravity and deep contemplation – even if many of them are far from biblical – witness the confusion of the stories of David and Samson in his popular ‘Hallelujah.’  But in his latter years it seems that Cohen is a deeply troubled soul, searching for something, as he faces up to his own mortality.  Cohen is a Jew, whose spiritual search took him in and out of Buddhism even though many of his lyrics border on Christian themes.  In one of his last albums, ‘Popular Problems’ he ‘half sings-half talks’ his way through a song about the Exodus from Egypt, the story of deliverance by God’s grace that brought about the release of the Hebrew slaves and the giving of the Law to Moses and the formation of the religion of Judaism.  Here’s just a few of the lyrics: 

I was born in chains but I was taken out of Egypt
I was bound to a burden, but the burden it was raised
Lord I can no longer keep this secret
Blessed is the name, the name be praised.

I fled to the edge of a mighty sea of sorrow
Pursued by the riders of a cruel and dark regime
But the waters parted and my soul crossed over
Out of Egypt, out of Pharaoh’s dream

Word of words and the measure of all measures
Blessed is the name, the name be blessed
Written on my heart in burning letters
That’s all I know, I cannot read the rest

LISTEN TO THE SONG:  Leonard Cohen, ‘Born In Chains’

The lyrics are powerful – but did you notice that the mighty, divine deliverer from Egypt and slavery is simply described as ‘THE NAME.’  We often call God ‘Jehovah’ or more properly Jahweh – the unique four letter word YHWH, – which means ‘I Am’ and which was revealed by God to Moses at the burning bush.  But in Judaism God’s name is too holy to pronounce – to let His Name even slip from the lips would be a deadly sin.  In orthodox Judaism God is simply referred to as ‘ΤΗΕ ΝΑΜΕ.’  When Cohen was praising God for the Exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt he simply said, ‘Blessed is the Name!’  He echoes Psalm 8:1, or  Jeremiah 10:8, Inasmuch as there is none like You, O Lord (You are great, and Your name is great in might).  Or Psalm 103:1, Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 

Now contrast that with our modern age, our nominally ‘Christian’ western world, where the holy Name of God is so often taken in vain.  The third commandment deals with this, and the catechist helps us to understand its seriousness, and, typical of the Heidelberg Catechism, he helps us in a practical way, to apply God’s word to our own lives.  Let’s see what he says…

Q99. What is required in the third commandment?

We are not to blaspheme or to abuse the name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor to share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders. Rather, we must use the holy name of God only with fear and reverence, so that we may rightly confess him, call upon him, and praise him in all our words and works. 

  • What we are NOT to do!  The name of God reflects his holy nature, so it is sinful, and a serious breach of the law to abuse his name – it hurls offence at our Creator.  Kevin DeYoung writes,God does not want us to empty his name of its meaning.”   Let’s see some examples of how we might abuse God’s name… 
    • Cursing the name of God.  There is an incident in Leviticus 24:10 Now the son of an Israelite woman, whose father was an Egyptian, went among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought with each other among the tents. 11 The son of the Israelite woman swore against the name of the Lord. So they brought him to Moses. … 12 And they kept him shut up until the will of the Lord might be made known to them.  The penalty was he should be put to death for his sin. 
    • Making false oaths.  Lev 19:12 Do not lie when you make a promise in My name, and so put the name of your God to shame. I am the Lord.  Making a promise you can’t keep is to blaspheme against God, whose promises always come to pass. 
    • Proclaiming visions or prophecies that are false.  Ezekiel 12:21-22.  The work of the people who believe in extra biblical revelations, and who make false prophecies that never come to pass – in the OT to claim to be a prophet, and to utter a prophecy that didn’t come true was to invite a death sentence. 
    • Misuse of Bible verses, out of context references and proof-texting.  There are many preachers and self proclaimed ‘apostles and prophets’ in the visible church who distort the Bible, wrest it out of context, to make the Bible back up their latest crazy belief or irrational promise of healing or wealth and prosperity.  People who misuse God’s Word like this are bringing dishonour on His Name.   
    • Using the name of God as an expletive.  The ‘OMG – ‘Oh My God’ gets used as an expletive, in books, in films, in everyday conversation, even in commercial advertisements.  You’ll hear it on the bus, in shops, in conversations,  It’s repugnant to believers.  And how often when we read modern novels and watch movies is the name of the Lord Jesus trotted out as a blasphemy, in a way that would never be tolerated if it were Allah or Mohammad.
  • What we ARE to do.  The commandment is not just negative.  Our instructor teaches us that we must by our actions, our words and our lives, should reflect the holiness of God to others.  1 Peter 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation.  He gives us some clear directions to help.
    • Only ever use the name of God with fear and reverence. After all, as the catechist has reminded us, his name is HOLY, different from any other name, it is spotless and pure and without any sinful connotations whatsoever.
    • Rightly confess HIm.  Tell others that you are His!  Confess him before men and women.   Romans 10:9-10 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
    • Use his name in prayer. (Not by continually repeating it).  Not vain repetition, which is forbidden by Jesus, in Matthew 6:7, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.
    • Practically praise him.  We are not just to praise God in our words, but in all our works!  Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Our lives should honour the name of Christ, instead of taking it in vain.

In Q.100, there is further help for us…

Q100.  Is the blaspheming of God’s name by swearing and cursing such a grievous sin that God is angry also with those who do not prevent and forbid it as much as they can?

Certainly, for no sin is greater or provokes God’s wrath more than the blaspheming of his name. That is why he commanded it to be punished with death.

Here the Catechist sets out for us why we cannot afford to be tolerant of any form of misuse or abuse of God’s name.  The penalty for blasphemy in the OT was death.  It is a serious matter, so serious that God is not just angry with those who abuse his name, but angry with those who do not try to stop it from happening.  Certainly the Catechist recognises that there are limits to our influence on society, for he adds the phrase, ‘as much as they can,’ and there is only so much that we can do.  Yet some of us do nothing!  We must at least express disapproval when God’s name is misused or blasphemed, or when the name of Jesus is used as an expletive.

And His Name, remember is our name too.  We are his people, we are Christians – that is our family name.  Let us never be ashamed to bear the Name of Christ. Matthew 10:32 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 1 Peter 4:16,  Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.   

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