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Jul 31, 2022

Bear God’s Name

Bear God’s Name

Passage: Deuteronomy 5:1-6

Speaker: Andrew Kerhoulas

Series: Life in Ten Words

Keywords: in vain, bearing the name of god, name above every name

The third commandment might sound like God wants us to stay away from four-letter words. What is God getting at? While there are scriptures about avoiding crass language, it turns out this isn’t one of them. Ultimately, it’s about God’s concern for his people to properly bear God’s name to the nations. To do so in vain is to misrepresent God to his world, and pervert our role as a priestly people. That’s what it meant then. But what does it mean today for followers of Jesus?

Readings & Scripture

PREPARATION: Psalm 86:8-10, NRSV
LEADER: There is none like you, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.

ALL: All the nations you have made shall come
and bow down before you,
O Lord, and shall glorify your name.
For you are great and do wondrous things,
you alone are God.

LEADER: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

CENTRAL TEXT: Deuteronomy 5:1-6, 11
And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. 4 The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, 5 while I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said:
6 “‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…11 “‘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.

BENEDICTION: Based on Numbers 6:24-27
LEADER: May the LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you
and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his
countenance upon you and give you peace.
So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel,
and I will bless them.”

LEADER: As God’s representatives in the world,
the peace of the Lord be with you all.

ALL: And also with you.


  • Exodus 6:6-7; 15:1-17; 20:7; 28:29
  • Deuteronomy 4:5-8
  • Psalm 25:11 
  • Psalm 79:9-10
  • Isaiah 45:23
  • Jeremiah 31:31-32
  • Daniel 9:4-6, 11, 17-19
  • Matt 9:10-13
  • John 5:43, 17:1-6
  • Acts 4:12
  • Colossians 3:17
  • Hebrews 9:11-14
  • 1 Peter 2:9-10; 4:14-16
  • Revelation 3:12


  1. If you can recall, what were you taught growing up is prohibited in the third commandment? 
  2. It turns out that the third commandment is not about avoiding bad words but about how to bear God’s name in the world (see Exodus 28:29). Why was God so concerned that his people did not bear his name in vain? 
  3. Whose name did Jesus bear during his earthly ministry (see John 5:43, 17:1-6)? Why does Jesus’ perfect obedience to the name command matter for us? 
  4. Whose name do we bear in the world (see Acts 4:12; Colossians 3:17; 1 Peter 4:14-16)? How does Jesus’ perfect obedience of the name command compel our own?
  5. Think about and discuss specific ways to obey the name command because of the gospel. What might it look like this week where you live, work, and/or play? 


  • The first and most commonly made mistake with the Old Testament law is to ignore where it appears. Many Christians assume that in the Old Testament era the Israelites had to earn salvation by following the Sinai law, while Jesus did away with that notion, making salvation available for free. This is a terribly unfortunate caricature of the Old Testament, but it is easily resolved by taking a closer look at the story. Israel arrives at Sinai in chapter 19 of Exodus. That’s where Yahweh will give them the law. However, God’s elaborate deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt takes place in chapters 3–14. If the law were a prerequisite for salvation, then we would expect to see Moses in Egypt making a public service announcement: Hey, everyone—Good news! Yahweh plans to set you free from slavery to Pharaoh. There’s just one catch. You’re gonna have to agree to live by this set of rules. If you just sign on the dotted line saying that you agree to these conditions, Yahweh will spring into action. Who’s in? Of course, this is not what happens. Instead, God appears to Moses in the wilderness, reveals his personal name, Yahweh, and gives Moses this message for those living under oppression in Egypt: “The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey. (Exodus 3:16-17). Carmen Joy Imes
  • The phobia of anonymity is the breeding ground of projects that we think will do us good, but God knows will only engender harm. He’s not a bully on the beach who kicks over our sand castles. He’s a father who sees below the surface to what really fuels our efforts. We want to be known. To be noticed. To be more than one of those countless faces that blur past on the fast-moving subway of human existence. So even while he frustrates our tower-building plans, he reaches out in love to address the root of the problem. He reminds us, again and again, that all efforts to make a name for ourselves are not only in vain but are totally unnecessary. He is at work transforming our minds so that, first of all, we see our anonymity not as a phobia but a mirage. He not only knows us and calls us by name, he outdoes himself by keeping a running tally on how many hairs are on our heads (Matt. 10:30). He knows the narratives embedded within our every scar. Even before the moment of our conception, in his book the days of our life story were ‘written, every one of them, the days that were formed for [us], when as yet there was none of them’ (Ps. 139:16). We are far from being unknown by the creator. He knows our story better than we know it ourselves. We are all household names in heaven. Margaret Pope
  • In G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man there is a chapter on “The Five Deaths of the Faith.” He does a brief overview of times in which orthodox Christianity was challenged profoundly— Arius and the controversy over the divinity of Christ in the 3rd century, Voltaire and the rise of skepticism in Europe during the Enlightenment, Darwin and the rise of scientism, and so on—but in each case emerged strong and growing. With a typical Chesterton twist, he concludes: “At least five times…the Faith has to all appearance gone to the dogs. In each of these five cases it was the dog that died.” Tim Keller