Reading Sermon by Rev. J. Mahtani
Text: Lordís Day 36
Scripture: Matthew 15:1-20
Theme: Reverence for Godís Holy Name
Dearly beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, the scribes and the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the day, imagined that they had a case against Christ.† They imagined here in this passage of Scripture, which Matthew records, that they have caught Jesusí disciples in the sinful act, so they thought according to the tradition of their own elders, of not having washed their hands before eating.†
Jesus turns around and points rather, not to the tradition of men, but to the commandment of God by exposing their hypocrisy.† If they were so interested in the commandments of God, then why is it that they were walking in such dishonor, not only for the Son of God Himself, but even in their lives for their own father and mother?† Godís commandment has said, has it not, very clearly, honor your father and your mother?† But they say, ďItís Corban.† Itís a giftĒ† as Mark 7:13, the parallel passage records.† ďBy whatsoever thou mightest be† profited by me, I will give you.Ē† In other words, so long as they gave to their parents once in a while and performed the outward obligation, then that was keeping Godís commandments.† They could turn around and show all kinds of dishonor and disrespect, so long as they just simply performed the outward ritual to give.† Once in a while giving some money to their elderly parents, they thought they were performing the commandment of God.
You see, Jesus Christ makes clear that wether it be in the washing of hands before you eat, or picking of corn on the Sabbath day, or of looking at a woman, it is not the outward act.† It is the inward heart that matters the most.† That doesnít mean now we can just outwardly go and break the commandments of God.† Of course not.† But Jesus came to fulfill the law and He pointed out that we must not simply keep mere ďcommandments of menĒ that is, before men, and interpret them such that they will please men.† But we must keep the commandments of God from the heart as unto God.
And so follows in this passage the quote from the prophet Isaiah, from Isaiah 29:13.† We find that quote in this passage in verse 8. ďThis people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.Ē† Drawing nigh to God with our mouths, saying nice things about Him, yes, even in worship, blessing His holy name, while walking as rascals during the rest of the week; cursing and swearing one at another, late into the night perhaps Saturday, and then plopping ourselves in our seats Sunday morning at the last minute to sing ďHow Great Thou Art,Ē is not enough.† In fact it is abhorrent in the sight of God.† Right?† Saying God is good, God is right, singing of His justice and mercy, but then turning around and putting false figures on our tax returns, is drawing nigh to God with our mouth while our hearts are far from Him.† God abhors such taking of His name in vain.
For thatís exactly what it is beloved.† To take the name of God upon our lips even upon our sleeves, calling ourselves Christians, and then if we live our lives contrary to the name of God, that is the broad application of the third commandment that the Heidelberg Catechism instructs us in this morning.† We must uphold and reverence the name of God in all of our life, in all of our actions from the heart.† Let us turn to Lordís Day 36 of the Heidelberg Catechism, that therein we might find instruction this morning on the third commandment.† Children, do you know the third commandment?† You gather with us to worship.† You are hearing a series of sermons now on the ten commandments.† I trust you have memorized those ten commandments and know that the third commandment is ďThou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.Ē
And now we read in Lordís Day 36, the question:
ďIs then the profaning of Godís name, by swearing and cursing, so heinous a sin, that his wrath is kindled against those who do not endeavor, as much as in them lies, to prevent and forbid such cursing and swearing?
ďIt undoubtedly is, for there is no sin greater or more provoking to God, than the profaning of his name, and therefore he has commanded this sin to be punished with death.Ē
Without doubt, this particular Lordís Day is very sharp both in question and answer 99 and 100, especially question and answer 100.† For our friends and visitors who join with us, be sure that you know that the Heidelberger is not simply taking out of the wind some phrases and explaining the doctrines of Godís Word simply after the traditions of men.† But you will find on the side there of each and every Lordís Day several passages of Scripture that serve as proof texts so that these are all based on Scripture.† And particularly, you notice that now in the answer of question 100.† That God has commanded this sin to be punished with death is no different than what we read in the third commandment where God says Himself, ďI will not hold him guiltless that taketh my name in vain.Ē† In other words, those who continue in impenitence taking Godís name in vain will suffer the judgement of God, death now and then also eternal death.† There shall be found no blasphemers in the kingdom of heaven, where all who bow the knee and all who cheerfully and lovingly worship Him and adore Him, lift up His name.
Do you now reverence the name of God?†† Thatís the question and the theme of our sermon this morning: Reverence for Godís Holy Name.
Consider, first, that the catechism instructs us on the basis of Scripture as to The Meaning of the
Consider, secondly, The Manifestation or the demonstration in our lives that we honor or reverence Godís name.
And then, finally, we consider The Motivation that should guide us; not only the negative warning that God will not hold us guiltless, but also, as always, the positive motivation of gratitude that we, who are called by His name, should honor the name of our God.† For it is only through Christ that we are forgiven also for that sin of dishonoring Godís name, and in Him, the Christian, anointed by the Spirit of Christ, does learn to reverence Godís Holy name.† What an honor.† What a privilege.† Letís learn that again this morning.
I. THE MEANING
What is required in the third commandment?† Notice, not just what we are prohibited.† Itís not only Ďthou shalt not, thou shalt notí, but also ďwhat thou shalt,Ē in our study of the ten commandments.† And the question is asked positively, ďWhat is required?Ē† Yes, the Heidelberger points to the negative, what we should not do, but we must also learn this morning, what we must do in reverencing Godís name.
But first, from the negative viewpoint, that we ďnot only by cursing or perjury, but also by rash swearing, must not profane or abuse the name of God.Ē† We are not to profane or abuse the name of God.† That is what it means when God says, ďthou shalt not take my name in vain.Ē† For to take Godís name in vain is, instead of holding that name up, honoring it, to take that name and throw it down, dishonoring it, profaning it, abusing it.
To honor is to lift up.† To reverence is to show respect.† The contrary is to take that name of God and to think of it lightly.† Not only lightly, but to think of it, as if itís something that can be just trampled underfoot.† ďSo what, itís just a name.Ē† So that we begin to profane it, that is use it in a sinful way.† We do this, as youíre going to learn this morning, in different ways, like blaspheming the name of God, saying evil things about the name of God, or even, simply, just abusing it, repeatedly using the name, thinking that itís okay.† ďYou know, I can use it as a punctuation mark.Ē† Would you use your family name that way?
You may not abuse the name of God.† You may only take that name of God upon your lips with honor and with reverence.† The word Ďtakeí in the original Hebrew, in fact, is a very broad word, deliberately.† It can mean several things, at least these three.† ďThou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.Ē Number one: It can mean swearing in Godís name, committing perjury, lying under oath, so that you say one thing and you even take Godís name upon your lips to vouchsafe that what you are saying is true, but you actually are lying.† Then you are taking Godís name in vain.† Better not to take a vow, than to take a vow and break it.
Secondly, it can mean taking Godís name lightly, and cursing and blaspheming Godís name, as we just mentioned.† And if you like a passage of Scripture to read for your devotions, heads of households, read Leviticus 24.† A terrible passage, a passage of Scripture that warns us that that young man, who dared to take Godís name in vain in anger, was stoned to death, for that was the Old Testament punishment for taking Godís holy name in vain.
And finally, it can also refer, as we saw from Matthew 15 and the parallel passage in Mark 7, to the worship of the name of God hypocritically, insincerely.† This also is taking Godís name in vain.† If we take the commandments of God and we turn them to commandments of men, simply to please men, but not really keeping it from the heart as unto God, and then twisting and turning the commandments of God, God abhors that worship as worshiping Him in vain, taking His name in vain.
As I said, that is not to say that the third commandment is unclear.† It is deliberately broad, because it applies to all these areas and more.† It is interesting, you know, when we study the ten commandments, we see that the first commandments is the foundation, the most important, and we are alert and we say, ďWow we better listen to this. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.Ē† But then when we come to the second commandment and the Heidelberger uses equally strong language, as if this is the most important, and this is the most significant.† Because itís the expression that you really worship God alone, when you worship Him in the way He has commanded.
And now, now the catechism says there is no other sin, more vile than this sin of taking Godís name in vain.† Some guy in Houston came to me long ago and said, ďPastor, every week you tell us this commandment is the most important.† Which one is it?Ē† Well beloved congregation, God is one.† ďHear ye, O Israel, that the Lord thy God is one Lord.Ē† And all His commandments are one.† As James tells us, you break one, you are guilty of them all.† Of course this taking of Godís name in vain is related to the first and second commandment.† In fact the first four commandments, as we mentioned in the introduction, have to do with the first table of the law.
And I want to just mention now, that the fourth commandment, which we will consider in Lordís Day 38, (I want you to start thinking in these terms) serves as a bridge, a bridge between the first table of the law and the second table of the law.† That commandment is very, very crucial in our keeping, because in breaking the Sabbath we sin against God directly and we sin against men directly.† It serves as that connection between the first table and the second table. It has everything to do with our worship, use of time, the care of our fellow men, even of our family and of our strangers.† But that is for a couple of weeks to come.
Returning, now, to the third commandment; God tells us very clearly, that His name must not be profaned or abused in any way.† How easy it is for us to become desensitized to the oft abuse of the name of our God, beloved brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ.† Isnít it?† We hear His name spoken of lightly on the radio and on the talk shows and in the music of the world, but often times, sadly, our young people not only, but even our older ones listen too, saying, ďNothing wrong with it.Ē† Listen carefully.† The name of your God is being taken lightly, is abused repetitiously, and even profaned, blasphemingly, and you would listen to that garbage?† You watch wicked men and women speak the name of Almighty God, cursing Him on the television, and you continue to allow it?† In our homes?† Before our precious covenant children, who we bring with us to church to hear Godís law not to take His name in vain?† What kind of a people are we?
We draw nigh to God with our mouth, but then in our life we teach the commandments of men and the traditions of men, saying itís okay to have the devil and his host through Hollywood or Ballywood, or whatever it be, right before our eyes.† The Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain.† And He will visit the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate him and who disobey His commandments.
You know, Godís name is blasphemed in the world.† We expect that.† But Godís name is taken in vain, worst of all, and even most of all, by those who call themselves Christians.† For they say they love God and honor Him, and they turn around, either by action, or by silence, or by connivance, and have the name of God blasphemed right before their eyes.
Let us hear anew this morning God Himself warn us; ďThou shalt not Ė no, never Ė take my name in vain, for I will not hold you guiltless, who takes my name in vain.Ē† Thatís Godís word, not the preacherís.† God Himself tells you, and God tells me, we must reverence His holy name.
You know, in the Old Testament, because the Jews were so afraid that they might mispronounce ďJawehĒ they didnít even dare to take this name upon their lips.† New Testament Christians, there can be no doubt about it, have gone to the opposite extreme, and have used that name so frivolously and so foolishly that we must repent and call ourselves and our children and young people to repentance and to a reverence for Godís holy name.
The Heidelberger puts it positively when he tells us that we use Godís name Ďno otherwise than with fear and reverence.Ē† For Godís name, after all, is the revelation of His own Being.† Should not Israel ask, ďWhat name should we give them? Who do we say sent you?Ē† God says to Moses, ďTell them my name, I Am That I Am.† Then they will know Heís the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.Ē† Heís a faithful covenant God.† Heís the holy One, Who appears to Moses in the burning bush.†† And itís on holy ground, because the very name of God is the revelation of His being.
We sometimes can take our names lightly and even tease each other about our names, because our names are really name tags; although sometimes our parents do take a lot of time choosing the name, because we want it to mean something special.† But what more, Godís name, Godís own name, that He gave Himself.† Thatís the means by which He will reveal Himself to us.† No wonder Jesus taught us, when we pray, to say, ďHallowed be Thy name.Ē† Why ďThy name?Ē† Because His name is His being.† He says of Himself, that ďwhere two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.Ē† That is, not just His name Jesus, but His name, which reveals His being and His works and His teachings.† So if you are gathering together according to Godís revelation, Jesus own commandments, and Jesus own person and revelation, then He promises to be present there.† Otherwise, you know, if you simply say, ďLord, Lord, Lord, Lord,Ē and pronounce His name a thousand times, but if you are not following His commandments and doing His Word, then Jesus says, ďYe workers of iniquity, depart from me.Ē
Therefore to honor His name, to reverence His name, means to fear God and to keep His commandments.† Itís to hallow the name of God, hallow it.† Do you know what it means to hallow Godís name, children?† Itís to know that it is holy.† We canít make it any more holy than it is, but we hallow it in the sense that we recognize that He is holy.† And we ourselves sanctify God in our hearts, so that in all our thoughts, in all our words, in all our actions, we manifest in our life that we live before the holy God, that we are conscious of His holiness.† And we take His name very, very reverently, not in any way with our thought, word or deed despising the name of God.† And I say it is our peculiar calling as Christians, because we take the name of Christ, the anointed one, upon our sleeves, that we honor Godís name.
II.† THE MANIFESTATION
Now, letís move on this morning because the catechism gives us five, no less than five, specific areas where this name of God, then, is demonstrated to be taken in vain.† And let us do so knowing that next week we come to the table of the Lord.† And although we are preparatory tonight, let us already now begin to examine ourselves, wether or not we have in any way abused or profaned the name of God.
First, that we do not take His name in vain by cursing.† Thatís where we start Ė that we do not profane or abuse the name of God by cursing.† This past week, did you curse God?† Circumstances, maybe the weather, maybe the elections, maybe your health, maybe a disappointment, whatever the reason, anger; did you turn around and curse God?† Maybe itís not as acute as Job, who lost it all, whoís wife said to him, ďJust curse God and die.Ē† And maybe we donít live in the Old Testament now and so we were not brought before the elders for stoning to death.† But you and I must answer that question before God.† Did we profane or abuse Godís name by cursing Him?† Cursing the circumstances in which He places us, or cursing our next door neighbor, forgetting that God Himself placed him or her there?
Young people, it has been said that cursing and swearing is common among Protestant Reformed young people.† Is it true?† Or is it false?† If it is true, we must call ourselves and our young people to repentance in mourning.† That state of affairs may not go on.† What a shame when our neighbors or even others, who we claim are walking in error in other denominations, turn around and say, ďLook at their young people.† They curse and they swear.Ē† What a shame.† Where are they learning that?† Are we parents allowing that at home?† God forbid.
Secondly, the catechism points to committing perjury, an old English word for lying under oath.† And since we will, as you notice Lordís Day 37, deal with this whole question of swearing in the name of God, making vows, we will be brief here, since we have another catechism Lordís Day coming.† So important must have been this question to the Heidelberger that he wrote a separate Lordís Day just to this question, where we even dare to swear in the name of God, but with tongue in cheek, we didnít mean it.† Thatís terrible.† Itís not a question of wether you can do it or not.† Of course you can.† May you do it all?† Thatís the question.† Of course a man can so manipulate his conscience to say that he can do something over against what he believes.† But may you before God say something and donít mean it in the depth of your heart?† Or donít believe it in the depth of your being?† Thatís the question.† Perjury, thatís the name for it according to Scripture.
But thirdly, by rash swearing.† Closely connected, of course, to cursing.† Do you use swear words?† Not just when you are angry or upset with circumstances.† But do you just swear?† Is that the way you speak?† Maybe Jesus is a punctuation word at the end of your sentences.† Or when you are upset and you use Godís name, and you say, ďGod be my judge.Ē† That can be used properly in court.† That can be used properly when the circumstances demand, but very, very seldom.† But if you are using that name often just because you want to prove your point in an argument, or whenever you are angry, you just call upon Godís name and swear in His name, you are taking Godís name in vain.† You may not do that.† You must wash your mouth, cleanse it.† Ask God, by the precious blood of His Son, to cleanse you so that you sanctify His name and use it with meekness and fear.
Or you say, ďPreacher, all right, no problem.† I know Godís name is holy.† I donít take vows and donít mean it.† I donít take Godís name in vain and curse and swear.† My mouth is clean.Ē† Well, as if to unveil before us the sinfulness of that sin, the Heidelberger adds, ďby silence or connivance be partakers of these horrible sins in others.Ē† And the fact that the Heidelberger deliberately is doing that is seen in the next question.† ďIs then the profaning of Godís name, by swearing and cursing, so heinous a sin, that his wrath is kindled against those who do not endeavor, as much as in them lies, to prevent and forbid such cursing and swearing?Ē† You know somebody else is taking Godís name in vain, you know somebody else is taking a vow and he does not mean it, you know somebody else is breaking his vow and living in sin.† If you know somebody else is cursing Godís name in front of you, and you by silence allow it, then you are just as guilty of taking Godís name in vain.
Of course this applies to the other commandments too, but especially to this one, because Godís holy name is involved.† And like I said, the commandments are very closely related, so that it is not just when somebody is blaspheming Godís name, and then you turn around and say, ďHey, you know, thatís God name that you are taking so lightly.† Be careful what you say about God.Ē† But if in that personís life, he says he is a Christian, but he is walking in sin, thatís also taking Godís name in vain.† Then too, you may not walk in silence.† So it applies to all the commandments, but especially itís brought out here.
If your family name is put into the dust, or say your wife is being treated badly, wouldnít you say, ďHey, thatís my wife you are talking about?Ē† Well how much more, Godís name?† Are you not jealous of His name?† You allow His name to be mocked at day by day at your place of work, and you just let it go?† And you think that, ďWell, thatís not my problem.† Thatís not my duty.Ē† You are wrong.† You are called to confess Christ before men.† You are called to make sure that by your silence you are not partakers with them of their sins.
And worse yet, by connivance.† Do you know what connivance means?† Connivance means, according to the Webster Dictionary, ďsupporting and becoming involved.Ē† So they are talking and jesting and laughing about girls.† They are talking about adultery.† And they are taking Godís name in vain, and so on and so forth and they are using all kinds of bad words.† And you join in laughing, so that nobody there knows that this man, or that woman honors God and would not be part of that conversation.† Then you are conniving.† Thatís awful, that we allow people that God places upon the pathway of our lives, to continue openly to blaspheme Godís name, and we partner with them.
I say again, this is not a hobby horse.† This is something I must examine myself for and my family, we all must search our hearts before God.† Do we dare to bow before Hollywood and connive, support, participate, enjoy together with, when we hear them openly, freely blaspheming Godís name?† And not only in taking it in vain by mouth, but contradicting all the commandments of God.† And we are teaching our precious children to watch it and enjoy it?† God will not hold you guiltless.† And that sin will visit your sin upon the third and fourth generation of your children.† And thatís a terrible, terrible thing, beloved.† God is very jealous of His name.† We must honor and reverence it.
The catechism, positively, says (and we must go on) that we must use God holy name in no other wise than to fear Him.† If we have used His name in any other way, and we have allowed His name to be desecrated; if we have not honored His name in this way, that His name is always being revered and lifted up, and His Word and commandments are being honored, then we must turn and repent, and learn to rightly confess and worship God in all our words and works.† Does this glorify God?† This sitting in front of the movie, this bottle of beer Iím about to drink in the presence of this group of friends, this cigarette I am about to take, whatever it may be, is it honoring Godís name or not?
ďIs then the profaning of Godís name, so heinous a sin, that His wrath is kindled against those who do not endeavor...Ē† I find the Lordís Day to be very sharp.† And I trust that you understand the necessity of that.† This is an acknowledgment, that even as the Heidelberger puts it so severely on the basis of Scripture, we must warn that Godís wrath is kindled because it is so heinous a sin.† If we have not prevented or forbad such, then we must repent, because there is no greater sin more provoking to God than the profaning of His name, and He has commanded this sin to be punished with death.† Surely that itself is enough to at least make us tremble and to examine ourselves and the lifestyle that we have had, if Godís name has been profaned.
III. THE MOTIVATION
But as we began the sermon, so we conclude this morning, beloved congregation, with the truth that our Lord Jesus Christ came to expose the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the Scribes.† Itís easy for us to start making additional commands, precept upon precept, according to the tradition of the elders.† But Jesus comes and says, ďListen to me.† I come to fulfill the law.Ē† And not only does He fulfill the law by explaining to us the true intent and meaning of the law, but thanks be to God, that in the volume of the book it was written of Him, ďI come to do thy will.Ē
And he comes, not only to teach us the law, but to take the curse that is due to us upon Himself.† Who here would dare to put up your hand and say, ďI am never taking Godís name in vain.Ē† But the curse that is due to us, Christ took.† He Who knew no sin, He upheld the name of God.† And He did all things according to the commandments of God.† And He by His Spirit now anoints us so that we take His name.† Now we do not keep the commandments simply in the hope that a Messiah will come and die for us.† We know He has.† But now we take His name upon our lips and we honor Godís name out of gratitude, out of love and devotion for our Savior, whose name is, Jehovah saves.† He loves us.† He takes us out of darkness, translates us into his marvelous light, that we may now have the privilege, not only not to take His name in vain, but now to take His name and praise it, to take His name and worship Him, to take His name and live to His glory and His honor. †What a privilege that we have in Jesus Christ.
May God give us grace that we may be led to Christ, and through Christ and by His power and Spirit, we too, may reverence the name of God, as those who are called by His name.† Amen.