The name of God is thrown around quite a bit these days. Our “OMG culture” barely pays attention to the fact that they are saying God’s name every time they use that expression. But does it really matter? It’s just a common expression – right?
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In ancient Jewish culture, God’s name was much more than simply what they called Him. His name defined Him. It described the details of His history and His character.
The truth is that God has multiple names – most of which describe His character and faithfulness to His people.
Blue Letter Bible (one of my favorite Bible study sites) lists some of the following names for God as found in the Old Testament:
- El Shaddai (Lord God Almighty)
- El Elyon (The Most High God)
- Adonai (Lord, Master)
- Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)
- Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
- Jehovah-Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
- Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
- Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)
- Jehovah Tsidkenu (The Lord Our Righteousness)
- Jehovah Mekoddishkem (The Lord Who Sanctifies You)
- El Olam (The Everlasting God)
- Elohim (God)
- Qanna (Jealous)
- Jehovah Jireh (The Lord Will Provide)
- Jehovah Shalom (The Lord Is Peace)
- Jehovah Sabaoth (The Lord of Hosts)
As I discussed in a previous post, names in the Old Testament had a greater significance than they do today. When you asked someone for their name, you weren’t simply asking what you should call them (as is true today), but rather you were asking them who they were as a person. So in this way, God’s names identified and defined Him to His people.
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. – Exodus 20:7
The third of God’s Ten Commandments spoke of misusing His name. So what does this mean exactly? Are we misusing God’s name when we use expressions like OMG? Or is it much more than that?
The Hebrew word used in this passage is shav’ – which means emptiness, vanity, or falsehood. In other words, we misuse God’s name when we rid it of its power or when we lie or misrepresent Him using His name.
The Lord’s Prayer begins with “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” The name of God is holy because He is holy. We can’t just throw His name around like it means nothing. And we certainly shouldn’t be using His name as a swear word. It’s a respect issue. God is our loving heavenly Father and we can approach Him with boldness, but He’s still the Creator of all things.
Ultimately, I believe the real heart of the issue is misrepresentation. As children of God, we represent the “family name” to everyone around us. The words we speak, the actions we take… everything we do represents the name of God. We misrepresent our God’s power and significance when we use His name as a swear word, but we also misrepresent Him when we sign His name to things He would never have signed His own name to.
An example of this would be blaming God for the bad things that happen in this world or in our lives. Or when someone does something “in the name of God” that would be regarded as an act of violence, terror, or hate. Many crimes have been committed using God’s name as the reason, and in this way, His name was misused and our loving God was misrepresented.
We must never forget the power and the holiness found in the name of God.
In the holy name of God, we find our hope, our joy, and our salvation.
*Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations taken from the NASB.