Handle with Care is not the same as Do not Touch.
We may not take God’s name in vain, but we surely must make use of it. We may not lift it idly, but we certainly must lift it. Silence may be golden when the alternative is gossip and slander. But silence is evil when we do not use the name of God when it is required of us.
There is a classic example of failing to use God’s name and of a silence that reveals perverse unbelieving hearts in Scripture. Indeed, some are going to object, but the defense of God’s name and glory demands it. And so we present it that we may understand the evil of silence, when there certainly was abundant occasion for calling upon and mentioning the name of God. Esther and Mordecai are so frequently lauded for their actions which are recorded in a book wherein the name of God does not appear even once. And that means, of course, that Esther and Mordecai did not use that name of God either. Nor is it recorded of any of the Jews in general that they gave thanks and praise to God for deliverance and life. All we read is that they made themselves, “days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another and of gifts to the poor.” This could have been done by any heathen nation after a deliverance from an enemy.
The reason is at hand, if only we want to see it. Esther and Mordecai, yea, all the principal characters in the book of Esther, are unbelievers, The fear of the Lord was not to be found in them, only the fear of Haman and of the king. Let that be made plain at once. First of all, you have the fact that Mordecai is quite willing to have Esther commit the adultery of marrying a king who divorced his wife, not for fornication but because she was more honorable than he and abhorred fornication and adultery. And Esther on her part is willing to sell her soul and body to a king of incest and moral filth whose “beauty contest” was a following of the basest of the lusts of the flesh. Night after night the “contestants, each at her own turn, (and Esther with them when it was her turn) “went in, and on the morrow (they) she returned into the second house of the women.”
Then there is the fact that at Mordecai’s advice and, in fact, command, Esther had not all the time she was preparing for the “beauty contest” and lived as the queen up till the time that she was forced to do so, “had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it.” In itself such an act need not be sin, but for a Jewess to do so in that day was quite a different matter. The Jews were set aside by God since the call of Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees to b e the people of His covenant. Only these knew Jehovah and worshipped Him. And to hide her people and her kindred was for Esther to hide her religion all these months. She neither prayed to Jehovah, nor sacrificed nor observed any of His feast days or ceremonial requirements. She lived as the heathen among whom she dwelt; and therefore you may be sure that she never lifted the name of God in their midst. The book is simply an indication in its utter lack of the mentioning of the name of God of what went on in the lives of both Esther and Mordecai.
And this was not simply true before the heathen in Shushan. It was characteristic of all of their own conversation. Mordecai does not say to Esther, “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall our covenant God Who cannot fail to keep His word to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Who has promised that David’s Son will sit on the throne forever, give enlargement and deliverance.” Instead he spoke these words which any unbeliever can and would say, “If thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed.” Esther responds with equal lack of the language of faith, “If I perish, I perish.” There is not the speech of Daniel’s three friends who manifested their faith by the words, “We are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.”
What is more, in order to seek to insure the safety and success of the venture, there is no prayer offered or requested or even suggested. The people are requested to fast. Elsewhere in Scripture the child of God cried unto Him, ran in prayer to God in connection with his fasting. We are reminded of the words of Solomon in Proverbs 15:8, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is his delight.” This outward manifestation of contrition of heart and of faith in God without the actual faith is hypocrisy. Faith without works is dead, but works without faith are an abomination to the Lord. Esther and Mordecai showed no faith. The essential element of prayer they omit and perform only the outward formalism of fasting. They do not use the name of God; and they sin in their silence, for here indeed was the place for the mentioning of His name and of seeking Him by and through that name.
They belonged to the remnant of Jews that had no interest in the kingdom of Christ, spurned the covenant promises, were not interested to return to the promised land, did not hang their harps on the willows in captivity and were not glad when the call came to those who desired to do so to return to the type of heaven and to fellowship with God in His temple in Jerusalem. With them it was not a matter of “Do not touch!” Nor was it a matter of “Handle with Care.” With them it was a matter of unbelief, pure and simple, an avoiding of the name of Him Whom they hated and for Whom they had no use.
Surely our silence may not be such! It is true that we had better think twice before we use His name. It is proper for us to have Him consciously before our minds when we address Him, and when we speak concerning Him to others to do so as before His face. But it is just as true that we must use that name and that we ought to delight in the use of that name and appreciate our ability to do so.
There is then that matter of the oath wherein one takes God’s name either in vain or to His glory. Conscientious objection has been raised to swearing an oath and still prevents many from doing so. To be avoided is swearing by heaven or by the earth or by any creature of the heavens or earth. “By George” is to be condemned, and “Cross my heart and hope to die.” If we are going to swear an oath, then let us do so properly and render unto God the glory due to His name by using His name in that oath. For a proper oath is to the honor and glory of God’s name.
An oath is an act whereby we stand consciously and willingly before God. In the oath we come to stand before Him for a special purpose. We are always before His face. There is no place where we can flee from His presence. But in the oath we acknowledge that we are there, and we behave conscious of the fact that He sees and hears and reads the very motives of the heart. Therefore in the oath we confess Him to be the omnipresent, infinite God that He is. We honor Him with virtues that are not common to man. The judge who demands the oath of us cannot read the heart, is very limited in his dealing out of justice, depends upon our words and. evidence in mute objects. He cannot always be sure, and perhaps we can say that he can never really be sure. Circumstantial evidence and the half truth of one of the witnesses may mislead him in his judgment. But when we take God’s name upon our lips in an oath, we honor Him with being the reader of man’s heart.
What is more, we honor Him with being a righteous judge who surely will punish only the evil doer and will never condemn the innocent. We honor Him, in fact, with being God! And what greater honor can you bestow upon Him than exactly that! He does not consider it vain use of His name when you use it to confess in the oath that He is the sovereign, all-knowing, everywhere present and righteous judge of heaven and of earth.
The unbeliever had better not take an oath, for he can never so confess God. His unbelief exactly prevents him from taking God’s name holily. He sins every time that he mentions God’s name, because it is not and cannot be a use in love. Woe to those who say (and do not then live) “Lord, Lord” as unbelievers. It is better for the unbeliever not to use His name at all, as, Esther and Mordecai, than as the false prophet to speak of Him and present Him as the god that He is not! Yes, again it is god and not God! Present Him to any degree contrary to what He says of Himself in His Word, and you are talking about a god to that degree and not of Jehovah.
The believer as he seeks to please God and as he seeks to promote the advantage of his neighbor must and can properly take God’s name upon his lips in the oath. He may not bear false witness either under oath or outside of the oath. But he may have to bear witness against the neighbor in order to protect the innocent neighbor. He may have to choose and really he has no choice in the matter of whom he will defend between neighbors; and to assure the limited and weak judge that he speaks the truth, he may and must place himself consciously by an act of his will before The Judge of heaven and of earth.
The believer, then, will be—and because he, is a believer he must be—a man who thinks big because he thinks right! Trivialities, things of little consequence and that simply give a few moment of earthly advantage for the flesh will not move him to lift this holy name of God in an oath—and for that matter not in prayer either. There is a long line of saints whose lives are recorded in. Holy Writ who did swear an oath, and Jesus Himself heads the list of those who made proper use of God’s name in the oath. Abraham was deeply concerned about the covenant matter of a believing wife for Isaac, and he made his servant swear an oath that he would not let Isaac take a wife of the unbelieving Canaanites. The Israelites were instructed by God in Exodus 22:11 to swear an oath when they were protectors of another’s cattle and the beast would die or be hurt or stolen, no man seeing it. There must have been a long procession of such oaths. David swore an oath to Saul to assure him that he did not try to take his life. The believer thinks big because he thinks of God’s glory and is desirous of pleasing Him. He likewise is subjection to God in love seeks to serve rather than to oppose God’s officebearer. He does not want to stand in the way of the duty and calling of the authorities whose mandate is to do justice and to punish the evil doer. He cooperates for God’s sake and is not averse to using the name of His God to help that servant in his work of judgment. This likewise is no trivial matter but one of deep seriousness.
It is our carnality and our superficiality that makes us demand oaths of each other. We ought to so live that our yea is taken for yea, and our nay for nay. But we prove ourselves to be liars so often. We retain some of the fact and withhold part of the truth so often that, when this other part is learned another way, men do not trust us and do not, trust human nature and therefore demand an oath of us. How often do men not reply to our remarks, “Not really?” It is a question and, at the same time an evidence that we do not trust each other. Shame on us that we cannot take each other’s word without an oath! It is not living in His fear.
In His fear we dare not speak the lie knowing that God not only reads our hearts but also will most assuredly punish all evil. Living in His fear, we do not, then, say, “But God punished mine already on the cross of Christ.” If that is our attitude we had better stop to ask ourselves whether Christ actually did die for us. The fruit of the cross is not to make us careless but very careful. For the fruit of the cross is thankfulness and the fear of the Lord in our hearts. Living in His fear we will be glad to honor him with the use of His name in the oath when we can thereby confess and glorify Him as the God that He is.
Handle that name, but handle it with care.
Handle that name even more carefully than you want men to handle your name.
Your use of His name will reveal whether or not you are in His fear and to what degree His fear has a place in your heart and life.