Isaiah saw God upon His throne and seraphim before that throne.
With one pair of wings they covered their faces. With another pair they covered their feet. And with one pair they flew through the heavens. But what interests us more particularly at the moment is that they cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” Isaiah 6:1-3.
What a beautiful picture! What a God-glorifying picture! What an example of humility! What an indictment upon so much that is actually practiced by men upon the “whole earth”!
Do you agree with the seraphim?
Listen to the conversation of men round about you. Listen carefully to your own speech. Observe whether you cover your face and figuratively stop your ears or absorb and remain untouched by the blasphemy, the cursing, the swearing wherein God’s name is taken in vain, before you answer the question as to whether or not you agree with the seraphim that holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of hosts!
It is rather difficult to say and prove the point that we live in a day and age when God’s name is taken in vain more widely and boldly than ever before. We have lived only in this age, and the writings of men, their published works, do not necessarily reflect with accuracy what the common man spoke on the street, in private and in his conversation with others. One thing has become evident in the life span of the generation to which the undersigned belongs: whereas formerly an evil word, a word that then was considered objectionable and liable to be branded as cursing and swearing was present only by its first letter to be followed with a blank space, today it is spelled out in full and appears in what formerly were considered refined and cultured writings. Radio and television still have their restraints so as not to offend the public. But God’s name is not lifted with reverence today in many circles. It is not handled with the care demanded and revealed in Holy Writ. And the tragedy of it all is that the ears of the believers in God’s church become calloused so that the daily hearing of it does not pierce our souls as it once did and always ought to do.
Yet the third commandment is plain: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain. The commandment deals with God’s name and the vain, empty use of that name. It warns us that using the name of God for any other reason than those for which He gave it, that lifting it up and taking it upon our lips for our own carnal benefit is an act of hating Him and that He, the jealous God will most assuredly visit this act of hatred with the everlasting punishment of hell! In His fear we will handle His name with care, yea with tender loving care!
When you mention a person’s name you touch him. You can mention sin after sin, heap ridicule upon ridicule upon an action and present a deed as utterly foolish without hurting anyone. But the moment you mention one’s name in connection with such actions, you have touched that person and hurt him. David could allow Nathan, the prophet, to present the case of a selfish and thieving rich man who took the one little lamb from his neighbor, which was this neighbor’s sole possession, to feast a guest that had come to his house. David could become furious at such injustice. But when Nathan said to David, “Thou art the man”, he touched him; and all that evil came to rest on David’s head. The same, of course, is true from the other point of view. By the mentioning of a name, a person is designated to a place of honor, and you have touched him pleasantly. The seraphim do that when they cry, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” May that be the way in which we use His name!
The name identifies the person. And whereas our names say nothing about us and may be attached to the neighbor as appropriately as to us, there is an element of confusion and misunderstanding at times as to who is meant and to whom this good or this evil is to be attached. But there is one God. And there is one Jehovah. Whenever we say, “My God”, we have touched Jehovah. We have called upon Him; we have asked Him to listen to us. We have handled His name with or without care. We have lifted it from its holy position either with holy or unholy tongues. The idol is nothing. It is a nonentity, and therefore every time we say God, whether we say it and write it with a capital letter or a lower case letter, He is touched. He knows that there is no God besides Him. He knows that He is God alone. And when you say “God.” He without exception considers it a reference to Himself. As the jealous God that He is, He cannot and will not consider that anyone else is implied when that name God in any form is used.
He is jealous of His position as God alone. He is jealous of His glory as God. And exactly because He is the sovereign God of heaven and earth, the Creator of each and every creature, He has a perfect right to be jealous and to punish all those who show hatred against Him by their vain use of His name. He “exacts exclusive devotion” and “is intolerant of rivalry.” This He may be because He is God alone. And whether we like it or not, we cannot change that fact. Man has tried to do so for well nigh six thousand years. Man has tried to become His equal. He has tried to reach up and drag God down to his level. He has tried to climb up to sit next to Him. But he has failed utterly and will always fail, for he has been made by God and depends upon Him for all things.
Let us beware then lest we provoke Him by our evil use of His name. What is evil use of that name? The third commandment speaks of vain use, and the word vain means empty, idle, purposeless. Of course, a man does not always use that name purposelessly. There are times when he need not mention that name at all and when he does so nevertheless. That is a purposeless, vain, idle use of the name. So often His name falls off the lips of men (and women) when they do not have Him in their thoughts at all. That is vain use. That is purposeless use. But the idea of vain use means much more. It means each and every use of that name for any other purpose than that for which God has given it.
He has given us the name of God, with all its variations, in order that we may speak to Him and of Him with reverence. Without knowing His name we could not pray to Him. Without that name we could not teach our children concerning Him. We could not sing His praises. Without that name we could not comfort one another by reviewing His promises and work. And if we use His name for any other reason than to speak to Him and of Him with reverence, we have taken that name in vain. Whenever we use His name without having Him in our thoughts and without consciously referring to Him, we have misused His name and sinned against Him! The seraphim use it to praise Him, to speak to Him of His glory. And they do so with the fear of reverence. For they hide their faces before Him with one pair of their wings. They handle His name with reverent care. They lift it delicately and in effect in their cry express that His name is holy.
Now that which is holy is set aside, cut off from and separated for a special purpose. That we are holy means that we are cut off from sin, are a separate people. The temple of God was holy in that it was set aside as the house in which He dwelt symbolically. This was not true of any other building. Even this temple had a holy place and a most holy place. These were set off from the rest by veils, the one in the inner part of the temple, cut off more completely than the other and might be entered only by one man one day in a year. And that God’s name is holy means that we are not to use it whenever we please and in whatever way we please, but that it must be used with great discretion and reverence before God.
We live in a day of cursing, swearing and blasphemy, and these are acts of hatred against God. Let us see that once. Consider that to curse is to call upon God to damn, to put in hell, to punish. It makes no difference then whether we actually use the name of God literally or simply use the word damn, and consign to hell, it is God alone Who can and does damn and punish with hell fire. Let us remember that, if we are given to damn this and that and the other thing. Let us remember that we are calling upon God to do something for us and that we want God to curse, to pour out hell’s torments upon someone or something. It is at the same time an awful thing to call for, and often also utterly ridiculous. In our carelessness we hit our finger with the hammer and damn the hammer! We dare for such a triviality to call upon the great and glorious God in heaven to seek vengeance upon the hammer. And we are calling for a ridiculous thing for hell fire is for persons and not for inanimate things. God’s wrath in hell is against sin and sinners. Indeed, God hates the sinner as well as the sin. He puts sinners in hell and not sin. There will be no sin in hell, but there will be sinners. And unless we want to take the impossible and unscriptural position that there is change in the unchangeable I AM, who can never say I was or I will be, we must insist that His attitude towards the sinner today is the same as it will be in that day when He has brought the sinner into hell. He does not have a temporary love, mercy and grace but an eternal love and mercy and grace.
But what an awful thing then for a mother to damn her child! For a brother to call upon God to place his brother according to the flesh or spiritual brother into the torment of hell! Yet that is done! A little anger, a little provoking, and men will dare to call down hell’s torment upon their fellow men and to “bother” the almighty God to ask Him to do this. Think it over! It is sin against the neighbor as well as sin against the living God. How awful when we curse ourselves! This Peter did as we read, when he cursed and swore than he did not know Christ. And it makes no difference then whether we are squeamish and lack the courage to use the word damn and resort to other words beginning with the same letter such as darn, dang and the like, it is calling upon God to punish the creature for our benefit.
Think of it! Little specks of dust that are utterly dependent upon this great and glorious God before whom the seraphim wisely in utter humility (and we were created a little lower than these seraphim) cover their faces, guard their tongues, handle His name with care and use His name only to praise Him. Who are we anyway that we dare to call this sovereign and great God to come down and do something for our sinful flesh? We have no right to bother Him with our sinful lusts and ambitions. We have no right to treat the living God as a servant, and surely no right to treat Him as one whom, we can ask to further us in our sinful ambitions and carnal aspirations. Do we forget that He is God? Are we–for indeed we are–walking in violation of the first commandment and of the second by a god of our own imagination to whom we run for protection in our sin and lust? We have said it before: all sin is a violation of the first commandment. No matter in what form the sin may appear, it is always an act of going against Jehovah and His holy will. It is pushing Him aside, denying Him, setting ourselves up in His place, deciding for ourselves what is good and what is evil. If we live in the faith and consciousness that He is a sovereign and jealous God, we will live in His fear and lift His name with due respect and reverence.
And does it bother you at all to hear the world round about you take God’s name in vain with cursing? Do these words ring in your ears so often that they stick there, and although not uttered yet silently present themselves when you are provoked and irritated, for your own giving vent of displeasure? In His fear cleanse your hearts and minds and keep your tongue clean. Handle His name with loving care.