Can We Take “The LORD’s Name In Vain” Today?

My posts always bring interesting and unexpected responses from readers even when I think they are not controversial. The previous one on the 2012 movie was no different. Here’s the very first reply I received from a reader:

I just received your article about 2012.  I hope you are not recommending the movie.  I read the reviews and that was enough for me.

The Lord’s name is used in vain, 20 times. I cannot imagine that He would want me to go, pay money, and then sit and listen to this.

I don’t mean to sound harsh, I am just soooooooo sick of Christians spending (wasting) their time on such as this.

I too would love to see a good end time movie, but unfortunately the enemy uses them to dull our senses and jade us.

I think this reader is overlooking the ability of movies like this to do the opposite of jading us against end times concerns. Doomsday movies get people contemplating the end of the world, end time prophecy and eventually the Bible. Ironically, even Christians need whatever help they can get to motivate them to finally read the entire Bible (as the statistic that only 5% have done so confirms). In the new My Testimony chapter of my book‘s 7th edition, I recount how the movie The Omen lead a good Catholic boy like me to open the Bible for the first time at age nine. Any movie that can motivate people to open up their Bibles is not a waste of time, in my book.

2012 Uses The LORD’s Name In Vain 20 Times”?

But in this article I want to focus on just one argument the reader makes against the 2012 movie; the claim that the movie breaks the Third Commandment twenty times. It is an interesting story as to why I disagree with that complaint.

I have recounted many times how gaining a major new Bible insight will often cause a domino effect with other understandings you have. This stands to reason because none of us understand the Bible 100% correctly, including myself. We either completely forget or ignore verses that would contradict what we believe or we misunderstand the verses we are aware of.

A great example of this is what happens when you learn about the sacred name. As I covered in my article on sacred names, I found out years ago that God’s name is not LORD or God but a specific four letter name that occurs 6,828 times in the Old Testament. This understanding then lead to a quick and easy proof for discerning (Christian) false prophets.

The Christian understanding of everyday breaking of the Third Commandment also topples once you understand the truth about God’s name. A reader of my sacred name article yesterday asked a question that hints at it:

Do you think this (using any name that we choose) has any thing to do with the 3rd commandment re: taking the name in vain?

may YAHUWAH have mercy on us all, stephanie

Her question refers to the fact that we do not know God’s name for sure so we must all decide what reasonable facsimile we think is closest from our own diligent research. The answer to the question is absolutely not. And as a result, I will show that God’s name is taken zero times in 2012.

What Exactly is “Taking the LORD’s Name in Vain”?

Exodus 20:7 — 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.

People today have the idea that saying phrases such as “Jesus Christ!” or “God d*** it!” or other cursing involving Jesus or God in some way is what this commandment is talking about. It is not. To find the correct understanding on the Third Commandment, you must understand it in the context of the Torah given to Ancient Israel which the Ten Commandments are part of.

As my previous article on sacred names explains, Israel was taught God’s actual four letter name, YHWH pronounced something like “Yehovah” (Jehovah is the old English spelling of this when the J was pronounced like Y). They used God’s name for praising (Ps 100:4), blessing (Num 6:23) and even in greeting (Ruth 2:4). The Third Commandment only refers to this word, Yehovah. It does not refer to Yehovah’s titles like “Lord” or “God” or his son’s name (which by the way is not “Jesus Christ” as is used in 2012, anyway. See how the Messiah’s original Hebrew name became mangled as “Jesus”).

We can be sure this is what the Third Commandment is about because Israel was actually commanded to make oaths using God’s name Yehovah exclusively (Dt 6:13).

Dt 6:13 (HCSB) — Fear Yahweh your God, worship Him, and take ⌊your⌋ oaths in His name [Yahweh is a common scholarly best guess of how to pronounce YHWH].

If they did not fulfill their oaths or vows, it was considered swearing falsely and profaning God’s name (Lev 19:12). Once you understand that you can then can see the true meaning of the Third Commandment. For example, here’s what just two commentaries have to say about it:

third commandment. As the second commandment concerned the issue of exercising power over God, the third turns its attention to exercising God’s power over others. This commandment does not refer to blasphemy or foul language. Rather it is intended to prevent the exploitation of the name of Yahweh for magical purposes or hexing. It also continues the concerns of the second commandment in that someone’s name was believed to be intimately connected to that person’s being and essence. The giving of one’s name was an act of favor, trust and, in human terms, vulnerability. Israel was not to attempt to use Yahweh’s name in magical ways to manipulate him. The commandment was also intended to insure that the use of Yahweh’s name in oaths, vows and treaties was taken seriously. — The IVP Bible Background Commentary on Ex 20:7

Taking the Lord’s name in vain (see note on Deut. 5:11) refers primarily to someone taking a deceptive oath in God’s name or invoking God’s name to sanction an act in which the person is being dishonest (Lev. 19:12). It also bans using God’s name in magic, or irreverently, or disrespectfully (Lev. 24:10-16). The Lord revealed his name to Moses (Ex. 3:14-15), and he has continued to identify himself in connection with his acts on Israel’s behalf (see 6:2, 6-8). Yahweh is warning Israel against using his name as if it were disconnected from his person, presence, and power. — ESV Study Bible on Ex 20:7

Conclusion – Today Nobody Can Really Do It

As the Third Commandment was uniquely given to Ancient Israel in the context of other commands on using God’s name, we must realize that it does not directly apply to us today. Today we are scattered believers mostly outside the land of Israel where the Torah applied. We are a different audience in a different situation and it is improper to take all these commands meant for someone else in a different jurisdiction from the distant past and apply them to ourselves.

(Of course, this reasoning does not apply to all Ten Commandments. Most of them are not unique to Israel as they were given earlier to all men.  They are merely repeated in the Torah. For example, whether the Torah applies to us or not, none of us should murder because that moral standard was given in the beginning to Adam. None of us need God to tell us not to steal, commit adultery or bear false witness because other people, society and government will quickly object to that behavior as immoral or unethical.)

There is another major problem with enforcing the Third Commandment today. As my article on the sacred name covered, today there is no prophet like Moses teaching and using God’s name. As a result, nobody knows what God’s name is for sure, or at least how to pronounce it exactly so you can use it. Further, Jesus never reiterated the Third Commandment in his teachings nor left believers any other injunction to use God’s name. (Some would even say he told us not to swear at all citing Matthew 5:34. However, the Hebrew Matthew may preserve a more original reading of Jesus’ words that does not contradict the Torah on this point. For details see Nehemia Gordon’s The Hebrew Yeshua vs. the Greek Jesus.)

Once you realize this, it changes your whole perspective on people saying “Jesus Christ” or other similar curses. That is not God’s name, let alone the Messiah’s. If you do not know what God’s name is for sure, and you are not even told to use it, then it is impossible to use it improperly or otherwise. It would be like someone accusing you of running a red light in Israel when you do not even drive nor live in Israel (which may seem like a contrived example, but perfectly describes myself. I have not owned a car for many years and instead use my bike daily in Costa Rica to get around).

Therefore, it no longer offends me to hear people swear with the words “God”, “Jesus Christ”, or “LORD” anymore than other swearing does. I realize now that these people are not breaking the Third Commandment in my presence and I am not complicit to some sin if I do not rebuke them or do not boycott a movie with such language. I still of course do not endorse the use of any profanities (and must always exercise self-control myself when angry in this regard).

I look forward to the day when the Messiah returns and we are all taught to both use and properly swear by (meaning take oaths and vows) God’s exact, actual, glorious, set apart name.

15 thoughts on “Can We Take “The LORD’s Name In Vain” Today?”

  1. I agree completely with Tim’s explanation of the subject. I would like to add another facet to the concept of taking the Lords name in vain. The word translated vain is ‘shav’ which implies emptiness or deceit. When we as believers take the Name of YHVH or Yeshua haMashiach upon ourselves, just as a wife takes upon herself the name of her husband, we are obligated to represent that Name with the utmost fidelity. If we dishonor the Name of Elohim by word or deed we declare it empty or meaningless. When we misrepresent Elohim, as do many of the tv evangelist, we suggest that YHVH is deceitful. In other words we are placing Elohim on par with hasatan, the Great Deceiver! This may be the most fearful of the commandments to break. Much more could be written on this subject but I trust all will get the idea with this brief comment.

    Shalom Uvrachah, Zakarel

  2. Hi Tim,
    Just discovered your website yesterday (04 December 2009) – I was on the lookout for something about the Connection between JEWISH FEASTS and what they mean to the Christian Nation. AND WHAT AN AWESOME SURPRIZE!! I’m not quite new to the living in Christ scene (as nearly every person of my generation was raised as a Christian in South Africa)- it’s a real pity that times have changed!!!
    With that being said – I thank the Lord for his AWESOME GRACE in ensuring that nothing happened to me before I found Him again!! (PLEASE EXCUSE MY ENGLISH – I’M ACTUALLY AFRIKAANS, BUT I TRUST THE LORD WILL GIVE YOU AN UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT I’M TRYING TO SAY!!!)
    Thing is though: The Name of the Lord was Translated to GOD / LORD / JESUS / JESUS CHRIST for ALL to understand – we were raised knowing Him by this Name and nothing else! It is only in recent years that the JEWISH traditions and translations AND meanings of all their BEAUTIFUL ways have been studied here in my land, and is it only of late that I have taken an interest in the JEWISH FEASTS etc. (knowing that YHVH has given this to HIS nation and the nation out of which His Son was birthed!! And if this was sooooooo important to Him – that His nation should live by these Rules, why then do Christians not seek the truth in their (the JEWISH Community’s) history and traditions?) OK – the point I’m actually trying to make; is that even though you so perfectly described the 3rd Commandment – one still cringes inside whenever you hear the Lord’s Name being used to curse someone or something!!! Fact is – this was the Name given to our Lord when the Word was translated – how many times have we read and heared: Live Holy!! His Name is the Name above all else (no matter what Translation!!) FACT IS: Why are so many people, movies and actors replacing all the usual swear word’s with God or Jesus’ name? (Because they believe that they are using the worst swear word known to man to grieve all God’s people on this earth!!! They’re just doing what satan wants them to do – break ALL Commandments – given to Moses and the Isrealites!! Something so true and so beautiful – direct Commandments from our Lord!!) One would not curse in the presence of our ALMIGHTY GOD!, right? So why then say it is OK to hear someone use the Lord’s name in vain and not feel sad or rebuke them because “you know thst that’s not His true Name”? Isn’t this what our God expects of us – to stand up for Him (after all His done for us?) – even in the smallest thing – like rebuking someone for using His Name in vain, or switching channel’s when someone is using His name in vain on TV? I still have a far way to go in understanding ALOT of things, but why do so many people use God’s Name in replacing a swear word (ah yes…. have you heard how many Christians do it as well?!) why do you never hear a Moslem or Islam extremist using alah’s name (or whatever they believe thier god’s name is!) (who’s not even real!) in vain when cursing – no, they would never! They have too strong a believe in him, they respect him too much. They only use it when they pray to him!!!! Why then do God’s Church use His Name when something REALLY bad happens to them during the day – or when they see something shocking or when a commet is plummeting down to earth and is on a collision course straight to your street and house!!! So yes – I believe that to use the Lord’s Name in vain (even though it is not His true name) is Blasphemous!!! If using His name (God / Jesus or Jesus Christ) is not really using His Name in vain (because it’s not His true Name!!), then please explain to me: how can these ABSOLUTELY GLORIOUS SACRED Name’s (IN THE NAME OF GOD / JESUS or JESUS CHRIST) cast out demon’s, spirits and satan?!??!?! Why do they tremble before THOSE NAMES!!!!! Why do they realise the POWER in the “translated” Name of YHVH (GOD / JESUS / JESUS CHRIST)? And we (God’s people) just simply use the Name above all Names as an excuse to give meaning to an emotion we’re feeling or just to use it as a form of disgust – because “that’s not really His real Name!!!! I’d really like to hear your thoughts – please let me know, I REALLY am thirsty to find out more about GOD!!!! and the promises in the JEWISH Feasts!!!!
    Blessings in Christ Jesus, our Lord, Saviour and Redeemer!!

    • I’m sorry but those words you list are titles and euphemisms and not translations of God’s name. You do not translate personal names into other languages. The name of God comes from the verb to be. If you were to translate it would be something like he was, he is, he will be. Definitely not LORD, GOD, JESUS CHRIST or what not. Jesus Christ is diffferent from YHWH who he called his father and our father and his god and our (to Thomas in John 20:17).

  3. Hi Tim, So you did not answer Chanelle, in her name above all names Jesus? You say Jesus is different than the father, stating john 20, but yet Jesus says the father and I are one? So in christian belief we believe you can not separate them, they are all the god head of the almighty, the one true God. So if I have casted out demons at the name of Jesus, yet his name is Yeshua, how did the demons flee? And that I experienced for myself. If jesus (Yeshua) is the above all names where does this fall into using Jesus Christ in vain is not breaking the commandment? Although I believe there is much that is a mystery left for the dispensation of God’s will until the fullness of times, this core fundamental belief in the name of Jesus I have used and seen its power! To take that away is like the saying of building my house on the sand, the name of Jesus is my rock in my foundation. The cheif corner stone in my spiritual beliefs. Wouldn’t you think the language of God transcends through all language barriers? He does say he will restore a pure language. (Zephaniah) For then will I turn [NKJV: restore] to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.
    I do appreciate your affinity to searching and learning the words and history of the bible. In Christ’s love, Angelique

    • Whoops: “The father and I are one” does not have to mean corporally as you interpret it. It can also mean united in purpose. This is confirmed if you keep reading past that statement in John 10 until John 17 where Jesus expresses the same unity and wishes the same oneness for us believers and God together:

      John 17:21 (HCSB) May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.

      Read that carefully. So either we are all God together, or we are all united in purpose.

      I don’t understand the rest of your message. If you think I have something against the name Jesus, I do not. Simply put, the Third Command has nothing to do with name of anyone but the covenant name of God, YHWH which is named in the very commandment itself: Exodus 20:7 Do not misuse the name of
      YeHoVaH your God, because YeHoVaH will not leave anyone unpunished who misuses His name.

    • I’m sorry, but God has many names. To use any calling out to God in vain/without reverence is wrong.

      Basic grammar question for everyone: when do you capitalize mom/dad, outside of at the start of a sentence? When you ADDRESS them in speech. Ex: “When are we eating, Dad?” Why capitalize? Because it’s his name (proper noun) in that context. I’m a dad—but that’s not my name…my name is Rob—but my kids don’t call me that; they call me Dad.

      …and if my kids said, “Dad!” after some situation—and weren’t meaning to actually call on me—I’d be asking why they were doing it. Frankly, it would be a bit annoying if I am not involved in the situation they are referring to, all the MORE so if they seem to be upset about something, and thought uttering my name was a good idea.

      You see, Tim, you’re missing the spirit of the 3rd commandment. God does NOT play “technicality chess” up in heaven with our souls. Whatever name we are using for our God, we are NOT to reference Him in vain, but to speak of Him reverently. It’s as simple as that. It really IS.

      At the very least, ask yourself this: by uttering today’s Christian cultural names for God in vain, are we helping to further the Great Commission or dismiss it?

      • Rob, your reasoning sounds good only as long as you misunderstand God has one personal name (which the commandment refers to) and miss the context that oaths important to daily life were to be sworn only in that name. In context, God’s saying don’t make an oath by the word Yehovah and not fulfill it. If this sounds like a technicality, you’re right and consider the very next commandment with another one: rest on one specific day of the week that was also only revealed to Israel, not Christians. The other is another technicality about no graven image/idol worship, something else revealed to Christians and therefore not required on them. The first four commandments are like that which is why when asked about entering the kingdom requirements, Jesus left out all those and included only the last six (Mt 19:17-19), the only non-technical/ritualistic and universal ethical commands of the ten.

  4. I am looking at the plain text not it could be this or that, I understand it goes into us being one in them as well and they were of course united in purpose. But I am asking by the use of Jesus’ name as you stated is not really his name because of it going from Hebrew to Greek to old English translations. Forget it guess we are not one in this as well. We can sum it up to you explanation of the mystery of the disunity. Lets just be careful to not be so intellectually minded in the things of the word and forget about the spirit that leads and guide us into all truth.

    • Me too, but the plain text is open to interpretation. Does it mean two are one God or two are in one purpose. By exploring the full context of John we can confirm it is the latter, not the former or it creates a problem of everyone being God.

      Yes, Jesus is not his real name, but Yeshua is. You don’t translate Yeshua, you transliterate it. But the transliteration that we have in Jesus is full of deficiencies as this article explains Nevertheless, God answers prayers according to the intent of our heart not the accuracy of our nomenclature. So “Jesus is just all right with me” =)

      Maybe we are one, we can’t be sure yet since all we know now is we are not understanding each other. For example, I don’t know what you mean about intellectualizing it. Doctrine must be built from Scripture, properly read in context. If a spirit leads us into truth, we must still confirm the teaching does not break Scripture which is why the Bereans were right to search the Scriptures daily to see if even what the Apostle Paul said was so (Acts 17:11)! So far what I have seen in Christianity’s approach to Scripture can be characterized as underintellectualizing and overspiritualizing :(.

  5. Agreed, every text is open to interpretation, and I have always prayed over that text to mean as the father and I are one, being one in purpose, just as we can become one in purpose with them, yet we can never be God’s. I agree as well that christianity and other religions at large over spiritualizes ALOT and is very uninformed “intellectually” not having a mind in Christ towards the scriptures, studying to show themselves approved by God rightly dividing the word of truth. The self proclaimed christians do want to feel they belong to something and so they would rather go with the majority of what is being said from the pulpits, rather than praying and searching and seeking God in it so they can further grow into the knowledge of his truth. If they did that, they may be misunderstood by the majority and left out or alone, which can me uncomfortable for most. So I’d say its safer for them to spiritualize most things and go along with what they are taught in the scriptures.

    What I meant by being so intellectually minded is that we get so wrapped up in our egos in acquiring the knowledge because we study so much, that we can ignore the spirit of God and his heart and spirit in all of our getting understanding. Leaning on our own understanding instead of his. Thats all I meant. (-:

    Yes we do need to be like the bereans and to keep studying and praying and pressing for our hearts to be upright before the Lord. The times we are in there’s so much knoweldge out there and yet we can have good intentions and if we are not careful we can be over taken by the knowledge and thus fall into what it says in Daniel, knoweledge is everyly increasing yet no one coming to the truth. I think in the most part we are one in the basis of our approach to reading the word and through the study of the word and the christian religion at large. And speaking for myself I just want to grow in him and have so much more to learn and be obedient too. (-: But yet the name of jesus is what transformed my life outside of relgious affairs, and I used his name to cast demons and the works of darkness that at one time had a hold on my life and those around me. In that the name of Jesus has much power and some would say that is spiritualize, yet it was very real and powerful to me when using Jesus instead of Yeshua, from having no tools to study things out at the time, but just the written old english king james bible and the working of the holy spirit. Thus I was saying his language, spirit and purpose can transcend through our language barriers so that his purpose prevails in our lives, when we truly have a heart that seeks after him. Hope all of that clears up my misunderstandings. Peace and many blessings to you. (-:

  6. What a load of BS. God’s name is meant to be worshiped and praised, the only time you can speak of God or Jesus name is in praise or worship or if your talking about him, example Jesus is perfect, God is awesome. Saying G-d DAM or dammit or Jesus Christ or for Christ sake or for G-d sake is a sin a terrible sin and it is the broken 3’rd commandment period. All this bullshit about interpetations and meanings is nothing more than demonic garbage. Don’t take God’s name in vein or you’ll have to pay a price you can’t afford, don’t fall for this liberal garbage on here and don’t be seduced by liars.

    • The Third Commandment refers to the specific personal name of God, YHWH. “God” as in “God damn it” is not God’s name. “Jesus” as in “Jesus Christ!” is not the Messiah’s name either…if there was a command against using his name in vain, which there is not. Really you are “adding to the Torah” by your prohibition. This is a sin that Jesus charged the Pharisees with, putting their fence around the Torah through the addition of takanot like not carrying a mat on Sabbath, etc.

  7. I hear what you say Tim and over all it is logical to what is written but I always feel bad when I do this and when I hear others doing the same I feel bad about it also. I don’t know it just seems like there is a connection even though what you indicate makes sense. I was in the military and the people I was with – well it was like second nature to swear in every other word we said. It’s been hard ,and still is, to clean up my vocabulary. If people feel bad about saying it. Then do yourself a favor people and don’t say it. And those that still do. Ok then if there is a problem with it, they will be judged for it by YHWH in the end. It would be those peoples problem. Just my 2-cents worth.

  8. Hi Tim,
    Just a couple of thoughts for you (& maybe others) to ponder on taking the Lords name in vain.

    1) You are probably right in saying people are not LITERALLY taking the Lords name in vain when they say” Jesus Christ” or similar, but the INTENT,be it conscious or sub-conscious is there, to curse the true Lord.

    2) Why do i never hear “Buddha”or “Krisna” or “Mohammed” etc used in the same way, kinda funny that….. makes me think the path we walks got something unique!!

    Kind Regards,


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