Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Family Name - Bear it with Honor


Thou 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. (Exo 20:7 KJV)

The most common interpretation of the 3rd Commandment is that we should not use God's name irreverently or use his name in a curse. It is indeed the case that we should not do that.

But it means so much more and it carries with it a much broader meaning. I hope to illustrate that today.

The word that is translated "take" is the Hebrew word nâśâ'
and one of its meanings is - to carry or bear continuously

The word that is translated "vain" is the Hebrew word shâv'
and one of its meanings is - “in the sense of desolating or disgracing”

So, to take a name in vain could be translated - to carry or bear that name in the sense of desolating or disgracing it

The opposite would be to bear that name with honor. So we could either take God's name and bear it with honor or we could bear it disgracefully.

It is a common practice that customarily when a man and a woman marry, the woman takes the surname of the man. For example -

When my mother agreed to be my father's bride and they were married, she took his last name. She no longer used her maiden name and became known as Doris Radcliff. Her new name was officially changed to Radcliff as all the documentation and paperwork was done with all the service bureaus and social security administration to make it so. As such, she became a member of the Radcliff family and took on the capacity to represent us in a certain areas - at the bank, at my school, when speaking with utility companies, at church, in the neighborhood, etc. Her actions now reflect on the whole Radcliff family.

Similarly, when my brother and I were born, we took our father's last name. Our actions too reflect on the whole Radcliff family.

Now what about all of us? Who are are we? Are we not sons and daughters of God and the bride of Christ? Guess whose name we have taken.

Our conduct does not just project ourselves only. It reflects on each and every affiliation we have. It reflects on us a family members, it reflects on us as Americans, it reflects on us as Christians.

That's how stereotypes are formed. It is assumed that we all act the same. The way one person acts is the way all people of that affiliation act. If one child acts a certain way, it is assumed that their behavior is sanctioned by the parents and all the kids act that way.

How often have we thought, "well his mother should have taught him better". Maybe his mother did teach him better. Maybe his mother has been trying for years to get it into his head to have some manners and show some respect. But if the kid continually misbehaves anyway, doesn't it still reflect poorly on the parents? If it gets bad enough the kid gets a bad reputation and the family name can become a byword and elicit a negative reaction among civilized society. For example -

How would you like to have been Paula Hitler, Adolf's little sister? After WWII, she lived under the assumed name Paula Wolf until she died and then "Paula Hitler" was put on her wooden grave marker. Or maybe you would like to be serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer's little brother David Dahmer who changed his last name and still today lives in anonymity.

In the military, there's an offense called "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman" or as it's been reduced to now "conduct unbecoming". It means that a military man, usually an officer of some rank is expected to conduct himself a certain way. When he does not, he can be brought up on charges, court martialed and dismissed from the military. The charge seems to have been first codified under the British Naval Discipline Act of 10 August 1860, which says; "Article 24: Every Officer subject to this Act who shall be guilty of Cruelty, or of any scandalous or fraudulent Conduct, shall be dismissed with Disgrace from Her Majesty's Service; and every Officer subject to this Act who shall be guilty of any other Conduct unbecoming the Character of an Officer shall be dismissed, with or without Disgrace, from Her Majesty's Service."

Why would they institute something like that, where a man can be dismissed from the military based on his conduct? What does one man's actions have to do with the rest of the Navy? Because it reflects poorly on the whole Navy. They have a standard they're expected to live up to in order to uphold a certain image. The character of the individual reflects on the whole organization.

If someone claims to be a Christian they bear the name of Christ. There are certain expectations about how they should act and what words they will use or won't use. Maybe you expect them to dress a little more modestly or treat people with a little more compassion and understanding. Sometimes people change their manner of speech around a person who claims to be a Christian. I have personally had people apologize for using foul language in my presence. You probably have too.

Many non-Christians scoff at the idea that Christianity is directly inspired by God. They look at the lifestyles of those calling themselves "Christian" and see nothing but hypocrisy; people no different than they are except for their pious attitudes and the labels they apply to others. People have used Christians' behavior as an excuse not to believe in God or not to become a Christian. They call them hypocrites because they claim Christ's name but their actions are not consistent with Christ's teachings. It's called "incongruency". Their actions are not congruent with their expectations for one who takes Christ's name. It is not in harmony with expectations. It doesn't fit.

When we take the name of God and His Christ, we are expected to conduct ourselves a certain way. We have been set apart, sanctified. (1Cor 6:11) We have a standard we're expected to live up to and to uphold a certain image. We are not of this world. (John 17:16) We have been translated into the Kingdom of His dear son. (Col 1:13) As such, we are ambassadors of that Kingdom, (2Cor 5:20) representatives of the Kingdom of God in this evil world. We are to be good soldiers of Christ bearing all things with dignity and honor and humility. (2Tim 2:3) We are to uphold the family name and bear it with honor.

Turn to Ezekiel chapter 36. How does God deal with people who have taken his name in vain and profaned it among the nations? What happened when the people of Israel disgraced God's name?
Eze 36:16-20 KJV Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (17) Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. (18) Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols wherewith they had polluted it: (19) And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. (20) And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said of them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land.

Seeing the pathetic state of the exiles, the pagan peoples said in scorn, “These are the people of God???” And, “What kind of weak God must Yahweh be that he would claim such as these to be his people?” And God's name was blasphemed among the heathens as a result. The way the people acted actually diminished God's name and his reputation among the nations. His family name was tarnished.

But there's hope.... God in his infinite mercy will take pity on them but notice why. Was it for the sake of the people?
Eze 36:21-28 KJV (21) But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. (22) Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. (23) And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. (23) For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. (25) Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. (26) A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. (27) And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them. (28) And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.

God's name is sanctified, set apart as holy, in each of us before their very eyes. We are the Israel of God now. (Gal 6:16) As we walk in his statutes and keep his judgments and do them others will notice and God's name will be sanctified and glorified.

The last thing any of us wants to do is bring shame to the family name. We have taken the family name of our Father and of his Christ. Let us remember to bear God's name with honor. Our actions are attributed to ALL Christians, fair or unfair, as we represent Christ. Let's let our light so shine before men that God will be glorified. (Matt 5:16)

And let us take to heart all that the 3rd Commandment brings to bear -

Thou 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. (Deu 5:11 KJV)

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