Commandment #3 – The Lord’s Name

Note to leaders: while the content below helps you build a knowledge of this topic for the study, it will be helpful to work out what bits you go through with your group and which bits you might put aside to use only if it comes up and time permits.

The opening question addresses how we commonly treat this command but the study will point us even deeper.

Opening Question

What is your reaction to hearing the name of Jesus used poorly or the phrase, OMG? Why do you react this way?

Exodus 20:7

“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

In the beginning (5 mins)

How is the theme of God’s name developed prior to the Ten Commandments?

Genesis 2:19-20; 3:20 (Adam was instructed by the LORD to name every animal. What he named them, that is what they were called. Man had authority to assign names to things. This seems trivial but demonstrates the purpose of names – they are not just words but are intrinsically linked to the person or animal that it was assigned to, and they have a meaningful role. The one who names something gives it meaning.)

Genesis 4:26 This use of the LORD’s name was not in vein but in prayer. In fact, the first prayers referred to in the bible. Mankind was divided between those who call on the name of the LORD for help and those who do not. They are, in the context, waiting for the seed of Eve to come and save them from the curse of sin (Gen 3:15).

What people are named and what that means is a key point in most of the accounts in Genesis (eg, Gen 27:36)

Exodus 3:11-15; 6:2-3; 15:2-3; The name is not simply a label but a revelation of His authority and power. It’s not just a word but a relationship. Man has not named God but God has declared his name to us.

“A study of the word *‘NAME’ in the OT reveals how much it means in Hebrew. The name is no mere label, but is significant of the real personality of him to whom it belongs. It may derive from the circumstances of his birth (Gn. 5:29), or reflect his character (Gn. 27:36), and when a person puts his ‘name’ upon a thing or another person the latter comes under his influence and protection.”

(New Bible Dictionary, “Names of God”, IVP)

Some more background: Technically speaking, there is only one name for God given in the Old Testament which is Yehwah – also referred to as Jehovah and translated as LORD in the bible. The word, god, in the bible can be used to refer to the LORD or to mythical god’s – context gives meaning. And the word, lord or Lord, refers to a person of power.

The command to Israel (5 mins)

Compare the NIV translation of Exodus 20:7 with another translation like the ESV. What is God teaching Israel?

take/misuse: make wrongful use of.

vain: describes unreality.

“The command prohibits use of the name for any idle, frivolous, or insincere purpose” (S. R. Driver, Exodus, 196). This would include perjury, pagan incantations, or idle talk. The name is to be treated with reverence and respect because it is the name of the holy God.

(Notes from the NET translation)

The command goes further than this, however, as we see the way Israel misused God’s name and how clearly Jesus represents it.

Israel’s history (10 mins)

Deuteronomy 18:19 gives a positive use of the name of the LORD. Ezekiel 36, however, is very condemning. Read Ezekiel 36:16-32 and talk about what it means to misuse the name of God. 

  • Deuteronomy 18:19 – if a prophet speaks in the name of Yahweh, he is representing God and must be listened to. A prophet takes the LORD’s name carefully.
  • Ezekiel 36:16-32 – Israel was giving Yahweh and bad name. They misrepresented him. But God will re-establish his great name by pouring out his grace once again on Israel. This is a pointer to the gospel.

The Gospel (10 mins)

What difference has Jesus made to our understanding of this command?

  • John 5:43; 10:25 show us that Jesus came, like a prophet, in the name of God, whom he referred to as Father!
  • Matthew 6:9-13 The Lord’s prayer includes our plea for God’s name to be hallowed. As a prayer, it is a request for this to be fulfilled here on earth. Christ’s disciples will carry his name (see John 15:21)
  • John 14:13-14; 16:22-28 Jesus instructs his disciples to pray in his name!
  • Conclusion: Jesus comes in the name of his Father and teaches that when he leaves, his followers will pray in his name and be treated good or bad because of his name.

Christian Living (15 mins)

The name of the LORD was entrusted to Israel and yet they misused it in their disobedience. Yet God continued to bless Israel and the world through sending Jesus, his son and our Lord. The command to misuse the LORD’s name goes beyond swearing and involves representing God and his goodness to the world. We return to a familiar passage which we may think of when praying the first request in the Lord’s prayer…

  • Philippians 2:9-11 (also Ephesians 1:19b-23
  • 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 (see here how we represent the name of Christ on earth as we call people to repent and believe.

So far, the commandments have built upon each other to teach us about gospel and mission: 1) we know that there is only one God and we must not compromise that truth for ourselves or anyone else in the world (Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour); 2) We must worship God only and do so in Spirit and in truth (Jesus is the way and the truth and the life, nobody comes to the Father except through him; 3) He entrusts his name and reputation to us as we represent God in the world (exalting Jesus’ name above all others). 

How do you represent the name of Jesus? If you say you are a Christian, does the world see it?

Commandment #2 – No Image

Opening Question

What was the first commandment?

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Exodus 20:4-6

In the beginning (5 mins)

What words or phrases in Verse 4 do you see that we find in Genesis Chapter 1? What can we make of these?

  1. Image – God made man in his image. 
    1. This refers to our unique gift in relating to God and representing God in this world. No other animal or creature is given the same privilege. It does not mean that God looks like us (or vice-versa).
    2. It is God who has crafted us and shaped us. The 2nd Commandment implies a reversal of that relationship. We will see this further later in the study.
  2. Form and make – further imagery from Genesis 1 which describes what God does, not what we do.
  3. …heaven…earth…waters…
    1. To form God into an image of something that he is the creator of is obscene. He is the creator and sits above all that he has made. To worship God in such ways is to distort our understanding of God and lower him.

The command to Israel (5 mins)

Read the command and break down the sentences. What is the LORD concerned about?

  1. We are not to portray God in any form that distorts him (we’ve looked at this already in the last section)
  2. Do not prostrate yourself before a thing. Do not surrender your freedom to an object.
  3. The Lord your God – there is a relationship being underlined here. He is committed and devoted to Israel.
  4. A jealous God. There is insult that goes into this command. It is not simply the avoidance of statues but that our relationship with God is kept real and reverent. While ‘jealousy’ is often associated with shallow envy or insecurity, it is also associated with a zeal that the relationship be kept sacred. One commentator (Holbert, John C, 2002) has noted that “zealousy” might be a better word to use here. This picks up the idea of guarding which is what the original text points to. What follows is a description of Yahweh’s loyalty and vengeance that flows from his guarding love for Israel.
  5. “Punishing” and “love”. Note that God does not repay future generations for individual sins but for hate toward God – those who disdain Him and turn to idolatry in all their forms are turning their back on the God who rescued them. His punishment is deserved and his love is gracious.

See also Verses 22-23

God did not appear to them and speak, he spoke to them from heaven. Their knowledge of God comes from his words, authority and saving works. God is determined for us to know and worship him in truth.

Israel’s history (10 mins)

Lookup these verses and describe how Israel performed under this command.

  • Exodus 32:1-8ff
  • Isaiah 46
    • Compare the works of God toward Israel with the works of Bel and Nebo toward their gods.
  • 1 Kings 14:7-11
    • The ongoing issue that Yahweh had with Israel in all its history was their compulsion to follow after idols.

The Gospel (10 mins)

What difference has Jesus made to our understanding of this command? Read these references and discuss.

  • John 4:21-26 Jesus has come to teach us the truth – God desires true worship that is in Spirit and in truth.
  • John 17:1-5 The glory of God is found in Jesus and knowing Him whom God has sent is the definition of eternal life.
  • Matthew 4:8-10; Matthew 14:29-33; Matthew 28:8-10 We bow our knee to nobody but Jesus.

Christian Living (15 mins)

We now stand in a position of knowing God in Spirit and in truth. The glory of God is found in nothing and nobody other than the Lord Jesus Christ. All other loves are idolatry.  Reflect on the following verses and discuss how we respond to the 2nd commandment.

  • Romans 1:20-25 The first sign of sin is that we reject the truth about God in exchange for a lie and give our hearts to other things.
  • Acts 17:22-31 On the global stage, God overlooked ignorance about him but now that Jesus has come and publicly raised from the dead, he calls on all people everywhere to repent and turn to Christ.
  • Colossians 3:1-5 (also 6-10) In the new relationship with God through Christ, we rid ourselves of all the lies that separate us from God and put to death the misdeeds of the body. NB: Greed equals idolatry. Idolatry manifests from our hearts being offered to things other than God. Recall Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 that we cannot serve both God and money.

Commandment #1 – No Other God

The “Ten Commandment” studies will follow the following sequence: 1. In the Beginning; 2. The Command to Israel; 3. Israel’s history; 4. The Gospel; 5. Christian Living. Times indicated in brackets are a guide only. Take from that where most time is meant to be spent during these studies rather than a “command” 🙂 An alternate method is offered at the end of this study.

Opening Question

Is it obvious that there is only one God?

Exodus 20:1-3

And God spoke all these words:  2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

In the beginning (5 mins)

What does Genesis 1 teach us about the uniqueness of God?

“In the beginning God!” He is the one true God over all the world.

The command to Israel (5 mins)

Read the following bible verses and summarise them. Why did the first commandment need to be written and placed up front?

  • Exodus 19:4-6
  • Deuteronomy 6:4
  • Deuteronomy 6:13-15

Israel’s history (10 mins)

Lookup these verses and describe how Israel performed under this command.

  • Numbers 25:1-18; Deuteronomy 13:1-18
  • Jeremiah 35:15
  • Malachi 3:1,5

The Gospel (10 mins)

What difference has Jesus made to our understanding of this command?

  • John 1:1
  • John 8:57-59
  • John 14:5-14
  • John 20:27-29

Christian Living (15 mins)

We now stand in a position of knowing God in truth. The LORD who promised in Malachi to visit Israel has come! What do we do with this information? Reflect on the following verses and discuss how we respond to the 1st commandment.

  • Matthew 28:19-20 All authority belongs to Jesus. Teach the world about God as three in one!
  • Acts 1:8 
  • Colossians 1:15-17 Lord of Creation
  • Philippians 2:10 every knee will bow and tongue confess.

An Alternate Method

Another way of guiding your group through the command is to ask the following 4 questions and use the references above to guide discussion.

  1. Is this command obvious? 
  2. What does this command teach us? 
  3. What difference does Jesus make? 
  4. How should we live out this command today?