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Taking God's Name in Vain

May 07, 2010

The First Commandment establishes God as the only Sovereign over all that He has created. It establishes the biblical form of government on the earth. All authorities on earth are therefore expected to exercise authority according to the laws of God.

The Second Commandment regulates all those authorities on earth, telling them to interpret and apply the laws of God according to the mind of God. They are to have no idols in their hearts, no false image ("imagination") of God. In essence, it is a command to KNOW GOD.

The Third Commandment says, "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." This has to do with TRUTH being established in the divine court. It has to do with taking an oath, or swearing to tell the truth while invoking the name of God as a witness.

When government officials are sworn into office, they take an oath to uphold the Constitution and to rule according to the laws of the land. In a court of law, or when summoned by a Senate committee to answer questions, the witnesses take an oath "so help me God." To give false or incomplete testimony is to commit perjury.

A lie is a statement devoid of truth, that is, it is "vain" or empty, having no truth in it. Hence, taking His name "in vain" speaks of empty words spoken under oath.

Numbers 5:1 says,

"Now if a person sins, after he hears a public adjuration to testify, when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt."

In other words: Here is what to do about a person who sins by not being a truthful or faithful witness. If the court sends out a public notice about a crime that has been committed, "a public adjuration" that any and all witnesses to a crime must step forward and testify what they have seen or heard, if someone fails to obey, he will be guilty of perjury.

In the Kingdom of God it is mandatory to testify so that the court can come to the most complete understanding of truth in every case. And when they testify, they must speak the whole truth. A good example of this is found in Matthew 26, where the high priest adjured Jesus to testify:

(63) But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, "I adjure you by the living God that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God." (64) Jesus said to him, "You have said it yourself; nevertheless, I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven."

Jesus remained silent when His accusers bore false witness against Him. But when the high priest ADJURED Him to testify, the law demanded that He speak the whole truth. At that point Jesus gave them the whole truth, not only confirming that He was the Messiah, but also adding the rest of the truth. This shocked them, of course, and because they did not believe it, they assumed He was guilty of blasphemy--that is, taking God's name in vain, or testifying with empty words.

He was thus crucified on a charge of blasphemy. They said He violated the Third Commandment, when in fact the high priest was guilty of violating the Second Commandment. The idol in his heart caused him to convict an innocent man. He did not really know the mind of God, because He and most of the others were expecting a military messiah who would overthrow the Romans, make Judea independent, and then anoint the Sanhedrin as His cabinet.

They did not realize that they were among the "evil figs" of Jeremiah 24, men who disagreed with God's judgments on the nation and who wanted to fight against the nations that God had raised up to judge Jerusalem and Judah. This was the root issue that revealed their heart idolatry, their incorrect opinion in regard to God and His judgments. So in violating the Second Commandment, they refused to believe the truth of Christ's witness and instead convicted an innocent man.

The proof of this is the divine judgment that occurred 40 years later at Passover of 73 A.D. at the end of Judah's 40-year grace period as established in Ezekiel 4:6. Masada was taken, ending the Roman War that had begun at Passover of 70 A.D. (The Romans began their siege of Jerusalem at Passover of 70, which was precisely 40 years after John the Baptist had been executed.)

In the divine law, no one could be convicted of any crime (sin) except by the mouth of two or three witnesses (Deut. 19:15). Inevitably, there would be times when crimes were committed without witnesses. Suspicions were insufficient to convict people of criminal behavior. This may seem like justice would be disadvantaged. Men have often tried to overcome this problem by torturing witnesses or tricking them by lies. But the Bible has a better solution. The suspect was to go to court and take an oath of innocence.

Hebrews 6:16 says,

"For men swear by one greater than themselves, and with them an oath given as confirmation is an end of every dispute."

In other words, when a suspect takes an oath and declares in court that he or she is innocent, this ends the dispute. Why? Because such action refers the case to the Supreme Court for judgment. If the suspect is truly guilty and has perjured himself, the matter is left to God for judgment, because the earthly court is incapable of judging matters without witnesses (proof).

The most important section of the law teaching about this is found in Numbers 5, beginning in verse 5. It starts out,

(6) Speak to the sons of Israel, "When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the Lord, and that person is guilty, (7) then he shall confess his sins which he has committed, and he shall make restitution in full for his wrong, and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged."

Because this is the introductory example in a section about sins being committed where there are no witnesses, it is plain that it speaks of a case where someone has stolen something with no witnesses or evidence to testify against him. In other words, he got away with the crime. God's instruction here is that he ought to repent, turn from his sin, and make confession. As a reward for self-confession, his restitution payment is only one-fifth, instead of the double, fourfold, or fivefold restitution demanded in Exodus 22:1-4.

The second example is where a man's wife is thought to be unfaithful. The husband suspects his wife is guilty, but he lacks proof. He was to settle the matter by taking her to the Supreme Court represented by a priest. She was to swear an oath of innocence (vs. 19-22). The husband was to accept this oath as Truth. He was to assume her innocence.

God, of course, knows all things. So if she had taken His name in vain, appealing to God to bear witness of her false statement, then the case would be judged by God personally. In other words, she should be assumed to be innocent unless God proved her guilty.

So the Third Commandment establishes a system of justice whereby the Supreme Court of God can decide cases that the earthly courts cannot handle due to a lack of witnesses. Moreover, there are many times when false witnesses rise up to convict the innocent or to release the guilty. Whenever true justice is not done for one reason or another, the offended party has the right to appeal to the divine court.

A non-Kingdom government does not recognize such a divine court on earth. Further, there has been a change from Levi to Melchizedek, due to the Levitical priesthood being disqualified by its heart idolatry. With these alterations in place, the basic law principle still stands.

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Category: God's Law

Dr. Stephen Jones

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