WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO: “TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD IN VAIN”?
Exo 20:7 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. To take the name of God in vain means to swear falsely by using the name of Yahweh to confirm your lie.
“Thou shalt not swear falsely by the name of Jehovah thy God.” The Hebrew word which answers to “in vain” may be rendered either way. The two abuses of the sacred name seem to be distinguished in Lev_19:12 (see Mat_5:33).
Lev 19:12 And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD.
(“Profane the name”) see Eze 36:20 as follows:
Eze 36:20 And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These are the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land.
When a sinful people claim to be people of the Lord they profane his holy name.
JESUS SPEAKING OF THE THIRD COMMANDMENT (Mat 5:33)
Mat 5:33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:
MATTHEW HENRY COMMENTARY on Mat 5:33:
We have here an exposition of the third commandment…I. It is agreed on all hands that it forbids perjury, forswearing, and the violation of oaths and vows. This was said to them of old time, and is the true intent and meaning of the third commandment. Thou shalt not use, or take up, the name of God (as we do by an oath) in vain, or unto vanity, or a lie.
ADDITIONAL VERSES ON FALSE SWEARING:
Zec 5:4 I will bring it [the curse] forth, saith the LORD of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief, and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it with the timber thereof and the stones thereof.
Mal 3:5 And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts.
MATTHEW HENRY COMMENTARY ON THE THIRD COMMANDMENT:
“…By false swearing, which, some think, is chiefly intended in the letter of the commandment; so it was expounded by those of old time. Thou shalt not forswear thyself, Mat_5:33. One part of the religious regard the Jews were taught to pay to their God was to swear by his name, Deu_10:20. But they affronted him, instead of doing him honour, if they called him to be witness to a lie
ADDITONAL VERSES CONCERNING SWEARING:
Deu 10:20 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.
Heb 6:16 For men verily swear by the greater: and an oath for confirmation is to them an end of all strife.
Jam 5:12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.
Mat 23 :22: And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth thereon.
It is clear that the third commandment did not refer to swearing by the name of God as the Israelites were commanded to do so. But rather to false swearing – using the name of God to confirm a lie.
As children of God we have a natural inclination and desire to respect Yahweh and Yeshua and not to speak of them in a disrespectful way. We instinctively know that we should honor them whenever we refer to them. However to say it is sin to use the word “God” (or any other equivalent pronoun) in an improper way is to trivialize the true nature of willful sin; which in turn serves Satan’s purpose of deceiving us into believing that we cannot cease to commit sin.