99 Q. What is the aim of the third commandment?
A. That we neither blaspheme nor misuse the name of God
by cursing, perjury,^1 or unnecessary oaths,^2
nor share in such horrible sins
by being silent bystanders.
we should use the holy name of God
only with reverence and awe,^3
so that we may properly
pray to God,^5
and glorify God in all our words and works.^6
^1 Lev. 24:11[-16];19:12
^2 Matt. 5:37; James 5:12
^3 Isa. 45:23
^4 Matt. 10:32
^5 1 Tim. 2:8
^6 Rom. 2:24; 1 Tim. 6:1; Col. 3:16
100 Q. Is blasphemy of God’s name by swearing and cursing
really such serious sin
that God is angry also with those
who do not do all they can
to help prevent and forbid it?
A. Yes, indeed.^1
No sin is greater
or provokes God’s wrath more
than blaspheming his name.
That is why God commanded it to be punished with death.^2
^1 Lev. 5:1
^2 Lev. 24:15-16
LORD’S DAY 36 (Q/A 99-100)
“What’s In A Name?”
The naming of someone or something takes special care. My mom intentionally spelled my name with an “a” not the usual “i” to set me apart from the same ol’, same ol’. She also chose my name because “Neal” means “champion.” (Unfortunately, that term doesn’t apply to my athletic prowess, or lack thereof, as evidenced by the fact that I was usually the last one chosen in the class line-up at recess throughout my growing-up years. Even to this day, I throw an occasional football spiral and my sons throw faster baseball pitches.) The second part of my first name, “Leon” is the reverse of my father’s name, “Noel.” My middle name, “Dionida” is my mother’s maiden name. And my last name means one of three things in Spanish: water dam, strawberry, female servant. (I prefer water dam, if you want to know).
The same care went into the naming of our two sons and their particular Korean names. In fact, both of our sons’ Korean names were given to them by their late paternal grandaunt in South Korea. We don’t know if it involved tea leaves or white smoke but it is shrouded in mystery that to this day, we aren’t certain how she came up with their names.
The naming of places, such as “Bethel,” meaning “house of God,” designated memorial markers for some decisive or phenomenal event, an encounter with God, a battle won or lost; it was for remembrance.
Names are given for remembrance. But not just mere memory. Names are given to re-member; that is they have a reconstituting effect. Names bring us back to origins, to when that decisive moment happened, or back to our birth.
My parents have a term of endearment for me, “Nilo.” (pronounced, “Nee-lo.”) This name was one they used when I was a child, in those instances when they wanted to call my immediate attention; my mom often used it in combination with her widened eyes and pursed lips when I needed to be disciplined. In high school and college, when my smart-alecky side conflicted with my parents, that name “Nilo” was a quick reminder that no matter my age, no matter my educational degrees or job positions, I was and always will be their child.
God’s name is a sacred one, so set apart and holy that one of the ten commandments is about honoring God’s name and keeping it holy. The so-called tetragrammaton, the Lord’s name in Hebrew letters Latinized as “YHWH,” took such extra significance that when readers of the ancient manuscripts came across the Hebrew name of God, because its pronunciation was unknown and should not be spoken because of its set apart-ness, the tetragrammaton would be called “Adonai” (translated “Lord). Later, as vowels were added to the Hebrew letters, we get the modern rendition, “Yahweh.” (Even Hollywood cinematography and popular literature comprehend this notion of special nomenclature as shown through the Harry Potter series and the prohibition to not say “the Name,” in reference to Harry Potter’s and Dumbledore’s nemesis, Lord Voldemort.)
The Lord’s name is an expression of God’s character, of God’s essence, of God’s self-revelation, and God’s self-giving. God has no parent, God has no origin. There was no time in which God was not. He is the I AM, the subject and object, the One who has no predicate. God is.
That is what is at stake in Q/A 99 and 100.
The revealing of the Lord’s name to us human beings is a gift – we have been let in on a special, sacred part of God. Attached to the Lord’s name is who God is, what God does, what God promises. In sum, contained in the Lord’s name is God’s very covenant with us. God’s name is an outward expression of God’s inward disposition to be for us, to be with us.
As with our birth name and the reconstituting/ re-membering function, the name of God calls us back to the One who is our Creator, the One to whom we belong in life and in death and in the life to come.
There was a time when I forgot my ID at the airport security line. I was sweating bullets, trying not to miss my flight, all the while trying to convince the TSA security that I was Neal Presa and no one else. Our identification is very precious. Hackers use all sorts of tricks and methods to gain access to our identity for their own gain. In a technology age where every electronic device is a portal into our privacy and identity, we do our best to guard that which is precious to us – our name. With our name and the identity markers that go with it (Social Security numbers, email passwords, credit reporting bureaus), we also guard our integrity, our reputation, our name and our family name. Hijacked identities make us vulnerable and invaded.
Do we honor the name, integrity and reputation of the Lord of the universe, the One who created us, who as Jesus Christ, redeemed us, and who as the Holy Spirit, seals His love upon us?
This is the section of the Catechism on gratitude. As such, do we live lives worthy of the calling to be which we have been called, namely, as the holy people of God for whom and to whom the triune God gives and reveals of Himself?
In contrast to Batman’s sidekick, Robin the Boy Wonder, who repeatedly exclaimed:
“Holy this and holy that….”
The God of Abraham, Sarah, Ruth, David, who has come as Jesus Christ, and through whom the Holy Spirit is given – He alone is the Holy One. This means that we, who are called holy, saints – we are set apart for the purpose of living lives that are set apart for God’s purposes. The covenantal command is operative, “Be ye holy, for I am holy,” says the Lord.
Calling upon the name of the Lord, and honoring the Lord’s name in speech, in work, and in heart, is to be continually reconstituted and re-membered as a child of God, a calling back to the One who claims us, whose Name directs us to the fullness of God’s self and the God who by virtue of His holiness, His set apart-ness, has reserved Himself for us and for the life of the world. Honoring the Lord’s Name is honoring the Lord Himself, loving Him and seeing that others likewise honor and love the One to whom is due the same.