[notice]Should Christians lighten up about the”humourous” use of God’s name in advertisements such as the recent controversial Red Bull TV ad? Pastor Afrika Mhlophe writes about the weightiness of the name that is above every other name.[/notice]
On mount Sinai God gave the patriarch Moses commandments that were meant to govern the relation between God and His people. These were timeless and literally cast in stone instructions that allowed no grounds for deviation. There was no ambiguity from God regarding what He expected and wanted from His people. Exegesis upon exegesis has been done on the 10 Commandments and there is a general consensus that they deal with our relationship with God and also our fellow man. Commentators have noted that the first four cover our relationship with God and the last six our relationship with each other. Since it was God who proposed a relationship with us it was also His prerogative to determine how that relationship should be constructed.
God knows what will constitute a healthy and an unhealthy relationship with Him. It is similar to you and me. When we enter into a relationship we tell our prospective partner who we are and what we like or don’t like. It is clear then that anyone who disregards our expressed values and principles cannot at the same time expect to have a close relationship with us. Why then should we expect any less of God? The Bible is God’s revelation of Himself because He knew that we have no innate ability to know Him unless He does what theologians call a “self-disclosure.” We did not discover Him as it were but He discovered us and revealed Himself to us. We have now learnt that there is a certain nature and attributes that are associated with God.
God is holy, He is just, unchanging, and so on. Now you cannot separate what He says from who He is. He is bound by what He says because of the nature of the being He is. This is something that is difficult for us to understand because of the nature of beings we are. The third commandment says we should not take the name of the Lord in vain. What is in a name, someone may ask? In the Hebraic mindset, naming and being are linked together to form a unity. For us names are just identifiers of persons, things and places but for Jews names have a symbolic and prophetic significance. They pointed to that person’s purpose and destiny. This is why God changed Abram’s name to Abraham to indicate his change in destiny.
There are well over 200 different names for God that are revealed in the Scriptures. Each name reveals a specific aspect and attribute of God towards His people. So there is a lot behind each of God’s names. As I have mentioned before Jews do not use names as some arbitrary identifiers. A Rabbinical interpretation of Deuteronomy 12:3 led to a conclusion that it is inappropriate to write God’s name in any material wherein it could be later erased, defaced or destroyed. Ultra-Orthodox Jews do not even pronounce God’s sacred name unless in prayer or religious study. This sacred name, Y-H-V-H is mentioned over 6000 times in the Bible and is also known as God’s personal name. It is often transliterated in our Bibles as Yahweh or Jehovah.
Instead of pronouncing God’s name Orthodox Jews would refer to Him as “Hashem” which means the name. As much as there are many names for God revealed in the Scriptures yet they are all come from a few constructs. For instance from “El” which means God you will get names like; El-shaddai, El-Elyon, Elohim, and words like Bethel, etc. God is a self-sufficient and great God and nothing could be done to make Him greater. His concern is that we don’t do anything to dilute or undermine His greatness. He is a transcendent God and all living things owe their being to Him. His is the source and the cause of everything that there is.
God’s name was to be used within the parameters of a covenant. It is within the confines of that covenant that you use and benefit from that which derived from that name. His name is our strong tower. We have our healing and salvation in His name. In fact His name is a difference between life and death. The devil recognises and responds to the authority that is found in God’s name. We should be thoughtful and tactful then how we use such a powerful name we have available at our disposal. We should be name-dropping and invoking this name when we are looking for spiritual acceleration.
As you can see, taking God’s name in vain is literally taking Him in vain. We live in a world that promotes vanity and demotes that which is valuable. God and everything connected to Him is valuable but we have put our own value above that of God’s. Can you imagine if someone were to besmirch and blacken a name like that of Nelson Mandela. There would be a huge outcry both in South Africa and abroad. Well, God’s name is above all other names. It behoves that we reverence His holy name. His name is not a swear word and there is nothing funny about using it in jest. I know that there is a section in the Christian community that wants us to lighten up and see the funny side of irreverent adverts like that of Red Bull.
This section which is made up of liberal Christians does not know what a conviction of the Holy Spirit feels like. They are quick to use terms like “fundamentalists” to denigrate those who are convicted of God. It is God who said He won’t tolerate blasphemy against His name and all we are doing is pointing this truth to those who are blind to it. Have you noticed that names of other deities are not subject to the same vitriol that our God is. This is not about freedom of speech folks but it is the warfare between the kingdom of light and the kingdom of darkness. In G-d’s name we will win this.