God’s second law

High on Mt. Sinai God gave Moses instructions for an entire way of life for the brand-new Israelite nation, recently freed from Egyptian slavery. In that mass of “covenant” material were his will for their society, their worship life, and timeless principles of their moral behavior toward him and each other. As a memory aid, God himself chiseled a summary of his divine instruction onto two tablets of stone for Moses to carry with him and to accompany the Israelites on the rest of their journey to Canaan.

Alas, the Hebrew Scriptures did not number them explicitly, and among Christians there are two main schools of thought on which commandment is which number. We’ll call this one God’s second law: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name” (Exodus 20:7).

Adulteration of God’s holy message (or “name”), either by addition or subtraction, is strenuously forbidden and carries severe penalties. So does flippant or profane usage of God’s precious proper names. Use them carefully and for the purposes for which he lovingly revealed them to you. Instead of hearing a lot of “dammits” and “swear to Gods” coming from your mouth, may your friends rather hear God’s name in prayers, praises, and thanksgiving: “Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15).

Pastor Mark Jeske brought the good news of Jesus Christ to viewers of Time of Grace for 18 years. He is currently the senior pastor at St. Marcus Church, a thriving multicultural congregation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mark is the author of several books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics. He and his wife, Carol, have four adult children.


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