The Lord’s Name in Vain

As we journey through Exodus 19-24 this week our MULTIPLY reading, I am walking a bit more slowly through the 10 commandments. It is impossible to unpack that passage in one sermon, so I am jotting some thoughts down along the way this week to spur on more thinking.

What does it mean to NOT “take the Lord’s name in vain?” The NIV says  “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.”

Through the time of deliverance God kept unfolding his name to Israel. As he “unpacked” the power of his name, it was important for Israel to keep recognizing Yahweh was the One who had delivered them. To not revere that fact was to “misuse” his name.

J.K. Bruckner in his commentary on Exodus said this:

This is a direct reference to remembering who had delivered them. God’s reputation was tied to God’s name in the exodus. Its “use” or “lifting up” in a positive way declared God’s works of grace and deliverance. To speak of the Lord after Sinai was also to declare that God’s laws were formative for the new community of faith. To speak of God without reference to the creating law and redeeming gospel could be a vain use of God’s name, that is, God’s reputation.

Remember who delivered you. Remember who redeemed you. Hold him holy. To use his name is to refer to HIM.

May my words truly reflect the holiness of my God!

Favorite passages

If there is any passage I could wear out in any physical Bible, it would be (and is, by the way I look in different translations and see I’ve already been there and marked it up incessantly) Ex. 33:13-23.

Almost every day I have a prayer: Seek the favor of God.

Moses leads the way for me. He constantly longs for the favor of God. He asks for his very presence. He asks what no one else has asked for as a leader. God grants as fully as possible what Moses can take. Why? Because Moses won’t give up. 

His life is intercession.

Yet, while I pray that request with some frequency, I find that while I mark up that passage with regularity, and visit it often… I am not in the same category with Moses. I like the thought of the glory of God… but not enough to sit there and wait for God to move!

I am impatient. I am lazy. I am distracted.

Moses cries out, “Teach me your ways!” and then has the wisdom to actually sit and wait for the instruction. I too often cry out the same request, then slam my Bible shut and race off to the next thing.

Lord, forgive my presumption. Forgive my false starts. Forgive my lazy questions and request. Grant me the heart of Moses. Grant me the tenacity of a man who had learned through time that God isn’t in any hurry, so why should he be rushed? Lord, when I ask, “Teach me your ways,” may I then sit and wait for some instruction!

I’m more Israel than Moses

Israel had been in Egypt over 400 years and couldn’t wait a few days for Moses to come down the mountain with the commands of the Lord. They defaulted to what they knew: the gods of Egypt.

I’m more Israel than Egypt. I don’t wait. I default.

The command of the Lord is to wait. It’s not because he is mean. It’s because he has to get Egypt out of us as he applies the power of the Kingdom to our lives.

Lord, forgive my impatience! Teach me to wait!

Too much of Egypt

You must have no other gods before me. (Ex. 20:3)

The call of God to Israel was to not only be free of the outward slavery of Egypt, but to have their hearts set free as well. 400 plus years of slavery didn’t just effect their physical and mental status. It enslaved their hearts as well.

The plagues on Egypt weren’t just for Pharaoh. They were for Israel. They needed Egypt out of their hearts just as much as they needed their bodies out of Egypt.

We often have too much of Egypt in us. We play with the gods of this age. We think we “play” with the God of all creation.

He didn’t save us to “play.” He saved us and called us to a new allegiance. No more Egypt.

Our Impatience in Prayer

The people saw that Moses was taking a long time to come down from the mountain. They gathered around Aaron and said to him, “Come on! Make us gods who can lead us. As for this man Moses who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we don’t have a clue what has happened to him.” (Ex. 32:1, CEB)

Israel defaulted to what they knew. They had been slaves for hundreds of years. They grew impatient after a few days. When they grew impatient, they defaulted to what they knew: idols. They did not yet know Yahweh like they could.

Often in our own prayer times we get impatient because we haven’t taken the time to know God. Then, when he doesn’t show up on our time schedule, we are tempted to go back to our default position. We connive. We manipulate. We work things out with our own skill.

We need to take the time in prayer to know God first. Moses was allowed to know God. Why? He asked.

“Now if I have found favor in your sight, show me your ways, so that I may know you and find favor in your sight.” (Ex. 33:13, NRSV)

The nature of the Kingdom is to ASK. It is also in the nature of the Kingdom to take your time to know God. 

Getting God to Change His Mind

This isn’t a very good Calvinist post. Good thing I’m not a Calvinist.  I’m probably not an Arminian, either.

I love Exodus because it messes with Calvinist and Armininian viewpoints. It brings the tension of the action of God and the action of humanity into sharp relief.

In Exodus 32 Moses has been up on the mountain receiving the covenant from Yahweh. Israel gets impatient. They’ve been slaves for 430 years and they can’t wait 40 days.

They slip right back into Egyptian mode and demand something to worship. Aaron, fine leader that he is, has the Israelites collect all the gold goodies they brought from Egypt, cranks up the fire, and builds them a couple of golden calves.

“These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” (Ex. 32:4, CEB)

Shockingly, God is angry. This is why the God of the New Testament is SOOO much better. (Just ask Ananias and Sapphira.)

God is ready to wipe them out. Moses intercedes. God changes his mind. 

There are those who love to talk about the power of intercession and how we can move the hand of God. There are those who are completely uncomfortable with the idea of God changing his mind, so they skip this passage or work out some scholarly explanation.

I see God changing his mind twice.

He has brought Israel out of Egypt because he wants to draw them to himself. Now, he changes his mind? 

The Lord spoke to Moses: “Hurry up and go down! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, are ruining everything!They’ve already abandoned the path that I commanded. They have made a metal bull calf for themselves. They’ve bowed down to it and offered sacrifices to it and declared, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” The Lord said to Moses, “I’ve been watching these people, and I’ve seen how stubborn they are. 10 Now leave me alone! Let my fury burn and devour them. Then I’ll make a great nation out of you.” (Ex. 32:7-10, CEB)

He is ready to destroy them and start over.

Moses isn’t the only one to “change the mind of God.” Israel did it first. Their unruly behavior and utter disdain for the holiness of God sent God into thoughts of starting over.

Then, Moses intercedes and God changes his mind again. 

I have no great profound thoughts. All you Calvinists will get me straightened out on this passage.

What I find in this passage is not only the powerful intercession of Moses, but the incredible impatience of the people of God. They just couldn’t wait.

There are clear lessons for us. We want God to answer us in our way and in our time and when he takes his sweet time we want to take our bat and ball and go home. We are so impatient when it comes to waiting on God. Maybe our impatience changes the mind of God more than our “fervent prayers.” (Or our lack of fervent prayers, anyway.)

My impatience with God lately is a huge temptation. I get impatient with what to do in the way of income and I panic. Anxiety sets in. I try to solve problems on my own.

My foolish actions to try and solve my problems when God is trying to get me to wait on him may make God change his mind. He may step back and say, “Well, Dan, have at it. You want to get this thing solved on your own? Give it a shot.”

Maybe my quick action is changing the mind of God.

Maybe I need the heart of Moses on these types of decisions. I think I’m more like Moses than the children of Israel. I don’t build golden calves. But I AM impatient. And perhaps my impatience is changing God’s mind more than my perceived “powerful” intercession.

Call it what you want… God changing his mind or something else… it often our actions that are like the children of Israel that create a response rather than our action in prayer.

We need to be people of PRAYER rather than people of impatience. God… help us. Well… help ME.

Fond Memories of Egypt

The children of Israel had watched Egypt go down hard. A nation of slaves had just walked out on the most powerful nation on the face of the earth and deliverance was theirs.

Hundreds of years of slavery were wiped out… and they complain. They get outside of Egypt and all of a sudden Egypt sounds like Disney World. They think of the great food!

3 The Israelites said to them, “Oh, how we wish that the LORD had just put us to death while we were still in the land of Egypt. There we could sit by the pots cooking meat and eat our fill of bread. Instead, you’ve brought us out into this desert to starve this whole assembly to death.” (Ex. 16:3, CEB)

I find that what happened was their lack of knowledge in the Holy One. One thing I notice in reading the Scriptures is this: we trust who we know. Israel had difficulty knowing God.

Failure to trust God causes us to think fondly of Egypt.

We trust who we know.

Egypt is a lie. The Kingdom is reality.

Isn’t It Time to Leave Egypt?

4 You saw what I did to the Egyptians, and how I lifted you up on eagles’ wings and brought you to me. (Ex. 19:4, CEB)

There are so many thoughts, discussion, articles, etc., on the angst of the American Church. There are some I agree with, and some I don’t. There are certainly those who are so politicized that the only way for the church to return to Jesus seems to be to vote Republican or Democrat. (Ironically, neither side on THAT issue seems to think they’re being political.)

As I read Exodus again, I see the trouble in the church as well. I see it in my own life. As believers, we are having trouble seeing what God has delivered us from and what he is calling us to. 

We seem to forget that a loving God has called us to himself.  He has delivered us from the power of sin. Yet… we seem bent on wanting to go back to Egypt. We want to justify how we live because we like how we live. We fear change.

We think the shackles of the old life are actually gold bracelets.

We fear God’s direction and God’s best. We just don’t see it. So, we insist on justifying our own lifestyles and say, “Well, the God I know wants me to be happy,” or some other jibberish.

I am good at the excuses. I am good at avoiding God’s best. I don’t even need an excuse. I just avoid God’s best. And the shackles stay on.

As the church in America, isn’t it time to leave Egypt? Isn’t it time to quit glamorizing the motives and operational standards of this world and just admit that God may actually have our best in mind? Isn’t it time to lay down our selfish ambitions and think, “Well… maybe God DOES know what he’s doing?”

He has called us to himself. He has done all that is necessary for that to happen in our lives. The call is to trust him. We trust who we know. It is time to KNOW the Lord.

And get out of Egypt.