Read Exodus 20:7 and Psalm 100
Exodus 20:7 is one of those commandments that I skim. “Don’t misuse the name of the Lord.” Swearing has never been one of my vices. I have plenty of others to worry about, so it’s nice I can just cruise over that one and not feel convicted.
Enter the children.
My son and I were in the car one day, and he was throwing a fit about something or other. My practice at the time was to ignore the fit, because when he saw it wasn’t getting the desired result, he would stop and re-evaluate. It worked most of the time. If I could remain sane long enough to see the fit through to the end. On this particular day, he was thrashing about in the car seat screeching, “Mommy! Mommy! MOMMY!!” Finally, I had had it.
“Stop!” I finally shouted over his off the charts decibels. “It was the happiest day of my life when you learned to say my name, but it literally hurts my ears when you say it like that!” Angry Mommy had her say, but the words weren’t out of my mouth before Exodus 20:7 came to me.
You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
It occurred to me in that moment that swearing is not the only issue the sovereign Lord was addressing with that verse.
God knows the difference between a genuine “God bless you” and one said out of habit. He can tell when “Dear God” is the preamble to a prayer and when it’s an excuse. Surly God can identify the difference between a heartfelt “God help me,” and one that comes after a whine filled rant.
To a toddler, Mommy is as good as God. Better even, because she is a physical presence to him. In this instance, my son wanted the attention of his all-capable mother. I knew that his behavior was unacceptable and there was no way I was going to honor his request when put in such inappropriate terms. I mentioned this calmly, a few times. I’m not sure he could hear me over the desire to so clearly communicate his immediate and dire need.
I have taught my children to “ask nicely.” The statement, “I want water,” gets him nothing. “May I please have some water?” Is likely to not only get him water, but get it served in his favorite cup, because it pleases me to fulfill a request nicely worded.
Over and over in the old testament, we see the phrase, “he built an alter and called on the Name of the Lord.” Building an alter put them in a right place before God. The act of building an alter reminded them that they were worshiping the Holy God. Their needs were urgent and dire. They needed deliverance, guidance, blessing, and they needed it now, but they still took the time to elevate His Name first.
The need for building a physical alter changed when Jesus offered himself as the perfect sacrifice once for all, but the need for elevating the Name of the Lord did not change. Jesus, the son of God, taught his disciples to address the Father this way: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-13).
I’m sure this is why we are told to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and enter his courts with praise.” With such a mindset, it is impossible to be less than genuine before our creator. By evaluating who he is and what he has done, we cannot help but stand in a right place before him.
Some days, we just need water. And so we demand it. We kick we scream, we say, “I can’t do this anymore! I need water and I need it now!”
And we hurt God’s ears. Of course he still provides. Of course he still sustains. But if we “ask nicely,” with thanksgiving and praise, the water comes so much sweeter, lasts so much longer, and refreshes everything.