Exodus 20:7 September 21, 2014
In the midst of the story of Joseph being sold into slavery by his brothers and his imprisonment due to lies told by Potiphar’s wife, there is an interlude. This interlude is the story of Judah and Tamar. Judah, the 4th son of Jacob and Leah, was the brother of Joseph who saved Joseph’s life. The brothers had thrown Joseph into a pit. Judah encouraged his brothers to sell Joseph to a caravan of Ishmaelites.
Now that we know who Judah is, we get to discover in Genesis 38 that Judah has three sons: Er, Onan, and Shelah. Being that Er was the oldest, Judah got a wife for Er. Her name was Tamar. However, Er was wicked and the Lord put him to death. As was the custom at the time, Er’s brother Onan was to take Tamar and produce a child so that Er’s name would continue. Onan did not want to do this act, so he spilled his semen on the ground whenever he and Tamar would have sex. This was displeasing to God, so Onan also died.
This left Tamar with no husband and no children. Judah told her to live as a widow in her father’s house until Shelah grew up. It turns out that Judah did not want Shelah to die like his older brother’s did!
Time passed. Judah’s wife died. On a trip to Timnah, Judah took his sheep to be sheared. Tamar heard that her father-in-law was coming to Tamar. She discovered that Shelah had grown up and he had not been given to her as a husband. She planned to deceive Judah. This is how she deceived him. She removed her widow’s garments, wrapped up, with a veil on her face, and sat outside the city gate. As Judah comes by, he thinks she is a prostitute. After bargaining a price for her services, Judah leaves a pledge of his signet, cord, & staff until the price could be paid.
However, when Judah sent the price, a kid from the flock, the “prostitute” could not be found! Judah felt embarrassed, for the town’s people had not seen a prostitute.
Three months later, Judah hears that Tamar has played the whore and has become pregnant. He is upset with her. He calls her out so that she would be burned to death. At this point Tamar sends a message about the owner of the signet, the cord, and the staff is the one who got her pregnant. What did Judah do? Well, he said, “She is more in the right than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.”
That is a wonderfully confusing story! You may be asking yourself, “Why was this story shared when we are looking at the 3rd Commandment?” And here is my answer: it has everything to do with the 3rd Commandment. The story of Judah and Tamar is about integrity. We are tempted to think horribly of Tamar. Yet in that culture and society, the women had no one to speak for them, but their husband or father. When Tamar’s father-in-law made a promise to her, it is his integrity that was at stake. For the relationship required a certain task, a requirement of the people of God, at that time. So when a man spoke as Judah did, he was speaking of God’s righteous requirement of God’s people. (I am indebted to David Hazony’s The Ten Commandments, (Scribner, New York, 2010) for this idea.)
Judah may not have mentioned the name of God. But he spoke as one who was obeying God. He just didn’t follow through!
This commandment, “Quit yer foul mouthin’,” is just as serious as the first two commandments. Jesus mentioned this idea several times, whether we consider the parable of the two brothers, the Sermon on the Mount’s perspective on oaths, or any of his other teachings. As we will see, the 3rd Commandment deals with more than cussin’.
A. “You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God” (Ex. 20:7a)
- Name – a word that gives you power over someone (at a minimum you get the person’s attention)
- Cussing/cursing – Yes, it is a way to make the wrong use of God’s name
- Swearing an oath
- Matthew 5:33-37 – Don’t swear an oath, but make your “yes, yes” or “No, no.”
- Using God’s name, but not following through – it cheapens God’s name!
- Calling upon the Lord
- Matthew 7:21-23 – “Lord, Lord” – got to do the will of the Father
- Philippians 2:1-11 – Bend your knew to him, now or later, preferably now
- Revelation 22:1-4 – His servants have God’s name on their forehead
- Promises, especially one that has expectations placed on it – like Judah with Tamar
- One of Tamar’s twin sons is listed as an ancestor to Jesus! (Matthew 1:3) This is part of the blessing that Jacob spoke over Judah before Jacob died (Genesis 49:10). So, it would seem speaking anything related to God’s name has ramifications. If you follow through with what you say you are going to do, then there are blessings from God. Living the Ten Commandments, whether they are the Hillbilly version or not, involves blessings and promises from God. There is a flip side to this commandment. If you do misuse the name of the Lord, then there are consequences.
B. “For the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.” (Ex. 20:7b)
- Goliath mocked God and God’s people
- David stood up to Goliath, and God blessed David
- How do we misuse God’s name?
- We use it jokingly
- We use it less seriously
- We presume to speak for God – “When we speak, God agrees” (Joy Davidman, Smoke on the Mountain, (The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1954), p. 46)
- We use it too frequently – “God bless America”
- The name of God is important. We do not want to misuse us it, sort of like the street preacher who wanted to handle a snake. “There is a story of a street preacher who preached outside the courthouse in town. He would get to whoopin’ and hollerin’, and talking about God-this and God-that, and pretty soon a crowd would gather around him. Then he would always say, ‘Oh, I feel the Spirit comin’ on me, I feel it a-comin’!”
Then the preacher would wish he had a snake to handle as proof of his spiritual power. “Oh, when I feel the Spirit, I wisht I had a snake. I wisht I had a snake!”
One Saturday morning before he went to town, a farmer went to his barn and caught a big black snake, and he took the snake to town with him. When the farmer got out of his truck, he wrapped the snack around his arm and held it under the bib of his overalls. He walked with it that way down to the courthouse, where a crowd had gathered to hear the street preacher.
He had just warmed up, and he was a-shoutin’ God-this and God-that, and pretty soon he began to talk about the Spirit comin’ over him and how he wanted to handle a snake. Oh, if he could only have a snake to handle. And then the farmer threw that old black snake right out there on the sidewalk by his feet. The preacher jumped three feet in the air, hollered the Lord’s name in vain real loud, and run off down the street like he’d been bit!
The sheriff arrested the farmer for disturbing the peace. Yet the crowd had enjoyed it so much that they took up an offering and paid the farmer’s fine! (John Killinger, To My People with Love, (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 1988), p. 42-43)
If anything, we want to be like David, who stood up for the Lord’s Name. We want to take God’s name earnestly. We want to respect God and his name, even more than we want our person and our own name respected.
Judah took God’s name in vain when he did not live up to the expectation that he had spoken to Tamar. And he owned up to his fault.
David honored God by fighting to defend God’s name.
When we misuse God’s name, then let us own up to our fault. Otherwise, God has every right to prosecute us. God warns us about taking his name lightly. Let us heed that warning and pursue the good that comes from knowing the name of our God.