The minor abuses of this Commandment are easy to spot. In a moment of frustration or pain we might use the Name of the Lord as a curse word. Even when we know that it is wrong, it can still slip out of our mouth. For who can completely tame the tongue?
Sometimes, bad habits creep into our lives. Perhaps the company we keep uses foul or blasphemous language. Perhaps we may become softened to it, thinking it is no big deal, until we also use God's Name in vain.
We should fight such habits. We know better. Especially, we should not consider such sins to be of no consequence. God will not count a person guiltless who uses His Name in an empty, frivolous way, much less the blasphemer.
But the greatest abuse of this Second Commandment, the most serious and damaging, is among preachers and teachers who cover up their falsehood by saying, "Thus says the Lord ..." They present their teaching as if it were the exact teaching of God. Some of them may even say, "God told me to tell you ..." and then unload a fine pile of some teaching that they dreamt up entirely apart from the Word.
We should adopt a sort of "Buyer Beware" attitude whenever we hear a someone speak about what God says. Any teacher should be considered with suspicion. Just because they speak a few words from the Scriptures means little, because they can take those words and embellish and sprinkle them with any number of falsehoods and lies.
But they are so smooth, you will not even hear them stray from the truth. They will look and sound like the genuine article. "What a great man! What an exciting message!" you may say. Yet along with a small dose of truth, he poured a heaping helping of something God never said.
Beware of them. God despises the prophets who say, "Thus says the Lord ..." but He gave them no message to speak.
Here is the danger to you. If you listen to a man who says he has a message from the Almighty, but He does not, and then you agree with that message, then you have joined that teacher in breaking the Second Commandment. You are saying, "Yes, this is the teaching of the Lord," when it is not.
So be very careful. Embrace no man's teaching quickly and easily. Find out and investigate whether this is really from the Lord.
In addition to the danger of joining the man in an extremely serious sin against the Second Commandment, you also are placing your salvation in jeopardy. Even a little leaven of false teaching can destroy faith.
A false preacher may not appear to be a preacher at all. Maybe your friend chats with you and speaks about Jesus over coffee. Surely you trust your friend, right? Or it may be a man who's been a Lutheran all his life. A Lutheran would never teach falsely, right?
You bet they would. We all might, because our old Adam can reach way up from out of our heart and yank on our tongue, and lead it to say something that we really ought to never let out of our lips.
We are in this danger because we are all spiritually naive. We are quick to latch onto some teaching if it feels right. We also sometimes speak what we feel is God's truth. No wonder even good Christians can be duped by clever wolves in warm, fuzzy sheep's clothing. We are impressed by a flashy show or impassioned delivery or a look of sincerity in a man's eyes.
But God's truth is not found in the eyes or the delivery or an impressive display. The Lord, the Almighty, speaks humble words.
He came into humble human flesh to speak truth. Christ always spoke purely and truthfully, exactly what the Father wanted Him to speak. For this Christ was rejected and betrayed into the hands of sinful men.
He let Himself, who possessed the divine Name of Yahweh the Lord, be treated as something empty and void. He let Himself be cast out and mocked by His Name, "Son of God". He let the Name of the Lord be slandered. Finally, He was killed. The Bearer of the holy Name of God was murdered by sinful men, because sinful men, deep down inside, cannot stand the Name of God. We sinners want our own name to be the greatest name.
For sinners like us, Christ let Himself be killed. For us who are guilty of trampling on the Name of God, He breathed His last.
Of course, the Name of God cannot remain dead. The Son of the Most High rose from the grave the third day, because the Name He bears is an eternal Name. His Name is above all other names, the only Name by which we must be saved.
As a result of His suffering, death, and resurrection, you who bear the name "sinner" are now treated as if your name was "Son of God". He gives you rewards greater than you can imagine, sweeter than any man could ever deserve, except Christ. He deserves the ultimate reward. Therefore you receive it.
If you tried to steal the Name of the Lord and claim it for yourself, that would be blasphemy and sin. But it is His Name. He can do with it what He wants. So He has placed His Name on you.
The Triune God uses His Name to declare you holy in Baptism. Where His Name is, there He will be. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
He also places His Name, "The LORD" or Yahweh, upon you at the holy Benediction. You have peace, and His face shines upon you, because His Name is placed on you.
In the same way, He uses His holy Name to forgive your sins. He authorizes preaching in His Name for repentance and forgiveness. He uses His sacred Name for you, every way He can, so that grace and life and mercy come to you in His pure Word.
When you enter the grave in the sleep of death, the Name will remain on you.
Of course, the Name of God cannot remain dead, and the Lord will never abandon the holy saints upon which He has placed His Name. Where His Name is, there He will be. So you will most surely rise from the grave on the last Day, because the Name you bear is an eternal Name.
In His Name, and by His authority, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, one God forever. Amen.
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