“You shall have no other gods. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.”
The first three commandments of the Decalogue address the Lord’s person, identity, and word. The Lord introduces these commandments with a statement about Himself: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”(Ex 20:2) Something was done by the Lord for His people. He had liberated them. He had turned them from a group of slaves into a nation. Now the Lord was giving them a way of life that would depend upon His favor.
The Lord gives the commandment: “You shall have no other gods.” Whom should the Israelites fear? Whom should they love? Whom should they trust, rely on, turn to in times of need, look to for preservation? The answer was not the gods of Egypt or the gods of Canaan. No, those deities were shown to be of no power when the Lord acted. The Israelites are to have no other gods, except the Lord, the One who had given them life and liberty, not just freedom from Egyptian slavemasters, but deliverance to eternal life. The Lord promises action: “For the Lord will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free. Then He will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you; let them be your protection! See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand.’”(Dt 32:36-39)
Part of the way of life that the Lord gave included the use of His name. That name was to be used for purposes that would bring forgiveness, life, and salvation. Pray with that name. Praise that name. Give thanks to the One who bears that name. But that name, the identity of the Lord, was not to be used wrongly: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.” The Lord had sworn an oath by His name to benefit His people, to give life to those who believed in Him. So His name was not to be used to curse, swear, lie, or deceive others: “You shall not swear by My name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.”(Lv 19:12) The Lord’s identity is full of truth, not falsehood. His name was not to be brought into matters that are antithetical to His character or will. So the Lord’s people are to use His name in matters of truth, abiding by His will that He has revealed.
The Lord’s will is revealed in what He speaks, what He declares directly or through His chosen spokesmen such as prophets and apostles. He gives the instruction: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” The way that this day would be kept holy was by resting. But as the people rested, they also listened to the words that the Lord spoke, remembering what He had done: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter or your male servant or your female servant, or your ox or your donkey or any of your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates, that your male servant and your female servant may rest as well as you. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God commanded you to keep the Sabbath day.”(Dt 5:13-15) Through that action, the Lord worked in His people.
Like the Lord’s people of old, you are called to this way of life. You are to look to Him for salvation, trusting in Him alone. He has made you His people: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption of sons, by whom we cry: ‘Abba! Father!’”(Rm 8:15) His name has been used for your benefit: “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”(1Cor 6:11) The Lord has given you rest for your souls, completing the work of salvation, so that you can receive it: “So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.”(Hb 4:9-10)
These commandments show a way of life for you. That life is not achieved by your perfect obedience to them. But it is given by the Lord who has brought you out of slavery to sin, death, and Satan. It is given you are made the people of the Lord’s Name: He baptizes you in His Name, swears an oath to give salvation in His Name, and instructs you to call on His Name. Life is given as you benefit from what the Lord has done for you—even suffering in your place and rising again to open the way of everlasting life to you. The commandments direct you to the God whom you can trust. You know who He is, you know His name, you know what He has done. As you live as the Lord’s people, trust in Him alone, use His name as He graciously permits you to, and receive the rest that He has achieved for you through His work.