“Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain.” (Exodus 20:7)
As always, the word choices of the Holy Spirit are very important. The Hebrew word nasa, translated “take,” is widely used to describe willful misuse or manipulation of an item or idea. The Hebrew word for “name,” shem, literally means “a position” and carries the idea of a mark or memorial, implying a description of character.
God proclaimed His name: “The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:6-7). Moses described God as “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
Misusing the name of God is clarified by the final phrase “in vain,” translated from the Hebrew shav, which describes “a desolation, an evil, a useless or worthless thing.” “And ye shall not swear by my name falsely, neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:12).
Thus, making a false (untrue, unrealistic, unmeant) statement using God’s name is wrong (Jeremiah 5:1-3; Matthew 5:33-37). Also, wounding the name of God through words or actions is equally wrong (Leviticus 20:1-5). A bad testimony (Ezekiel 36:20-23), improper service (Ezekiel 20:39-40), or giving the second-best to God (Malachi 1:10-14) disobeys this commandment.
Clearly, this is no mere restraint against “cussing.” It demands open worship of the nature and attributes of the Creator through our words and our lifestyle. HMM III
From Days of Praise