Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.
– Exodus 29:2
We all treat our names as more than mere labels. Indeed, to a certain extent our names are an extension of ourselves. For instance none of us want our name attached to some product or cause that violates our conscience. On the other hand, we are happy to attach our name to something in which we believe. In a similar way, God cares about how His name is used. In God’s case there is a profound correspondence between His name and His character. Scripture invites us to see and value this correspondence. We are called to praise, honor, bless, and glorify God’s name. In honoring God’s name we are honoring God.
When we refer to God’s name certainly we are referring to the covenant name given to Moses in Exodus 3: YHWH (translated as Lord in most English translations). However, even though the word “God” is technically a general term, in a practical sense we use it to specify the One to whom we direct our praise and prayer; the one we proclaim as Lord. The clause “my God” is used scores of times in the Bible. Jesus referred to the Father as “God” and cried out from the cross, “My God, my God!” So we are not to use the word “God” any way we like under the guise that it is not “technically” the name of the Lord. The prophets, Jesus, and the apostles used the word “God” to name the Lord.
The Third Commandment places restrictions on how God’s name may be used. We are not to use the Lord’s name in vain. More literally it reads, “You shall not lift up the name of the Lord your God for nothingness.” God is holy and we are to treat His name as holy. We are not to profane, or treat as common, the name of the Lord.
When we profane the Lord’s name we profane the Lord. We profane His name by using it in a way that is low or common or vulgar. We profane God when we use His name in service to a personal agenda, to cover up sin, or shade the truth. We profane the Lord when we use His name in prayer and worship casually as though He may be approached without any thought or reverence.