“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). What is in view? It is a prohibition against false swearing and includes the idea of profane or vain swearing. Dennis Prager gives a perspective that slightly varies from this. “Do not carry God’s name in vain” (Exodus, p. 245). Since God’s name is holy, one who carries God’s name, like Islamist terrorists or religious leaders who prey on people (woman, children, same-sex, greed), these are people who say one thing (in God’s name) but do the opposite of that which the Lord would Himself do, thus, it is not simply a matter of using words.
More than the use of the words is in mind, but an actual way of thinking and living is in view. Do not be misled, however. Before the way of thinking and living can begin to exist, it must first start with outside influences, outside influences as seen in lives lived and words spoken. There are many who use words with no intent to speak profanely but be guilty just the same. It may be that a person is uninformed (ignorant) of wrong doing, but still be guilty of doing wrong.
The New Bible Dictionary says, “[s]trictly speaking, Yahweh [Jehovah] is the only ‘name’ of God.” Further, “The name is no mere label, but is significant of the real personality of him to whom it belongs” (pp. 429-431). The importance of this is in relation to how you would think of it if one were to misuse your name. For instance, your name is “Tom.” A slight acquaintance of yours comes up to you and calls you “Tim.” It is likely you will gently correct that person. If the same person, knowing your name then comes up and purposely calls you by another name, mocks your name or misuses or abuses your name – how would you feel about that?
The Scriptures attests great significance to the qualities/character of God. In the model prayer (Matthew 6:9-14), the Lord taught His disciples to “hallow” the Lord’s name, keep His name holy in one’s thinking, speaking and living. “The big man upstairs” (or some similar expression) is not a reflection of reverence.
Some try to avoid misusing the Lord’s name, instead a substitute is used with little to no thought about its association. This is known as a euphemism (a substitute). Rather than saying “oh my god!”, some say, “oh my gosh!” Look in any dictionary and you’ll see the word “gosh” is used as a substitute for “God.” Perhaps the intent of the person using the word is because it’s less offensive and there is no desire to use “God” in cavalier way. Commendable, I grant you.
The point in these words is not to prohibit expressions as much as it is to educate about the significance of the Lord’s name, how we need to respect and honor Him who has that name or mark of identification. To misuse the Lord’s name is to express disrespect and to violate the spirit of the command given to the nation of Israel.
“He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name” (Psalm 111:9; KJV). The Lord God redeemed (saved) a people from bondage, He gave the same people a covenant to live by in order to bring them to His desired spot, a resting place with Him in Glory. His name, then, to those who love the Lord, is holy (set apart and sanctified) and it is to be revered, that is, to be feared. The Holy Spirit said, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). RT