The purpose for the creation of mankind was to love God and be loved by Him. As Jesus stated, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37-38) Man’s love for God is demonstrated by reverence of and obedience to God and His commandments. These four commandments, found in Exodus 20, are listed first, as they require first priority in the heart of mankind.
The third of these is found in verse 7: “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.”
The name of God and the character of God cannot be separated. Everything that God represents can be found in His name. For example: Jehovah Jireh, God the Provider; Jehovah Rophe, God who heals; Jehovah Rohi, God the Shepherd; Jehovah Shalom, the God of Peace, and more. God is perfect in His words and in His deeds. His character is flawless, and His nature is complete. Throughout all of history, the only imperfections that were ever associated with God are the ones falsely assigned to Him by His beloved creation, mankind. And the most damaging blows to His reputation of holiness are the careless actions of His people that bring dishonor to His name.
To take the name of God in vain is more than to simply speak His name in a profane utterance. It means to wield the name of God as if it were a title that carries persuasive power, and yet have no intimate connection with the God behind the name. A more accurate translation of verse 7 could be “You shall not swear falsely by the name of God.” The Israelites were not to speak of God as if He were a corroborating witness to an empty or false oath. They were not to use God’s name in such a way that would bring dishonor to Him. It damaged their relationship with Him, thus violating the covenant that He had made with them.