From the Word: And the priest’s heart was glad, and he took the ephod, and the teraphim, and the idol, and went away into the midst of the people. (Judges 18:20)
From the Confessions: The Large Catechism, The Ten Commandments
The Second Commandment
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
Sadly, it is now a common tragedy around the world that there are as few who do not use the name of God for purposes of lying and all wickedness as there are those who trust with their heart in God alone.
Pulling It Together: Have you ever noticed in the Old Testament the convention of capitalizing (or using “small caps”) the word “Lord,” or sometimes “God”? These indicate a place where the consonantal name of God, YHWH, commonly spelled Yahweh in English, has been replaced in the ancient texts with the Hebrew words for Lord or God. This was done because the name was considered so sacred that it should not be pronounced. I believe it may also have been done out of pastoral concern that someone, even in reading the Scripture aloud in the synagogue, may take the Name in vain.
It is a far piece down the road to ruin—from a people who fear and love God so reverently that will not say his name at all, to whole societies that use some version of his name so casually as to cuss or otherwise swear to clinch a deal. And they are glad to do it in the name of God, so long as they get what they desire. This is what the whole company did in today’s larger story (Judges 18:16–31). Micah did what seemed good enough to him, setting up idols in the place of the Lord. The Levite, who should have served the Lord, served Micah through those idols. The 600 Danites stole priest and idols, to set up a cult in Laish. All this was done in the name of religion, loosely, in the name of God. God would suffer the sullying of his name only so long, and finally, judge them all, delivering his power into captivity and giving his people over to the sword (Psalm 78:61–62).
Prayer: Keep my feet, O God, on your straight and narrow path, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
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John is the fourth book in the "Old Places, New Faces" series. Twelve studies explore the profound metaphors of the Gospel of John. This study guide will make the story of Christ alive and relevant for today's readers.