Do You Know How to Use God’s Name (HC LD 36, QA 99-100)?  

Majestic. What a word. When something is majestic, it’s grand, it’s impressive, it’s outstanding, it’s magnificent. What have you seen that is majestic? What has taken your breath away? Maybe you’ve beheld the majesty of Mount Whitney in California or of the Winston Churchill Range of the Canadian Rockies. Maybe you’ve looked up at the majesty of the nighttime sky from Cherry Springs State Park in Coudersport, PA, or from Nova Scotia, Canada. I was once fly fishing on Pine Creek which runs through the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, and a bald eagle soared just above me, and I saw and heard it call. Bald eagles are majestic. What from your life experiences would you describe as majestic?

The Hebrew word for majestic isʾǎd·dîr. It can mean mighty and strong or immense in size or beautiful or splendid or lovely or awesome or grand or majestic. This word is used 27 times in the Old Testament. ʾǎd·dîr is used twice in Psalm 93:4, once to describe the mighty waves of the sea and once to describe the mighty Lord on high. It appears once in Psalm 76:4 which says, “Glorious are you, more majestic than the mountains full of prey.” God Himself is more glorious and majestic than the Rocky Mountain Range and its myriad wildlife. But consider how the Hebrew word ʾǎd·dîr is used in Psalm 8. It’s used twice. Listen for it.

O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. . . . O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! (Ps. 8:1, 9)

God’s name is majestic. His name. The covenantal name of the LORD is grand, impressive, beautiful, and filled with wonder. One source said that the LORD’s “‘Name’ signifies the character or reputation of God.” [1] We cannot separate the name of God from God Himself. God is glorious and majestic, therefore His name is glorious and majestic. Calvin commented:

The name of God, as I explain it, is here to be understood of the knowledge of the character and perfections of God, in so far as he makes himself known to us. I do not approve of the subtle speculations of those who think the name of God means nothing else but God himself. It ought rather to be referred to the works and properties by which he is known, than to his essence. [2]

God reveals Himself to us by giving us His majestic name through which we have knowledge of His character, attributes, and perfections. He revealed Himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM.” He is the glorious and immutable LORD. His name communicates to us who God is and what God does. The great Puritan commentator Matthew Henry noted:

How brightly God’s glory shines even in this lower world: How excellent is his name in all the earth! The works of creation and Providence evince and proclaim to all the world that there is an infinite Being, the fountain of all being, power, and perfection, the sovereign ruler, powerful protector, and bountiful benefactor of all the creatures. How great, how illustrious, how magnificent, is his name in all the earth! The light of it shines in men’s faces every where (Rom. 1:20); if they shut their eyes against it, that is their fault. [3]

The glory of God’s majestic name is radiating everywhere around us on the earth. The heavens, sun, moon, shining stars, sea creatures, the depths of the ocean, fire, hail, snow, mist, storms, winds, mountains, hills, fruit trees, forests, and animals in the fields, indeed all creation communicates the majesty of God’s name.

Why then do Christians who love God sometimes misuse or abuse His majestic name? How could those who love God use His glorious name as a curse word without remorse? Swearing oaths in God’s name is appropriate for certain solemn occasions. But when the phrase “I swear to God” is used for confirming trivial details in life, it is a horrific abuse of God’s name. It is common practice for some Christians to use the phrase “Oh my God” or its euphemistic initialism “OMG,” not as Scripture uses it (Ps. 3:7; 22:2; 25:2; etc.), but as a way to express surprise. Do they realize this is horrible blasphemy? Sometimes to get a laugh, I impersonate wildly charismatic preachers, and I have in the past used God’s name as part of the joke, not to mock God but to mock ridiculous and fraudulent preachers. However, this is also an abuse of God’s holy and majestic name. So, I repent and try not to trivialize God’s name in this way. Even phrases like “Praise the Lord,” “Thank God,” “God have mercy,” “Sweet Jesus,” and “O Lord” are sometimes used as exclamations with playful and dishonoring tones and intentions that are less than worthy of God’s majestic name, not to mention another unthinkable exclamation “Lordy.” These are all abuses of God’s holy name, and all abuses or trivial uses of God’s majestic name are blasphemy and the vilest of sins. The world may mock our God’s name in countless ways, but as Christians, we must be ever zealous to never use our God’s name in any way that is not worthy of the glory it deserves.

Exodus 20:7 says, “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.” In vain means in an empty, useless, meaningless, or unnecessary way. God’s name is too majestic and precious to be used vainly.

Heidelberg 99 asks, “What is required in the third commandment?” As you listen to the answer, pay close attention to what we as God’s holy people must put off and what we must put on when it comes to God’s majestic name. Ninety-nine answers:

We are not to blaspheme or to abuse the Name of God by cursing, perjury, or unnecessary oaths, nor to share in such horrible sins by being silent bystanders. In short, we must use the holy Name of God only with fear and reverence, so that we may rightly confess Him, call upon Him, and praise Him in all our words and works.

Put off cursing. Put off perjury. Put off ridiculous and petty oaths. Instead, put on fear. Put on reverence. Put on confession. Put on prayer. Put on praise and adoration. When God’s name is on your lips, may it be filled with wonder, awe, reverence, worship, praise, and thankfulness. Perhaps Leviticus 24:16 is a good exclamation point for this encouragement:

Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

Why would God command Israel to stone blasphemers? It’s simple. Because His name is majestic. Until we realize what it means that God’s name is great, holy, fearful, lovely, praiseworthy, and glorious, indeed majestic, we will not know how to use it in ways that glorify Him.

So, take the name of God upon your lips with Psalm 51:15 in your heart: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.” Realize that redemption in Christ leads to the sanctification of your mouth. Psalm 71:23 says, “My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed.” God’s name is majestic; let’s use His name in ways that confirm our redemption and the glory of His name.    

[1] R. C. Sproul, ed., The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust, 2015), 838. Used by permission of Ligonier Ministries. All rights reserved.

[2] John Calvin and James Anderson, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 94.

[3] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 754.

Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism and creeds are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism: True Comfort for Life & Death (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021), 395.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.

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Jonathan Shirk

Welcome to the online home of Jonathan Shirk, family man, Reformed pastor, author, podcaster, and small town theologian. Whether you're from a small town or big city, may this website help you find deeper comfort and joy in the gospel.

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