Exodus 20:7 By discerning the fruit of all who come in God’s name, we protect our eternal inheritance
Exodus 20:7 By discerning the fruit of all who come in God’s name, we protect our eternal inheritance
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.”
This commandment comes into play whenever God’s name is invoked. It warns against abusing God’s name under any circumstances. Implicitly, it teaches people not to let down their guard when dealing with people who come in the name of the Lord. Those who abuse God’s name will face the harshest of punishments, they and those who follow after them. Under what circumstances is God’s name invoked?
- When one makes an oath by invoking God as witness
- When one claims to speak on God’s behalf
- When one claims to work miracles on God’s behalf.
When one makes an oath by invoking God as witness.
When an oath is performed, the name of the Lord sanctions the oath which reinforces the solemnity and the binding nature of it. However, unscrupulous people invoke God’s name even though they have no intention of fulfilling their portion of the agreement. Thus, the law warns against swearing falsely by God’s name:
You shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God; I am the Lord. – Leviticus 19:12
You shall fear only the Lord your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. – Deuteronomy 6:13
You shall fear the Lord your God; you shall serve Him and cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name. – Deuteronomy 10:20
Jonathan said to David, “Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.’” – 1 Samuel 20:42
By swearing falsely, one makes an oath with no intention of fulfilling it. Therefore, Jesus warns, “You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.” (see Matthew 5:33). One who swears falsely profanes God’s name. The law of ancient Israel requires the transgressor to restore what he has deceitfully gained and add to it 20% (see Leviticus 6:3).
When one claims to be speaking on God’s behalf.
This commandment warns against prophesying out of one’s own mind; which is to speak on God’s behalf when God has not spoken at all. Prophet Jeremiah warned against the false prophets in his days,
Thus says the Lord of hosts,
“Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you.
They are leading you into futility;
They speak a vision of their own imagination,
Not from the mouth of the Lord. – Jeremiah 23:16
Similarly, prophet Ezekiel warned against the false prophets in his days,
“Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy from their own inspiration, ‘Listen to the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God, “Woe to the foolish prophets who are following their own spirit and have seen nothing… They see falsehood and lying divination who are saying, ‘The Lord declares,’ when the Lord has not sent them; yet they hope for the fulfilment of their word.” – Ezekiel 13:1-3,7
God speaks through His prophets and He will judge those who disobey (see Deuteronomy 18:19). However, false prophets who speak in God’s name will face the harshest of punishments.
But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.– Deuteronomy 18:20-22
When one claims to work miracles on God’s behalf.
This commandment warns against working miracles using God’s authority while living a double life. Jesus said,
Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from ME, you who practice lawlessness.’ – Matthew 7:22-23
Those who claim to work miracles on God’s behalf while leading a double life will be cast out on the day of judgment.
By discerning the fruit of all who come in God’s name, we protect our eternal inheritance.
A great number of churchgoers will be robbed of their inheritance
False prophets and teachers purport to come in God’s name to deceive, to rob churchgoers of their eternal inheritances. In the last days, a significant portion of Christendom will stray and follow after them. How do we protect ourselves from straying and from being robbed of our inheritances? By carefully observing and discerning the fruit of all who claim to come in God’s name. Jesus taught,
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”– Matthew 7:15-20
Jesus describes false prophets as wolves in sheep’s clothing. He warns against those who abuse God’s name by their greed and hypocrisy. Such have penchant for huge crowds and will do anything in God’s name to draw them. They gravitate towards the rich to give them preferential treatment. In Matthew 23:16-22, Jesus pronounced judgment on the Jewish leaders who value money above God’s name. When the people come into the temple to make oaths (either to God or between contracting parties), the Jewish leaders give preferential treatment to those who offer money. This resulted in the oppression of the poor, who brought nothing to the temple. Ministers who favour the rich are abusing God’s name by valuing personal gain above the kingdom. Such are lovers of money who profit from the church (see Luke 16:14). They hoard money but will not use the church’s resources to help others (see Luke 16:11-13).
Why does Jesus warn against false prophets? Like the false prophets, those who follow them will be cut down and thrown into the fire. And their end will be worse than their teachers (see Matthew 23:15).
How do false prophets seduce the church?
The devil appeals to churchgoers who secretly love money, fame and power. He earmarks these from within the church and raises them up as false prophets. He gives them money and power to seduce yet many more. These false prophets have a common distinctive; they make salvation and personal gain the goal, and Christ the means. In so doing, they relegate God to the position of a servant while they lust after the world. Their message is always about how one is forgiven and freed from hell and how one’s desires can be fulfilled in Jesus’s name. Paul speaks of a “different doctrine” that comes from false teachers. And such doctrine does not resonate with the spirit of Jesus’s teachings.
If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing… who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment. – 1 Timothy 6:3-6
Jesus has never once stirred up people’s appetite and expectations for personal gain. He has always directed people to forsake all to follow the way He lives. False teachers are like the Jews who studied the bible in search of eternal life but are unwilling to recognise Jesus and emulate the way He lives (see John 5:39-40). The only way to secure our eternal inheritance is to follow Jesus to the very end. Jesus said,
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 16:24-25
How do we follow Jesus to the end?
By jealously guarding our hearts against the love of money and the cares of the world. At the start of every day, we seek to understand God’s will and follow His leading. It is like joining the dots in a children’s activity book to make pictures. Each dot represents a task which God has determined for us. The dots will connect, leading to the final dot, forming a beautiful picture of our life. All we do daily is to look for the next dot and join it. Dot by dot we join them until we come to the final dot. We won’t see the full picture until we come to the last dot. False teachers attempt to mar this beautiful picture by tempting us to look past the next dot. The result is a jarring convoluted mess of dots that lead to nowhere. Proverbs teaches us always to fix our gaze ahead by looking for the next dot,
Let your eyes look directly ahead
And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
Watch the path of your feet
And all your ways will be established.
Do not turn to the right nor to the left;
Turn your foot from evil. – Proverbs 4:25-27
Therefore, we must be clear of what we are seeking and not be sidetracked by the lure of wealth, fame and power. We must make the fruit of righteousness our daily pursuit. Unless we do so, we will be drawn to the false teachers and lose our inheritance.
When we make a promise or establish an agreement, we as Christians inevitably invoke God’s name and make Him the witness. Therefore, we must let our words be true by fulfilling our part of the agreement lest we face judgment.
Do not be too quick to speak on God’s behalf. We must correctly divide that which come from God and that which come from us lest we face judgment.
If you are serving as a teacher or as a leader in a church, you are subject to a stricter judgment. The apostle James speaks of people in authority shaming God’s name by their misconduct. James said,
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment… Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. – James 3:1,13-14
Dear Lord, I understand that as a Christian, I bear your name in all that I say and do, God helps me. I will endeavour to be true to fulfil all that I have said. I will also be careful every time I speak on God’s behalf. I will be conscientious to spread the fragrance of Christ in the ministry. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.