Call Upon Me

Text: Second Commandment

When we gathered this past Sunday, we began our Lenten review of the Catechism. The Catechism is a collection of our Lord’s teachings that is essential for all Christians to know. It includes the Commandments, Creed, and Lord’s Prayer; and also, Baptism, Confession, and the Lord’s Supper. Our Lord has impressed upon us, His people, the responsibility to teach these things to our children and grandchildren. In order that we might always be prepared for this, the Lutheran Church has a good practice of revisiting the Catechism each Lent. This year, our focus is on the Ten Commandments.

On Sunday, we learned the meaning of the First Commandment – that we should have no other gods. This means that we should look to God alone, above all other things, for all help in time of need, as well as for all things good. We noted that this in an activity that goes on in the heart. To have a god is something that happens in the heart. The next stop out from the heart is the mouth. Jesus once said, “What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart.” In the Second Commandment, we who have been brought to fear and love God are encouraged to call upon His name in all troubles, to pray, praise, and give thanks.

I.

Let’s go ahead and speak the Second Commandment together from the hymnal. It’s on page 321. [You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.] As our Lord said, what comes out out the mouth comes, first, from the heart. Our Lord intends that we who have had our hearts sprinkled clean with pure water in Baptism, would have His name pass from our hearts and out our mouths in ways that are good, right, and salutary. So that might happen, our Lord has given us His name.

When Moses stood before the burning bush and asked the Lord what name he should give to the people of Israel for who sent him, God said, “I AM WHO I AM…say to this people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” I AM is the English translation of the Hebrew, Yahweh. This is God’s personal name, the name by which His people called on Him throughout the Old Testament. Then, when the fullness of time had come, God’s people received a new name by which to call on Him, the name “Jesus.” Jesus is the name of the Second Person of the Trinity, who now shares our same human flesh. The name Jesus means, literally, “Yahweh Saves.” It’s a testament to His love and truthfulness. God has given us His name so that we might know who it is that created and redeemed us, and so that we might call upon Him in prayer and praise and proclaim His goodness in this fallen world.

II.

God intends that we use His name in those good ways, but because the depravity of our fallen nature knows no bounds, He keeps our evil in check through the Second Commandment. In this Commandment, God strictly forbids any and all misuse of His name. He said on Sinai, “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.” This includes, perhaps above all, using God’s name for any sort of lie. We may take oaths calling upon God’s name to testify to the truth of a matter – such as when we are called upon as witnesses in court. However, God will not hold guiltless anyone who takes an oath in His name, who knows they are lying. 

God would not have us use His name in any sort of lie. This means, also, saying things in God’s name things He hasn’t said. As in, teaching false doctrine. All false doctrine and wicked pastors and teachers are condemned by this commandment. So, also, is the misuse God’s name for sorcery, fortune-telling, astrology, or calling upon the dead for any purpose. Lastly, we should not use God’s name carelessly or in vain such as in expletives or curse words.

How, then, should we use God’s name? As the Catechism says, we should use it to call upon the Lord in every trouble, to pray, praise, and give thanks. The Lord has brought us into His family through the washing of Holy Baptism and invites us to speak to Him as we would an earthly father. This means that in every trial, need, or distress, we can call upon Him to help. It says in the Psalms, “Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints, for those who fear Him have no lack! The young lions suffer want and hunger; but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” When we call upon the Lord, He answers us. His great grace and mercy cause us to praise and thank Him. For that, we should use His name. Finally, we should use God’s name in service to the truth. We should teach and preach His Word rightly here and in our homes. If called upon to testify in court, we should speak the truth in God’s name, knowing that is a work pleasing to Him.

St. Paul wrote to the Romans, “With the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” What’s in the heart and what comes out the mouth are one and the same. The Lord teaches us in this Commandment to use the name He has placed upon our foreheads and hearts to call upon Him in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.

Let us pray:

Holy Father, purify our lips from every misuse of Your name by cursing, swearing, superstition, lying, or deception. Open our mouths to reverence Your holy name, calling upon it in every time of trouble, praying for what You promise to give, praising You for Your glory, and giving thanks to You as the giver of every good and perfect gift; this we ask in the name that gives us access to You, the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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