This week we are memorizing:
Do not use Yahweh your God’s name as if it were of no significance.
12 You must not swear falsely by my name, desecrating your God’s name in doing so; I am Yahweh.
21 When you make a promise to Yahweh your God, don’t put off making good on it, because Yahweh your God will certainly be expecting it from you; delaying would make you guilty. 22 Now if you simply don’t make any promises, you won’t be guilty of anything. 23 But whatever you say, you should be sure to make good on, exactly according to the promise you freely made to Yahweh your God because you promised it with your own mouth.
Many of us, especially if raised religiously, have heard a narrow grasp of the third commandment’s meaning. Some well-meaning parents or Sunday School teachers have seemed to apply the commandment only to avoiding a few “bad” words, especially when we’re angry or frustrated. Yes, habitual profanity is usually a limited way to express ourselves. But today’s readings show that the commandment spoke to a far more serious point—using God’s name to confirm a promise we do not keep.
- Leviticus 19:12 was part of a set of guidelines which grew out of Leviticus 19:1-2: “Yahweh said to Moses, Say to the whole community of the Israelites: You must be holy, because I, Yahweh your God, am holy.” How did that prepare the Israelites (and us) to think about the specific commands as a part of a life built on God’s holiness, not just random demands?
- Jesus echoed Deuteronomy 23:22 when he said, “I say to you that you must not pledge at all…. Let your yes mean yes, and your no mean no. Anything more than this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:34, 37—more about this on Thursday). Have you ever, intentionally or by mistake, over-promised and under-delivered? In what ways can you practice greater honesty in your dealings with others and with yourself?
Lord Jesus, the Sermon on the Mount was not the first time you tried to teach your people the importance of honest promises. Guide me, as one of your people, to live out the full reach of the third commandment. Amen.
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Denise serves as the Early Childhood Coordinating Assistant at Church of the Resurrection.