Rev. Kit B. Billings
November 9, 2003
In my first sermon with you on the First Commandment given to Moses and the ancient Hebrews, we began by recalling that the Commandments were given within a special context—the context of LIBERATION. The Lord began His sharing of these ten principles of good living by reminding the Israelites that He was the power that brought them out of the land of Egypt, which was a land of bondage or slavery for the Hebrews. We too need to always remember that when we find ourselves enslaved by hard-heartedness, a willful or disobedient spirit, or shallow forms of thinking that we do not possess the power to break free from such dark forces. Only God possesses the power to liberate human beings from slavery to evil.
In our spiritual growth journey of life most of us will likely experience slavery of a sort. The Hebrew people symbolize the spiritual level of our minds and therefore our spirituality in general. Egypt represents a more external degree of the mind—our scientific degree actually which reasons and thinks according to data from our five physical senses. Egypt, therefore, represents what is opposite to deep intuition…it's also distinct from a much deeper level of reasoning, what you might call our spiritual rationality.
Our spiritual life and mind can get enslaved by the natural or external part of the mind, and sometimes even the natural mind can treat the spiritual mind with harshness and evil, just as the Hebrews were lorded over by harsh taskmasters who made them work and die under Pharaoh's selfish will. I recall once when a man in his mid-forties told me that his need of and concern for money pressured his mind to be convinced that he should work six or seven days a week for at least 10 hrs. a day when this wasn't absolutely necessary. Over time, he became a very unpleasant fellow to live with. Then he received a wake-up call, which came from the rebellious behavior of his son, whose grades in school went from all A's and B's to all D's and F's.
The cry of the Hebrews symbolically happened to this man within himself and his wife—when both of them realized one day that both had lost sight of the real meaning of life. Both were very unhappy, not to mention their son, and it was time to follow an internal liberator into a new way of life.
Perhaps you or your spouse have once heard, or are currently hearing, your spiritual being crying out for help from God, pleading for help for liberation. Perhaps you believe your country to be enslaved by very natural degrees of thinking, or maybe you know of some teenagers who are going through that very normal time in life when their beautiful, simple and pure spirituality seems to have been taken over by reasoning powers that want to rely upon sensory data from the five physical senses alone. I remember when I was a teenage young man and how easy it was for me to care primarily about things I could see, hear, touch, smell or taste. Well, the inner sense of God's Word is saying that such a change of perspective is quite normal due to our inherited baggage we get from thousands of years of ancestry.
But once the human heart and spirit has had enough of this bondage, then typically there's a bottoming out process that takes place. Then the Lord steps in and intervenes and enables us to discover liberation from our slavery, which might have happened perhaps in the form of an addiction of some kind.
However, this liberation is not an instantaneous “WHAM, you're all done!” kind of thing. It's liberation from total bondage into a long journey of gradual transformation—spiritual growth, which one might say can be deeply empowered by spiritual development through the Ten Commandments—and not just the literal degree of truth in them but the spiritual degree as well.
Several Sundays ago in our treatment of the First Commandment, “You shall not worship any idols” but only the Lord your God, we talked about how easy it can be to worship things in our minds above God, placing something else upon the altar of your mind as one's central concern in life. It's easy to idolize various fears for example, or to put many sorts of worldly concerns above a deep and abiding love for the Lord. The First Commandment calls us to love and adore God above all else in life and keep our loves and devotion to other things in their proper perspective.
The Second Commandment deals with not taking the Lord's NAME IN VAIN. In its literal degree of truth this Commandment reminds us that we all have a specific name that identifies us to others, and that God also has a special name or names, which He holds dear. God cares about how His name is used, just as we care about how our name is used and treated. Also, we need to be reminded that a person's name represents his or her inner qualities, and that's what makes a good name sacred.
Several years ago a good online friend of mine did a “name definition” search for me because she was curious what my name meant. She then shared the results of her search. “KIT” means the Christ bearer. Wow! Unbeknownst to my parents, they sure hit the bulls eye with that one eh?! Ever since then I've taken my name much more deeply and seriously.
In many cultures of the world the name given to a child is based upon the parents' or Shaman's perception of that baby's essential quality—that is, what makes her special and distinct. The Bible story also has numerous examples of names being given to people based upon their essential quality. Do any of you recall why Esau was given his special name? (he was red and hairy) Or Jacob? (one who takes by the heel, or supplants) The One True God of the physical and spiritual universes has many names actually, each one corresponding to a certain aspect of the Lord's nature or qualities. Every one of God's names is holy however and deserving of total respect. Let's think about how many names for God are mentioned in our Hebrew and Christian Scriptures:
The Lord - Jehovah, or Yahweh (Divine King of The Universe)
I AM WHO I AM
Prince of Peace
Abba or Father
Each name connects the believer with a special quality in God and reminds us that in the spiritual sense of this Commandment we're called not to misuse God's holy name, nor mistreat the beautiful quality of the Divine it represents. Whenever we pray or worship the Lord using any of His holy names, we're in part inviting the Divine quality of the Lord represented in that name to flow within us and IN-FILL us.
We're each being addressed by the Lord Himself this morning within the Second Commandment. In it the Lord is telling us that He truly does not want any of us to take His many Divine qualities in vain in our daily lives. In fact, this Commandment mentions this requirement from the Lord not once but twice…I guess God meant it when He said this to Moses and the Hebrews.
The Lord understands His own desire very deeply how much He wants us to receive and enjoy the qualities that are within Him. A closer look at one of the most important names of God this morning will illustrate what I mean. JESUS CHRIST is a profoundly important name for God. First because it is one that brings the Almighty God of the universe, the One True God, down into Divine-Human form, but second because of what both of these names mean.
“Jesus” means according to the Gospels “Jehovah who saves” while Christ refers to the Lord's Kingly qualities. “Jesus” connects to the quality within the Divine we may call the Divine Good or the Infinite Love of God, brought down into Divine-Human form and into an easier grasp for our minds. The Truth aspect of God leads our thoughts and intentions into the central quality of God that actually saves human beings, the Lord's Love. Jesus is the One who saves by means of His Divine Love, which reaches down inside of us and loves us and warms us so wonderfully deeply through and through, gradually transforming our hearts into His image and likeness.
The name “Christ” was the Greek version of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” which means “the Anointed One.” In ancient times in Palestine, Kings were coroneted often by means of anointing them with oil. Christ corresponds to the Divine Truth qualities of God. And so, in the full name “Jesus Christ” our minds are connecting with both the Love or Goodness aspect and the Truth or Wisdom aspect of God.
And so, we're called this morning to think deeply about God's qualities, which are represented by His many wonderful names. We're called to learn this morning that it's very, very important not to take God's qualities in vain when we pray to the Lord, but rather to make use of God's qualities in our everyday life journey. Thus, we need to know deeply what God's qualities are, as revealed in His Holy Word:
Compassionate and caring
But then our relationship with God isn't meant to end here…now comes the most important responsibility of all! And that is to examine ourselves often enough to recognize when our attitude or ways of reacting to life are seriously not connecting to the qualities of God's own heart and mind. And then when such times begin to occur, it's our responsibility to first name the exact hellish quality we're wrestling with and then pray to the Lord that His good and true quality would flow in and replace it.
Sometimes just taking the time to NAME the hellish trait or quality within us that's trying to enslave our hearts or minds is enough. We see the power of this discipline imaged in the childhood fairytale called RUMPELSTILTSKIN! Rumpelstiltskin held a poor young woman under his spell. The only way for her to break his spell was to somehow figure out his name, which was a very difficult task given that his name was so strange and unusual. The fairytale turns desperate when Rumpelstiltskin tells the young maiden that if she doesn't figure out his name soon he will take her first-born child. Through an amazing set of circumstances she finally discovers his name, and WVALAH!, the spell is broken!
We're dealing with the same thing really, in that often just by naming the unholy intention, feeling or thought we're being enslaved by breaks its hold on us. But sometimes this isn't enough, and then we need to pray to God to send a specific heavenly quality within us. We may be, at times, feeling enslaved by impatience…or anger…or perhaps a scattered mindset. Often times we need to pray to the Lord and ask that His quality of love, patience, trust or courage infill us. One of the hardest things to ingrain, it seems, is the wisdom to pray immediately when the temptation begins to get hold of us, enslaving us under the evil Pharaoh's whip! Yet, let us recall what our dear Lord bids us to do: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock and the door will be opened for you.” (Mtt. 7:7) God's power and His qualities are here for the taking, but we must ask specifically for them.
The Lord is ALWAYS more powerful than the powers of Hell, and we need to pray for these gift and then not take what God gives to us in vain—we need to use the gifts of God's qualities immediately and not wait to do so.
In February we will go further into this Commandment in our church program and do various homework assignments designed to help us gain greater spiritual development by both literally and spiritually not taking the Lord's name in vain. Until then, God's speed to you in your spiritual growth.