In the spirit of full disclosure, I want you to know that I did not see the entire half-time show at the Superbowl game last night. I saw about the first five minutes and the last five seconds. It’s not that I’m not a fan of Beyonce (I’m not) nor that I’m a football purist and watch the Superbowl to watch a football game (I do). It’s just that I had to walk our dog so that she could do what dogs do. Do I really need to explain? We are living in a 23 foot RV, so one of my jobs is to walk the dog. Half-time was a good time for doing my chores. So, my remarks on Beyonce and the Second Commandment must be taken with this circumstance in mind.
Now, rewind to about three Sundays ago. My wife and I were sitting in a Sunday School class studying the book of Deuteronomy. This particular day the teacher, Josh (an elder and an excellent teacher), was taking the class slowly through the first four commandments. He began the class by talking about the second commandment which reads, “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” (Deut 5:11). Josh told us that this particular commandment was drilled into his head by him mother. She absolutely would not allow anyone in the house to swear using God’s name. “Gosh darn its” might have been just barely allowable because we all know what that phrase replaces.
Josh asked the class to think more broadly about this command. What is it really saying? Is it just about swearing God’s name in fits of anger or frustration or normal conversation? No. It is more paradigmatic, he said. It’s about taking God’s name lightly or in ways that are contrary to his holy character. So, bottom line, it’s about taking God lightly. It’s about using anything related to God as if it were as common as a Starbucks – one on every corner. But the commandment wants to “drill into our heads” that he is not just another god. He not equal to anything anyone can imagine. He is the unique God; alone Supreme, high and lifted up. When God looks around at all the options for gods humanity has created, he says, “Who is like me? There is no other.” So, any reduction of God’s name or character to phrases like “the man upstairs” or “the big man,” or “God is my co-pilot” are expressions that let us know that the person who says such a thing probably thinks God is just like one of us (as a dumb song ask a few years ago); just a “slob like one of us.”
What’s Beyonce got to do with the second commandment? Only this. In the first five minutes of the show, I saw all I needed to know about the character of this show. Wearing very little clothing, jumping, grinding, jiggling and bumping her way through her routine, appealing to the sensual side of her audience. I grabbed the leash and Liza Doodle and I went “for a walk.” We were gone long enough so that when we got back to the RV, Beyonce came the end of her performance. She took her closing pose and said, “God bless you all.” That caught my attention right away and I thought about Josh’s teaching three Sundays earlier. “God bless you”? Really? That phrase following that performance was a contradiction. Did she really think that her performance was for God’s glory? Did really she think that her performance was filled with the substance of God’s holy character? Was her performance filled with the weightiness of the Almighty? Beyonce, like every other human being on the planet, is created in the image of her Maker. She has singing talent. Anyone who can sing the National Anthem a capella and do it well clearly has talent. Her talent is from God but her departing “God bless you” was an example of what God doesn’t want going on with his name. In Josh’s way of thinking, it’s as if God said: “Don’t take my name lightly and publicly associate my character with that which appeals to the flesh.”
If we want the blessing of God — and I do — then receive his blessing according to his holy character. Knowing God in his holiness will put us in the right heart condition for receiving it.
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.