KEY SCRIPTURE: Ezekiel 17: 11-16 Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Say now to the rebellious house, Know ye not what these things mean? tell them, Behold, the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof, and the princes thereof, and led them with him to Babylon; And hath taken of the king's seed, and made a covenant with him, and hath taken an oath of him: he hath also taken the mighty of the land: That the kingdom might be base, that it might not lift itself up, but that by keeping of his covenant it might stand. But he rebelled against him in sending his ambassadors into Egypt, that they might give him horses and much people. Shall he prosper? shall he escape that doeth such things? or shall he break the covenant, and be delivered? As I live, saith the Lord God, surely in the place where the king dwelleth that made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant he brake, even with him in the midst of Babylon he shall die.
RELEVANCE When I was a teenager, nobody in a Born Again church swore or took the Lord's name in vain. Yet, today, these two phrases OMG and I Swear are everywhere, and people don't seem to realise the gravity of their words.
OMG means Oh my God. As with, I Swear, the term has crept into our mainstream language via the usual route of TV and movies and is embedded as concretely as Facebook or Instagram. Whether we think it's swearing or taking the Lord's name in vain or not, in this case, ignorance is not bliss, as God holds us accountable for those words. (Matthew 12:36)
Dealing with OMG, the Lord told us in the 3rd Commandment Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. OMG is taking the Lord's name in vain; some do it effortlessly and should cease. Others say, "It means Oh My Gosh." But the word Gosh is a euphemism or indirect expression for God.
Furthermore, Jesus told us not to swear. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: (Matthew 5:33-34a), yet the words I Swear fall out of mouths as if it means nothing.
The Apostle James followed suit in case those who read Jesus' saying didn't quite get the point. James 5:12 states, But ABOVE ALL THINGS, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: Above all things he says. Why is it so critical?
But we say, "Oh, I'm not swearing an oath, just using it as a saying."
Then why use it? If we look closer, people use it to substantiate their story, which is swearing an oath. Another way of saying it is, "I promise, it's true!" Some use it in the past tense for something that has already happened, but I've heard embellished stories (e.g. untrue versions) followed by "I swear!"
Our key verse speaks powerfully about the Lord's opinion of oaths. The scene is at the end of the Kingdom of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, took captive Daniel and others of intelligence and transported them to Babylon to ensure the Kingdom of Judah could not rise again in opposition.
They appointed a king, Zedekiah, over the scraps of Judah and made him take an oath not to revolt against Babylon. He willingly took the oath at the time to save his skin. He had no other options, and God took him at his word. Little did he realise that his commitment to Nebuchadnezzar was also to God, as is every pledge we make.
Once the immediate threat was over, his oath meant little to him. In this dismissal, we see what sort of person Zedekiah was. Likewise, we're only as good as our word. An oath is a solemn promise invoking a divine witness. Many oaths are in the history of Israel, and God expected the maker to keep his or her promise. After all, God made those people in His image, and they expected God to keep His promises. God keeps all His promises, and we need to keep ours.
Jesus and James caution us to simply say yes or no, and not to enter into pledges because we could be hit by a bus and die five minutes after making our promise, which makes our oaths outstanding when we die.
We must think biblically when crafting exclamation words, such as OMG and I Swear. What does God think of my language? Are my terms simply throwaway lines in a sentence, or do they have a graver judicial outcome?
We get many lines from Hollywood, and some are funny and true, but God would prefer we filter everything through His Word. When we do that, we become guiltless of offence to both God and other people.
PRAYER My Dear Lord, please show me what offends you in my speech, and help me sanitise it so that my words may be pleasant to your ears and heart.
Photo by Gemma Evans