24 April 2019

Exodus 20

And God spoke all these words:
‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
‘You shall have no other gods before[a me.
‘You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
‘You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
‘Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 ‘Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 ‘You shall not murder.
14 ‘You shall not commit adultery.
15 ‘You shall not steal.
16 ‘You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.
17 ‘You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.’
18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, ‘Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not let God speak to us or we will die.’
20 Moses said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.’
21 The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.
Idols and altars
22 Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the Israelites this: “You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.
24 ‘“Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honoured, I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. 26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.”

Just a quick observation on this well-known chapter.

Well-known because it contains the Ten Commandments … a fixture in many churches’ aesthetics and a topic regularly taught from many pulpits. Ten Words that God gave to help His redeemed people live in right relationship to Him. Rightly accompanied by an appropriate response of fear from being in the presence of a holy God.

But notice how the chapter both starts and ends with God’s self-identification (verse 2 & 22) followed by a call to have no other God but Him (verse 3 & 23). One would have thought this obvious given who He is and what He has already done for them … but it seems that God considers it necessary to repeat – ‘have no other gods before me!’ I can only think this is because God knows their hearts – how hard-hearted they are and how quickly they forget His grace and goodness to them. They are easily distracted and easily tempted to worship another (that is no god at all!)

Sadly, we are no different from them! We too quickly forget God’s salvation and rescue in Jesus; we quickly forget God’s grace and goodness even just a few days after celebrating Easter. We too are so easily tempted to bow to the gods of this age – naturalism, relativism, subjectivism, and materialism! We too are prone to forget God and pursue idols made in our image.

Lest we forget, God is a jealous God and calls us to have no other gods before Him. Pray that today we will worship Him and Him alone, fleeing all others, bowing to none but Him.

Prayer: O great God, give us eyes and minds and hearts for You alone. Help us to see You in your greatness, Your goodness and Your grace; and so worship You alone. Guard our hearts from drift and desire. Protect us from wandering or straying towards the idols and false gods all around us; especially those created in our own minds and own image. Help us to walk before You alone in faithful obedience and holy service. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.