Exodus 20:4-6 September 14, 2014
We have two rules in our home that you may have heard. Rule #1 is: If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. The second rule is: Make sure you follow Rule #1.
Whether you are from a city in Appalachia or from the boondocks of Appalachia, then you may have heard some rules similar to these rules. A hillbilly, which we are defining as somebody who is from or lives in Appalachia, knows it is really important to do what Mom tells us to do. Our lives are not as pleasant as we would like them to be if we do not follow Mama’s instructions.
The first 2 Commandments are similar to the two rules in my home. That is we obey God and have only one God. Why do we have only one God? Because, there ain’t but one God who delivers and loves us. So, there ain’t but one God whom we love. How do we love God? We know the Israelites were told to love God with all of their heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5). To clarify this idea, God told Moses the 2nd Utterance/Word, which is we are not to make or worship idols. In hillbilly, that means, “Ain’t noting come before the Lord.”
A. And God means “noting,” including making a golden calf (Ex. 20:4 & 32:1-35)
- While Moses was on the mountain with God, Israel rebelled
- They made a golden calf (my guess is the golden earrings they gave were symbols of their being slaves in Egypt?)
- Okay, so maybe the Israelites didn’t know the Ten Commandments yet, they surely knew Yahweh was not like any other god!
- Do not make idols of anything in all of creation
– wood and rocks just sit there, doing nothing (Isaiah, Jeremiah)
– when we focus on an idol, we miss seeing what God is doing
- An idol, as the prophets told the Israelites, cannot do anything for or with us. Yet, the Israelites made a golden calf, even while Moses was on the mountain with God! The nations around Israel, including Egypt and Canaan, had idols that they made and worshiped. When we think about our world, we say that there are obviously no idols around us. Well, let’s stretch our concept of idol for just one moment. We say that this building is the house of God. It might be that we do the obligatory task and visit God every time the door is open. And any changes in the church building, or the routine of church is sacrilegious. It would seem then that the church building becomes an idol itself! When we know that the church building itself and the routine of church is not what helps us, but it is the God to whom all of this points that helps us! So, it would appear that being part of church is more than the building and the routines. Our passion can be directed towards God. Why would we want to direct our passion towards God?
B. Our God is passionate about our time with him (Ex. 20:5-6)
1. Not only do we not make idols, we do not worship them
2. God wants us to know him and his ways (Proverbs talks about wisdom)
3. God is jealous
– Impassioned, passionate
– God gives us the splendor of his creation
– We return the attention that we have received
* Israel moved God to jealousy with their idols (Psalm 78:58)
* God gets upset when images of jealousy are worshiped instead of him (Ezekiel 8:3, 5)
4. Reject God or love God
– If you reject God, then the next generations can learn to reject God by what you have done
– If you love God, then the next generations can learn to love God by what you have done
5. Jesus reminds us that we place the kingdom of God first (Matthew 6:25-33)
6. God has passion for his people. He showed this to Israel by remembering them, hearing their cries, and delivering them from Egypt. Now, Israel is obligated to have passion for God. This means not even confusing passion for the God’s laws with God. That is, the laws, or even the rituals, point to God himself. It is knowing God in this lifetime that helps us to worship only him. And God has surely let you know about himself! It is when we are looking for his kingdom that we gain all we need for life. It is when we adore idols that we miss what God has for us. When we worship idols, then our children and grandchildren, and so on, learn how to place things before God. It would be good for us to focus on God.
Ain’t noting come before the Lord. No, not even this church building comes before Jesus. When we make an idol, we lose time with God. When we worship an idol, we lose time with God. With all that God has for us, even this day, we dare not miss God.
We may have placed an idol before ourselves. It does not have to remain there. God does not want us to miss out on the good he has for us. So, yes, we acknowledge one God, the God of Abraham, Jesus, and John Wesley. We also focus our attention on that one God. We don’t allow the practice of the Christian life, images, or idols to get in the way of being passionate about God.