Scriptures for Sunday, March 4 (Lent 3) to study through the week:
MONDAY 26 – Exodus 20: 1-7 – 10 Commandments
TUESDAY 27 – Psalm 19: 1-14 – The law of the Lord is perfect…
WEDNESDAY 28 – John 2: 13-22 – Jesus clears the Temple and says “Destroy this temple…”
THURSDAY, MARCH 1 – 1 Corinthians 1: 18-25 – Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
FRIDAY, MARCH 2 – The emerging message
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26
In a superstitious culture of many deities that must be appeased, God wants His people to look to Him and His ways only
|1 And God spoke all these words:||
This title is simply “All these words”. The Ten Commandments title comes later, Exodus 34:28, Deut. 4:13 and the way of making up the traditional 10 is not defined and may vary.
1 The Hebrew emphasises that these are spoken words – words of revelation, from God Himself. God has many ways of speaking to us, through the word and by the Holy Spirit, but His voice speaking these words is a unique occasion of divine gravitas. See also Hebrews 12:19.
1 A document of treaty or covenant or command would normally begin with a sentence identifying the writer, e.g. Nehemiah 7:12.
1 The importance of these ten words of command is reinforced by their being repeated e.g. Deuteronomy 5:6-21 and Jesus referring to them in the three narrative gospels, Matt. 19:18, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20.
|2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.||2 God has aligned His name, Yahweh (sometimes written YHWH with the vowels implied as in the Hebrew) with Israel’s deliverance: “I am YHWH… who brought you out… This is not calling for belief in God in general but in God in Person who acted to bring them out of Egypt.|
|3 “You shall have no other gods before Me.||3 The ‘plural majesty’ also allows “no other god” and the expression could be before Me or beside Me. The meaning is straightforward and unambiguous – in a surrounding polytheistic culture, the children of Israel were to look to no other God but Yahweh. Period.|
|4 “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.||
4 The original form of the Hebrew (from comparing Deuteronomy 4) was short and sharp: “You shall not…” and the specific thing i.e. pesel, statue – a form of words which could be engraved on a stone.
4 There is no prohibition of artistry here, as the Exodus passages about the craftsman Bezalel and the description of the divinely-ordered design of the tabernacle make clear. What is forbidden is carving an object (later, casting an object in metal like the golden calf for the purpose of worshipping it, verse 5 below.
|5a You shall not bow down to them or worship them…||5 This phrase is a figure of speech where two expressions, “Bow down” and “worship” are used to form one idea. “Bow down and worship” is only used in the Bible of the forbidden practice of offering worship to pagan deities.|
|5b …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…||“Zealous” is easier to understand than “jealous”. However God’s version of jealous is not distrustful or envious, but it is the part of God’s character that makes the righteous demand of our exclusive devotion.|
|6 …but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love Me and keep my commandments.||6 God’s covenant love ‘hesed‘ extends to a thousand generations, while His punitive judgement is still generational, but only to the next two or three generations (verse 5 above). This can be put right and cut off, by prayerfully renouncing the sins of ancestors.|
|7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.||
7 Being a jealous or zealous God (the Hebrew words, like in English, have the same root and similar sound) embraces our undivided devotion, but is a jealous anger when He is opposed, and a jealous vindication of those who are His.
For a Bible study on these three aspects of God as jealous or zealous, see (1) jealous of our devotion, Exodus 34:14, Deut. 4:24, 5:9, 6:15; (2) His jealous anger, Numbers 25:11, Deut. 29:20, Psalm 79:5; and (3) His jealous vindication 2 Kings 19:31, Isaiah 9:7, Isaiah 37:32, etc.
As God reveals Himself here, He wants people for Himself, and He wants His people to love Him and belong to Him wholeheartedly.
That’s a challenge in a multifaceted, multicultural and free-flowing society, where commitment (let alone duty) is for many people not a high value.
Earlier generations knew about loyalty, to your hometown, the way or worshipping you grew up with, your occupation or employer, the political persuasion of your family and friends, the team you cheered for and the shops you patronised.
Now in a postmodern era, all of those ‘traditions’ are held up to question. Movement and diversity have taken over from ‘belonging’.
The command by God to “love Me” and “have no other before Me” and more than a thousand years later, the insistence by Peter following the healing of the man at Beautiful Gate that “there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” are not ‘politically correct’. It is a loving challenge that confronts the deepest roots of our desire for independence.
Not all diversity is wrong – some diversity is found even in the Old Testament. But being anything less than sure about who God is, and who we are listening to, leads to bad outcomes. The Nation of Israel became unable to listen to God and the repeated warnings of His prophets; they were simply unable to trust God. In 589 BC the holy city and presumed dwelling place of God, Jerusalem was razed and all its people of substance deported.
Six centuries later the same challenge came from God, this time through His Son, who said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life – no one comes to the Father except through Me John 14:6.
Hearing God speak is hearing a call to stand and be prepared to be different, and bear the cost of that.
For reflection and discussion
What are the values, attitudes, activities or areas of emotional investment we hold which are not negotiable? Which of these might we hold over and above God and His purpose for our lives, and what does He say about that?
Also published on Medium.