God reveals Himself and His moral intentions for us in spoken words

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
Exodus 20:1-7

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.


Application

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?

John’s vison of the wedding of Christ and His bride, the Church

Revelation 19: 6-10

Thursday, January 18

The sound of heaven: the cry of an immense gathering praising God and saying “Hallelujah, for the Lord our God the Almighty reigns!”

6-8   Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:

“Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.

Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!
For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
and His bride has made herself ready.
Fine linen, bright and clean,
was given her to wear.”

(Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

  • 6-8  “The Lord Almighty reigns” – looking forward to Christ’s return and undisputed lordship of all.
  • The worship of thousands in a big top at New Wine or Soul Survivor, or many more thousands in a football stadium, can be a thunderous roar. These are little local expressions beside what John is seeing as he looks into heaven.
  • The picture of a wedding between the Lord and His people as the bride is found elsewhere in Scripture, OT and NT.

For further study see Isaiah 54:5-7; Hosea 2:19; Matthew 22:2-14; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph 5:25.

9  Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

  • This event looks forward to Christ’s return and His reign established without rival or opposition, 1 Cor. 15:24.

10  At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But He said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers and sisters who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.”

  • “Don’t do that!” literally “Refrain! (hora me), an abrupt rebuke. A visible encounter with an angel is nothing if not arresting – but in the Christian walk there is no scope for the worship of anybody or anything but God. Not an institution, not a high-ranking position, not a person of significant anointing – and not an angel, one of the heavenly company, who themselves are servants (douloi) of  God worshipping the godhead and bearing testimony to Jesus. There are differences but that is a shared priority.
  • “The testimony of Jesus” could be (1) the testimony He committed to His servants, His revelation of God, the “mind of Christ”. Or (2) it could mean the testimony we bear to who Jesus is. Either way, or combining both meanings as is often found in Scripture, the true spirit of prophecy always bears witness to Jesus. The meaning of prophecy on the most general level is our public proclamation. So true preaching must be Jesus-centred, bearing witness to Him.
Application

The “wedding of the Lamb” and “His bride… made… ready” can seem a remote and future concept to us – hardly at the top of today’s priorities. However, heaven’s purpose and practice is intentional and ongoing. Everything is directed towards this end, when Jesus will return in glory and take hold of His church.

If our desire for stability and maintaining the familiar routine is what occupies our agenda, how does that hasten or inhibit what God has purposed to do? Worse, could it position us as an obstruction to His divine purpose?

At times when we consider our desire for God’s presence, favour, blessings, or even  dare we say, revival, joining in the praise to the Lamb of God and declaring wholeheartedly that “the the Lord Almighty reigns” both positions us to receive, and also gets our focus back on heaven’s preparations and the need for our own change into “clean linen” preparation.

Discussion starter

4.  If we knew that Jesus’ return to claim His bride was imminent, really imminent, how would that impact our expression of excitement and praise in gathering and worshipping together?