Sunday, February 9, 2020.
Theme: What it means to be a worshipper of God and a disciple of Jesus
Old Testament reading. Isaiah 58:1-12 – The people of Israel’s hypocrisy has cut them off from God. A lesson on the difference between paying God lip-service, and heart-felt worship and obedience.
Gospel reading. Matthew 5:13-20 – Worshipping God is respecting His Word in its entirety, as Jesus did, and His disciples of Jesus are to be salt and light to a corrupt world.
Epistle reading. 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 – What is humanly difficult to grasp, becomes clear when revealed spiritually. The reality of the Cross is the wisdom of God.
Isaiah 58:1-12 – Not lip-service but heart-felt worship and obedience.
The people of Israel’s hypocrisy cuts them off from God
1 “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to My people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins.
“Do not hold back” – Isaiah’s warning about the danger from rebellion and hypocrisy was to be as clear as a ‘trumpet call pronouncement’, Exodus 19:19; 20:18; Hosea 8:1; 1 Cor. 14:8
2 “For day after day they seek Me out; they seem eager to know My ways, as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God. They ask Me for just decisions and seem eager for God to come near them.
“Seek me out… seem eager” – the hypocrisy fleshed out. The people seek God while in their actions rejecting Him.
3 ” ‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and You have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and You have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.
“Fasted… and You have not seen it” – God has not responded because the fast was their idea, and the rest-day Sabbath (His idea) is being defiled by their harsh, unfair treatment.
4-5 “Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
“Only a day” – but not honouring God on the other six, and even on that day there is violence along with a show of religious observance – a mixed message.
6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
“The kind of fasting” – if Israel was going to give something up, far better to give up exploitation and the “yoke” of social oppression. True devotion brings an awareness of injustice and need for change.
7 “Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter – when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.
“Light break forth” – salvation, bringing joy and prosperity in the Lord. This light would dawn with the coming of Christ.
“Righteousness… rear guard” – a picture of an advance secured by the vanguard in front and rearguard behind. Israel’s righteous relationships would clear the way for God’s presence and prosperity. “The glory” recalls the pillar of cloud and fire in the wilderness, Exodus 13:21, 14:20 and Isaiah 4:5-6.
• For further study, read v. 10 below and Isaiah 9:2, 10:17, 59:9, 60:1–3; Luke 1:78, 79.
9-10 “Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: “Here am I.”
“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.
“The LORD will answer” – similar to Isaiah 30:19 where the context is Yahweh longing to show Himself gracious, when the people turn to Him from their stand of independence. The turn here must be a change from false accusation and oppression to compassionate heart.
11-12 The LORD will guide you always; He will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.
“Rebuild the ancient ruins” – broken-down Jerusalem in 6th C BC was a symbol of human failure. Nehemiah would lead a rebuilding, and then Jesus would come as the light in the darkness with the Good News of salvation and streams of living water.
The OT era was a time of laws, sacrifices and priests, while the post-resurrection time we live in has none of those things because of the grace, or enabling, of God by His Spirit, whereby we have His law in our hearts to live out as a set of values.
However, the people of Isaiah’s time went off track in the formal, religious system of their time. We also make the same mistake in our more relational way of worshipping God, who we can know personally through Jesus. It’s hard work keeping up a relationship with God, and the human temptation is to create a manageable, repeatable form of devotion instead of the harder work of seeking Him afresh.
- Maybe God is prompting us through this passage to pause, think about our relationship with Him and catch His heart afresh.
How eager are we to really know God’s ways? How do stray into we paying Him lip-service?
Matthew 5:13-20 – Disciples of Jesus are to be salt and light
Worshipping God is respecting His Word, as Jesus did
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
“Salt of the earth” – first of two metaphors about disciples of Jesus being being the presence of Jesus to who guard against the world’s corruption (like salt preserving food) as a distinct flavour. Salt that “has lost its saltiness” isn’t salt, but a similar-looking mineral deposit is only good for making paths.
14–16 “You are the light of the world” – because Jesus is the light of the world, while He is in the world, John 8:12 and 9:5, and Jesus’ disciples have the Spirit of Jesus and kingdom life in them.
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
“Not come to abolish but to fulfill” – Jesus was accused of overturning the Law, but His antagonists couldn’t understand His answer, that He came to fulfill it – all of it, right down to the tiniest single-stroke letter, the yod.
19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
“These commands” – all the commands in the OT, although many have been fulfilled in Christ and others will be applied differently. This teaches us to receive the word of God in its entirety, as Jesus did, while thinking of how He taught its meaning and intention.
To be a worshipper of God and a disciple of Jesus is a call to be different and possibly unpopular in a world of people who are happy to be self-determining and human-centred – but perishing. The kingdom of God can be a perceived as a threat, before it is received as the Good News of living in what God has done for us.
Jesus followers are called to be followers of Jesus, the Person, who reflect His light and His presence through submitted and joyful lives. Either our witness has the distinctive flavour of salt, or it is something else. Either the light of Jesus in us is seen for what it is, or it isn’t light, it’s just a disconnected bulb.
- Salt is always salty and light is always visible, and the presence of Jesus in us, the energising of the Spirit of Jesus, produces both – as much as we let Him.
How do I respond to that call and keep it up. Is that about me as an individual, or us a connected body?
1 Corinthians 2:1-16 – The wisdom of God is the reality of the Cross
1-2 And so it was with me, brothers and sisters. When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
“Eloquence” – or the “lofty words and impressive wisdom”, NLT, the Corinthians expected of a visitor, someone to be judged as a speaker. But Paul ignored the ‘proper form’ and went all out on the blunt, uncomfortable message of the Cross and Christ’s self-sacrifice for them.
3-5 I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.
“Fear and trembling” – Paul faced his audience in Corinth as an inadequate, nervous orator, but the power of God that came when He spoke was unmistakable – and it couldn’t have been him!
6-8 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
“Wisdom among the mature” – spiritual wisdom from God is spiritually discerned by spiritually aware people, and “The person without the Spirit…considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them…”, v.14 below. Hence the salvation of sinners through Jesus’ death on the Cross is “a mystery that has been hidden”, which none of the temple hierarchy understood: when they were sentencing Christ to crucifixion they could not see that it was God’s plan for His glory, and for ours.
9-10 However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” – the things God has prepared for those who love Him – these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
“What no eye has seen” – Paul quotes Isaiah 64:4 and 65:17 to show that regular seeing, hearing, reckoning cannot grasp the good things God has in store for those who put their trust in Him; a trust that invites the Holy Spirit to reveal what we could not otherwise know.
11-13 For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.
“Who knows” – only we know our own mind. Similarly, the mind of God is known only by God’s Spirit. God has chosen to make Himself known through Jesus His Son, and through the Holy Spirit with the Word giving believers revelatory insight of the spiritual realities.
14-16 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
“Judgments” – the Holy Spirit-influenced person can make spiritual discernments, but should distance themselves from being judged in a human and unspiritual way.
“The mind of Christ” – by walking closely with the Lord, we are given insight by Word and Spirit of what He is saying and thinking.
Our third facet of what is means to be a disciple of Jesus and a worshipper in Spirit and reality is the explanation Paul gives of how Holy Spirit revelation works for believers.
He is explaining this for the converts in Corinth, brought up in a Greek culture that prized intellectual and philosophical understanding. We are also products of this kind of first world, ‘western’ mind set and we, too, have to let go of relying on what is rational, and allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal a different picture.
- When we allow the Spirit freedom, we find He has a whole repertoire of ways to show His power – which is always lifegiving and encouraging.
If Paul came to speak at our church, where might he clash with our expectations?
Lord, as we pray about our world and its social breakdown and injustices, its aimlessness and selfishness, we are getting the message that You need an army of disciples to be beacons and agents of purification for You. A humanly impossible task, but You have given us Your Spirit and it is up to us how closely we walk with You. We can grow in knowing Your mind and Your leading. Humbly we offer ourselves as apprentices of Jesus, for His sake. Amen.
Print version, A4 folded to A5 as pdf (file link above) or image (below)
Theme: God’s kingdom purpose and its signposts
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12-19 – Bringing the Ark of the Lord to Jerusalem foreshadows Temple worship
Mark 6:14-29 – John the Baptist’s execution foreshadows Jesus’ sacrifice
Ephesians 1:3-14 – How the Holy Spirit foreshadows our heavenly destiny
2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12-19 » The Ark of God becomes central to the nation of Israel again
The procession celebrates before the Lord with passion, safeguarding the holiness of the ark
1 David again brought together all the able young men of Israel – thirty thousand.
2 He and all his men went to Baalah in Judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the Name, the name of the Lord Almighty, who is enthroned between the cherubim on the ark.
“Baalah” – the more familiar name is Kiriath Jearim, where the ark had stayed for 20 years during Saul’s reign.
“Called by the Name” – meaning that God owned it. A phrase used elsewhere to indicate ownership.
“Who is enthroned between…” – in 1 Chron. 28:2 the ark is referred to as ‘the footstool of our God’ – the footstool of God’s earthly throne. David, recognising the ark as symbolising God’s ultimate kingship and rule, wanted it to be prominent and central, unlike Saul who concealed the ark, among other failures of spiritual leadership.
3-5 They set the ark of God on a new cart and brought it from the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. Uzzah and Ahio, sons of Abinadab, were guiding the new cart with the ark of God on it, and Ahio was walking in front of it. David and all Israel were celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with castanets, harps, lyres, timbrels, sistrums and cymbals.
“Uzzah and Ahio” – sons, meaning more broadly, descendants. They decided to move the ark on a new cart (carelessly imitating the pagan Philistines) but the standing instruction was to move the ark by having Levites carry it by its rings, Exodus 25:12-15, Numbers 4:4-6. This was a strategic error leading to Uzzah’s death when he stumbled and touched the ark, verses 6-7 omitted, 1 Chron. 15:13-15.
12 Now King David was told, “The Lord has blessed the household of Obed-Edom and everything he has, because of the ark of God. So David went to bring up the ark of God from the house of Obed-Edom to the City of David with rejoicing.
“Blessed…Obed-Edom” – The Lord had blessed the Levite who had taken good care of the ark, and David’s deduction was that this blessing would come on Jerusalem if the ark was reverentially cared for there. Aware that his own care and reverence had been found lacking, David is leading the procession in praising, celebrating and sacrificing wholeheartedly.
13-14 When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
“Those who were carrying” – now the Kohathite Levites are carrying the ark on their shoulders. After a few steps, David consecrates the new phase of the journey in sacrifice. No need to assume he does this every few steps.
“Linen ephod” – a priestly garment worn for ministering to the Lord, as the boy Samuel did, 1 Sam. 2:18.
16 As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.
“Daughter of Saul” – also a statement of attitude. David was a very different character, which for her undermined her father’s memory.
“She despised him” – Michal, a princess, was holding values of dignity and royal propriety about David’s kingship. David had another royal propriety in mind, before the King of kings; his sense of submission to the Lord in heartfelt worship overrode his personal dignity, verses 21-23.
17-19 They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.
“Blessed the people” – as Moses and Aaron had, long before, outside the tent of meeting, when the glory of the Lord appeared, Lev. 9:23. And as Solomon would at the dedication of the temple, 1 Kings 8:55-61.
In practice Israel had lost the experience of having the presence of God with them, under Saul’s woefully disappointing kingship. The Ark of the Lord was out of sight in an obscure place. The faith of the nation was at low tide.
Saul was a proud person and everybody knew he was king. David was a worshipful person who exalted Yahweh as the real King of Israel – so that sometimes people forgot that David was set apart to lead, and not just one of them.
David made mistakes but he was a quick learner. He recognised that bringing up the ark as the ‘footstool of God’ at the heart of the nation would get everyone looking to God. This led to the Temple, his vision but not his achievement, and looked forward to ‘God with Us’, his descendant Jesus the Emmanuel and a time which each of us would be a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Question David didn’t care what anyone thought when he was worshipping God exuberantly. How could you be more expressive, more released, more abandoned to God?
Mark 6:14-29 » John the Baptist’s execution foreshadows Jesus’ sacrifice
King Herod has John the Baptist, a righteous and holy man, executed
14 King Herod heard about [the widening ministry of Jesus and the disciples with signs and wonders], for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
“King Herod” – he was a lesser order, a tetrarch or ruler of four provinces. Perhaps some irony here in Mark’s account
15 Others said, “He is Elijah.”
And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
“He is Elijah” – the return of Elijah (or one ministering as Elijah did) was one of the last prophecies recorded, Malachi 4:5. As Elijah was the forerunner to Elisha, to ‘Elijah’ would be the new forerunner to the Messiah. It was John who ministered in the “spirit and power of Elijah”, Luke 1:17 and we would say, in the style of Elijah, in being a prophetic preacher and a wilderness-dwelling outsider.
16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
Herod was fearful, disturbed by a bad conscience – and superstitious.
17-20 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
John’s imprisonment, in the fortress of Machaerus, is described by the independent Jewish historian Josephus in his ‘Antiquities’.
The vindictive, manipulative Herodias and indecisive ‘king’ Herod parallel the original Elijah’s persecutor Jezebel and weak husband Ahab, 1 Kings 19:1-2, 1 Kings 21:1-16
21-22 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.
The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.”
23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”
“Half my kingdom” – more of a saying than a promise, see Esther 5:3,6. But keeping up appearances mattered in the company of so many military commanders.
24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”
“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.
25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
26-29 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her.
Clearly Herod recognised John’s integrity, moral courage and prophetic gift, vv. 17-20. But, a vain man in the company of military officers and people of power, he felt constrained not to appear weak.
So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Disciples of John existed for a century or more after his death. He was the last of the Old Testament-era prophets.
In practice John was an Elijah-like figure who announced Jesus, made preparations for Jesus by baptising in the River Jordan, and made a way for Hims ministry, preparing people for a Messiah who was expected but not at all understood. He completed his forerunner role a little too well and a little too early, by being executed on a whim at the request of the tetrarch’s wife, who resented him deeply. He died a righteous man; His cousin was to die a worse death on a Roman cross a couple of years later as a righteous man who was also without sin.
David’s initiative in bringing up the Ark of the Lord, led to the temple order of worship of the Lord and then to the Lord Himself. John the Baptist’s obedience to his call led to the dawning of an understanding that the realm of God’s rule and realm, the kingdom of God, was starting to be realised.
Question Can you think of something you have done for God’s kingdom that didn’t seem to result in much glory but made a preparation for someone else’s contribution? Why is this important?
Ephesians 1:3-14 » How the Holy Spirit foreshadows our heavenly destiny
The seal of the Holy Spirit is evidence of God choosing us for the praise of His glory
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
“Praise be” – or “Blessed be” more literally. This follows the style of Jewish prayers that were recited at times during the day.
Paul is straight in here with a vital statement of the spiritual identity of a believer in this era of the life of the Holy Spirit. These good things are ours because of who we are “in Christ”.
There is an assumption here which we often miss – that there is no disconnection between the “heavenly realms” and our earthly life. Our spiritual blessing and spiritual life is located in heaven, with Christ, influencing our different, but not disconnected, everyday life on earth.
4-6 For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will – to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.
“Chose us in Him” – God is outside the constraints of time and space which define us – which makes it easier to understand how He could choose us, at the beginning of creation, in the Son and for our own adoption into sonship. This is not flowery prose but the most profound statement of how God sees us “in Christ” as those who have put their lives under Christ’s lordship.
“Praise of His…grace” – because it is unearned and conferred. Our worldview which emphasises merit (and deprecates hereditary titles) makes it difficult for us to simply receive God’s grace in Jesus, without imagining we have worked for His favour in some religious or sacrificial way.
7-9 In him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, He made known to us the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Christ…
“Redemption through His blood” – The first redemption was the nation of Israel released from slavery in the Exodus, with the Passover sacrifice and applying of the lamb’s blood to the doorframes foreshadowing for Christian believers the provision of Christ’s shed blood from His sacrifice of Himself. The redemption now is Christ’s price paid for our release from slavery to sin and independent action.
“Made known to us the mystery” – the Holy Spirit gives us the key, enabling spiritual ‘mysteries’ to be spiritually discerned.
10 …to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment – to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
11 In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will…
There is a balance in Scripture between being chosen in a way which was predestined, and putting ourselves in a place to be chosen, which is our decision (below) to 1. put our hope in Christ, 2. hear the message of truth and 3. believe.
12 …in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
13-14 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory.
The Holy Spirit takes up residence when we invite Him into our lives, which we do by believing who Jesus is and what He has done for us personally – saying ‘Yes’ to Him. The Holy Spirit gives us an inner witness of who we are, and how we are, in Christ – not our righteousness, but His. We know we are saved
In practice Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus is written to a spiritually mature readership. He reminds them of their identity in Christ and their adoption into sonship – with all the connotations of the privileges of a family heir that Roman adoption conferred. But this was living as a believer in a Roman colony of an empire where persecution of those who were Followers of the Way was all too real a prospect and death could be the result. These believers had a real experience of the empowering of the Holy Spirit – and Paul reminds them that the inner witness of the Spirit of God is like a down payment on the experience of heaven. They were to be assured of their destiny, and so are we.
p class=”p9″>Question Why does Paul put so much emphasis on us knowing who we are in Christ? Why does this help us to live well for Him?
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?
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:
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.
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.
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?