Posts tagged ‘Ten Commandments’

God’s Open-Door Policy

Credit: eberhard grossgasteiger /

In Exodus 19, as God is preparing to give Israel the Ten Commandments on the summit of Mount Sinai, He issues a stern warning to the people through Moses:

Go down and warn the people so they do not force their way through to see the Lord and many of them perish. (Exodus 19:21)

And again to the priests and the people of Israel:

The priests and the people must not force their way through to come up to the Lord, or He will break out against them. (Exodus 19:24)

Everyone, it seems, would love to have some time with God. But as the Law is being introduced, the Israelites, instead of getting time with God, are being separated from God. The people are to remain at the foot of the mountain while Moses receives God’s Law at the top of the mountain. And to try to get close to God while He is giving His Law – to try to force their way into His presence in the midst of His law – will only result in their death.

Jesus makes a fascinating, perplexing, and seemingly passing statement in Luke’s Gospel:

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. (Luke 16:16)

“The Law” to which Jesus refers is the Law Moses received up on Mount Sinai, and “the Prophets” are those who proclaimed the Law, up to and including John the Baptist. But now, instead of a mountain, there is a kingdom. And now, instead of being sternly warned not to force their way up the mountain, people are openly and fearlessly forcing their way into the kingdom. Why? Because while the Law separated us from God because of our sin, Jesus came to undo that separation by forgiving our sin. We can force our way right in to see God. In Christ, God has an open-door policy.

So, what do you need to see God about? A worry? A sickness? A sin? A need? Feel free to barge right in. He’ll be happy to see you – and to help you. Because He loves you.

August 8, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

You Don’t Want To Be Number One

"Moses with the Tablets of the Law" by Rembrandt, 1659 Credit: Wikipedia

“Moses with the Tablets of the Law” by Rembrandt, 1659
Credit: Wikipedia

Idolatry is rampant in our society.  And this is no surprise.  After all, people have loved to worship, serve, and trust in gods of their own making for millennia now.  From money to sex to power to education to an obsession with whatever rights we think we’re supposed to have, we have no shortage of gods on hand and in our hearts.  And idolatry begins when we are young.

I remember a chapel service I conducted for a childcare center at the church I used to serve.  I was talking to the kids about the First Commandment, which I paraphrased like this:  “God is number one.”  It was with this paraphrase that I heard a little two year old voice pipe up from the back of the room:  “No!” the voice protested, “I’m number one!”  I was taken aback.  So I tried to clarify:  “You are special and important,” I said, “But God is number one.  He’s number one over everything.”  The voice, however, wasn’t buying it.  “No!  I’m number one!” it fired back.

By the end of my chapel message, it was almost comical.  Whenever I said, “God is number one,” this little voice would respond, “No!  I’m number one!”  It seems the idolatrous desire to take God’s place is ingrained in us from the earliest of years.

Martin Luther comments on the First Commandment:

Now this is the work of the First Commandment, which enjoins, “Thou shalt have no other gods.” This means, “Since I alone am God, thou shalt place all thy confidence, trust, and faith in Me alone and in no one else.”[1]

I love how Luther describes the spirit of the First Commandment not in terms of obedience, but in terms of faith.  In the First Commandment, Luther explains, God invites us to trust in Him rather than in the idols we make for ourselves.  Why?  Because the idols we make for ourselves take from us, hurt us, and condemn us. The true God, however, gives to us, blesses us, and saves us.  Idols pain us.  The true God comforts us.

The pain of idolatry becomes especially acute when the idols we make for ourselves happen to be ourselves.  When we are our own gods, we are inevitably left disparaging and hating ourselves, for we fail ourselves and find that we are not the kinds of gods we need ourselves to be.

The First Commandment, then, is not just a dictate, but a promise – a promise that we do not have to worry about running everything as number one gods.  The real God already has that number one spot – and all the responsibility and peril that comes with it – covered.  So don’t just obey the First Commandment, have faith in the One who issues it.  For it is only by faith that this commandment is kept.

[1] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 44, J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, eds. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966), 30.

October 14, 2013 at 5:15 am 2 comments

ABC Extra – Hey, Jealousy!

One of the things I’ve always wished for is more hand-eye coordination.  From the time I was a child, I have never been particularly adept at doing anything that required my hands and eyes to work coordinately.  This comes out especially in the arena of sports.  A baseball – I cannot hit it.  A basketball – I cannot dribble it.  A football – I cannot catch it.  This is why, to stay fit, I run and lift weights.  There is no hand eye coordination required.

I have always marveled at those who could crush a baseball or swish a basketball or catch a football.  After all, these athletes can do things I could never hope to do.  Honestly, I am more than a little jealous of some of these folks.

Jealousy is a strange emotion.  We usually think of jealousy as a strident yearning of the heart after something someone else has.  We can be jealous of someone else’s talent.  Or we can be jealous of someone else’s wealth.  We can even be jealous of someone else’s piety – his self-control, her gentle spirit, his ability to be content rather than jealous!

In the Bible, the word “jealousy” has both a positive and a negative use.  In its negative sense, it describes “envy.”  Solomon warns, “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14:30).  In its positive sense, jealousy describes “zeal.”  As Isaiah famously prophesies concerning the birth of the Messiah: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).  So what is the difference between sinful envy and holy zeal?  Envy is jealousy of someone while zeal is jealousy for someone.

Envy sees something someone else has and says, “I want it,” and either seethes with resentment because what is desired cannot be had, or uses dishonest or even diabolical means to attain what is desired.  King Ahab is the poster child for this kind of jealousy.  When the king tries to cut a deal with one of his subjects, Naboth, to purchase from him a vineyard, Naboth refuses.  When he is turned down, the story says Ahab “lay on his bed sulking” (1 Kings 21:5).  So Ahab hatches a plan.  He has Naboth stoned and commandeers his vineyard.  Ahab’s envy knows no bounds.

Zeal, on the other hand, is a deep desire and affection for something with which God has entrusted you.  As such, you are jealous for it, desiring to protect it and keep it from harm.  In Numbers 5, the law speaks of the jealousy a man has for his wife.  And indeed, a man should be jealous for his wife.  For God has given a man a great gift in a wife – and he should honor and protect her.  As Solomon says, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22).

Jealousy is not all bad.  When God prohibits all forms of idolatry in the First Commandment, He explains His reasoning thusly:  “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers 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” (Exodus 20:5-6).  God is jealous for us.  Beautifully, this simply means He loves us.

What kind of jealousy marks your life – jealousy for someone or jealousy of someone?  Do you seek to honor and protect those you love or do you seek to take that which you do not have?  One kind of jealousy flows from love.  The other flows from greed.  May you, as God’s child, be jealous with a “godly jealousy” (2 Corinthians 11:2).

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March 5, 2012 at 5:15 am 5 comments

ABC Extra – Daunting Decisions

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we kicked off a new series called “Unresolved” where we are addressing some of the biggest issues and struggles which are often left unresolved in people’s hearts and lives.  This weekend, we asked the question, “What happens when you are unresolved as to which direction you should take or which decision you should make for your life?  How do you receive direction from God?”

I have learned that, in general, God gives us direction in one of the three ways.  First, there are some things on which God directs us, “Go!”  These are things we ought to do and directions we ought to take.  For instance, God instructs the prophet Jonah, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me” (Jonah 1:2).  Jonah, however, disregards God’s commission and hops a ship to Tarshish, a city in the opposite direction of Nineveh.  Understandably, God is not pleased with Jonah’s rebellion and sends a storm in judgment on Jonah and his sailing companions.  In order to save themselves, the sailors throw Jonah overboard so that God will calm the crazy seas.  When Jonah is cast overboard, God appoints a fish to swallow Jonah and spit him up, poetically enough, right on the banks of Nineveh!  From Jonah, then, we learn that there is grave danger in not heeding God’s direction to “Go!”  In theological parlance, we call a failure to “Go” a “sin of omission.”  That is, when we know what we should do and where we should go, but we fail to do and go, we commit a sin of omission.  We omit God’s direction and instruction from our lives.

Second, there are some things on which God directs us, “Whoa!”  These are things we ought not to do and directions we ought not to take.  For instance, the famous “Thou shalt nots” of many of the Ten Commandments are things to which God says, “No!”  Should I sneak away with a lover and ruin my marriage?  “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).  Should I tell a lie about someone else?  “Thou shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).  Should I spend my time trying to coax others into giving me their things?  “Thou shalt not covet” (Exodus 29:17).  If we do not heed God’s commands and go where God says “Whoa,” in theological parlance, we call this a “sin of commission.”  That is, we cross a boundary God has drawn and thus commit a sin.  These sins too, like sins of omission, are gravely dangerous and offensive to God.

Finally, there are some things on which God directs us, “Grow!”  These are some decisions that God leaves us to make.  For instance, there are times that God will leave it up to us to choose a job, choose a place to live, or choose the stocks we invest our money in.  God can give us clear guidance on these decisions, but He does not promise to.  Therefore, sometimes He guides us in a specific direction concerning these issues and sometimes He does not.  The times when He does not specifically guide us help us grow, for we learn to make wise, reasonable decisions for ourselves.  The times when He does specifically guide us also help us grow, for they teach us to listen closely and carefully for God’s leading and prompting.

As I mentioned in ABC, it is with decisions like these – where God gives us no clear direction in His Word – that we do well to include three things in our decision making process.  First, we must ask for God’s wisdom and guidance.  Though this may sound obvious, far too many people do not do this!  They do not even consider the possibility that God may indeed have an opinion on a life decision!  Thus, learning simply to take your decisions – big and small – to God in prayer not only allows you to experience God’s guidance, it also strengthens your relationship with Him because you are speaking with Him about the significant and small things of your life on a daily basis.  Second, we should wait expectantly and intentionally for God’s answer.  So often, even when we do pray to God about a decision we must make or a challenge we must face, we do not wait for God’s answer.  We simply continue charging ahead at full speed, expecting God to strike us like a lightning bolt out of the blue with His answer.  But we must not only learn how to ask God for guidance, we must also learn how to listen.  This means taking time in slowness and solitude, seeking God’s direction.  Finally, we should counsel with other Christians.  Just as God can lead and guide us, he can lead and guide others.  Thus, the wisdom of other Christians is invaluable in helping us make wise decisions..

God can and does direct you.  As the Psalmist prays, “Direct my footsteps according to Your word.”  May his prayer be our prayer!  And may God give you His guidance!

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January 16, 2012 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

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