Scripture Reading - 20th March 2020
God had said to his people that they would become a “kingdom of priests” if they obeyed what he commanded them. Now come the commandments. The first one is this: “You shall have no other gods before me.” The Israelites had previously, in effect, been servants of the gods of Egypt. That’s how they would have understood their previous slavery. And there is a general truth here. You serve what you worship, and you worship what you serve. God, however, had saved them from the tyranny of the gods of Egypt and now commands them not to go back to what they had been saved from. The rationale for this first commandment is given in the previous line: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” In other words, God is warning them against walking back into captivity to other gods. Of course, there is only one god. Other ‘gods’ are nothing at best and imposters at worst. It might seem that the temptation to have other gods is not present in our secular society. But this temptation is very present. To find what you are worshipping, reflect on what you are serving. Are you serving the modern lifestyle dream? Are you serving the success cult? Are you serving yourself? God calls us to worship and serve him alone. Even when we serve others we do so for Christ’s sake. You are not ultimately accountable to people and their desires and agendas, but to God. Live for him alone and you will be free.
How does the first commandment (“Have no other gods”) differ from the second commandment (“Do not make images for yourselves to worship”)? They look like two ways of saying the same thing. There is, however, a subtle but important difference.
The first commandment prohibits make something that is not God into God. The second commandment prohibits making God into something he is not. The Israelites would be tempted to represent God in ways they could grasp and relate to. This is what all the pagan nations did. They made physical representations of their many gods that they could touch and see and even carry around. This brought their gods down to their level and made them easier to relate to. The stories about their gods, moreover, cast their gods very much in the image of their human creators: subject to passions of rage, jealousy, lust and often being in enmity with each other. This human inclination to reduce God to something we can grasp and relate to is all too common. We do this when we treat God like a genie whose job it is to bless our life-agendas. We do this when we make God distant and uncaring or when we cast him in the image of a bad parent who expects us to win his love. God has revealed himself to us in Scripture and in Jesus Christ and we should get to know him for who he is. God will not submit to our expectations. Do not make God into something he is not.
Challenges of the day :-
1 Reflect on Exodus 20:1-3 Think and pray about whether you are serving any other than God
2 Reflect on Exodus 20:4-6 Think about how you regard God in your heart and mind. Have you formed a false image of God.