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Thegodofourownmaking

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THE GOD OF OUR OWN MAKING     EXODUS  20:4-6

            If you will take your Bibles and turn to the twentieth chapter of Exodus and let us read about the second commandment. This commandment has to do with the making of idols. Joy Davidman, wife of C. S. Lewis, wrote a book entitled Smoke on the Mountain. In the second chapter, “God Made with Hands,” she asks the question what shape is your idol?

            She describes a few idols that people bow down to rather than the One True God. She wrote, “I worship a fishtail Cadillac convertible, brother. All my days I give it offerings of oil and polish. Hours of my time are devoted to its ritual; and it brings me luck in all my undertakings; and it establishes me among my fellows as a success in life. What model is your car, brother?

            I worship my beautiful house, sister. Long and loving meditation have I spent on it; the chairs contrast with the rug, the curtains harmonize with the woodwork, all of it is perfect and holy. The ash trays are in exactly the right place, and should some blasphemer drop ashes on the floor, I nearly die of shock. I live only for the service of my house, and it rewards me with envy of my sisters, who must rise up and call me blessed. Lest my children profane the holiness of my house with dirt and noise, I drive them out of doors. What shape is your idol, sister? Is it your house, or your clothes, or perhaps even your worth-while and cultural club?

            I worship the pictures I paint, brother. . .I worship my job; I’m the best darn publicity expert this side of Hollywood. . .I worship my golf game, my bridge game. . . I life?. . . I worship my church; I want to tell you, the work we’ve done in missions beats all other denominations in this city, and next year we can afford that new organ, and you won’t find a better choice anywhere. . .I worship myself. . . What shape is your idol?”

            I think she pretty much covers a number of gods that people might bow down to today. If this is not enough, I could spend more time naming a few more, but I believe you get the point. Last week, we discovered the significance behind the first commandment that there are no other gods except God. He has no rivals and neither does He desire to be put first in a list among gods. No, He is the One and Only true God who deserves the worship of His creation. Therefore, He begins with a foundational commandment in which the other nine are closely tied. In the first commandment, I shared with you the priority of worship.

            Today, we are going to build upon this foundation. God in the first commandment is the only One deserving of worship. In the next three commandments, God tells us how He is to be worshipped. In other words, you could say this is the practice of worship. I believe it is a given that God does not want His children to make idols such as we talked about earlier in the sermon, but I want to share that this commandment goes deeper than that.

THE PRECEPT

            This commandment says that we are not to make idols, symbols or representations of God Himself. Some years ago a mine disaster took place in Cokesville, Pennsylvania. A young reporter was sent to cover the story. He sent in a colorful description of the event. In his wire about the story he forwarded the following words to the editor, "Cokesville, Pennsylvania, casualties number 300 tonight, God sits in the hills around Cokesville. The editor stopped the transmission and said, Forget the story. Interview God, and get a picture."

             Everyone would love to get a picture of what God looks like, but God refuses to have His picture taken. People have been doing it for centuries and God in this commandment forbids it. He is not to be visually represented. It’s clear, of course, from the context and it’s clear from other passages, for instance in Deuteronomy chapter 4, in a parallel passage we read this, "So watch yourselves carefully," Deuteronomy 4:15 says, "Since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourself in the form of any figure."

            You didn’t see God at Mt. Sinai, Mt. Horeb, therefore you don’t make an image of Him. This command , this second command is a command for us not only to abstain from making pictures of false gods or visual representations of false gods, it is a command that we not visually represent the true God. Now, that too, that point is made very clearly in Exodus chapter 32. You are familiar with the story of the golden calf, but if you’re like me, the first three or four or five times you read it you thought that the golden calf was the image of a foreign god that was being introduced into the worship of Israel, but if you look at Exodus 32 verse 4, you will see that when Aaron made that golden calf, he made that golden calf as an image of the God of Israel who had brought Israel out of Egypt. In other words, he wasn’t saying, "Children of Israel, the God of Israel has gotten you this far, we’re abandoning now. Moses on the mountain, we don’t know where he is, we’re switching to another brand. We are going to another god now." Now, the golden calf was an image of the God who brought them out of Egypt. Aaron was not attempting to highjack the religion and take them into another form of religion. Although, that is what he really ended up doing. He was attempting to visually represent God. They wanted a god like the nations around them had, they wanted a god they could see, and touch and be sovereign over. The God of Israel said, "No, you will not make an image of Me." So, this prohibition clearly extends both to images of other gods as well as images of the one true God.

            God goes on to spell it out for us in verse 4. He says there is not to be an idol of any likeness of what is in heaven above (such as birds or stars or moon or sun) or on the earth beneath (such as cattle, reptiles, or any other creature) or in the water under the earth (such as fish or other sea life).

            Paul in Romans 1 describes the process of what happens when we do make other things God. To exchange the truth of God for a lie: to exchange the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles is to become susceptible to the sinful desires of the human heart issuing in adultery, homosexuality, and every kind of wickedness. Now, this is vital my friends, because, if you can think about God anyway that you want to think, if you can picture God, as it were, in accordance with your own imagination instead of thinking God’s thoughts after Him, then you are sovereign over God. If the God of Heaven and Earth is only as sturdy and unchangeable as your opinion, He’s in big trouble. And we have a whole generation that is encouraging us to idolatry in precisely that area. It says, "Well we can think about God however we want to think about God." It says about things in the Bible, "Well I don’t really like to think about God that way. I like to think about God another way." We talked about that last week. God is saying, "No you can’t picture me any way you want to picture Me. You have to think about Me the way I have told you I am in My words."

            In November 1993 two thousand women gathered in Minneapolis for what must have been the most bizarre and dreadful conference of the final decade of the twentieth century. From a position of radical feminism they sought to “re-imagine” a new god and a new road to salvation. They rejected the orthodox view of the incarnation and atonement of Jesus Christ being nothing other than a patriarchal construct, which they blamed for the oppression of women. The attendees blessed, thanked and praised Sophia as a deity who was with God at creation and whom they described as “the tree of life to those who lay hold of her.” The foolishness of the event is summarized from a Chinese feminist: “If we cannot imagine Jesus as a tree, as a river, as wind, and as rain, we are doomed together.” The phrase “we are doomed together” is accurate because they rejected God for who He is.

            God cannot be worshipped anyway we wish. We must worship God the way He tells us. In John 4, Jesus tells the woman at the well that God is seeking true worshipers. Yet, the types of worshipers that God desires are those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. He desires for His children to worship Him correctly and this comes from worshiping Him through the revelation that He gives us about Himself in the Word.

              

THE PURPOSE

            In verse 5, God gives the reason why we should not worship and serve such images. He says He is a jealous God. Wow, what an amazing thought that God calls Himself a jealous God. Typically, when we think of jealously we mean that negative emotion that is exhibited in sinful humanity. But here when the Bible says that God is a jealous God, it means that God is zealous for the glory and honor that is due His name. In other words, this jealousy is not that envious or suspicious type of jealousy that people have for one another.

            When the Bible says God is jealous, it means that God demands exclusive devotion to Himself. It means that God’s anger is directed against all that oppose Him. It is the appropriate kind of jealousy that a married man has for his wife and the purity and honor in their relationship; that as she is one with him in marriage, he does not pass her around to other men. As believers, we are in union with the Lord through Jesus Christ. Our God is therefore jealous for the integrity and honor of this union as expressed in worship. If we worship a false understanding of God or attempt to worship God through images or even stoop to the worship of images, then that which belongs wholly to the Lord has been given to another. He is therefore jealous for the glory that rightly belongs only to Him.

You don’t believe He’s serious about that? You read what He did to Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus chapter 10, verses 1 through 3, when they came and offered a sacrifice that He had not asked for. He killed them on the spot. You go look and read 1 Samuel 6 verses 1 through 10, when the children of Israel had put the ark of the covenant on a cart and they were caring it back to Jerusalem. Surely God was pleased with this. The oxen stumbled, Uzzah reached out to steady the ark, to keep it from falling, and he was struck down dead. David pouted about that for months. God, how could You do this to me. I was bringing the ark back to Jerusalem. Well, you go back and read 1 Samuel 6 and 7 sometime. You know what you’ll find out? Oh yes, I remember the ark was not supposed to be carried on a cart. It was suppose to be carried on poles. Oh, God takes His worship seriously even down to the details. God is saying, when he says, "I am a jealous God," He’s reminding us of the marriage bond and He’s saying that when you choose to do what You want to do instead of what I’ve said to do in My word, it’s just like you’ve gone off and committed adultery and I’m the wronged husband. That’s what He’s saying.

THE PUNISHMENT

            God in verse 5 says you shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me. When we read those verses at face value it is a pretty scary thought. God is going to allow the consequences of one’s sin to impact their great grandchildren. So what God is saying is that disobeying this command is the same as hating Him.

            Now with that being said let me try to set this verse in the context of Scripture. In Ezekiel 18:20 God declares that He will not punish the innocent for another’s offense. In other words, I am not guilty for the sins of my ancestors and neither will my ancestors be guilty for my sins. So what is being said here is not a word of judgment on the children but a word of warning for the parents. Fathers and mothers are to count the cost of the effect of their sins upon their families. One generation turns it back on God, and the next generation grows up without Him.

            All sin has a domino effect and parents should ponder the punishment their children will face for their own sins, which they have learned from the sorry examples of their parents. An indifference to commitment is contagious in a family and a society. Take, for example, the impact on a child who grows up in a home where the name of God is routinely blasphemed.

THE PROMISE

            On the flip side, God promises to show lovingkindness to a thousand generations to those who love Him and keep His commandments. You have heard those words before from the lips of our Savior who said, “If you love Me keep my commandments.” We show love to God through obedience.

            Alister Begg, wrote, “We know, too, that the children of the wicked sometimes reform and those of believers sometimes degenerate. Although this warning doesn’t always take effect, it is issued with sufficient force so as to comfort the righteous and to alarm the wicked.”

Perhaps the deepest imprints of human faults are made by parents upon their children. Moses told the Israelites that in some cases God visits the iniquity of 'the fathers on the children, on the third and fourth generations? (Exodus 20:5). And he doesn't have to work to do it. When our sins and failures run their normal course, they harm future generations. Our hang-ups are passed to our children, who in turn pass them to their own. The New Testament says that parents? sins may cause specific problems like angry, resentful behavior or depression (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21).

A comparison of the offspring of two marriages clearly illustrates this. Over four hundred descendants of Jonathan Edwards, America's first great theologian, have been traced. Similarly, over twelve hundred offspring of a criminal named Jukes have been studied. Of the descendants of Jonathan Edwards: one hundred became ministers, missionaries, or theology teachers; one hundred became professors; over one hundred were lawyers and judges; sixty became doctors; and fourteen were college presidents. Among the descendants of Jukes; one hundred and thirty were convicted criminals; three hundred and ten were professional paupers; four hundred were seriously injured or physically degenerated due to their life-styles; sixty were habitual thieves and pickpockets; seventeen were murderers; only twenty ever learned a trade, and half of these learned their trades in jail.

            As we get ready to close this morning, I want to say that every commandment has a negative and positive side to it. Here we are told we shall not make an idol for ourselves. These idols include those things other than God and they include those false representations of God in which people picture God the way they want to rather than the way He is in Scripture. We have been focusing on the negative aspect of this command. Now I want to shift our focus to the positive aspect of worship.

            If there is a certain way in which we are not to worship God, then on the flip side we must conclude that there is a proper way to worship God. In my reading this week about this subject, I read a few things that will help us on this point. First, we need to understand is far more than a corporate gathering on Sundays. Worship is glorifying God. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “We remain on earth as sowers to scatter good seed; as ploughman to break up fallow ground; as herald’s publishing salvation. We are here as salt of the earth, to be a blessing to the world. We are here to glorify Christ in our daily life. . . .Let us live earnest, useful, holy lives, to the praise of the glory of His grace.

            What I am saying is that worship is a lifestyle, not event that takes place in a building at a particular time. The hymn writer sung, “Take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise.” So in our time, talent, tasks, relationships, and hobbies, whatever you do, “do it all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). When we learn to worship God through the week, then when we come together it will be out of the overflow of being in touch with God.

            We acknowledge that worship is a spiritual exercise. We must be spiritually alive. Dead men don’t sing. We need to the spiritually assisted. Filled with God’s Spirit we then sing and make music in our heart to the Lord. We must then be spiritually active. We are not listening to the choir. We are the choir. We are not spectators. We are participants. We come asking God to help us to set aside every idolatrous thought so that we might be the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

This commandment is emphasizing that God, the true God, can not be worshiped rightly unless we worship in the way He has appointed, we cannot fail to mention that the most important thing to know about that is this. You can not worship the true God unless you come to Him through Jesus Christ His Son. That’s the whole point of the book of Hebrews. You can’t worship God, you can’t fellowship with God unless you come to Him through His son. The first thing we need to do in order to obey the second commandment is bow the knee to Jesus Christ. To accept Him as Lord and Savior and never again dare to come into the presence of the Heavenly Father without clinging to His sacrifice and person. Without coming before Him consciously dependent upon His death, His live, His sacrifice on our behalf.

           

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