Sermon: No small gods

No small gods

The Second Commandment – You shall not worship idols (I am a jealous God)

It was in the year 1141 that the Weinsberg Castle was brought under siege. All the villagers had crowded inside the castle and they were surrounded by the army of King Conrad III. Inside were the crown jewels of Germany, which were in the trust of the Duke of Welf, and there were storerooms full of gold, silver and fine jewels.

Eventually a truce was negotiated. The women and children would be allowed to leave and they could take with them anything they could carry. The men would be put to the sword.

The gates of the castle opened and out came the women and children and they were carrying their husbands!

They valued their marriages more than the crown jewels of Germany and all the gold and silver in the castle.

The Second Commandment is like that …

Exodus 20:1-20:17 READ TOGETHER

And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for 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, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

7 “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11 For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. 13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”

In the First Commandment God said, “You shall have no other gods”.

In the Second He says, “Do not make any idols … for I am a jealous God.”

These two words are linked.

God has an intensely passionate love for us.

He desires a pure relationship which is not obscured by anything or anyone else.

He does not want us to mess around with lesser things.

God is passionately against idols because He is jealous – not because He counts idols as rivals, but that He wants to fiercely protect the love between us and Him. Our inclination is to give God second place but He wants us to be lovers.

As Jeremy has been teaching on Sunday evenings at “A Second Look,” God has a perfect relationship in the Trinity between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So perfect is this relationship that while we speak of Three Persons, there is only One God.

Whatever the Father does the Son also does… (John 5:19)

I and the Father are One … (John 10:30)

I am in the Father and the Father is in me … (John 14:10)

And so on …

There is a perfect unity in their relationship – so much so that we struggle to comprehend it … it is alien to us.

And it is so foreign to us because of the Fall. Because of sin, we are separated from God.

In the beginning, God made man in His own image … there was the sense of deep union and intimacy between God and us.

God created us to co-exist with Him in this pure relationship – and this relationship was perfect and pure – until it was obscured by sin.

AND SIN, at its root, is really the rejection of this pure relationship which God desires.

The continued story of the Bible is then, as Jeremy so aptly puts it, a love story in which God as lover is in passionate pursuit of those whom He loves.

And in this story, man continually fails to love God purely despite God’s repeated acts of reconciliation.

  • The second beginning in the account of Noah, where everything is wiped out and God begins with the one righteous man
  • The Call upon Abraham and the covenant promise for him and his family to be God’s people forever
  • Moses’ rescue of the people from slavery in Egypt and new covenant terms in Passover Meal and the Ten Commandments
  • The redemption from exile in Babylon and the promise of a new Kingdom to replace those that failed
  • And then, finally, God breaking the pure bond in the Trinity to send His Son away from Himself to be the ransom and redemption of those separated from Him. He gives Himself, He lays Himself down, He becomes a servant and sacrifice so that, by true love, He might win back His beloved.

Jesus is God’s most perfect act of reconciliation.

Why is God so concerned about reconciliation?

Why does God say that we shall have no other gods?

Why does God forbid the worship of idols?

God loves us with a deep, deep passion – a furious love!

Time and again, the Bible describes our relationship with God in terms of marriage.

In Ephesians 5 we read … (from verse 23)

  • The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church
  • As the church submits to Christ so wives should submit to their husband
  • Husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church

The Song of Songs is a love poem of the deep and intimate relationship between God and His people, described as the relationship between and Lover and his Beloved.

Jesus told several parables about weddings, marriages, brides and bridesmaids, and each of them referred to God’s desired relationship with His people.

In Revelation, we have this beautiful picture of the new Jerusalem, God’s saved people, His church, coming down out of heaven, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

And in the Book of Hosea, the prophet is called to take an adulterous wife, so that he can experience God’s own heartache at the unfaithfulness of His people.

And here we find the reason for the Second Commandment!

God is jealous for us.

He is resentful if we are attracted to, or involved with, something or someone else.

He is fiercely protective of the relationship which He has with us.

God is not only our Creator – He is also our Lover.

And because of His love He is also our strength and our redemption. He gave His Son for our salvation, He sent the Spirit to be with us and to encourage us so that we would never need to be be lost to Him again.

Does this not tell you something about God’s jealous and passionate love?

God does not hate us.

He has not given a set of rules to curb us.

God has no desire to punish us for our sin.

It is, perhaps, because we have humanized His character and His love that we fail to see this; and I have to use words like “resentment” to describe how God feels about our unfaithfulness.

We expect God to be angered by our unfaithfulness … and there is no doubt that He is, but His response is different to our own.

I know a man whose wife had an affair with another man. I counseled him, prayed with him, met with her, tried to set up meetings between them, all to no avail.

Unknown to me, He bought a gun and stalked them for months, looking for the opportunity to kill them both. He was that angry.

They were eventually divorced in a bitter court battle.

One Sunday I preached about Hosea and his wife Gomer, as I did here a few months ago. I spoke of God’s heartache and His passion for reconciliation. I told of how Hosea loved his wife despite everything she had done because he saw and felt God’s pain too. And I showed how, in the end, they were reconciled – Hosea and Gomer, through the love of a husband …. And God and His people! Through the sacrifice of Christ. And of how Peter in 1 Peter 2:10 speaks of the consequence of God’s reconciliation in changing the names of God’s people from the names given to Hosea’s children: Lo-Ammi (not my friend) to Ammi (my best friend); and from Lo-Debar (not loved) to Debar (loved most of all).

That week, my friend came to my office with his ex-wife, and asked if I could marry them again.

As a result of hearing of God’s love and relentless pursuit of His unfaithful people, this man had gone back to his wife; and declared his continuing love for her.

There was, no doubt, the miracle of God’s timing in it all … and that too is love!

God doesn’t want us to make idols for ourselves.

Wood and metal figures are not really an issue for us today.

And even things like sport, wealth, fame don’t come close to being worshipped as idols in the sense which the Bible uses.

The real issue is that we are so easily unfaithful to our loving God.

We do run after lesser things.

God is not foremost in our heart, He is not the passion of our lives.

BUT, we are foremost in God’s heart. We are the passion of His being. He loves us with an everlasting love – His love will not be diminished by our casual affairs, but His heart aches.

For this reason, He says … You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God.

Why does God punish the children for the sin of the fathers to the 3rd and 4th generation?

Well, you see, this sin is a man-imposed separation from God. If one generation chases after lesser lovers … the following generations do not know the powerful love of God. But God will raise up, by His Spirit, a succeeding generation who will come back to Him. (Family rather than church)

And for those who stay in God’s love? Our Father blesses them for a thousand generations … for ever!!!

Have you found yourself drifting to lesser lovers? Have you found pleasure in the sheets of the world’s way? Come back to God – His arms are always open for those who come to Him. (Prodigal Son)

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