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Preaching from the Pulpit of Ephraim Church of the Bible

Exodus 20:3; Word #1 – Worship Only the One True God

07/10 Exodus 20:3 Word #1 Worship Only the One True God

20:1 And God spoke all these words, saying, 2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

God’s Ten Words

We are looking at God’s ten words to his people. We know these in English as the ‘Ten Commandments’, but in the Hebrew of Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13 and 10:4 they are called simply the ‘Ten Words’, and here in the introduction it says ‘God spoke all these words, saying…’. These are God’s words.

Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two–edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

God’s word is powerful and decisive. In the beginning, God spoke, and there was. As God’s words, these can rightly be called commandments because they come from God and carry his authority. But calling them commandments might mislead us into thinking that they are given primarily as a checklist to make ourselves pleasing to God. They can never accomplish that. Rather they point out to us how far we fall short of the perfect standard, and drive us to Christ, who perfectly kept the law for us and was crucified for us to cover our guilt as lawbreakers. When God speaks, he communicates something about himself. In speaking his moral demands, he communicates something of his heart, his will, his character. He is telling us about himself. ‘This is what I am like, and this is how I expect you to relate to me and to one another.’

Saved to God-Centered Worship

God said to Pharaoh ‘Let my people go that they may serve me or worship me’ (Ex.8:1). The first nineteen chapters of Exodus narrate God saving, rescuing, redeeming his people from forced slavery to a cruel tyrant, caring for their needs, and bringing them to himself. God, in an overwhelming display of undeserved kindness, has brought them to the base of the mountain, and now he is graciously defining for them what it means to serve him; what it means to worship him. We were created to worship, and we are redeemed to worship. God is outlining what acceptable worship should consist of. It is interesting that God starts with himself and works down. The bible is thoroughly God-centered. The vertical relationship precedes the horizontal. In the beginning, God…; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. We must understand who God is and how we relate to him before we can understand who we are and how we should properly relate to one another. The first thing on his list is ‘I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me’.

Who God Is

God is careful to identify himself. I am YHWH (in Hebrew) (or Jehovah), translated ‘the LORD’ – the I AM, the one who is, the ground and goal of all existence. I am YHWH your God, the God who has given himself to his people. YHWH your redeemer, your rescuer, the one who took you out of slavery. God’s first instruction to his saved people is ‘You shall have no other gods before me; you shall have no other gods in my presence, or before my face.’

Remember, Israel spent the last 4 centuries in Egypt, and the Egyptians served a whole pantheon of gods; the gods of creation (Atum, Amun, Ptah, Khnum), god of the sun (Ra), god of earth (Geb), god of sky (Nut), god of the dead (Osiris), god of justice (Ma’at), god of wisdom (Thoth), god of chaos (Nun), god of destruction (Sekhmet). Some gods were for protection, some produced fertility, some agriculture and crops. There were different gods that controlled different things, and their help was sought in different ways. Some were worshiped in temples, others in homes, some you carried an amulet in your pocket or around your neck. In contrast to all this, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob declares ‘you shall have no other gods before me’. Your allegiance is to be single, your devotion is all to go to me. Moses reiterates God’s ten words in Deuteronomy 5, and in chapter 6 he summarizes this way:

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.

Through Jesus, (Mt.22:36-40; Mr.12:28-31; Lk.10:27) we have come to know this as the first or greatest or most important commandment, the commandment that summarizes and includes all other commandments. YHWH our God is one. Practice love toward YHWH with your whole being. He alone is to be worshiped. Our God demands exclusive worship.

Only One God

For this to mean anything, we need to know who this YHWH God is. If God is one and we are to have no other Gods before him, we need to know how he defines himself so that we can love and worship and serve only him.

Deuteronomy 4:35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. …39 know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

YHWH, the LORD, claims to be the only God. There is no other. There are other supernatural beings, such as angels and fallen angels or demons, all created beings. They are powerful and dangerous and to be respected, but YHWH is in a class by himself. He is Creator; all else is created by him and for him. He is the one supreme, self-existent being. There is no other. He clearly demonstrated his superiority over all the so-called gods of the Egyptians and whatever supernatural force that was behind them.

Isaiah 44:6 Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. 7 Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. 8 Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”

Who is like the LORD our God? ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.’

The Father is YHWH

What else does this YHWH God tell us about himself? He claims to be our Father by rights of creation.

Deuteronomy 32:6 Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?

Isaiah 63:16 For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.

Isaiah 64:8 But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Malachi 1:6 “A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. …

Jesus taught us to pray:

Matthew 6:9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

YHWH is our Father by rights of creation, and his name is to be honored above all.

To YHWH alone is all honor and glory due. He says:

Isaiah 42:8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.

Isaiah 48:11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.

The Son is YHWH

But Jesus has some interesting things to say about his Father. The Jews were interrogating Jesus to see what he was claiming about himself. They asked:

John 8:53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’

Jesus claimed that the God of the Jews, who was his Father, glorifies him! YHWH does not share his glory with another, but the Father glorifies his Son Jesus. In fact, back in John 5, Jesus claimed

John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.

The Father’s goal is that all would honor the Son ‘just as’ – in the same way, to the same extent that – they honor the Father. In fact, to honor the Son less than the Father is to dishonor the Father. YHWH does not share his glory, and yet the Father and the Son share honor and glory equally! Let’s look back at John 8 to see how Jesus finishes his conversation with the Jews about his identity:

John 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

Jesus claimed to exist before Abraham. In fact, Jesus was identifying himself with the voice that spoke to Moses from the burning bush. When Moses asked the voice for his identity, this is what God said:

Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.”’ 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

The name YHWH is derived from the Hebrew verb ‘to be’. God claims to be ‘I AM; I AM WHO I AM; the self-existent one, YHWH. Jesus, in claiming to be the ‘I AM’ who existed before Abraham, was claiming to be YHWH. The Jews understood his claim as blasphemy and wanted to execute him on the spot.

The Gospel authors understood Jesus’ identity as YHWH.

Matthew 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.”’ (cf. Mk.1:2-3; Lk.1:16-17; 2:76; Jn.1:1-23)

They were quoting Isaiah 40:3, which says:

Isaiah 40:3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

They understood John, in preparing the way for Jesus, to be preparing the way for the coming of YHWH. Jesus is YHWH, and received worship as YHWH.

The Spirit is YHWH

Let’s look at another interesting passage in the Old Testament that is quoted in the New. Psalm 95

Psalm 95:6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! 7 For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”

We are called by the Psalmist to come worship YHWH our Maker and our God. Then in verse 9, he switches to the first person. Your fathers put me to the test at Massah and Meribah. Who is speaking? According to Exodus 17, it was YHWH who was put to the test.

Exodus 17:7 And he called the name of the place Massah and Meribah, because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the LORD by saying, “Is the LORD among us or not?” (cf. Num.14:20-30; Ps.81:9-13)

So YHWH is speaking in Psalm 95. Why is this important? Because In the New Testament, the author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 95 and says:

Hebrews 3:7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works 10 for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.”’

So when YHWH speaks in the Old Testament, the New Testament authors can quote him and say ‘the Holy Spirit says’, because the Holy Spirit is YHWH.

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

The Lord is the Spirit; or the Spirit is YHWH.

Isaiah 63:11 Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, 12 who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name, 13 who led them through the depths?

Exodus 14:21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

The Holy Spirit is YHWH, the Son is YHWH, and the Father is YHWH. The Father is a unique and distinct person; the Son is a unique and distinct person, and the Spirit is a unique and distinct person. These three distinct persons are God, but they are not three gods; they are one God. This is what we find in the bible. And God communicates to us so that we can know something of what he is like. So when God says:

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

We should understand that YHWH is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that YHWH is the only God who exists, and he deserves all our worship, all our devotion, all our affection. We worship this great God, this self-existent God who has always existed in the three persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We worship and honor and praise the eternal, immortal, invisible God, who is Father, Son and Spirit. We worship him alone.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

July 10, 2011 - Posted by | Exodus, podcast | , , , ,

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