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Exodus 20:4-6; Word #2 – How to Worship

07/17 Exodus 20:4-6 Word #2 How to Worship

Who We Worship / How We Worship

The first of God’s ten words specifies that we must worship the correct God. The true God and God alone must be worshiped. YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the I AM, the one who is, the self-existent one; the God who has saved, redeemed and delivered us; the Father, Son and Holy Spirit must alone be the object of our affection and adoration. This one God demands our exclusive devotion. Our hearts are not to be divided. We must worship the correct God. His second word to us is that we must worship the correct God correctly. As the proverb says:

Proverbs 14:12 There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. (Proverbs 16:25; 21:2)

We were created to worship and we were redeemed to worship. There is a right way to worship the right God, and there is a wrong way. Nadab and Abihu (Lev.10) are eloquent witnesses to that fact, as are Uzzah (2Sam.6; 1Chr.13) and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5). God takes himself and his worship seriously.

Exodus 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. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Image Worship not Artwork

God’s people are prohibited from making images or likenesses of anything for worship. This is not a prohibition against artwork. Later in Exodus, as we will see, God himself proscribed the details of the tabernacle, including golden winged cherubim, embroidered pomegranates, and golden almond blossoms. God filled the artists with his Spirit. So how is making a likeness of something in heaven – cherubim; or making likenesses of things on earth – pomegranates and almond blossoms; as proscribed for the tabernacle acceptable, and what exactly is forbidden in this command? The pomegranates and almond blossoms and cherubim in the tabernacle were not intended to represent God. They were not to be worshiped. God’s presence was not physically represented in any way in that structure. God said:

Exodus 25:22 There I will meet with you, and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim that are on the ark of the testimony, I will speak with you about all that I will give you in commandment for the people of Israel. (cf. Numbers 7:89)

God met with his people in the space between the two cherubim, above the mercy seat. The tabernacle was to be a symbolic space, a space appropriate for God’s presence. But nothing in the tabernacle represented God himself. God spoke out of the space above and between the objects that were there. The stuff in the room was furniture and decoration. Solomon made this clear when he built the permanent version of the tabernacle. He said:

2 Chronicles 2:5 The house that I am to build will be great, for our God is greater than all gods. 6 But who is able to build him a house, since heaven, even highest heaven, cannot contain him? Who am I to build a house for him, except as a place to make offerings before him?

In his prayer of dedication of the temple he said:

2 Chronicles 6:18 “But will God indeed dwell with man on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!

Solomon understood the omnipresence of God. God is everywhere, and cannot be limited or contained, as the psalmist writes:

Psalm 139:7 Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? 8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! 9 If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, 10 even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

Invisible God

When Moses met with God, it says:

Numbers 7:89 … he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.

It doesn’t say Moses saw anything. It says he heard the voice coming out of the space above and between. God is not physical or material. God is invisible.

1Timothy 1:17 To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

Hebrews 11:27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God…

Jesus taught, in regard to true worship of God:

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Jesus taught that God is not physical. God is spirit. In the retelling of the Law in Deuteronomy 4, we are given elaboration and some of the reasons behind God’s command to make no images. Turn to Deuteronomy 4:

Deuteronomy 4:9 “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children–– 10 how on the day that you stood before the LORD your God at Horeb, the LORD said to me, ‘Gather the people to me, that I may let them hear my words, so that they may learn to fear me all the days that they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children so.’ 11 And you came near and stood at the foot of the mountain, while the mountain burned with fire to the heart of heaven, wrapped in darkness, cloud, and gloom. 12 Then the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice. 13 And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments, and he wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14 And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and rules, that you might do them in the land that you are going over to possess. 15 “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. 19 And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. 21 Furthermore, the LORD was angry with me because of you, and he swore that I should not cross the Jordan, and that I should not enter the good land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance. 22 For I must die in this land; I must not go over the Jordan. But you shall go over and take possession of that good land. 23 Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you, and make a carved image, the form of anything that the LORD your God has forbidden you. 24 For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God. 25 “When you father children and children’s children, and have grown old in the land, if you act corruptly by making a carved image in the form of anything, and by doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, so as to provoke him to anger, 26 I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed. 27 And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you. 28 And there you will serve gods of wood and stone, the work of human hands, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. 29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. 30 When you are in tribulation, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, you will return to the LORD your God and obey his voice. 31 For the LORD your God is a merciful God. He will not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to them. 32 “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the LORD your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is no other besides him. 36 Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. 37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, 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. 40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time.”

The explicit reasons given for the second command in Deuteronomy 4 are

Deuteronomy 4:12 …You heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice… 15 …Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, 16 beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure.

Don’t make physical representations of God because God has no form. Every image or likeness falls short of communicating what he is really like. When Aaron made the golden calf, he was not intending to lead Israel astray to worship other gods. He was giving them a representation of the true God to assist in their worship. The calf symbolized God’s strength and power and might, but it also wrongly symbolized God as localized and inanimate and sexual, and this improper worship led to a breakdown in society and morality. This is what Romans lays out for us:

Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. …28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind …

God is Creator. Everything else is created. Any representation we make of God insults him and brings him down to the level of his creation. Someone has said that ‘in the beginning God made man in his image, and ever since, man has been trying to return the favor.’ Whenever we conceive of God as if he were like us, we are exchanging the glory of the immortal God for images, and we are not honoring him as God.

Worship and the Word

So, how do we honor God as God, worship him as Creator, and preserve the truth about God, the glory of the immortal God? How do we keep from making images of him either physically or mentally? Over and over in the Deuteronomy passage, we see the contrast drawn between seeing no form and hearing his voice. God spoke. God revealed himself, not visually, but audibly. God reveals himself in words. If we will honor God as God, then we will listen to his self-revelation. We will let him define himself. We must listen to all that he says about himself, all that he says in his word. We are inclined to cling to one attribute of what God is like to the exclusion of other attributes. When we do this, we are exchanging the truth about God for a lie and creating an image of him that resembles ourselves. For instance, ‘I like to think of God as Love. How could a loving God ever send anyone to hell?’ This is a false image of God that distorts what love really is and excludes the reality that God is also just. It takes one thing that God has told us about himself and throws out the rest. Or ‘I don’t get the concept of the trinity, but I just love Jesus so much!’ Friends, God doesn’t expect you to ‘get’ him, to understand him. He expects you to worship him! We so desperately want to bring God down to our level so that he is more comfortable to comprehend. When we do, we have traded the truth about God for a lie. We exchange his immortal glory for images. What we are left with is no longer worthy of worship. We must fight to continually tear down our mental image of God and listen to God as he defines himself for us!

The Image of God

1Timothy 6:15 …he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.

1 John 4:12 No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

We were created to bear God’s image. Humans were to be the visible representation of the invisible God. We have failed miserably at this. God is love and we hate. God is righteous and we lie and cheat and steal and deal falsely. God rules justly and we are selfish and greedy for gain. We have grossly misrepresented what God is like. But God reveals himself accurately in his Word.

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. …14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt [tabernacled] among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

Jesus, being fully God and fully man, perfectly bears the image of the invisible God for us, accurately represents God to us. Jesus…

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God

As much as we have written about Jesus by the eyewitnesses, we have no physical description of what he looked like. There is an unhealthy obsession by many today to try to identify the facial features, build, stature, hair and eye color of Jesus. The eyewitnesses could have told us, but they did not, because the image of God is not in physical features.

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

If we want to worship the correct God correctly, we will listen to all that he has to say about himself in his word.

This Matters

It matters that we worship the correct God correctly, because God claims to be a jealous God.

Exodus 20:4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

This is not jealous in the petty sense of suspicious fears and envious resentment, but the holy jealousy of a husband who will not share his beloved wife with another man. God says ‘you shall have no other Gods before me.’ God has rescued his people and he is giving himself in a covenant relationship (like the marriage relationship) to be exclusively their God. The consequences for betraying the exclusivity of this relationship are far-reaching. This does not mean that God punishes innocent children for their father’s sins. Deuteronomy 24:16 clearly states that is not the case. Rather, children often learn and repeat the sinful behavior of their parents. God will not say ‘I won’t punish this generation for their sins because they just learned it from their parents.’ If children repeat the sins of their parents, they will be punished for those sins, just like their parents were punished. God is just. But the great mercy of God is highlighted in the greatest numerical contrast in the bible. Third and fourth to thousands! God shows up to judge for three or four generations, but his steadfast love is for thousands! God will show his covenant faithfulness to thousands of those who love him by keeping his commandments.

1John 4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.

Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~

July 17, 2011 Posted by | Exodus, occasional | , , , , , | Leave a comment