Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 4 Feb 18:
1. Exodus 19:5 – “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine.” God’s blessings to the Israelites were conditional. God demands obedience.
2. Exodus 19:6 – “you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” God has always expected His people to be His priests – “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9) Do you see yourself as a priest? Do others recognize you as a priest?
3. Exodus 19:11 – “Be ready for the third day. For on the third day the Lord will come….” Do you see the parallel with Jesus’ resurrection?
4. Exodus 19:22 – “Let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves.” Approach the Lord with holiness and purity.
5. Exodus 20:1-17 – The first four commandments deal with our relationship with God. The remainder of the commandments deal with our relationships with others. However, they should not be considered as independent from one another. If we fail in any of the last six, we have already broken the first commandment and the Great Commandment.
6. Exodus 20:3 – “You shall have no other gods before me.” God will not accept you prioritizing something ahead of Him. Anything that influence your decisions more than God is your god at the moment, and idol. The first priority is to put God truly first in your heart, in all that you think, all that you say, and all that you do.
7. Exodus 20:4 – “You shall not make for yourself a carved image.” God is spiritual, unseen, and quintessential [beyond the five (quint) senses of hearing, seeing, tasting, feeling, and smelling. We are to worship Him as He is, not attempting to limit His essence by our imaginations. Whether we intend to worship it or not, we should never make an image of God, regardless of the justification we contrive. We are not only incapable of portraying God, we are forbidden from doing so. This commandment actually addresses the sinful nature of our hearts that is constantly trying to create the God of our imagination, one that looks like us and has our attributes. God created man, and man has been trying to create God ever since. It may seem innocent enough to create a statue or image of God, but if you meditate upon this deeply, you will realize just how inappropriate this is. God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth.
8. Exodus 20:7 — “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” Careless use of God’s name or careless words about Him show a complete disrespect for Him. God will not be disrespected. This commandment is closely related to the first commandment and the Great Commandment of total love for God. What we say reveals what is in our hearts. Loose words about God reveal a lack of Fear and love for Him.
9. Exodus 20:20 — “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” Notice that the Bible says in this one verse, “Do not fear,” and then says we should “fear” Him. The first “fear” involves dread, while the second fear involves reverence, overwhelming respect and appreciation. Sin comes from a lack of reverence for God. The Bible says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18) When you love God, you have no desire to sin and, therefore, have no fear of punishment. When you are guided by love, you don’t need laws to constrain you. You will be able to say, “The love of Christ controls us.” (2 Corinthians 5:14)
10. Psalm 14:1 – “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Nothing has changed.
11. Psalm 14:1 – “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.” The obvious point of this verse is that atheism is utterly foolish. The less obvious point is that all sin (foolishness) is, essentially, a moment of saying, ‘There is no God.’ In sin, God has been removed from the decision-making cycle or rendered a non-factor. When the atheist rejects God, he essentially makes himself the god of his life — the one to be served, the decider of right and wrong, the only hope for salvation, etc. That person, though (s)he may appear fun-loving or respectable, is corrupt at the core and guaranteed to do abominable deeds. On the other hand, the believer who sins has become his own god (idol) for the moment. The first letter in “idol” is “I”. When we make ourselves the priority against the First Commandment, we become the embodiment of foolishness, we become corrupt, and we are guaranteed to do abominable things. So, to restate the point — This verse does not apply just (or even primarily) to those self-proclaimed, at times outspoken, atheists out there; but also more importantly to the ‘practical atheist’, that person who proudly proclaims faith, but who thinks, speaks, and acts as if there is really no God. It is the person who proclaims faith without a true heart of faith that is perhaps most troubling because they, by their actions, bear false witness of the Lord before others; they proclaim a weak god of poor character. These are they who Jesus says, “because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16) The practical atheist may believe ‘in God’ (as the demons do) but doesn’t believe God to love, trust, and obey Him. Counter to Hebrews 11:6, the practical atheist doesn’t believe God means what He says. The Practical atheist doesn’t take seriously the call to be a critical part of “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6). The practical atheist does not take Exodus 20 very seriously. The practical atheist recklessly takes matters into his own hands without waiting on God. (Exodus 14:14) Psalm 15 points out today that the true believer is revealed by how they treat others — truthfully, fairly, compassionately, graciously, generously, etc; the true believer never takes advantage of those less fortunate (such as by lending money with interest – profiting from God’s blessings), and the true believer obeys God regardless the personal cost. (Psalm 15:4) Whenever we sin, we are essentially, at least for a brief moment, saying that God is not Lord. What a terrible thing. We must never take sin lightly as it is an affront to God. It is a constant daily endeavor to ensure that your Savior remains the Lord and Savior of your heart.
12. Psalm 14:4 – “Evildoers… eat up… people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?” Sin is self-centeredness and selfishness that violates the First Commandment and the Great Commandment. Self-centered, selfish people always hurt themselves and others. We were created to be interdependent. Outside of love, you are like a fish out of water, struggling violently and hopelessly for life, only expediting death the more you struggle. Jesus is the Living Water required for life.
13. Psalm 14:5 – “There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.” Again, we have a tendency to think in the physical realm and apply physical rules to the spiritual God. We tend to think of God being “with” us in terms of time and space – He is physically here and then He is physically not here. However, God is spirit and is not bound by the physical attributes of time and space. Being with God or walking with God is a spiritual condition that is determined by the heart condition and by obedience. God is omnipresent and unchanging. We choose to separate from God and lose awareness of His omnipresence when we choose to separate from Him in sin. He is still present, but we become blind to His presence. We are like an out of tune radio that cannot receive the unseen radio waves that are being transmitted continually. The radio waves don’t change; it is the radio that must be adjusted.
14. Psalm 15: 1, 4 – “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” Presence with God is an issue of the heart and requires obedience that is motivated by love. God does not expect you to overlook the sins of the unrepentant.
15. Psalm 15:1, 5 – “Who shall dwell on your holy hill?…. who does not put out his money at interest.” God does not intend for His people to lend money with interest. Money was originally intended to replace objects in trade. For example, rather than transferring a sheep, a person could transfer the worth of a sheep without the burden of logistics. However, interest adds no tangible (object) value but only transfers wealth from one person to another. Interest takes advantage of another person’s need. In most cases, one person needs or wants something they can’t afford, so they essentially give someone else who can afford it more than it is really worth. Interest creates a debt that makes a richer person richer and a poorer person poorer. The original word for debt is a word derived from another word meaning “snakebite: — it takes life from you slowly. The only time Jesus displayed violence directed at others was when He attacked the moneychangers in the temple, calling them thieves. There are many ways to gain wealth, and many ways merely transfer wealth rather than adding real value (production). God wants His people to add value to the lives of others.
16. Psalm 15:5 – “He who does these things shall never be moved.” One last time – this is a spiritual statement meaning never moved from the presence of God. You can be “with” God anywhere and under any circumstances, all depending on your faith, trust, love, and obedience.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 Feb 18: Memorize the Ten Commandments. If you already know them from memory, teach someone else.