04 January 2011

A Survey of the Old Testament Law------ "You shall have no other gods before Me"



Last week we knocked at the door of the Law of God, but this week we are going to finally step over the threshold and study, in earnest, the commands in this Law, and what they mean for—not only us, but all of humanity. Because if a person is not in Christ, they must keep every last bit of this Law. We took a peek at the first commandment, and in this commandment we saw that God revealed Who He was, and reminded the people of What He had done for them and that He required their obedience to Him. What we’re going to do now is to open up that command a little further and see what it truly means to render all of our worship to God and God alone.

Exodus 20:1-31 Then 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.” Or, rather, “You shall have no other gods besides Me.” He’s not telling us that we put Him at the head of the line in front of our own little group of gods. He’s saying, “You worship Me and Me alone! I am God, and no one else is. You are not to give your worship to anyone other than Me. PERIOD. PARAGRAPH. END OF STORY.”

There’s a couple of big fancy words that we’re gonna look at real quick. The first is “monotheism.” It simply means believing that there is only one God—one God who is supreme over everything in creation. Then there is “polytheism” which refers to the belief in “[many] gods or invisible beings superior to man, and having [a role] in the [control] of the world” (Webster's Dictionary). God is commanding the people to practice “monotheism”—God is God and only God is any kind of God. That God is the only true God. This was a very unusual thing at this time, since nearly every “civilization” and every people group were worshipping their own set of ‘gods’—plural. To worship only one God was almost unheard of. But you know what? God doesn’t care. He doesn’t care how “unusual” it is—in fact, He’s telling the people to not be like all the other people around them. If that’s how God wants it—that’s how He gets it!

Not only that, He does not need any help being God. And this is the aspect of His Deity (or, Godness) that we’re going to focus on today. We could study any number of teachings about God’s power, but what we’re going to hone in on is His Sovereignty. The word “sovereign” is a fancy way of saying God is “Supreme in power. Superior to all others; chief, or predominant” (Webster's). We’re going to look at how God is Supreme and Sovereign over Creation. First, in His creating the universe. Second, in His sustaining the universe. Third, that He will be perfectly righteous when He brings this universe—as we know it—to an end. So, let’s begin.

God is Sovereign in Creating the Universe. Genesis 1:1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Who helped Him? No one! In the book of Job—we’ve all heard of the patience of Job? Well, he gets kinda whiny there towards the end. And finally, God reveals Himself to Job by asking Job a series of questions that show God to be the truly great God that He is. Job 38:1-11Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: “Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth and issued from the womb; when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band; when I fixed My limit for it, and set bars and doors; when I said, ‘This far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop!’” And God goes on for 125 verses, asking this man question after question asking the same thing—“Who are you? And Who am I?”

And this is the question we have to ask ourselves from time to time, Amen? You can go to the website of the Hubble Telescope, and see pictures from billions—even trillions—of light years away. And when you consider that a light year is billions of miles—I think you get the idea of how huge this universe is. You can see all these stars that make the sun look like a pimple. All these galaxies and swirly things that are millions of miles across. And these scientists will tell you these things “just happened. They just evolved over billions of years.”

WRONG!

All of those stars and galaxies and whatever else out there—not one of those things was not created by God. In the first chapter of the book of John, our Lord Jesus Christ is referred to as the “Word of God.” John 1:1-41 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. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. It was by the Word of God that the first human being received his life. That Word of God created all the things we see—and everything we don’t see. Colossians 1:15-16—[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And it was God Himself who designed our bodies. These bodies did not evolve over “billions of years”—God put these bodies together. 1st Corinthians 12:18But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And God’s fingerprint is all over the universe, and the stars and the galaxies and our bodies and in fact all over this earth that He created. However, the man who does not want to believe that there is a God who is the Supreme King and Lord over all creation—that person will convince himself that the lie is the truth.

I like how Young's Literal Translation renders Psalm 14:1--A fool hath said in his heart, “God is not.” The fool looks at this huge universe, that is somewhere in the neighborhood of 800,000 gazillion miles in every direction and says, “Eh, it just happened. Luck of the draw and all that.” The apostle Paul said something about that person. Romans 1:18-25 (ESV)For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools…For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. Catch that? Everything that was created by God points to God. It was not an explosion in the middle of a forest that caused this podium to exist—somebody fashioned it with their hands (and, maybe, a planer and a nail gun). A creation is evidence of a Creator.

Which brings us to point #2, God is Sovereign in Sustaining His Creation. Do we sometimes find ourselves in a situation seems almost impossible? And, sometimes our situation is overwhelming for us. It’s overwhelming for—who? US. But listen to this exchange between the prophet Jeremiah and the LORD God, beginning with Jeremiah speaking in Jeremiah 32:24-25“‘They have come to the city to take it; and the city has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans who fight against it, because of the sword and famine and pestilence. What You have spoken has happened; there You see it! And You have said to me, O Lord GOD, “Buy the field for money, and take witnesses!”—yet the city has been given into the hand of the Chaldeans.’” Here’s this great man of God, this man who has spoken with God and that was told by God Himself that God had chosen him to be a prophet to the nations—and what is this man’s concern? What is he saying? He’s saying, “Excuse me, Lord YHVH, you told me to buy these lands and the fields. But all the land belongs to our enemies.” Do you think God might have known that? But don’t we sometimes feel like God needs our advice from time to time? Don’t we have a tendency to say, “Yes, God, that is good. But I think I've got an idea that might be just a little bit better”? Or, maybe, “Well, OK, Lord, but there’s all these obstacles in the way.” And He asks us, “Have you forgotten who you're talking to?” We need those little reminders sometimes.

And God gives the prophet one of those little reminders in Jeremiah 32:27“Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” What’s ironic about God asking this of Jeremiah is, back in Jeremiah 32:17, the prophet says to God Himself, “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” So God reminds the prophet, “Hey, remember what you said about Me not too long ago? Do you really believe it? Then let Me show you.” Now, let’s put all of these pieces together. God created everything in the universe—by Himself. When God tells us to do something that may seem impossible to us, do you think He’s saying it, not knowing the whole situation? Soooo, what does that mean for us? It means this: that no matter what is going on in our lives, we can always trust God to know what He’s doing. It may not be comfortable for us—but is it ever about our comfort? No, never. So if He wants to put us under a bridge somewhere, He is perfectly righteous in doing so. I think all of us would say that isn't the first place we’d want to be. But if that’s where He puts us, then His will be done.

It’s His creation, He holds it together, and He can do with it as He pleases. Can He cover the planet with a flood? Genesis 7:19And the waters prevailed exceedingly on the earth, and all the high hills under the whole heaven were covered. Can He cause the sun to stand still in the sky? Joshua 10:12-13Then Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon; and Moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the people had revenge upon their enemies. Can we do any of those things? Yet with all of His power, He still personally cares for His creation. God said to Job, in Job 38:35-41“Can you send out lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, 'Here we are!'? Who has put wisdom in the mind? Or who has given understanding to the heart? Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can pour out the bottles of heaven, when the dust hardens in clumps, and the clods cling together? Can you hunt the prey for the lion, or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, when they crouch in their dens, or lurk in their lairs to lie in wait? Who provides food for the raven, when its young ones cry to God, and wander about for lack of food?” This same God who sends the rain to fall on the earth, who provides food for the animals in the wild is the same God who provides all of our needs. Matthew 6:26-32“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them…Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field…will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” Not only is God in complete control of every inch of creation, but He always takes care of the needs of His children.

Finally, God will be Sovereign in Re-Creating the Universe. Listen to 2nd Peter 3:10But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. One day, sometime in the future, all those who know Christ as their Lord and Savior will be in Paradise, in the presence of the Lord. And all those who do not know Him will be standing at the Great White Throne from which they will be cast into the eternal torment of the Lake of Fire. All the things we know will be done away with. 1st Corinthians 15:24-27Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. The saints will be in Heaven. The lost will be in Hell. All sin will have been purged. And at this time God will cause the earth to burn up into a pile of ash. All the stars, all the galaxies will disintegrate, and all things will become new. Revelation 21:1-5Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God…There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Then He who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

What can we make new? Ecclesiastes 1:9There is nothing new under the sun. Anything we make can only be made from things have been contaminated by sin. When God created His universe, everything was perfect—who screwed it up? And when the time comes, God will take what is rightfully His, do away with it, and create a place that will never be touched by sin. A place that will never decay, where there will be no sickness or death since it is because of sin that there is sickness and death. Where there is no sin there is no sickness or death. And all those in the presence of God will finally give Him the full glory that He deserves because we will see Him in all of His perfection and glory, and we will see the scene that the apostle John saw in Revelation 5:11-13Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Because He and He alone is God.

Jesus Christ is Lord. Amen.

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