2nd Commandment: You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations fo those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” (Exodus 20:4-6)
God gives the commandment, and He also gives reasoning: His character and possible outcomes of a person’s choice.
Command: Don’t make idols or likenesses of created things—don’t worship or serve anything except God.
God’s character: He is a jealous God
Outcome of disobedience: Iniquity of fathers affects the lives of generations after them
Outcome of obedience: God shows His lovingkindness to those who love Him and keep His commandments (sidenote: this verse equates worshiping and serving something with loving)
Observation: God’s command of what not to worship or serve is actually pretty broad/all-encompassing. He not just says “idols” but also any likeness of anything in existence, basically. When His people in ancient times thought of idols they would have thought of pagan images of supposed deities. Essentially, people have the ability to worship and serve anything they please. This is idolatry.
Psalm 135:15-18—Idol worship was rampant in OT times. These idols were actually in the image of people and other creatures, crafted from various materials. Those who make them will become like them—senseless! Really, man is just dust—rearranged dirt—and it is the Lord who gives us life (Psalm 103:14-18…God is loving and wants to share His life with us; Genesis 2:7—man formed from dirt, and GOD breathed life into him)
What about today? We don’t see the same kind of idols today.
Romans 1:28-32…People do whatever they feel is right. They are their own idol—self-worship.
Matthew 6:24—Jesus says one cannot serve God and wealth. If you love one, you’ll hate the other. If you are devoted to one, you’ll despise the other. Here, the word “wealth” is translated from the Aramaic word “mammon” which is wealth personified as an object of worship. So it is not necessarily bad to have certain things, but where is my heart? (Matt. 6:21). Remember, God is a jealous God. He is fully deserving of our devotion and love. Logically, based on this verse, I should hate and despise wealth. In other words, let’s be content. Seek God’s kingdom —the Lord Himself—and we’ll have everything we need (Matthew 6:31-34; Psalm 23:1)
The next couple weeks, I will be posting devotionals and studies on the Ten Commandments. Right here is a study on the 1st commandment.
The Ten Commandments—What do they mean for us today, as Christians?
The giving of the ten commandments, having been given to Moses by God are here relayed to God’s people, Israel. Exodus 20:1-17,
“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[a] me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image 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 parents 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 male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 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 male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
1st Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3
It is important to note that right before this, God reminded the people who He is and what He had done for them, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.”
He was their deliverer and redeemer who had given them not only freedom, but plunder to go along with it (Exodus 12:36), one day to enter the promised land, a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 6:6-8; 3:17). They were supposed to recognize that everything actually belongs to God (cf Haggai 2:8) and they were to honor Him from their wealth which He had given—and had yet to give. They were leaving the midst of a pagan nation, Egypt, to eventually enter the promised land, where they would have to drive out still more pagan nations. What pressure they must have faced—and succumbed to from time to time. Exodus 32—the golden calf. They used the gold which the Lord had given them as plunder from the Egyptians to make an idol. They forgot so quickly! They did not have their minds set on the right things.
The nature of a man has not changed through the centuries. Only how our sinful nature materially manifests changes.
The New Testament points this out.
Romans 1:18-25—people served created things rather than the Creator. People wanted to glorify themselves (vs 21-23). That created things can give us life is a lie (vs. 25).
Jesus quotes Deuteronomy in Matthew 22 . See Deuteronomy 6:1-12—Obey, enjoy relationship with God the Lord, their Creator; enjoy prosperity in a land they did not earn; BE CAREFUL NOT TO FORGET.
“But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together. One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” “ —Matthew 22:35-40
Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind. Key word: ALL. I can’t have split attention, motives, or goals. My purpose is to love God and love others as He loves them. God wants to redeem His creation—that has been His plan for His creation since the Garden of Eden.
The question is, do I have split attention, motives or goals or am I loving God with all my being? If my devotion is split, then I am putting something before God—making something else into a god.
The message from Deuteronomy 6:1-12 is also for us today:
-Enjoy relationship with God, our Creator—Colossians 1:15-20
-Obey Christ. Colossians 1:18—Christ should have first place in everything.
-BE CAREFUL NOT TO FORGET. —James 1:22-25…Look intently and seek to be changed by God’s word.
-Enjoy prosperity I did not earn—Partaking in the life of Christ. John 15:1-8…Fruit: proof of Christ’s life. We’ll have everything we need—whatever we ask in Jesus’ name.
Lord’s Supper: 1 Corinthians 11:23-29…Partaking in a worthy manner is partaking in, thereby proclaiming the Lord’s death. John 15:9-17…True love is acting on the attitude of being willing to lay down one’s life for others.
quick review from last week (vss. 18-27)--Suffering according to God’s will proves we are spiritual, children of God.
In the following verses, Paul builds on that:
—God is actually the one causing/allowing our suffering, and it is for our good—the good of those who love Him and love His purpose for them (the question is, “Do I?!”)
—God foreknew who would love Him and heed His call—these are the ones predestined to become conformed to Christ’s image (again, that is a suffering!)
—“brethren”…now we are in God’s family
God sees every man’s life from beginning to end before they are born. All are called, but not all listen and answer. God’s call is, “ I have a gift for you—new life. Just forsake the worthless one you have now.” God is justified in offering this life because of what Jesus accomplished on the cross. Those “justified” are the ones who receive this gift by faith. Now to hold onto it! At the end of their earthly life, the justified will then be glorified with Christ.
God is doing everything in His power so we will receive, hold onto, and fully experience His gift of life. All we have to do is love Him.
vss. 31-39 Describe how to love God. It is all about mindset.
vs 31. Know that no-one can take away my true life
vs 32. God will give us everything we need (nobody else can)
vs 33-34. Nobody except God can judge the value of our new life. Jesus is interceding for us that we would hold onto it.
vs 35-39. Through Christ, we overwhelmingly conquer everything that sets itself up against His love—within or outside ourselves
It can be concluded: Christ’s love is the most powerful force in existence. Eternal life is certain.
Colossians 3:1-4—Set my mind on it
John 15:9-17…Just abide. Hold onto Christ’s love no matter what, so that when the Father sees us, He sees Jesus and is pleased.
This post is meant to be read with a Bible in your hand. I recommend reading the scriptures for yourself as you follow along.
Suffering according to God’s will proves we are His children.
vs. 18a “sufferings of this present time”—everything we experience now, right?
18b. “not worthy to be compared to the glory yet to be revealed, “glory of the children”
19-21. Creation longing for revealing of the sons of God, as it will be set free from slavery to corruption—>futility
22. Creation groans, suffers pains of childbirth
23. We, having the Spirit, also groan, waiting for the redemption of our bodies
24-25…we can’t see it yet, so we need perseverance
26-27…the Spirit helps us in our weakness to pray (and live) in accordance to God’s will
Sufferings are opportunities to be proven spiritual—children of God.
Marks of a spiritual Christian
1 Peter 4:12-13—rejoicing in the midst of suffering…REWARD: See God’s glory
1 Corinthians 13:8-13—uncompromising in faith, hope and love…REWARD: fully know God
Revelation 21:1-8—Overcome. Don’t succumb again to cowardice, unbelief, immorality, idolatry, dishonesty…REWARD: experience eternal life in God’s presence. No more suffering, pain, sadness, thirst, hunger. Complete satisfaction.
Lord’s supper: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26—“proclaim the Lord’s death”—Am I willing to suffer as Jesus did? “until He comes”—is that all I am looking forward to? If the answer to both those questions is, “yes,” then I can partake with a good conscience, not eating and drinking condemnation to myself.
Let this be the year in which the meaning of life comes into much clearer focus.
(Yes, the pun came to mind first, but please read this with minute humorous undertones, as none are really intended)
These are my personal reflections which I hope you will also find useful. Feel free to share.
I understand that when people reflect about the meaning or purpose of one's own life, many different approaches occur. Some really take time and dig deep. Others don't feel they have time. They want to keep it simple because they have work to do. Every person falls along a spectrum. I can identify with both approaches. This is an attempt to state simply the deeper meaning of my own life, as it pertains to: relationships, community, health, career, and achievement. The goal of my writing is to build on the foundational observations of life; interpreting the meaning, motives, or purposes behind each; and applying my understanding of those to affect positive change in others' lives and my own life.
It is safe to say that I would be nowhere without my personal relationships--that is why I would like to address this first. Two aspects of relationship-building particularly resonate with me right now: intentionality and transparency. Every relationship is important--even those I don't think of on a daily basis. I'm at a time in my life when my family is more spread out, geographically, than we have ever been. Making the most of the time we have together is of upmost importance. First, we have to be very intentional about setting time aside to be with one another. This takes sacrifice. However, just being together isn't enough. We also have to choose how we interact with one another while we are together. People can be in the same room but be completely disengaged with the potential for bonding and communion. This is where transparency comes in. I am finding the more vulnerable I make myself--letting my faults and struggles be made known--the more likely I am to receive the respect, love and support every person so desperately needs (whether they admit it or not). I have to let go of my pride. The most important human relationship to nurture is the one I have with my wife. The longer we have been married, the more I realize the beauty of the design of marriage: we are two very unique people with sets of traits, skills, interests, abilities, goals, and dreams. Even so, we are one person; that is, we are meant to be one in purpose, one in mission, one in a very real--shared--life. Every little thing I do affects Allison, and everything she does affects me. This takes a mutual commitment to lay down our lives for one another. The problem with me is I tend toward selfishness. The selfishness which not only manifests as material concerns but also a hesitancy to communicate everything with her. This includes my goals for our life together, desires for our family, and also simply how I am feeling and thinking about things.
Essentially, I am coming to realize that we are not our own. When we were engaged almost 10 years ago, we went through marriage counseling with our pastor and his wife. We met for several weeks, but two words still stand out to me as the best advice I have ever gotten regarding marriage: SHARE EVERYTHING.
I think that very sound advice can be generalized to most other relationships, though with a measure of discretion. (Nobody except God--and perhaps myself--will ever know me better than my wife!) Allison and I now have 3 kids who are growing faster than either of us is comfortable with. As they mature, certain bumps in the road--accompanied by unexpected joy--happen which sometimes throw us for a loop. Sometimes we don't respond the way we should, but we are truly trying to take hold of the fact that we are called to raise, teach, nurture, and discipline our own kids. We know that is a calling because these three gifts have been so graciously given us.
As a public school music teacher, I have witnessed too many families who do not have this vision. It is hard on the kids. I as their teacher have to be very intentional about getting to know them. I also have to be transparent so they can learn to trust me as a person and a facilitator of their learning.
As personal relationships are strengthened, community can be built. Everyone is an individual and has something to share. My job as a music teacher is really a calling to see the potential in people, help draw it out, and facilitate the sharing process wherein each individual finds their place in the community of music-makers. I constantly have to exercise my creativity in not only demonstrating and teaching the music, but also in facilitating the discovery process. As an introvert, this can be taxing on particularly my emotional energy, but it is well worth the effort! I love seeing my kids enjoy working as part of a team to achieve something very worthwhile and fun.
If I was honest with myself, I have to admit I do not always have fun in my work. Challenges which oftentimes seem beyond my ability to overcome present themselves. These challenges, largely due to what I perceive as a culture shift, come by way of organizational changes, student misbehaviors, miscommunication, and my own areas for growth. All of these are amplified by some health issues which over the last few years have eroded my self-confidence. I have epilepsy. In 2017, I had brain surgery to correct my condition. For two years, I was seizure-free, but I had an absence seizure at school this last August at the beginning of the school year. Allison drives me to and from school every day. Don't get me wrong, it's great spending extra time with her and the kids (and she likes the routine to start the homeschool day with the kids), but I'm sure you can imagine the inconvenience of not having the same measure of independence. I have also been experiencing hearing loss since 2012. This year, it has gotten measurably worse--even in what was my "good" ear. The most frustrating thing is that nobody can pinpoint exactly why and how I am experiencing this hearing loss. I tried a couple different types of hearing aids, and nothing has helped.
A music teacher who can't hear! I experience frustration daily. The only way to get through each day is to optimistically adapt, experiment, and hope. Some days I do better than others. The best days are those in which student leaders become empowered and I can just get out of the way and let the music happen. I think I have been too "product" focused. The creative process is key. That is when people discover who they are.
This leads me to my culminating point in answering the question, "what is the purpose of life?" Of everything I could focus on this year, the most important thing to think about is what kind of person I want to be.
I think a good metaphor for life is a running race course. In High School, I ran cross country--a sport in which you compete as a part of a team against other teams, always trying to come out on top at the end of the 5k. I realize now the real battle was against the course obstacles, the environmental elements, my own fitness, and my mental resilience. Even runners on other teams could help me run my best race as I paced off them and got a shot of adrenaline with each one I passed. In the end, all that matters is that runners finish, HAVING RUN HIS OR HER BEST RACE.
So it is in life. There will always be challenges in building and maintaining relationships; finding and contributing to a wholesome community; growing in skills relevant to my career path; and balancing it all in faith. When the end comes, I want to be found faithful, having not compromised anything--especially relationships--for the quick, easy, selfish path. So what is the prize at the end of this race called "life?" What I want to see is the completion of a perfecting process:
"For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
Now, I'll end with a Star Wars quote. (Don't worry, I don't think this is much of a spoiler). In the newest film, one of the characters recounts events from Return of the Jedi, "We had each other. That's how we won."
When the odds seem impossible in any situation, let's not forget we have each other. This is my 2020 vision: Nobody can go it alone. Let's not try. Let's not leave anyone--family, friends, students, coworkers, strangers on the street--to carry the burden of preserving their own life. I'm determined to be an overcomer. What that is going to take is moving beyond my self-pity, pride, and selfishness and being faithful to my calling with the strength God provides.
Let's not build ourselves up or tear others down for selfish gain. Let's work together to overcome this world with faith, hope and love.