Lent preaching series – The First Commandment

17 Feb

This is the second part of this year’s Lent series at Ascension Church, focusing on the 10 commandments. This is my talk, due to be done later this morning.

~ ~ ~

My focus for this talk is just going to be 2 verses, Exodus 20:2-3, the first commandment.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

You shall have no other gods before me.”

And the first question that I asked when looking at this was “What is God saying?” Looking at the words, it divides itself up into 2 parts, which are, quite helpfully, verse 2 and verse 3!

Verse 2 is a reminder of who God is and what He has done.

He has:

  • Brought the Israelites out of Egypt, where they were slaves
  • Protected them from their enemies, both the Egyptians and the Amalekites
  • Provided food and drink for them in the desert

AND SO ALSO

  • Been the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob
  • Fulfilled a promise to Abraham, that he would have descendants numbering more than the stars
  • Saved their ancestors from famine by taking them into Egypt in the first place

Indeed, in the run up to this verse God shows His power with thunder, lightning, cloud and a trumpet blast.

The second part, in verse 3, God says what the agreement is if they are to be His people:

  • No other gods before/besides Him

And with this He is very clear. It’s not:

  • No other gods when you feel like it
  • No other gods at weekends
  • No other gods during the day

It’s none of these or any other exceptions. It is simply this:

  • No other gods AT ALL!

Why is this? Searching through the Bible I have found 9 mentions of God being a jealous God. All except 2 are in either Exodus or Deuteronomy. God is jealous for our attention. He wants it all, and rightly so. He is God!

But a new question now arises. Why? Why does God set these rules? Why is He jealous?

The answer is a simple one, God wants relationship.

We only have to look back to Genesis to see this:

  • Garden of Eden – God walks with Adam and Eve

God walks in the garden with Adam and Eve and they meet as you or I do, face to face.

  • On day 6, God created us so that we could have a relationship with Him

We were not created as a random whim of God’s; He created us in His image, so that we could have a relationship with Him.

  • God IS Trinity

God exists in relationship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is in His nature for Him to seek relationship, thus we are created to also seek relationship.

God knows who He is and how amazing and awesome His is. He knows the appropriate level of relationship between humans and Him and how we should behave towards Him. So God sets up an appropriate model with this commandment – I am your God and will look after you; you are my people and you won’t go running off whenever you feel like it. Yes, it is on God’s terms. But if we believe that God is perfect and just then the terms He sets are also perfect and just.

Also, God seeks to set a standard that His people can apply to their lives in every way.

For example, in Hosea we see the comparison between sexual adultery and spiritual adultery, where Hosea is told by God to marry a prostitute and then suffer the shame, ridicule and pain of seeing her go off with other men. God then tells Hosea that this pain that he is feeling is only a fraction of how He feels when His people run off to other gods. Wayward Israel is compared to a prostitute.

And so we now come to look at how this applies to us.

God wants a relationship with each of us. Not a shallow acquaintance relationship where at best we acknowledge Him every now and then, but a deep relationship. In a survey taken amongst young people, it was found that despite modern technology and social media, 53% of young people still feel lonely. All too often we can see or portray God as a therapist or a butler. God wants more. God doesn’t want to be our Facebook friend; he wants to be meeting us face to face and heart to heart.

We can often chase after width rather than depth, head knowledge or a busy church social life, rather than heart knowledge of God. But no depth means that the relationship with God can’t grow. It is like the parable of the sower and the seeds in shallow soil. They die in the sun because they don’t have their roots in a deep relationship with God, the good soil.

In Psalm 42, David writes about deep calling to deep. Deep relationship calling to deep God. A deep relationship in God helps us find our true identity, our identity in Christ. When we find our identity in Christ, we are no longer bound up in the ideas that the world would have us label ourselves with. We are no longer our sexuality, our broadband speed, our number of friends (on Facebook or otherwise), our car or our job. When we find our identity in Christ we are no longer bound by ungodly ideas of who we are but free to be who we were made to be in Christ Jesus.

This is why God sets this commandment to the Israelites, why He sets it first and why it is still relevant today. Because it frees us to live for Him.

And when deep calls to deep, even when it seems like there is no end to the sun that is beating down on us, we keep going because God keeps going.

When deep calls to deep we keep going, because He keeps going! (This last line must be credited to Ali Etheridge, director of SoulNet)

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