Reverence as a Warning Against Idolatry

January 30, 2015 at 3:38 pm | Posted in Exodus | 5 Comments
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When the people received the Decalogue – these “words” from God – they were not curious, amused, or entertained. They were not joyful, peaceful, or excited. They were terrified – scared to death!

And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And Moses said unto the people, Fear not: for God is come to prove you, and that his fear may be before your faces, that ye sin not. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.

Exodus 20:18-21

They were afraid the Word of God would kill them. I don’t think we need to be superstitious, nor even reluctant, to get our Bibles out, but we do need to approach the Bible with reverence. “What is God saying to me in this Book?” is a relevant question. “Do I need to take this seriously?” is not. Taking it seriously is a given. We need to “fear” the Word of the Lord, too.

We may see the Words of the Decalogue as regular guidelines for how we would expect to see Christians living, going along with what Moses said in Exodus 20:20, that God will use these to “test” His people. Obedience to these commands is what should be “normal” for true Christians.

The next section of the Law is sometimes called the “Covenant Code.” It probably begins in Exodus 20:22, although many scholars think it begins in 21:1.

And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ye have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. Ye shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall ye make unto you gods of gold.

Exodus 20:22-23

This is the first reminder that God impresses upon Moses to warn them about, although it was abundantly clear before, because this would be their first big temptation. It is precisely what they would soon be doing with the golden calf.

An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings, and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it.

Exodus 20:24-25

A material altar would be necessary for sacrificial worship, but, in contrast to the heathen practices, it would not be elaborate or ornate – or man-made. They would use God’s materials and keep it simple – partly because it couldn’t be permanent for people on the move – but also to illustrate that their works were not impressive to God. His works are superior, and He is more interested in the condition of our hearts than our man-made surroundings.

However, this did not mean that worship of Yahweh was to be less reverential than pagan worship. It was to be more so.

Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.

Exodus 20:26

Almost all pagan worship was sexually-charged and immoral. Yahweh-worship was to be chaste and modest – in the extreme – to highlight the difference and the comparative purity.

Catechism Question 16

January 26, 2015 at 1:56 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 2 Comments
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Question 15: What did Jesus do while He was here on earth?
Answer: He lived a perfect, sinless life.
Prove it.
John 8:29

Question 16: How was Jesus treated here on earth?
Answer: He was hated, rejected, and falsely accused.
Prove it.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Isaiah 53:3

Jesus of Nazareth, the most kind, loving, compassionate person Who ever walked the face of the earth, was held, at least part of the time, by at least a certain segment of the populace, in varying levels of esteem. There were even those who loved Him and honored Him to a degree. Some even worshiped and adored and learned from His teaching. Yet the overall tenor of His sojourn through this world was scorn, ridicule, abuse, and persecution. Why?

Because He was the light Who came into the world to expose the evil of human beings who loved their sin and did not want it exposed. Because He divided the true from the false, and division is seldom comfortable. Because Satan was motivating his followers to attack and oppose Christ’s ministry and mission. Because He challenged the status quo of false religion and the greed and self-righteousness of the religious leaders and system of that day.

Other verses to consider:

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5

But they cried out, Away with [him], away with [him], crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.

John 19:15

Beware Flaky Firmness

January 20, 2015 at 4:03 pm | Posted in Biblical Walking, The Fives | 1 Comment
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In the days when Christ Jesus walked in Jerusalem there was, near the sheep gate of the city, a pool called Bethesda. People with diseases, injuries, paralysis, and other maladies came to this pool to wait for the water to be stirred. There was a belief that an angel came periodically, and swirled the waters with healing power, but only the first one into the pool would receive the healing. One of the people there was a man who had been disabled for a long time, and he caught the attention of Jesus:

And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.

John 5:5

The Bible says that the man had an “infirmity,” which means that he lacked “firmness” or strength in his body. Either through inability, or through a secret fear that healing would entail completely changing the way he had lived for 38 years, he had never been the first one into the water.

Jesus ignored the pool and healed the man with a simple verbal command: “Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.” With that display of divine power, the Lord vanished into the crowd. The Jewish leaders, who were opposed to the ministry of Christ, found the man and chastised him for carrying his bed on the Sabbath.

Later, Jesus saw the man in the Temple, and said:

… Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

John 5:14

In doing so, Christ reminded the man that the “firmness” he had been given by God must be spiritual and moral firmness to match his physical firmness. Each and every one of us came into this world stricken with the infirmity of sin. We had no power to walk with the Lord, or to love or glorify God on our own. However, when Christ saves a sinner, and heals his soul, He does not do so merely for our happiness. He does it so that we have the ability and the inclination to now serve Him righteously. We must remember not to be “flaky” Christians, grateful one day and bitter the next, faithful one day and fearful the next, active one day and complacent the next. The Lord wants our “firmness” to be a constant victorious reminder of our former infirmity and glorious healing.

The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole.

John 5:15

The Mountain No One Can Climb Alone

January 14, 2015 at 12:55 pm | Posted in Matthew, Salvation | 8 Comments
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Matthew Chapter 5 contains the first part of the “Sermon on the Mount,” and includes the “Beatitudes.”  Since we know that Matthew stresses Christ Jesus in His role as King, we may read this sermon as the King’s creed – the guiding and foundational principles of His Kingdom.

Since we also know that the book of Matthew was written primarily to the Jewish people, we may now unlock the significance of Matthew Chapter 5, Verse 1:  “And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:”  The Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to make a point of saying that Jesus “went up into a mountain” in order to call to mind the differences between the law that Christ the King was about to pronounce, and the law that Moses gave on Mount Sinai.

And, like everything in the Old Testament which is a shadow (Hebrews 10:1) or a type of the New Covenant, the law of Christ is “more perfect” than the law of Moses (Hebrews 8:5-7).  Examples:  Moses said, give God a tithe (one tenth); Christ says, surrender everything you have to God; Moses said, do not kill; Christ says, do not even hate your enemies; Moses said, do not commit adultery; Christ says, do not even look at a woman with lust in your heart; Moses said, give God a day (the Sabbath); Christ says, give God every moment of every day of your life.

It quickly becomes clear in Matthew Chapter 5 that the kind of rule-keeping and regulation-following it would take to truly achieve “righteousness” under God’s law is impossible for man to obtain.  Only Christ’s righteousness is sufficient for the Kingdom of Heaven.  Has that righteousness been imputed to you by faith?  If not, trust and obey Jesus Christ the King right now. (Romans 4:22-25)

Practical Sovereignty

January 12, 2015 at 2:30 pm | Posted in Habakkuk | 1 Comment
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God is steadfast. He keeps His Word. God is strong. He is also sovereign.

But the LORD is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.

Habakkuk 2:20

He is on the throne and in complete control of all events and people in the world. Once we realize this, we can stop fearing the future – the fear of the unknown.

Many Christians are plagued by fear. “What if I get sick? What if people are talking negatively about me? What if I lose all my material possessions?” If we don’t really believe that God is in control – that He’s sovereign – then our anxiety has a rational basis. Or if we imagine that He needs our help – that there are some situations we’ve gotten ourselves into that He couldn’t have forseen, and therefore might not be able to rescue us. But if we act that way in a crisis – if we fall to pieces every time the car breaks down, every time the weather says a storm is showing up on the radar – then let’s at least be honest. Let’s admit that we think it’s kind of cool to be church-going people, but we only have faith in God when He’s explaining everything to us ahead of time.

God told Habakkuk, “I’m in control. I’m on the throne. I don’t owe you an explanation – and you couldn’t handle it if I gave you one.” When we grasp that – really grasp it and internalize it and not just not recognize it as a thought in our heads, but rather incorporate it into our hearts – then we will step out in true faith – a faith that goes beyond Christian CDs, Christian DVDs, key chains, bumper stickers, t-shirts, compartmentalized living. We will move from from saying, “What can Jesus do for me?” into saying, “Jesus, what would You have me to do?”

The Horizontal Words

January 7, 2015 at 10:25 am | Posted in Exodus | 9 Comments
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The first four “Words” of the Decalogue are the so-called “vertical” words or commandments. They deal with the relationship between God and man. Starting with number five, the commandments are “horizontal.” They deal with our relationships with each other. Remember the summation of the Decalogue: Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength – and your neighbor as yourself.

The horizontal words begin with the relationship between children and parents.

Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Exodus 20:12

The provision, “that thy days may be long upon the earth,” is not really a promise that if you obey your parents you will live longer. It’s really more of a reference to “the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee,” meaning Canaan, the promised land. It expresses the idea that, if the elderly are not honored and respected, then in three or four generations the nation will lose the blessing that God gives it. It is also a reference to caring for the elderly.

Thou shalt not kill.

Exodus 20:13

The “killing” that is prohibited in this Word is unjustified killing, so that, depending upon circumstances, war, capital punishment within government-sanctioned laws, and self-defense are still permissible.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Exodus 20:14

Notice that adultery is listed right after murder. It is a sin that is a reflection of the loyalty to God that His people are supposed to have. It is the most extreme kind of unfaithfulness. It is worse than talking bad about your spouse, insulting your spouse in public, refusing to provide food and shelter for your spouse, even worse than physical abuse – everything but killing your spouse. Sex is only for married people, and it is only to be done within a one man-one woman marriage relationship.

Thou shalt not steal.

Exodus 20:15

The eighth Word highlights God’s endorsement of private property – which would have held special significance for former slaves such as the Israelites.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Exodus 20:16

The ninth Word prohibits perjury, but, by extension, all other forms or lying or deceit as well. In the Bible, a “neighbor” is more than the person who lives next door to you. It is anyone with whom you deal. The commandment also prohibits spreading lies about others to damage their reputation.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.

Exodus 20:17

The examples in the commandment against coveting are intended as an illustrative, not an exclusive, list of things not to covet. Covetousness is a desire to have for myself what God has given to another. It includes the sins of greed, dissatisfaction, discontentment, ingratitude, scheming, and envy. It is the only “word” that is unenforceable by the government, but it is not listed last because it is a lesser sin. It is listed last to highlight the idea that it is the sin that can cause us to break all the others. The greatest remedy to covetousness is contentment, and the only way to true contentment is faith that God really does know what is best.

Biblical Marriage

January 5, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | 2 Comments
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Several years ago my family and I belonged to a church which had a high incidence of marriage problems and divorce among the members. The Lord helped us to see a need and He provided the opportunity for us to start hosting married-couples Bible studies in our home on alternate Friday nights. This turned out to be a great blessing for us, and for a few other couples and families, and we kept it up (albeit less frequently) for a number of years. When we moved to a different church, I was given the opportunity to teach a “young married” Sunday School class, which I still enjoy doing to this day.

On January 3, 2009, the first post on The Deep End went public. It’s not strictly a marriage blog, but, since the word “anniversary” always reminds me of marriage, and since the Lord has blessed me with an awesome wife and an awesome marriage, I wanted to take the occasion of the completion of six years blogging to provide links for the posts under the category called “Biblical Marriage.”

1. The Husband of One Wife – Part 1
2. The Husband of One Wife – Part 2
3. The Blessings of an Unhappy Marriage Part 1
4. The Blessings of an Unhappy Marriage Part 2
5. God Is Real, God Is Good, and God is REALLY GOOD!
6. Mysteriously Meaningful Marriage Part 1
7. Mysteriously Meaningful Marriage Part 2
8. Reverence in Marriage (Part 1)
9. Reverence in Marriage (Part 2)
10. Marrying and Burying
11. I’m Just Sayin’ 8 (Genesis 2:18)
12. The Marriage Curse *
13. Desire in Marriage
14. A Designer Marriage
15. A Marriage of Flesh and Bones
16. Whose Idea WAS this Marriage?
17. The POV of Marriage
18. Marriage: The Long and the Short of It
19. Regaining What Was Lost in Marriage
20. The Problem of Shame in Marriage
21. The Solution to the Problem of Shame in Marriage
22. Suffering in Marriage
23. LONGsuffering in Marriage
24. Be Kind to Your Spouse
25. Objections to Being Kind to Your Spouse
26. Jump-Starting Your Marriage
27. Performing a Biopsy on Your Marriage
28. Getting the Puffiness Out of Your Marriage
29. More Testing for Puffiness in Your Marriage
30. A C.A.L.M. and Courteous Marriage
31. A C.A.L.M. and Accommodating Marriage
32. A C.A.L.M. and Longsuffering Marriage
33. A C.A.L.M. and Merciful Marriage
34. The Right Kind of Rejoicing in Marriage
35. Fooling Around with Celibacy in Marriage
36. Having a F.I.N.E. Marriage
37. Getting Busy in Marriage
38. Smart Phones and Marriage
39. Marital Espionage
40. A Concupiscible Marriage
41. How Whack-A-Mole Can Help Your Marriage
42. Imagination in Marriage
43. Guarding the Top of the Wall in Marriage
44. An Irascible Marriage
45. A Courageous Marriage
46. A Confident Marriage
47. The Lord’s Love Song
48. A Not-So-Amazing Marriage
49. Inhabiting and Investigating Your Marriage
50. Influence, Intercession, and Inheritance in Marriage
51. Seven Marriage Resolutions
52. Be a Friend to Your S.P.O.U.S.E.
53. Going Beyond Fairy Tale Marriage
54. An Illustrative Marriage
55. Why Is Marriage So Honorable?
56. John Piper: S.W.I.M. to be Married 
57. One Crazy, Wonderful Day
58. Here’s a Quarter, Thanks to the God Who Cares

* most-read post in category

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