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.

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  1. […] idolatry was once again addressed and made punishable by […]

  2. […] us in the details of the Tabernacle in the chapters preceding Chapter 32) was more somber, serious, holy, modest, and chaste. It was focused not on the flesh – although it did involve having an enjoyable meal – but […]

  3. […] Notice also the designation “sin” and the attribution of a degree: “so great a sin.” Idolatry is indeed a great […]

  4. […] 2 (Exodus 20:11) 35. The Horizontal Words (Exodus 20:12-17) 36. Frightening Words (Exodus 20:18-20) 37. Reverence as a Warning Against Idolatry (Exodus 20:18-26) 38. A Justice Sandwich (Exodus 21) 39. Properly Promoting the Principle of […]

  5. […] Baal was the false god whose priests had been slain by the prophet Elijah. Chemarims refers to the priestly robes which were supposed to be white for Jewish priests, but which were now black due to the influence of the pagan priests. It also refers to the zeal and enthusiasm of their unholy worship, as they tried to show how “wild” they could get. […]


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