Giving Honor to God
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.
May 13, 2018
I grew up in the church hearing the words: "Giving honor to God". My fellow brothers and sisters spoke these words each and every time they came to the front of the church to say something. They spoke these words when they gave a welcome to another visiting congregation usually at an afternoon worship service. They spoke these same words at a multitude of other worship services. In fact, for a brother or sister to come before the gathered church and not use these exact words as an upfront greeting and honor to God would be considered scandalous.
Then, there was an addition to this statement by some who came to the front of the church to say something. The addition was, "Who is the head of my life." So, the entire saying was, "Giving honor to God who is the head of my life" Or a variation of the words could be, "Giving honor to God who is the head of my house." Anyway, the point was God is given the honor. Now, I then considered, and I do now consider these words to be ways they gave honor to God. However, today, I just wonder if their words really expressed honor to God or were they just words, just words they had learned from others in the congregation, just the expected thing for one to say to a gathered congregation. It's so easy for things we say to become just empty air void of any meaning.
As I read the first, second, and third commandments giving honor to God is a serious undertaking. For sure, it's not just a brother or sister's words that matter. It's not what they might have learned from having attended church and heard what others said about the ten commandments. A reading of the first, second, and third commandments is much more deeper and revealing than just repeating words learned or heard. What seems to be critical is what God says about himself and what God wants his people to say and know about who he is. In these commandments, God reveals who he is and what he desires from his people. Let's look at what he reveals about himself that directs us to give proper honor to him.
First, "You shall have no other gods before[a] me." (verse 3) The first reading of this first commandment seems to suggest that this is a negative commandment. As I've said, people in general don't hear the true message of the commandments because they think of them as being negative or that they signal a don't do this or that. I think this is what has happened to the commandments. But I think this is missing the point of the commandments especially the first commandment. My reading is God is saying what we really need to hear and benefit from knowing. And that is, I am too much God for you to have any other gods or to worship any other gods. God had amply and thoroughly proven from what he did to the Egyptians that he is God all by himself. God had done the most miraculous thing and powerful thing that mankind had ever known or heard of. God delivered his people out of bondage; God had defeated Pharaoh and his chariots; God had overcome every threatening thing to his people. And most importantly, God had defeated completely the gods of Egypt. There was no god that they could compare him to.
Perhaps another way to make this same point is to say that God alone is worthy of worship. What a message for any generation. The attraction of so called gods seems to be widespread. We seem to be attracted to gods in the political world, gods in the sports world, gods in the finance world, gods among some celebrities, and even other areas of living. But the message of the first commandment is that it's a major error to worship or give allegiance to any other god but the true God. That's not negative; that is good to know and to live by!
Second, "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. (Exodus20:4-6)
This second commandment is longer than the first commandment.
Ancient Israel made idols of wood and other materials. They seemed to have had a continuing attraction to idols.
But this commandment's message seems to be, "Don't make anything at all and refer to me." Or "Do not make any idol of any kind." Since I am God anything you make cannot be referenced to me. I am the creator. I am God above and over everything. You are not to identify me with any created thing. You see, I read this to mean God is too great and too awesome to be identified with anything created.
So, no amount of creativity or artistic skills are adequate for anyone to make an image of God. The Israelites are not to do as the nations around them or the like the people of Egypt where they lived for many years. They are to worship differently; they are not to worship idols of God. They are to worship only Almighty God.
God tells them why. "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.
We don't know for sure what God meant by these words. But the point seems to be this is a no, no! The point seems to be there are direct punishment for doing so. The reason there is some continuing debate among scholars about this is that there would be no one left if God enforced this part of the commandment since parents in every generation continue to commit this sin of making idols and bowing down to idols.
The third commandment is: "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."
From the beginning of the relationship between God and Moses, God's name was an issue. Moses makes this an issue when he asked God whom shall he say sent him to Pharaoh and the Israelites in Egypt. God told Moses to tell Pharaoh and the people that "I am," sent you. That was the name God gave him.
The Israelites avoid misusing God's name by not saying it. Instead they call him "the Name."
So, how can we sure we are giving honor to God in the way God reveals in the first, second, and third commandments:
- Be mindful when you think of giving honor to God. Learn that it's more than just saying, "I give honor to God who is the head of my life." Examine your life and make sure you have no other gods in your life.
- Be mindful about regarding idols. Do you have idols in your life?
- Seek to honor God in the ways God has informed of himself.
These commandments really open our eyes to the awesomeness of the God we worship and serve. We now can think of the first three commandments in a totally different way. No matter what our past understanding of these commandments has been, now is the time to really give honor to God in the true biblical manner. Amen.