Sunday, July 5, 2020

Sermon -- TEN WORDS: 1st Commandment (July 5, 2020)

EXODUS 20:3-6


In the name + of Jesus.

      The first commandment that God gave has to do with our relationship to him.  He states, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)  More to the point, the Lord said that we are not to have any gods in front of his face, or in his presence.  Since God is omnipresent, that means we are to have no other gods at all.  The reason is simple: There are no other gods. 
     Some time ago, I had run across an atheist who boasted that he could prove to anyone that God does not exist.  I did not take him up on his claim, but I suspect that he had some logical argument to prove that there is no grandfatherly-type God in the sky.  His flaw would be how he defines who God is or what a god is.  In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther showed that everyone has a god.  He wrote: “What is God?  A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in distress.  So, to have a God is nothing other than trusting and believing Him with the heart.” (Luther's Large Catechism, The First Commandment, paragraph 2)  It may be the true God or a false god, but everyone puts their trust in something; so everyone has a god. 
     Idols are far more common than we think.  The Lord had warned the people of Israel not to craft their own gods.  “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or serve them...” (Exodus 20:4-5)  About a month after the Lord had commanded this and Israel vowed to obey, they crafted a golden calf to worship.  Now, we might commend ourselves for being much smarter and more sophisticated than the Israelites.  While cultures differ, hearts do not.  We, too, craft gods.  Often, our god is just like us.  God likes what we like.  God hates what we hate.  God shares our opinions and moods.  We want the world to dance to the tune we play.  We appoint ourselves the judge of right and wrong.  And we assume that God agrees with us.   In other words, we are our own god.  But if we can't make crops grow or rain fall, if we can cure sickness or prevent death, what kind of god are we?  Do not be deceived.  Satan had first told Adam and Eve that they would be like God if they rebelled against him.  That lie is just as believed today.  Repent.
     “You shall have no other gods before me...  For I the LORD your God am a jealous God...” (Exodus 20:3,5)  It sounds bizarre to have the Lord say he is a jealous God.  Jealousy is not usually a positive trait.  Besides, if the Lord is the maker of heaven and earth and everything in it, he owns all things.  What would he have to be jealous of?  The answer is this: God is jealous for you.
     The Lord God is not willing to let you be deceived by the devil's lie or to put your trust in gods or groups who will fail you.  The Lord your God wants you to know without a doubt that you are to expect every good thing from him and that he is your refuge in every kind of distress.  It is the Lord God who made heaven and earth, who gave you life, and who sustains you with all that you need to live.  God is jealous for you to know that he is the one who provides for you, who protects you, and who disciplines you for your good.  And while God uses common means to bless and keep us—such as parents, government, employers, teachers, doctors, farmers, and friends—God is still the giver of all our gifts.  Without God, we have nothing.
     God is jealous for you, and he desires you to know him rightly.  This is what the Lord says: “I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other...” (Isaiah 42:8)  To know the Lord rightly is to give him the glory for who he is and for what he does.  It is to believe that everything God says is true and good for us, and everything God does and permits is done in love.  It is always for our good—even when such things are pricy, painful, and perplexing.  If we fear, love, and trust in anything else—money or medicine or family—and seek from them our good and trust that these will solve our problems, then we have a false god.  All of those things can be lost; therefore, they will all fail us.  But God is jealous; and his wrath stands against people who give his glory to others.
     God is jealous for you.  He does not want you to be deceived by lies or to give in to wicked ideas or deeds.  These always lead to death, and they always incur God's wrath.  Unfortunately, we have been taught not to take that too seriously.  But rebellion has consequences, and not just for ourselves.  This is what the Lord says: “I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me.” (Exodus 20:5)  If people are determined to defy God and refuse to believe his word, God will let them go.  God is not a mugger.  He does not force anyone to receive his grace or a place in his heavenly kingdom.  Those who despise God teach their children to do the same.  Rebels beget rebels.  Parents who hate God, his word, and his church teach their children to do the same.  Parents who give a low priority to God, his word, and his church teach their children that God does not matter.  The result is generations of people who are confirmed in their sin and unbelief. 
     The Lord is a jealous God which also includes his wrath.  But when God reveals his wrath, it is done so that you will realize you need a Savior.  God greatest revelation is the Savior he sent to rescue you from putting your trust in opinions that are not God's word, from giving your love to things that will pass away, and from failing to fear the Lord by making him one of many Sunday morning options.  God is jealous for you—so much so that God became one of us.  Jesus is God in the flesh who has come to rescue us from our iniquity and God's judgment for it.  Jesus took up our iniquity and submitted himself to God's fiery judgment in our place.  Rather than have our sins held against us, Jesus holds up his holy, precious blood and his innocent sufferings and death as the payment for all our sins.  By his death, Jesus has bought us back from sin, death, and the devil so that we are the Lord's.  And since Jesus has conquered death, he gives us a victory over the grave.  Therefore, God does not merely tolerate us.  God desires us to dwell with him for all eternity. 
     God is jealous for you.  He has revealed himself as the God who saves you.  No one else can do this, and God himself says so: “I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior.  I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God.” (Isaiah 43:11-12)  This is the God from whom we can expect all good.  Everything God does, he does to serve your eternal good.  But of course, that does not mean that God promises ease.  We will certainly endure hardships and sorrows in this world.  But in the midst of those, God is a refuge in our distress.  We may be grieved by violence, sickness, or even death, but these cannot snatch us away from God and his salvation. 
     In this world, you will lose many things, even good things.  And if you do not lose them while you live, you will give them up when you die.  But you will never lose God's blessing and salvation.  And he will not give you up even when you die.  On the contrary, he will be your refuge in death and your resurrection to life everlasting.  He will supply you with eternal goods which are far better than all he gives you now.  God wants you to know this because he wants you to trust him.  He does not want to lose you to lies or money or pride or any other false god which will neither comfort nor save you.  God is jealous for you and your salvation.
     Everyone has a god.  Everyone has someone or something which they trust will secure them through good times and bad.  The Lord God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—he has made himself known to you for your good.  He is jealous for you so that you do not put your trust in false gods which cannot comfort or save.  The Lord your God alone is your comfort in life, who alone rescues you from death, and who alone will deliver you into heavenly glory.  God is jealous for you; he loves you and wants you to be his forever. 

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

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