The first two commandments from God to his people ( found in the Bible at Deuteronomy 5:6-17 and Exodus 20:2–17) are 1) Have no other gods before me, and 2) Do not make or worship idols. The following are the actual verses from Exodus.
|1||“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.|
|2||“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 nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My Commandments.|
If you’ve been a church-going, Bible-reading Christian for any length of time, you have read those and you know that the Bible is full of story after story of people who claim to know God BREAKING those commandments. After God displayed his power through many miracles when he brought the people out of Egypt, the people immediately forgot and began complaining that God must want them to die. After only 40 days, and AFTER promising to obey God’s laws, while Moses was up on the mountain with God, the people forgot God and demanded that Aaron give them a new god because they figured Moses was never coming back and they didn’t even think twice about the miracles of the God that had rescued them from slavery.
We are no different than those cheatin’ Israelites!
As for us, how often do we do exactly the same things? We forget the miracles and blessings and power of God and we go seeking a new god. Before we explore the idea of cheating, I think it’s very important to consider the meaning of ‘worship’ and why we do it. Now I am not claiming to be a biblical scholar, this is just my understanding. For a long time I had trouble with that word. Not that I don’t want to worship God, but I didn’t feel like I knew exactly what worship is or how to do it and it bothers me when I don’t know how to do things so that word made me uneasy. I thought, well , we go to church to worship so it means going to church, singing, and praying to God. But I always wondered if there was more to it. I think I got it now. Keep reading to see what I think worship means.
Why should we worship God?
When God tells the people to have no other gods before him and not to bow down to idols, he is saying do not worship other gods. But why? Let’s break down the first commandment. It says “I am the LORD, your God”. Then he says that he brought them out of Egypt, out of slavery. In this verse we are given the answer to WHY we worship God. 1)Because He is the LORD, our God. WHO God is is the reason to worship Him! He is God! and 2) He did something amazing for them (and us). They were to worship Him not simply on the basis of WHO he was but also because of WHAT He did for them. Sounds kinda selfish to say it that way, but in a fallen world, it is not our natural inclination to worship someone for WHO they are unless they PROVE it by DOING something amazing.
God has proven worthy of our worship!
In other words, If God had just said, I am God, worship me, the people might have said, no thanks , we have another god, or we don’t need a god, we will figure things out by ourselves. If you have a high paying job, you will be expected to perform the duties of your position or you won’t be getting that big paycheck for long. Same with God. He knows that even though He deserves honor and respect just because of WHO He is, that we humans need to see what He can DO FOR US, and fortunately for us, He is more than happy to provide for all of our needs with his glorious power because he is a loving God, a merciful Father. He created us!
The Bible is a record of all the things God has done to prove His love for us and all the times we have decided that it was NOT ENOUGH. Isn’t that a terrible thought! Sadly, this is similar to a marriage where one person or both are just never satisfied with what the other person brings to the relationship. This can lead to resentment, estrangement, and eventually divorce, possibly with some infidelity thrown before the collapse. In fact, this is why God uses the language of marriage to describe our relationship with Him! We are to be faithful, not commit adultery with other gods!
How do we worship God?
The key word that I am finally getting around to as the necessary foundation of WORSHIP is TRUST. We worship God in many ways but we can’t really do it if we don’t trust Him with our lives. If we do not BELIEVE that God can provide all of our needs and if we do not WAIT for Him and if we do not want HIS WILL for our lives because we think ours is better, then we do not have FAITH that God is actually WHO he says He is and that HE CAN DO what He promised us, and eventually we will look for another god, or put ourselves into that role. This is HUGE! Do you REALLY believe that God is ABLE and WILLING to provide for your needs? You have to know about God to really trust Him. That is possible through looking at the world God created, through seeing how he intervenes in our lives and other people’s lives and not dismissing it as coincidence or luck, and through studying the Bible. We discover through the stories of the real people in the Bible how God showed his power, mercy, wrath, and grace. We can pay attention to how God answers our prayers. When we truly know God, we will naturally want to trust and worship Him because He is worthy! The Israelites then and all people now are known for attending the temple or church and then also sacrificing to idols or putting their faith in worthless things. But when we truly trust God we will worship him alone. This worship can include singing praises, prayer, showing love to others and anything else we do out of our devotion to God.
We need God’s help!
We humans have a lot of needs! God knows this because he created us to be this way. We need food, water, shelter, clothing, protection, and also, security, love, comfort, and relationships with others. We have spiritual, physical and emotional needs. We need to feel valued, have meaning and purpose in life, and to be able to trust that there is someone else is more powerful than us that can help us. And we have lots of wants, too. When our needs are not met, we go looking for ways to fill them. And there is where the problem lies, if we don’t trust God and we don’t go to Him with our needs. We get scared, like little children. What if I can’t get what I need? What if I don’t get what I want? We get impatient. Rather than wait on God and trust His timing and His will, we act like we don’t even know Him. We cheat on God. We look for another god, ourselves, or some other person, or anything that takes away that uncertainty. We look for help in all the wrong places! And before we know it, we are bowing down to the idols of false religions, other people’s praise and approval, vanity, false security, money, gambling, addictions, experts, science, education, politics, anything that makes us feel like we are in control of our lives, and keeps the fear away for awhile.
God is jealous when we cheat
Lastly, why does God say he is a jealous God? Well, if you think of us as being chosen and belonging to God, and our trust in God is like our relationship with Him, and going to find other sources to provide for our needs is like adultery, then you can see what he means by jealous. If you are married, you will make and receive promises from your spouse that you should be able to trust. But if you don’t trust them and you go out with other men or women in order to get things from them that you don’t trust your spouse to provide, they will be jealous, then angry. And that’s what it’s like to cheat on God with other gods.
God’s grace helps us worship Him!
If you have trouble worshipping God, ask God to help you. He’s that powerful and that gracious. He is so willing to show his love for us that he will even help us worship Him! God’s grace is his most amazing and precious gift. Grace is what makes us different than the Israelites. They had the law, but we have grace through Jesus Christ our Lord. When we trust and believe, we are born again, ad we receive the Holy Spirit! With the power of God’s Spirit within in, we can worship God in joy. What a God! What a gift! Come and see. Knock and the door will be opened. Trust and believe.
So if you want to worship God, you have to trust Him. If you want to trust Him, you have to know Him and Believe He is able to do all that you can imagine and more. You can trust Him. He made you, he made the world and even though we humans don’t deserve anything because we are cheating fools, God still loved us so much that he made a way for our sins to be forgiven SO that we can stay in a relationship with him. In other words, even though we cheated by trusting in other gods and ourselves and might cheat again by sinning in thought and deed, if we accept his gift of grace and redemption through his only son Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, if we believe that he did this for us, through his miraculous power and limitless love, then He doesn’t even remember our sins! We are forgiven! And even more amazing, we are given the same power to forgive others! There’s only one way to truly please God, and that is to trust Him and accept his Son. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. That means , Jesus is the way to God, the truth about God and life with God. No one comes to the Father but through Jesus. But that is another subject. 🙂
Yes, always a challenge to keep everything in the right order!