Christian women, Idolatry, Sanctification

Throwback Thursday ~ Little Women

Originally published June 13, 2014

I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His holy name

We sang this lovely hymn in church the other day, and it was perfect timing. For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been thinking about women I’ve known across the years, women I’ve known of (but not personally) across the years, and the woman I’ve known best across the years, me. And I’ve been thinking about how and where we find our worth, fulfillment, and contentment and where we should find it: in Christ.

I don’t know about you, but one of the sins I constantly struggle against is coveting. It’s a sin we don’t think about very much. A private one that, often, nobody knows about except God and me.

And you know what I covet? What I think we all covet? Men’s applause. Worldwide fame. Or, at least, fame in my little corner of the world.

When we were children in Sunday school, coveting was sometimes explained to us as “wanting for ourselves what someone else has.” Her new doll. His fancier bike. It’s a decent kid-level definition, but in the same way that Jesus reminded us that the root sin of murder is hate and the root sin of adultery is lust we need to mature in our understanding of coveting, and realize that it also has a root sin: discontentment. Sometimes, it’s discontentment with what we have (greed), and sometimes it’s discontentment with who we are.

And who are we?

As Believers, we are children of the God of the universe who, despite our sin and rebellion against Him, loved us enough to lay down His own life to rescue us. He listens to us. He accepts us. He provides for us. And don’t even get me started on Heaven.

And if contemplating all that isn’t enough, the Bible tells us to be content. So why aren’t we? Why woud we rather have Jesus and men’s applause, and worldwide fame?

Because, as John Calvin so aptly put it, “Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols.” Our sinful flesh is always looking to gratify itself rather than glorify God. Any time our hearts say, “God’s not enough. I want more,” we’re committing idolatry, because whatever the “more” is, it’s other than God and lesser than God, and we’re seeking it instead of seeking God. And, as women, one of the biggest “more” idols we seek is feeling good about ourselves, or feeling worthy of love and acceptance.

But instead of looking to Christ and letting Him define for us a right perspective of ourselves, we hit the crack pipe of the praise of men. It’s fast. It’s cheap. It’s easy. And the high is nearly instantaneous. How? Allow me to introduce you to some frenemies of mine:

Mother and Daughter HuggingMarla MegaMom- Marla lives for and through her kids. Their successes are her successes. Their failures, her failures. She subtly or overtly pressures her kids to achieve because if they fail she’s afraid others won’t see her as a good mom. And being a failure as a mom means being a failure in life.

Woman Singing

Dina Diva- Dina literally seeks the applause of others. She’s the top church soloist and the star of every Christmas production. She’s a public speaker or an instrumentalist or an actress, anything that can be done on a stage. Dina doesn’t feel good about herself unless people are clapping for her.

woman-164299_640-1978279293Veronica Victim- Poor Veronica. Everything in her life is always going wrong at home, at work, at church, with friends, with her health, with her car, with her dog. Nobody understands just how hard Veronica has it, so she makes it her life’s mission to let people know. In every story she tells, Veronica is the victim, and somebody else (or everybody else) is the bad guy. Please feel sorry for Veronica, because that’s the only way she can feel better about herself.

woman_angel_costume_kindlephoto-8131448Helen the Heroine- Helen is Veronica’s cousin. In every story Helen tells, she’s the heroine, the paragon of virtue, the one who did everything right short of severing a limb to make everything work out, and somebody else is the bad guy. Helen is divorced and the bad guy is usually her ex-husband, but she’s versataile enough to apply her story telling skills to situations at work, church, with friends, etc. Helen thinks if you don’t see her as a heroine, she’s worthless.

super-woman-halloween-adult-costume-aef98eb9
Photo courtesy of CostumeCollection.com.au

Sally Superwoman- Sally does everything, and she does it superbly. She’s employee of the year at work and world’s best wife and mom at home. She’s a gourmet cook, flawlessly recreates every cake and craft on Pinterest, and her house looks like a photo shoot for Better Homes and Gardens. Other women know she’s got it all together, so she keeps all her plates spinning at a furious pace, because if one of them fell where would she be?

MP900178801

Popular Polly- Polly is everybody’s friend. She’s one of the sweetest people you’ll ever meet with never a cross word for, or about, anybody. She agrees with (or at least doesn’t obviously disagree with) whatever is being said by the person she’s talking to at the moment, so it can be hard to pin down what she really believes. When someone unfriends/unfollows Polly on social media, she takes it personally, wondering what she did wrong. She only likes herself if enough other people like her.

reading-216862_640Know It All Nettie- Maybe she’s got multiple degrees, or maybe she’s just well read, but Nettie is an expert. In everything. She sees it as her calling to educate people, starting a lot of sentences with, “Well, actually…” and rarely asking questions that would reveal her lack of knowledge on a subject. Ignorance is a weakness in Nettie’s mind, and she wants to be seen as strong.

MP900427741_kindlephoto-8317786 Maisy the Martyr- Whenever there’s a request for helpers at church, someone to pull overtime or fill in for a co-worker, volunteers at the soup kitchen, the fulfillment of the smallest need of her family, Maisy will be there, working tirelessly. She secretly gets angry when no one recognizes her for all her hard work or when people take advantage of her, but she’s afraid to say no because she’s afraid people will be upset with her, and what kind of person would she be then?

Woman Doing Sit-ups Let’s Get Physical Phyllis- Whether she’s one to wear revealing clothes so all the men stare or she’s an organic, vegan workout queen, or she’s a clotheshorse, Phyllis is all about one thing: her body and how it looks. Did a construction worker whilstle at her today? A co-worker compliment her outfit? If not, maybe Phyllis had better lose a few more pounds or get that plastic surgery she’s been considering. After all, if people stop looking, she’s nothing.

man-315069_640Man-datory Maude- Maude always has a man. Always. Preferably an awesome one, but even a mediocre or lousy man is better than no man at all. Why? It’s tangible proof somebody wants her. Otherwise, how will people be able to see she’s a worthwhile person?

MP900289528Take Charge Tallulah- Follow? You must be joking, darling. Tallulah was born to lead and plays second fiddle to no one. She’s the chair of every committee she’s on, and always the one to round up the worker bees and start doling out orders. No points for second place. If you’re not first, you’re last. Tallulah needs the submission of others to feel self confident.

Are you one of these women? Or, if you’re as Sybil as I am, maybe you’re all of these women. Little women, all. Little, because Maisy, Helen, Sally, and all the rest are coveting and settling for crumbs of approval from others when God is offering them the whole bakery of His delight in them. Little, because they’re zeroing in on one tiny aspect of their lives to earn the praise of men instead of lifting their eyes to the broad expanse of Heaven and focusing on the Christ who loves them and has set them free to rest in His acceptance of them through His shed blood.

There’s nothing wrong with eating right or being friendly, or serving, singing, or teaching. Those are all good things. But just as God can take the most evil things and use them for good, we, because of our sinful nature, have a tendency to take good things and use them for evil. And evil isn’t too strong a word when we’re talking about taking the good gifts and talents God has given us and using them to pursue idolatry.

So what can we do? Romans 12:21 tells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” When that evil coveting of praise and notoriety rears its ugly head:

  • Overcome it by confessing your coveting and idolatry and asking God to forgive you for it.
  • Overcome it by asking God to help you do everything for His glory, so that men will praise Him and make His name famous instead of yours.
  • Overcome it by letting go and saying no. If you’re Dina, it’s OK to let somebody else have the leading role. If you’re Maude, it’s OK to stay home on date night. If you’re Veronica and someone asks how you’re doing, it’s OK to smile and say, “Fine.”
  • Overcome it by preaching the gospel to yourself. Remember how big God is, how small and weak you are and the lengths of love that He went to to save you anyway. Not because of who you are, but because of who He is. Rest in that, and praise and thank God for it.

And let’s have no more of these little women.

Christmas

Nativity Scenes and the Second Commandment

Originally published December 10, 2019

Have you ever heard someone say that nativity scenes, Christmas ornaments, Christmas pageants, and other Christmas items or activities which portray the baby Jesus (with a figurine, a doll, a live baby, pictures, etc.) break the second Commandment even though the portrayal of the baby Jesus isn’t being worshiped?

Some of my brothers and sisters in Christ believe that any representation of Jesus – be it in a manger scene, a painting, a movie, pictures of Jesus in children’s Bibles, flannelgraphs, Bible story pictures used for teaching children or on the mission field, etc. – violates the second Commandment…

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, for 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, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:4-6

…whether or not that representation of Jesus is being worshiped. It is the mere act of making or displaying the representation which breaks the Commandment.

This is not something any church I’ve ever been a member of has taught, but because I’ve heard this point of doctrine from theologically sound friends I respect, I wanted to take a closer look at the pertinent Scriptures to make sure I wasn’t doing something wrong. I’ve had nativity scenes and children’s Bibles and used flannelgraphs and been in Christmas musicals that depict Jesus all my life and never gave it a second thought. But if having and doing those things conflicts with Scripture, I want to stop.

But, having examined the Scriptures in context, while I respect and admire my friends’ desire to honor the Lord by not using representations of Him, I simply don’t find that the Bible prohibits occasionally depicting Jesus in reverent, not-for-the-purpose-of-worship ways. Here’s why:

1.

Consider the macro-context of Exodus 20. What was going on in the history and culture of Israel at that time? God was setting Israel apart from other nations as His own special possession and establishing Israel as a nation. And what was the preeminent characteristic that was to set Israel apart from the pagan nations? Israel was to be a witness to all the nations of the one true God. They were not to worship idols (which, at that time, were generally carved figures of created things). Not instead of God. Not in addition to God. Not at all. The second Commandment is a command not to worship carved figures as idols.

2.

Examine the immediate context of Exodus 20:4-6. It follows verses 1-3, which establish the supremacy of God above all other gods, and specifically state that Israel is not to worship any other gods.

3.

Take a close look at the content of Exodus 20:4-6. The passage doesn’t say anything about making a representation of God Himself. Jesus had not yet been born when this was written, so this passage could not have been talking about making a representation of Jesus. It talks about making representations of created things in the sky (planets, the sun, etc.), on the earth, and in the water, and worshiping them. And certainly, calling any graven images “God” and worshiping them as God would also be prohibited (Remember the golden calf incidents?)

4.

It would seem to me that to be consistent in saying “no representations of Jesus” folks who hold to this belief would also have to say “no representations of anything” because what Exodus 20:4 plainly says is “you shall not make for yourself…any likeness of anything.” No photographs of anything, no drawings, paintings, or sculpture of anything, no Xeroxing anything, nothing. In fact, I think that would be closer to the actual wording of the passage than “no representations of Jesus,” which, again, this passage does not mention.

5.

The cross references I found for Exodus 20:4 are Leviticus 26:1, Deuteronomy 27:15, and Psalm 97:7. All of them refer to idol worship.

6.

There are at least two occasions in the Old Testament in which God instructs Moses to make a graven figure, and both of these instances are far more conducive to actual worship of the figures than a nativity scene or a Sunday School flannelgraph.

The first instance – just five chapters after the second Commandment – is found in God’s instructions for the Ark of the Covenant. God instructs Moses to have the people make two cherubim (angels) for the mercy seat (lid) of the Ark. They were not to worship the cherubim (or the Ark), but the Ark was the holiest object used in Israel’s worship ceremonies. It would have been easy for the people to cross the line and worship it or the cherubim, yet God commanded the making of these not-for-worship figures to point the people to Him. (And guess what was put into the Ark right underneath those graven figures? The two tablets of the 10 Commandments, including the second Commandment.)

The second instance was when God instructed Moses to make the bronze serpent. Anyone who had been fatally snake-bitten could look up at the serpent and his life would be spared. How much more likely would an Israelite have been to worship the bronze serpent, commissioned by God and instrumental in saving his life than we are to worship a picture of Jesus in a children’s Bible? Jesus Himself said that this graven figure pointed ahead to His death on the cross, using it as an illustration of His crucifixion. Much like a nativity scene is an illustration of His incarnation.

Now, if God Himself commissioned the casting of these figures of created things, not to be worshiped, but as tools to point people to Himself, would it stand to reason that He would prohibit reverent representations of Christ that point to or teach about Him? Comparing the second Commandment with these two instances of graven figures demonstrates to us that God expects His people to be able to distinguish between using objects as tools or illustrations that point to Him and worshiping those objects.


In the end, this issue is an issue of Christian liberty. It is not a sin nor a violation of the second Commandment to use occasional reverent representations of Christ to point people to Him. It is also not a sin to desire to honor the Lord by refraining from using representations of Christ and finding other ways to point people to Him. Whichever side of the issue we come down on, let us make sure we are respectful and loving to those on the other side, not making a law for them where no law exists, nor accusing one side of sin or the other of legalism.

Additional Resources:

When We Understand the Text Podcast (at the 13:36 mark)

Women of Genesis Bible Study

The Women of Genesis: Lesson 27- Deborah and Rachel

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 89, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26

📖📖📖📖📖

Read Genesis 35-36

📖📖📖📖📖


Questions to Consider

1. Study a map of Jacob’s travels, locating Haran, Shechem, and Bethel (35:1). What happened in Jacob’s life at each of these three places (review previous lessons if necessary)?

2. Where (city and nation) was Jacob living when God told him to move to Bethel? In what major way had living in the Shechemite area of Canaan influenced Jacob’s family? (35:2-4) In the book of Exodus, when we see Israel journeying through and into the Promised Land, what is the main offense against God that the Canaanites are guilty of? How did their idolatry impact God’s people?

3. Briefly review previous lessons (links above) in which we examined various reasons Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob didn’t want their children to intermarry with Canaanites. Even though the Ten Commandments (prohibiting idolatry) and the Levitical law (prohibiting intermarriage with pagans) had not yet been given, how might Canaanite idolatry have played a role in this? And if idol worshiping pagans weren’t good enough for Jacob’s children to marry, why did his own family possess foreign gods? (35:2-4)

4. Regarding the sin of idolatry, what were the three steps (35:2-3) of repentance Jacob led his family in? How can these steps be a model of repentance for us today?

5. Compare Genesis 28:10-22 with 35:1-15. Why did God tell Jacob to go back to Bethel (35:1)? What are the similarities and differences between the two passages with regard to God’s and Jacob’s words and actions? What promises did God make to Jacob in each passage? Describe the worship that took place in both passages.

6. Who was Deborah (35:8), and about how long had she been with the family? In what ways was Deborah’s death honored and memorialized (using your footnotes, what does Allon-bacuth mean)? Considering that we rarely ever hear the names of servants, much less the memorializing of their deaths, what might we surmise about Deborah, her character, and her relationship with Isaac and Rebekah’s family and Jacob’s family? How can you have an impact for Christ on others by serving them?

7. Refer again to the map in question 1. Where did Jacob travel in 35:16-27?

8. Examine 35:16-26 and review our previous lessons about Rachel. If you were writing Rachel’s obituary, how would you describe her? If Jacob were giving the eulogy at her funeral, what might he say about her? Why do we hear about Deborah’s, Rachel’s, and Isaac’s deaths, but we don’t hear about Leah’s or Rebekah’s deaths?

9. Compare Genesis 30:22-24 with 35:16-26. How was Rachel’s prayer answered? Using your footnotes, what do Ben-oni and Benjamin mean, respectively? Why do you think Jacob changed the baby’s name?

10. Who wrote the book of Genesis? Who was the original audience of the book of Genesis? Why might God have considered the information in chapter 36 important for this audience to know? How is this chapter a fulfillment of prophecy?


Homework

Jacob’s family was influenced toward idol worship by the Canaanites they lived among (35:2-4). Think about the various environments you live in: your community or neighborhood, your church, family, friends, workplace, clubs or organizations, social media, etc. Do any of these environments influence you toward idolatry – putting something in God’s place in your affections, loyalties, priorities, and time? Idolatry is a sin that should be repented of and forsaken. Read my article The Christian Introvert: Putting Off Social Anxiety, Putting On Serving Others to learn about the process of putting off sin, renewing your mind, and putting on godly behavior. Thinking about your own idolatry, write down how you can “put away those foreign gods” (put off), “purify yourself and change your garments” (renew your mind) and “arise and go up to Bethel…and make an altar to God” (put on).


Suggested Memory Verse

Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.
Genesis 35:3

The Ten (10 Commandments Bible Study)

The Ten: Lesson 4

the-ten

Previous Lessons: 1, 2, 3

Exodus 20:4-6

“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, for 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, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Exodus 32:1-10

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.” So Aaron said to them, “Take off the rings of gold that are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off the rings of gold that were in their ears and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.

And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” And the Lord said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and behold, it is a stiff-necked people. 10 Now therefore let me alone, that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them, in order that I may make a great nation of you.”

1 John 5:20-21

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. One of the themes of Exodus we’ve discovered in this study is that God is setting His people apart from the surrounding pagan nations and establishing Israel as a nation. How does the second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6) relate to that theme? Think about what and how pagan nations worshiped. How does the second Commandment set God’s people uniquely apart from pagans and set the worship of God apart from the worship of false gods? How does worshiping God without any sort of visual aid or representation point us to God’s vastness, uniqueness, “other-ness,” and power in comparison with idols?

2. What does it mean that God is a jealous God in the context of the second Commandment (idol worship)? (Exodus 20:5a) Think about God’s nature and character as well as His patience, kindness, and benevolence toward His people both in the Old Testament and today. Doesn’t God have a right to be jealous for His people? What are the consequences of breaking or keeping the second Commandment? (Exodus 20:5b-6)

3. Some Christians believe that the second Commandment prohibits making any representation of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit regardless of whether or not that representation is worshiped. They believe, for example, that nativity scenes and plays in which the baby Jesus is depicted, pictures of Jesus in children’s Bibles, pictures of Jesus used for teaching the Bible to non-readers or lost people on the mission field, are a violation of the second Commandment even though these representations of Jesus are not being worshiped. Do you think the context of Exodus 20:4-6 supports this belief? Why or why not? Can you think of any other Scriptures that support or refute this belief?

4. Examine the Exodus 32 passage. How did the people break the second Commandment? Why did the people want Aaron to make an idol for them? (1) When we find ourselves in idolatry – worshiping, loving, or being devoted to something or someone above God – what is the motive of our hearts? Where did the people get the gold jewelry (2-4) that Aaron used to make the calf? What was God’s initial response to this incident? (10) Can you see how it stirs God to anger when we take things that He has created and blessed us with and worship those things rather than the One who gave them to us?

5. In the Exodus 32 passage, what act of God did the people attribute to the golden calf? (4,8) How does it break the second Commandment to call something “God” that is not the God revealed in Scripture? To attribute an action or characteristic of God to something that is not God? How does the 1 John passage and the idea of the “true God” and “him who is true” contrast with the Israelites’ worship of the golden calf as God?

6. Today, in Western culture, we don’t usually carve idols out of wood or stone and bow down to them. But what about creating idols with our hearts and minds instead of our hands? Have you ever “created God in your own image” – a God who fits your opinions, preferences, feelings, or unbiblical beliefs – and worshiped or trusted that god instead of the true God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit of Scripture? How is that similar to the Israelites’ fashioning a golden calf and essentially calling it God? What does the 1 Corinthians passage say about Christians who practice this or any other form of idolatry and how the church is to deal with them?


Homework:

Listen closely this week to the sermon at church, your Sunday School or Bible study class lesson, any Christian books, magazines, blogs, or social media posts you read, and any Christian music you listen to. Is the God depicted in these venues consistent with the way God reveals Himself in Scripture? Do you find any of these sermons, articles, songs, etc., to be breaking the second Commandment by presenting a false view of God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit?

The Ten (10 Commandments Bible Study)

The Ten: Lesson 3

the-ten

Previous Lessons: 1, 2

Exodus 20:1-3

And God spoke all these words, saying,

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

“You shall have no other gods before me.

Matthew 4:9-10

And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God
    and him only shall you serve.’”

Ezekiel 14:1-11

Then certain of the elders of Israel came to me and sat before me. And the word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, these men have taken their idols into their hearts, and set the stumbling block of their iniquity before their faces. Should I indeed let myself be consulted by them? Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols.

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: Repent and turn away from your idols, and turn away your faces from all your abominations. For any one of the house of Israel, or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel, who separates himself from me, taking his idols into his heart and putting the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to a prophet to consult me through him, I the Lord will answer him myself. And I will set my face against that man; I will make him a sign and a byword and cut him off from the midst of my people, and you shall know that I am the Lord. And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. 10 And they shall bear their punishment—the punishment of the prophet and the punishment of the inquirer shall be alike— 11 that the house of Israel may no more go astray from me, nor defile themselves anymore with all their transgressions, but that they may be my people and I may be their God, declares the Lord God.”

Matthew 19:16-30

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.


The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Questions to Consider:

1. Take a moment to briefly review the previous lessons (links above). What are some of the major themes we have seen in God’s dealings with Israel so far in the book of Exodus? How does Exodus 20:1-2 serve as an introduction and foundation to the 10 Commandments, showcasing God’s goodness and His right to rule Israel?

2. What does the first Commandment, Exodus 20:3, mean? Is God saying it’s OK for His people to worship other gods as long as He has first place? Compare Exodus 20:3 with Matthew 4:9-10. What did Jesus understand the first Commandment to mean? Where does the temptation to worship other gods come from? Who is ultimately being worshiped when someone worships a false god?

3. Why do you think God made this the first Commandment? How is the first Commandment foundational to every other command or teaching in Scripture? Can you keep the first Commandment while breaking another biblical command? Why or why not?

4. How was Israel breaking the first Commandment in the Ezekiel 14 passage? How did God respond to their attempt to approach Him as their God while still embracing their foreign gods? (8-10) How did this impact their relationship with God? (5,7,11) What did God say the people should do? (6) What would be the result of Israel’s repentance from idolatry? (5,11)

5. In the Matthew 19 passage, which Commandments did Jesus tell the rich young ruler he should keep? (18-19) Which Commandments did Jesus not mention? Were the Commandments Jesus mentioned from the first or second table of the Law? How did the rich young ruler demonstrate that he was unwilling to keep the first Commandment? (20-22) What was his god? How did Peter’s response (27) to Christ differ from the rich young ruler’s response? How did the disciples keep the first Commandment by giving up everything to follow Christ?

6. In what ways do we break the first Commandment today? What are some other “gods” we love and dedicate ourselves to before, or in addition to, Christ? Review the questions in #4. How do these principles apply to Christians today? Think over all that Christ has done for you. How is it an act of worship and thanks to Him to keep the first Commandment?


Homework:

Give this song a listen. Could you sing these lyrics truthfully? In what ways does it exemplify the first Commandment? Are you breaking the first Commandment in any areas of your heart and life? Repent and receive Christ’s forgiveness.