Don't Even Think About It!

November 18, 2018

One of the temptations for an imperialistic leader is overreach. In 1804 when the Pope came to Paris to crown Napoleon Emperor of France, Napoleon snatched the crown from the Pope’s hands and crowned himself. That’s overreach. But on June 22, 1812, when Napoleon invaded Russia, it was such an overreach that it soon brought down his empire. Obviously Napoleon coveted power.

Coveting is a serious problem. Coveting is addressed in the 10th commandment. When you think about it, obeying the first commandment involving worship will help us keep the other nine. But breaking the 10th commandment will cause us to break many of the previous nine. This morning as we look at the 10th commandment let me say that coveting lies at the root of sin.


In Ex.20:17, we read, “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's." When you read the tenth commandment it sort of takes you by surprise. All the other commands involve external actions, but the tenth command is internal and unseen. The Hebrew word for “covet” means to desire earnestly, to long after. When this command is restated in Deut.5:21, we find another Hebrew word which “often refers to an ‘evil desire’ that is contrary to God’s will.” The verse reads, “And you shall not covet your neighbor's wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.”

There is nothing particularly wrong with desire, but in the tenth command God is referring to sinful, self-centered desire. It’s the kind of desire that enslaves the soul and leads to sinful acts. Interestingly enough, the two Hebrew words, “covet” and “desire” show up in Gen.3:6. There we read, “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Eve and Adam coveted the fruit because of what they thought eating the fruit would give them. They thought it would enhance their lives in that they would be like God. Instead sin and death entered into the world. They became sinners, estranged from God.

And coveting has had the same result in all of our lives. In Jms.1:14-15, we read, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” In Jms.4:1-2 we read, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.” Clearly we see that coveting, sinful desire is what drives people to actually break the other commandments.

In Mt.15:17-19 Jesus says, “Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” This command against coveting has no parallel in the surrounding ancient near eastern cultures. This command is unique. And it shows us that God is always interested in the condition of the heart and not just in our outward performance.

In Lk.18 we read about a wealthy ruler who came to Jesus and said, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother." The rich man replied, "All these I have kept from my youth." And when Jesus heard this, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." But when the rich man heard what Jesus said, “he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.” Had the rich man kept the commandments? Well, yes. But clearly in his heart he coveted wealth. He could not part with it. His wealth weighed upon his heart and mind so that he could not follow Jesus. In the words of Paul, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” Even a poor man can covet wealth and miss Jesus.

It is good when a person can say, “I have kept the Sabbath. I have honored my parents. I do not take the Lord’s name in vain. I have never murdered anyone or committed adultery. I have never stolen anything. I have never born false witness.” But if their heart is filled with sinful desire, they have broken the law of God.

In Phil.3, when the Apostle Paul summarizes his pre-conversion life he says that as far as righteousness under the law is concerned, he was blameless. In other words he kept the Ten Commandments, except for one thing. In Rm.7:7 he writes, “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet." Paul looked blameless from the outside, but there was plenty of sinful desire in his heart.

A Rabbi by the name of Yakum, makes an interesting observation. He points out that there is a relationship between the first and the last commandments. He says, “not only are social sins such as adultery and theft committed because the person desires what a fellow human possesses, but “religious sins” between humans and God, are committed because a person covets being God or having divine power/authority.”

Ultimately that is what coveting is about. It is harboring a desire that does not honor God. When these desires take the place of God they become idols and the longer we worship idols the more apt we will be to act on our desires. O we may not visibly break any of the other Ten Commands, but you can be sure that when sinful desires are harbored in one’s heart, those desires will impact your behavior and your relationships because they have a hold upon us. Usually sinful desire is acted upon in one way or another, if only in secret.


Coveting involves having a deep desire for something. What makes the desire sinful is that we put it in the place of God. The desire orders our life. Desire is experienced in our thoughts and feelings. When we act on sinful desires we reveal or express those sinful desires in destructive ways. A man may desire his neighbor’s wife. That is a sinful desire for it makes his neighbor’s wife an idol. So he sins against God and his own wife. And if he acts on his desire he sins against his neighbor and his neighbor’s wife. If we are going to make progress in having our desires ordered by God, we must learn to be content.

How do we learn contentment? In Ps.37:4 we read, “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” In Ps.23:1, we read, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Contentment in life comes from cultivating a trusting heart. We trust in God. We trust that God is holding our life. We trust that God knows what we need. We trust that God is giving what is needed for the present day. But it goes deeper than this. When we trust in God we delight in him because we see that God is the giver of all good gifts. When I am trusting in the Giver of all good gifts then I will begin to long for the good gifts that God wants to give. The desires of my heart sync up with his goodness and love.

Some of you have smart watches. You can get emails and texts. You can track your sleep and your steps with your watch. But you have to sync your watch with your phone or computer in order to have an ongoing record. Well, our desires need to sync up with God on a regular basis. How do we do this?

We do this by spending time in the presence of God in prayer and thoughtful reflection on his word. We spend time with God by cultivating the awareness that God is always fully present with us and around us. In him we live and move and have our being. The other day I had lunch with a friend. I had just been reading about Mary’s response to the angel. Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." Well, we discussed that for much of our lunch. What do Mary’s words have to do with our lives? That is one way of reflecting on God’s word. But all of us need to allow God’s word to settle into our hearts and minds in one way or another. And it cannot be done quickly! And it cannot be done sporadically. Do you have to read your Bible every day? Not necessarily. But our thoughts need to be daily oriented in and around God’s word. I believe it is important to have designated times for prayer. But I also believe we need to live in a prayerful way. I am beginning to think that when I hear about mass shootings and fires and floods and I grieve in my heart, I am praying because I am grieving in the awareness of God and his presence.

In 2Cor.12, Paul writes about a thorn in his flesh. He prayed that God would take it away, but God said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And then Paul writes, “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Paul did not learn this overnight. He learned this by pleading with God in prayer and by surrendering to God and his good will. In Phil.4, Paul says, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” And finally, in 1Tim.6:6-8, Paul writes, “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” Are you learning to be content?

One way to discern how content we are is to consider where we are discontent in our lives. Where do we struggle to trust in God? We may discover that our areas of discontent can actually be addressed by choosing to live in a godly way. For example, if you are discontent in your marriage, you can ask yourself, “How do I contribute to the dysfunction of my marriage? How would God want me to live with my spouse?” If you are discontent with your work, you can make that a matter of concerted prayer and ask God to help you be content by doing your work to the glory of God. You can also pray about getting another job. Any kind of coveting and discontent needs to be brought into our life-with-God and his Son, Jesus.

In 1967 the song, “What a Wonderful World,” was released. Listen to the lyrics. I see trees of green, red roses too; I see them bloom for me and you; And I think to myself what a wonderful world. I see skies of blue and clouds of white; The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night; And I think to myself what a wonderful world. The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky; Are also on the faces of people going by. I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do; They're really saying I love you. I hear babies crying, I watch them grow; They'll learn much more than I'll never know; And I think to myself what a wonderful world. Well if we only consider these things, in many ways it is a wonderful world. But as far as I can see, it is a terribly broken world, filled with broken people who struggle to order their lives. The disorder of their lives is largely the result of disordered desires.

The only hope for healing and wholeness is found in Jesus Christ, who is God in the flesh, who died for our sins and rose from the dead. Only when we enter into a relationship with Jesus by faith, receiving his forgiveness of sins and eternal living in his Kingdom, can our broken lives become ordered and whole. Do you know Jesus? Are you learning to be content as you follow Jesus? Amen




November 11, 2018

One of the more memorable campaign ads involved toilets. According to the Chicago Tribune, our new Gov. J.B. Pritzker “improperly pocketed tax breaks by yanking the toilets out of one of his Gold Coast mansions and declaring it uninhabitable. Pritzker claimed that he had followed the rules. Rauner was also accused of some shady business practices in one of the companies he is involved in.

Lying and cheating are pretty common in our society. People lie without even thinking about it. Stealing and cheating is an everyday occurrence. We regularly hear about such things on the news.

Of course in the Ten Commandments stealing and lying are prohibited. This morning we want to consider the eighth and ninth commandments. To reflect the character of Jesus, we obey the eighth and ninth commandments.


The eighth commandment is simple and clear. “You shall not steal.” All of the cultures surrounding ancient Israel had laws against stealing. What distinguishes the 8th commandment from the surrounding cultures is its simplicity. It applies to the entire nation and to every individual. And while it certainly applies to the stealing of material property, it can easily apply to all varieties of theft. The 8th commandment easily combines with the 9th commandment because theft almost always involves deception.

Consider these Old Testament examples of theft. In Dt.19:14 we read, “You shall not move your neighbor's landmark, which the men of old have set, in the inheritance that you will hold in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.” In other words neighbors were to respect property boundaries. They were not to take land that belonged to another by moving boundary markers. In Dt.25:13-15, we read, “You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” A person uses false measures and balances to steal from or cheat others. In Amos 8:4-6 we read, “Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, saying, "When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?"-- skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat?" Merchants were stealing by selling inferior products, probably using false advertising. And while, “Finders keepers, loser’s weepers,” may apply in some situations, in Ex.23:4 we read, “If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him.” You are not to steal even the lost ox of your enemy that you might happen to find. You are to return the ox. And in Lev.19:13 we read, “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning.” I have met people who were not paid according to the agreed amount. That’s stealing.

There are numerous examples of theft found in the Bible. Rachel stole the household idols belonging to her father. Joseph’s brothers kidnapped Joseph and sold him into slavery. Micah stole 1,100 pieces of silver from his own mother. King David stole Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba. Judas was known to steal from the common purse kept by Jesus and the disciples.

We could go on and on talking about this and that kind of stealing. What about companies that steal money from the pension funds of their workers? What about people who steal money from the government by not paying their taxes? What about employees who steal time from their employers by not working? Or employees who steal supplies from their employers? What about employers who cheat their employees? What about government leaders who siphon funds earmarked to help the poor and needy? I mean it just goes on and on. And God simply says, “You shall not steal.”

In Eph.4:28, Paul writes “Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.” Paul is writing to Christians. When a person becomes a Christian things change. Christ comes to live in that person. Some of those new Christians had made stealing a practice in their pre-conversion days. Stealing was normal whenever the opportunity presented itself. Things have not changed very much from Paul’s day.

According to a 2018 national retail security survey conducted with the University of Florida, “Whether perpetrated by a dishonest employee or organized retail criminals, shrink (reduction of inventory) costs retailers about 1.33% of sales, on average, a total impact on the overall U.S. retail economy of $46.8 billion….” Stealing is big business. But not for believers.

Let me mention one other kind of stealing. In Josh.7:1, we learn that Achan stole some things that had been dedicated to God. He was stealing from God. In Mal.3:8-10, God says to Israel, “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, 'How have we robbed you?' In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.”

Now I do not think that Christians are under the Old Testament tithe laws. However, I do believe that Christians are to be intentional and generous in giving to the Lord and his work. How can we who have experienced the abundant grace of God in Jesus Christ give less than the people of Israel? Some of us rarely give thought to our giving.

Let me ask a question. If you saw an item that you desire and you knew you could get away with taking it, would you do it? Christians do not do it. It doesn’t belong to us. If you are a thief it’s time to repent, make restitution. You shall not steal.


The 9th commandment says, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” Old Testament scholars generally understand the 9th command to be referring to witnesses who give false testimony in court. In Ex.23:1-2 we read, “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness. You shall not fall in with the many to do evil, nor shall you bear witness in a lawsuit, siding with the many, so as to pervert justice.” Determining the truth about a matter is essential for a just society. Truth telling is important. Listen to Lev.5:1. “If a person sins because he does not speak up when he hears a public charge to testify regarding something he has seen or learned about, he will be held responsible.” According to this verse, there is no pleading the 5th. Similar laws are found in the cultures surrounding ancient Israel because we value the truth.

In 1Kgs.21 we read that the wicked king, Ahab wanted a vineyard that belonged to Naboth, his neighbor. Ahab offered to buy the vineyard, but Naboth did not want to sell because it belonged to his family. Ahab sulked and his wicked wife, Jezebel arranged to have two men bring a false charge against Naboth before the elders of the city. They falsely accused Naboth of cursing God and the king. The people stoned Naboth to death and Ahab took the vineyard.

A second example from the New Testament concerns Jesus. In Mt.26:59-62, we read, “Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, ‘This man said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’ And the high priest stood up and said, ‘Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?’ But Jesus remained silent.”

But it is not just in court where truth is needed. Throughout the Bible we are to always speak the truth. In Eph.4:25, Paul writes, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.” How important is it for Christians to be truthful? Very important. In Acts 5 we read about a situation in which a Christian couple named Ananias and Sapphira sold some land and brought some of the profit as a gift to the church. They gave the impression that they were giving the entire amount, when in fact they were only giving some of it. In Acts 5:3-5 we read, “Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God." When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it.” I imagine so. That is powerful.

Now some of you may be thinking, “Pastor Dave, there are a number of examples in the Bible where people tell lies and seem to be commended for it. In Ex.1:19, the Hebrew midwives lied in order to spare the lives of Jewish male babies, and God blessed them. In Josh.2, we read of how Rahab lies to protect the Jewish spies in Jericho. She is blessed for that. In 1Sam.20 Jonathan lies to his father, King Saul, in order to find out if Saul wanted to kill David. And there are other examples. What about this? Is lying ever the right thing to do?

Some say it is absolutely never right to lie. Others point out that it is never right to lie but that there are occasions when one must prioritize values. Saving human life may be a higher imperative than telling the truth. I have come to think that if I had to lie to save human lives, I would do it and confess my sin to the Lord. Along with this there may be times when because of the need to keep confidence or because of timing issues, one may try to be as truthful as the moment will allow. A person has no intention of lying, but can only say so much. As Christians, our way of life is to tell the truth.

Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” In Jn.8:44, speaking about the devil, Jesus says, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” We are children of God. Since we walk in the truth, we must speak the truth.

Charles Spurgeon, known as the prince of preachers was preaching one Sunday and he suddenly “broke off his sermon and pointed at a young man, declaring: “Young man, those gloves you are wearing have not been paid for: you have stolen them from your employer.” After the service an obviously pale and agitated young man approached Spurgeon and begged to speak with him privately. He placed a pair of gloves on the table and said, “It’s the first time I have robbed my master, and I will never do it again. You won’t expose me, sir, will you? It would kill my mother if she heard that I had become a thief.” It wasn’t the first time Spurgeon seemed to have divine insight like that.

 I have never had an experience like that while preaching, so don’t worry. However if you know that you have taken something, or cheated someone, or lied to someone, do not think it is a trivial matter. You are fully exposed to God. Men and women, we are not to steal or lie. Amen

Marital Faithfulness

November 4, 2018

“If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” The quote is attributed to Billy Preston. In 1970, Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young wrote a song called, “Love the One You’re With.” It was the height of the sexual revolution in this country, spanning the 60s through the 80s. This revolution sought to overturn repressive and prudish views of sexuality that had been traditionally held. It encouraged expressions of sexual liberation, including extra-marital sex, nudity, pornography, and much more.

Many years ago an elderly Christian man came to me and confessed that early in his marriage, he suggested that he and his wife participate in a swingers club. He thought spouse swapping would be good for their marriage. But it wasn’t good. It was deeply destructive to his marriage and he was filled with guilt and remorse.

In Ex.20:14 we read the 7th commandment. “You shall not commit adultery.” There are many expressions of sexual immorality. Why does God put adultery in the Decalogue? Let’s think about this. The seventh commandment calls for marital faithfulness.


When we think about the order in which the Ten Commandments are given, we see that the first four commands concern our relationship with God. The last six commands concern our relationship with society. I would suggest that obeying the first 4 commands, having to do with the worship of God, are essential for keeping the last 6 commands. Our worship of God brings order, clarity, and strength for living in society.

When God created Eve from Adam’s rib and brought her to Adam, we read in Gen.2:23-25 Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.”

Marriage is the first institution created by God. In Gen.1:28, Husbands and wives are called to be fruitful and multiply. But Gen.2 describes the context for this fruitfulness. Husbands and wives are to leave their parents in order to establish their own household. They are to hold fast to each other and they are to become one flesh through physical intimacy. Marital faithfulness provides a safe context for marital intimacy. After all, such intimacy requires complete vulnerability. Nakedness gives little protection.

Marital faithfulness is the command and expectation throughout the entire Bible. When we read about adultery in the Bible, the results are never good. David’s adultery with Bathsheba is the most well-known example and it brought great heartache to David’s family. In trying to cover it up he incurred the additional guilt of deception and murder.

But what exactly is adultery? The prohibition against adultery is found in all Ancient Near eastern Cultures. Adultery is having physical intimacy with someone other than your spouse. David Baker points out that in the patriarchal culture of Israel, “the primary concern is with a man (either married or single) having intimacy with a married woman other than his wife.” The command against adultery also applied to engaged couples.

In the Bible fornication, prostitution, homosexuality, premarital sex, cohabitation, incest, and bestiality are all against God’s law. But only adultery is found in the Ten Commandments because adultery breaks what Mark Rooker calls, “the most intimate of human relationships.” Again, David Baker writes, “The seventh commandment is not so much concerned with sex as with maintaining the sanctity of marriage as the fundamental unit of society instituted by God.” Adultery is a sin against God, against one’s spouse, and against society. In Dt.22:22 we read, “If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.”

Obviously married men and women are to be faithful to each other in every way. There are many challenges to being faithful. Marriage is not particularly easy. But when husbands and wives are loving, faithful, invested in each other’s welfare, humble, and kind, the potential for deep joy is great. And society will be strengthened.


In Mt.5:27-32, Jesus addresses the 7th commandment. He says, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Just as he did with murder, Jesus calls us to look at what is in our hearts. Adultery actually begins in the heart. Dallas Willard writes, “To be right sexually before God…is to be the kind of person who has a detailed and established practice of not engaging his or her bodily parts and perceptions, thoughts, and desires in activities of sexual trifling, dalliance, and titillation.” In the words of Jesus, to look at a woman or a man for the purpose of lusting and fantasizing is to commit adultery with that person in one’s heart.

Someone says, “Well it’s not as bad as actually committing the act!” In one sense that is true in that actually committing the act brings about great heartache and destruction. But to cultivate such fantasies and desires is to plunge into an ever deepening slavery to sin that will ruin your closest relationships.

In Jb.31:1, Job says, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin?” Later in v.9-10 he writes, “If my heart has been enticed toward a woman, and I have lain in wait at my neighbor's door, then let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down on her.”

Certainly we cannot think about this without acknowledging the destructive power of pornography and other kinds of sexually immoral media that are regularly put before our eyes. The temptations are all around us. Adultery is common on the movie screen and T.V. It is common among politicians and actors. But commonness does not mean it is any less destructive to people and society. This is not to say that every time we see a beautiful woman or man that we commit sin. The human body is a gift from God. But when the human body is presented in sexually compelling ways we bring serious trouble into our souls. Marital faithfulness calls us to pursue inward purity, inward faithfulness. And clearly Jesus urges us to take drastic steps to turn away from adultery of the heart.

James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” In this world that provides ample opportunity for marital unfaithfulness, it is essential that we take every step necessary to cultivate purity of heart and mind. This is important for our personal integrity, our integrity with our spouse, our integrity in the world, and our integrity before God. And this leads me to further point out that…


So significant is the covenant of marriage that marriage is used as a picture of Israel’s relationship with God. In Jer.2:2 we read, “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the LORD, ‘I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown.” But Israel turned to idolatry. Listen to what God says in Jer.5:7, “How can I pardon you? Your children have forsaken me and have sworn by those who are no gods. When I fed them to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to the houses of whores.” Idolatry is pictured as spiritual adultery, unfaithfulness to God.

This picture of marriage is carried into the New Testament and applied to the Church. For example, in Eph.5 Paul points out that marriage is a metaphor for the relationship between Christ and the church. In Rev.19:7-8, we read, “Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"-- for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” Today we are gathering to the Lord’s Table. Is there any connection to the 7th command?

Let’s look at Mt.26:26-29. It says, “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."

I am especially thinking about the last phrase where Jesus says that he will not drink of the fruit of the vine until, “that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” He is referring to what is often called, ‘the messianic banquet.” In Rev.19:9 it is referred to as, the marriage supper of the Lamb. The messianic banquet is the same thing as the marriage supper of the Lamb. When will that take place? It will take place when Christ returns to gather his church and establish the kingdom of God in all its fullness. Paul points out that when we have the Lord’s Supper we proclaim his death until he comes. The Lord’s Supper is a foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb. We eat and drink in anticipation of eating and drinking with the Lord in the new heaven and earth

With that in mind, it seems to me that to participate in the Lord’s Supper is to corporately affirm that we are the people of God, the bride of Christ. To participate at the Lord’s Table is to suggest that as the bride of Christ we are seeking to be faithful to him. We are not engaging in physical or spiritual adultery. We are not living in sin. We are not worshiping idols. This is why we confess our sins. This is why we evaluate our hearts before coming to the Table.

The 7th commandment calls for marital faithfulness. At the Lord’s Table the Church, the bride of Christ, draws near to the presence of Jesus, the Lamb of God, the Bridegroom who is coming soon. The bread speaks of his body broken for us. The juice speaks of his blood poured out for the forgiveness of sins. Let us draw near to the Lord Jesus as we come to his Table. Amen

Treasuring All People

October 28, 2018

Life is cheap. Life has always been cheap since the time of Cain and Abel, when murder became a readily available option for getting rid of those who get in the way. We like to think of ourselves and our society as being more civilized than in times past, but that is an illusion. People may keep their doors unlocked in Wyoming, but not in Chicago!

This morning we are looking at the 6th commandment. “You shall not murder.” There is nothing particularly profound about this. Similar laws are found in other Ancient Near Eastern cultures. But the necessity of such a law points out the inhumanity of humanity. God gave this commandment to make it clear that murder is wrong. We are Christians and we know murder is wrong. So what does this command say to us? This morning I want to emphasize that Christians are called to treasure all people.


Rather than take the time to parse out the nuances of this commandment, let me quote from David Baker. “The Hebrew verb…refers to the killing of one person by another, whether intentional or otherwise. Elsewhere this word is used for both murder’ and ‘manslaughter.’ It is not generally used for capital punishment and never for killing in war, self-defense, suicide, or slaughtering animals. In other words, it is concerned with illegal killing by individuals rather than killing authorized by the state in execution or war.” I begin with this definition because I think everyone can agree with it. Some of us might want to include more but certainly not less.

In Gen.1:27 we read about the creation of mankind. It says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Then in Gen.5:1 we read, “This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.” Later after the flood we read in Gen.9:5-6, “And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. ‘Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

Much has been written about what it means to be made in the image of God. In his Old Testament Theology, John Walton points out that the image of God refers to a status that is conferred on mankind, and should be primarily understood as referring to humanity’s role of vice-regent in carrying out God’s purposes. We are stewards of all that God has created. Humans have been given dominion over the earth. Since we all bear the image of God it is dead wrong for anyone to take the life of another. Their life is not ours to take for any reason. Everyone’s life belongs to God and is precious to him.

Of course, in the Old Testament we find the principle of lex talionis (law of retaliation). In Ex.21:23-25 we read, “But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.” This principle is designed to put appropriate limits on how justice is administered. What is more, in the Bible we see that capital punishment (the legally authorized killing of someone) is given to the state, the government. In Rm.13 Paul urges believers to be subject to the governing authorities and then in v.4 we read, “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for [the one in authority] does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.” Scripture sees a role for capital punishment. That said, as believers we are not to take matters of justice into our own hands. In Rm.12:19 Paul writes, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."

It is far better for us to think about the significance of bearing the image of God. Everyone we encounter has godly value and deserves to be treated as one of God’s significant creations, co-rulers on the earth.

In light of this it should grieve us every time we read about or see on the news how people devalue and dismiss human life. The daily murders that take place in our city, the atrocities that are committed against people around the world, and the abortions that take place on a regular basis are all an indication that something is deeply wrong with humanity.

Perhaps you have heard about the new Legacy Museum that has opened in Montgomery, AL. It is located on the site of a former warehouse where black people were enslaved. More than 4400 African American men, women, and children were hanged, burned alive, shot, drowned, and beaten to death by white mobs between 1877 and 1950. It is a deeply moving memorial that seeks to call us all to remember these dear people who were brutalized and murdered. Their blood, along with the blood of so many, cries out from the ground. Christians are called to treasure people because we are all created in the image of God. Everyone’s life is sacred.


When we think about the 6th commandment, “You shall not murder,” eventually one has to consider the words of Jesus. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus refers to the 6th commandment. In Mt.5:21-22, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.” Jesus gets to the root of the problem by pointing out that anger is ultimately what drives people to commit murder. It seems today that people are walking around with a reservoir of anger that is constantly boiling up in their hearts, ready to act in a moment’s notice. Jesus tells us that being angry with our brother makes us liable to judgment.

But then Jesus goes on to say much more that has bearing on this commandment. In Mt.5:38-45 Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” These are amazing words that must be taken seriously because Jesus lived them while on earth.

As people began to think that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, they had a preconceived idea of what the Messiah would be like. They fully expected that the Messiah would operate like other conquering kings. He would use violence to overthrow Roman occupation and reestablish the throne of Israel. In Jn.7 we read that it was the Feast of Booths and Jesus’ brothers encouraged him to go to Jerusalem so that everyone could see his amazing works. They urged Jesus to show himself to the world. His own brothers did not believe in him. Why? In a book by Brian Zahnd called, “A Farewell to Mars,” Brian writes, “What Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe was that Jesus could be the Messiah by going about it the way he was! Everyone knew that if you were going to be the Messiah and rescue Israel, you would have to be like Joshua, like David, like Judah Maccabaeus,…Jewish war heroes.” But Jesus was a non-violent Messiah. The world runs on antagonism and violence. Murder is common. But Jesus allowed himself to be murdered, crucified by the world. Zahnd writes, “We forget that when we see Christ dead upon the cross, we discover a God who would rather die than kill his enemies.” In fact, while on the cross Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

As followers of Jesus we not only obey the 6th commandment, we go beyond the 6th commandment by loving even our enemies. This is why I say we are commanded to treasure all people. We cannot treasure people if we hold anger against them. Jesus modeled exactly what he taught us to do. He prayed for those who persecuted him. In fact he died for those who crucified him.

In recent years as I have been reading and thinking about Jesus, I find myself becoming more of a pacifist because it seems to me that this is what Jesus taught. The life and death of Jesus was not just about solving the theological problem of sin. Jesus lived and died in a violent social-political context. He lived and spoke into that context. And our social-political context runs on the same principle of “might makes right,” using coercion, manipulation, and violence as the “go to” methods for accomplishing our goals. It is not the way of Jesus.

If, as believers, we resort to the ways of this world, we will not be able to show the love of Christ to the world. We must treasure people by extending the love of God that has been poured out into our lives by the Holy Spirit.


In Jms.4:1-3 it says, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

It is amazing to realize that James is writing to believers. Unfortunately it is true that believers are also subject to intense feelings and expressions of anger. We are redeemed sinners. Can you imagine Christians quarreling and fighting, even guilty of murder? Many think that when James uses the word, murder, that he is thinking more along the lines of hatred. And perhaps that fits the context since he puts murder before coveting. However, given that Jesus puts hatred alongside of murder doesn’t give much relief.

According to James, the source of fighting and quarrels is found in unfulfilled desires or passions. The word that is used gives us our word, “hedonism,” referring to someone who lives for pleasure.

When our heart is consumed with self-centered desires we will find it difficult to treasure and love anyone who has what we long for. And if we have gained whatever it is we long for, we will become protective against anyone who wants what we think belongs to us. Whether we are talking about the need for approval, money, pleasure, possessions, promotion, political power, privilege, recognition, and reward, whenever someone else gets what we want, we will find it difficult to love that person. And we may think, say, and do things that we are not proud of.

As a teen, I remember attending church business meetings that were quite heated and filled with anger. Why does that happen? It is often because we are committed to having our own way about things. Often these things are not of great consequence. When they are of great consequence we must still find a way to release the need to have our way.

The antidote for fighting and quarreling is to bring our desires to the Lord in prayer. “You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” What kind of a prayer life do you have? Do your prayers consist of requests for things you think will bring fulfillment to your life? Are your prayers all about you? If our desire is for God to be honored in our lives, then even if we pray in a self-centered way, I believe God will reveal our selfishness and shape our hearts and minds to pray about that thing in a way that will honor him. Our request may change as we realize that we are praying selfishly. And when we pray it is important to let the request rest in the hands of God. We must hold it loosely and let it go. If not it will eat us up along with our relationships with one another. If we believe that God loves us and wants what is best for us then we can rest in his goodness and love and focus on treasuring others.

So picture yourself standing before the Lord at the end of the age. You are giving an account of yourself. You say, “Lord I obeyed the 6th commandment. I did not murder anyone.” Well, I imagine the Lord will give you props for that. But he more likely will go on to ask if you loved people, if you treasured people with the love of Jesus. He may even get more specific. “Did you love your enemies? Did you pray for those who persecuted you?” Christians are called to treasure all people. Amen.

Honor Your Father and Mother

October 21, 2018

Listen to this quote attributed to Mark Twain. “When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.”

There is much truth in that quote. As young children we may idolize our parents, but when we become teens we can hardly bear them. By the time we become adults our assessment usually changes. As adults we realize how difficult life is and if we have children we gain a whole new appreciation for our parents.

This morning we are looking at the fifth commandment. “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” If the fifth command were put into practice by everyone, the world would be a different place. Honoring our parents is vital for our well-being.


It could not be spelled out any clearer. “Honor your father and your mother.” The word carries the idea of heaviness. As this word developed it came to indicate that which is important, weighty. Sometimes we say that an important person carries a lot of weight. What they say and do is powerful. The word is also related to the idea of glory and splendor. It is associated with God’s majesty. “Give to the Lord the glory, -honor, the weight due His name.” To honor is to “respect, glorify, and venerate.” Interestingly enough, in 1Sam.2:30, God says, “those who honor me I will honor.” As we honor God, God honors us.

When we look at the Ten Commandments, it is easy to see that the first 4 have to do with our relationship to God. The last 5 have to do with our relationship to society. The fifth command has to do with our relationship to our parents. In many ways our parents represent God and society to us. We gain our first inclinations about God, positive and negative, from our parents. We gain our first initiation into society from our parents. It is impossible to stress the significance for good and bad that our parents have on us.

Before we look at what it means to honor our parents, let me quote from Mark Rooker. He says, “The moral and religious weight of parents lies fundamentally in their person and position; it never is dependent on their practical ability and performance.” In other words the command doesn’t say, “Honor your parents if you think they are worthy of your honor.” We are to honor our parents because they are our parents. Just as God is worthy of our worship because he is God, so our parents are worthy of honor because they are our parents. In Lev.19:3 we read, “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and you shall keep my Sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.” In Lev.19:32 we read, “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.” Honoring one’s parents is paired with honoring the Lord.

But how are we to honor our parents? One way we honor our parents is through obedience. This was obviously very important in Israel. In Dt.21:18 we read about what Israel was to do in the case of a rebellious son who continually refused to obey his father and mother.” It could become a matter of life and death. Having said that, it is important to point out that if our parents require us to do something that is sinful we ought not to obey. In Prov.1:8 we read, “Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and forsake not your mother's teaching.” Honoring one’s parents means listening and learning from them. They have wisdom about life and God to impart. Without naming all the Old Testament passages, we learn that a son or daughter who honors their parents will not curse them, steal from them, treat them with scorn, insult them, strike or kill them. In Ez.22:7 we see that one of the reasons Israel went into exile is because, “father and mother are treated with contempt.” When Paul describes the sinfulness of society in Rm.1 he lists disobedience to parents alongside of “haters of God” and “inventors of evil.” When Paul describes the last days in 2Tim.3:2 we read, “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy.” In Eph.6:1 Paul tells children to obey their parents and then quotes the 5th commandment. Children are to honor their parents.

Of course honoring our parents is expressed differently at each stage of life. As babies and infants we are completely dependent on our parents. As children we learn about right and wrong, how to follow directions, how to get along with others, and how to be obedient. In adolescence we learn how to become independent of our parents by learning how to disagree and responsibly do things for ourselves. That can be a very difficult time of life and some of us made life extremely difficult for our parents. But the truth of the matter is that if we do not honor our parents, more than likely, we will have a difficult time living our lives in the real world. If we cannot learn from our parents who love us, we will have to learn in the school of hard knocks.

As we reach adulthood, honoring our parents is often expressed with increasing gratitude as we realize all that they have actually done for us. When we grow older there is sometimes a reversal of roles. Our parents may become increasingly dependent upon us. Even Jesus understood this role. As the firstborn son, while he was on the cross, he made provision for the care of his mother.

Now there are many circumstances that complicate our ability and desire to honor our parents. But before we think about that, I need to ask you. Do you seek to honor your mother and father? God calls us to honor our parents


I realize that the 5th commandment says nothing about parents living honorable lives, but if children are to honor their parents, it is a blessing when the parents seek to live in honorable ways. What do I mean by “honorable ways”? Well, just seeking to follow the Ten Commandments would pretty much take care of it! In Dt.6:4-7 we read, "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” In Eph.6:4 after quoting the 5th command, Paul writes, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”

The role of a parent is demanding. When babies are born there is great anticipation and excitement. Mom and dad pour themselves out for the care of their babies. There is a great deal of self-sacrifice, frustration, worry, and concern. And the self-sacrifice, frustration, worry, and concern doesn’t stop!

If we are Christian parents our desire is to embody the character, conduct, and conversation of Jesus to our children. We want to love our spouse and children with the love of God that has been poured out into our lives. We want to provide for our family. We want to have integrity. We want to be forgiving. We want to freely admit our faults and ask forgiveness. We want to show restraint in correcting. We want to be measured when arguments ensue. We want to have self-control when our children push us over the edge. We want to model faithful worship and service to God. But, it is very difficult to be like this all the time!

The reality is that all of us were raised by parents who were deeply flawed and we ourselves are deeply flawed. Truth be told, some of us lived in homes where mom or dad abandoned the family. Some of us lived in homes where there was verbal, physical, or sexual abuse. Some of us lived in homes where there was a great deal of anger and fighting. Some of us had parents who were addicted to alcohol, drugs, gambling or other things. Our parents did not honor God or their own parents.

For others of us things were not like that. Our parents tried to do the best they could, Christian or not. All of us have learned both good and bad from our parents and we pass good and bad habits onto our children.

Here’s the question. If our parents did not live honorable lives how can we honor them? How can we obey the 5th commandment? I believe the answer begins at a very basic level. We begin by being grateful to our parents for bringing us into the world and giving us the unique physical, mental, and emotional attributes that shape who we are. God fearfully and wonderfully saw fit to bring you into the world through your parents. If you are adopted you seek to be thankful for the parents who nurtured and raised you. And then, with God’s help, and maybe the help of a counselor, we will need to extend mercy and forgiveness. If there is opportunity to attempt reconciliation and resolution that could be a very significant moment of healing, but that is not always possible. What is possible is that we do not need to live at the mercy of our parents. God has given all we need for life and godliness and he will help us acknowledge the truth about our circumstances and learn to move on in living a life that is filled with the love of Jesus. Dealing with these matters is especially important if you have children. It is far easier to live an honorable life as a parent when you have come to peace with your own hurtful circumstances than if you continue to be driven by hurt and anger. It is never too late to begin seeking to be an honorable parent.


Exodus 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” Dt.5:16 puts it like this, “that your days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” In Eph.6:2 Paul writes that the 5th command is “the first commandment with a promise.”

There is surely a promise but I believe it is a general kind of promise. The reality is that there are people who honor their parents but have experienced all sorts of adversity and may have died at an early age. Obedience to the 5th command brings its own reward. Honoring and obeying our parents, being thankful for our parents, giving loving support to our parents as they grow older, is likely to yield a life that is filled not with ease, but with harmony and peace. It is not easy to care for one’s parents in old age and yet, it is one way in which we honor our parents. It tests us and at the same time, shapes us in the love of God as we do for our parents what they did for us when we were helpless babies.

On the other hand if we are at odds with our parents, holding onto anger and resentment with a heart of unforgiveness, we are likely to be driven by anger and resentment throughout our lives and may even be reckless in the way we live. And unless we deal with our anger, we will surely pass it on to our children.

Honoring our parents will help us learn to be thankful, to be kind, to extend love and grace, to die to ourselves, and to show mercy and forgiveness. These virtues help us flourish in life. They are virtues that reflect the life of Jesus.

Whatever your stage in life whether old or young, married or single, having children of your own or childless, who you are today has much to do with your family of origin and especially your parents. I want to urge us to thank God for our parents. I also want to encourage us to take steps to honor our parents. If your parents are alive and you are estranged from or at odds with them, I encourage you to do what you can to reconcile. Make it a matter of prayer. If there has been a rift for a long time, more than likely it has had a deep and negative impact on your life. I believe God wants to bring healing to you and it may take time as you face the truth. Honoring our parents is vital for our well-being. Amen.

Remembering the Sabbath

October 14, 2018

If you grew up in the 50’s and 60’s you remember blue laws. Blue laws are laws that prohibit various activities of work and commerce on Sunday. In the 18th century the word, “blue,” carried the meaning of, “rigidly moral” in a negative sense.

Growing up, I was not allowed to do any kind of rigorous playing on Sunday. I do remember one time when I played football but I felt a little guilty about it. It was the Lord’s Day, after all! There were no little league games on Sunday and many stores were closed. Most of these laws have since been repealed and today the “Lord’s Day” is pretty much like any other day.

This morning we are looking at the 4th commandment. “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” This was a sobering command. In Dt.31:15 we read, “Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day shall be put to death.” What is this all about? Does it have any relevance to us? Did Jesus nullify the Sabbath? We want to think carefully about this commandment because, you see the Sabbath command is a gracious gift of God to believers.


The noun, “sabbath” is sometimes said to refer to the number seven. It is the 7th day. But it is widely held today by Hebrew scholars that the noun is related to a verb which means, “to cease.” In other words the noun, Sabbath, refers to, “the day that stops.” As far as I can tell from my study, the Sabbath law is unique to Israel.

The Sabbath command is found in Ex.20 and restated in Deut.5. Both references are essentially the same except for a significant difference. The reason given for observing the Sabbath differs in each passage. Let’s consider Ex.20:8-11 (read).

In v.11 notice the reason given for ceasing from all work. The Lord blessed the Sabbath and made it holy because he rested on the 7th day after creating the heavens and the earth. The Sabbath was holy because it was a day brought into the realm of that which is sacred. It has to do with God and our relationship with God. In v.11 we are called to reflect upon God’s majestic work of creation and his sovereign rule over all creation. Notice that God rested from his creation work, not because he was tired, but because it was complete and he saw that it was good.

When God created mankind he gave mankind dominion over the earth. We have work to do in this world. Work is part of our vocation as humans created in the image of God. God tells his people, Israel, to enter into his rest from work. We share in God’s rest.

But the focus is not just on our having a day of rest. The Sabbath is to be a holy day because God has blessed it. In Ex.31:13 we read, “You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, 'Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you.” God calls the day, “my Sabbath.” This day was appointed by the Lord as a sign for his people to acknowledge their relationship with God as Creator and Sustainer of all things.

How was Israel to observe the Sabbath? Well, notice that there is no command to go to the tabernacle or to make special sacrifices. It doesn’t say they were to sing special songs or give special prayers. It says they were to not do any work of any kind. In Ex.16 when Moses explains how the people were to gather manna each day he says that on the 6th day the people were to gather enough for two days because on the Sabbath day no manna would be found. In Ex.16:29 Moses explains, “See! The LORD has given you the Sabbath; therefore on the sixth day he gives you bread for two days. Remain each of you in his place; let no one go out of his place on the seventh day." In Ex.35:3 we read, “You shall kindle no fire in all your dwelling places on the Sabbath day." In Num.15 a man was put to death for gathering wood on the Sabbath. In Neh.10:31 Nehemiah makes it clear that the people were not to conduct business on the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a day given to the Lord in worship of him.

But clearly it was difficult for Israel to embrace the purpose and quietness of this day. In fact, the Babylonian Exile occurred in part because the people did not observe the Sabbath. In Lev.26:33 God says, “And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.” Then in v.35 God says, “As long as [the land] lies desolate it shall have rest, the rest that it did not have on your Sabbaths when you were dwelling in it.” The people of Israel did not keep the Sabbath.

After the Exile it was a different story. The Jewish religious leaders were so concerned about keeping Sabbath that they added numerous rules, distorting the Sabbath. By the time of Jesus, these leaders had made the Sabbath into a burden for the people.

By the way, Jesus observed the Sabbath. In Lk.4:16 we read, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.” Of course we all remember that Jesus caused great controversy because he did not follow the rules added by the religious leaders. He often healed people on the Sabbath which was against their rules. In Lk.6:5 Jesus said about himself, “The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath." In Mk.2:27 Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” Jesus demonstrates God’s intent for the Sabbath. It was not a day for doing nothing. It was a day for rest and for doing good. But above all it was a day to honor the Lord in surrender and worship.

Today we worship on what we call the Lord’s Day. It is Sunday, the first day of the week. It is not known exactly when Christians began worshiping on Sunday, but clearly from Acts and the Epistles we see that the believers worshiped on Sunday probably because Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. The believers continued to set aside a day for worship. Gentile believers in the Roman Empire probably had to work every day, so they would gather in the afternoon and evening for worship. All of this to say that the principle of setting aside a day to honor and worship the Lord of all is deeply embedded in the Scripture and is to be a regular part of our lives.


Just before the people crossed into the Promised Land, Moses reviewed the law of God. There are a couple of differences to notice here in Deut. For one thing, the statement about who is to enjoy a day of rest is given with a little more detail. But in v.15 a different reason for observing Sabbath is given. They were to observe the Sabbath because they had been “slaves in the land of Egypt and the Lord brought them out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.” This is a reference to the Exodus, to redemption. God released them from bondage.

I think it is instructive to see that the redemption of Israel from bondage in Egypt was to be entered into and remembered by observing a day of rest. In fact, rest is an interesting idea in the Bible. The Promised Land was referred to as a place of rest. In Jos.1:13 we read, “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, 'The LORD your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.” In the 4th commandment it is instructive to see that the people of Israel were to extend Sabbath rest to all who lived in the land. Even those who were not Jewish were extended the grace of Sabbath rest. The Sabbath rest was a day for remembering God’s mercy and kindness in redemption and it was to be shared.

In the book of Hebrews the writer refers to the Sabbath rest. He makes his point using a kind of argument that is not common to the way we speak. But his point is that even though God promised to give his people rest in the Promised Land, many of those people did not enjoy the rest of God because of their unbelief and disobedience. “But,” the author of Hebrews says in Heb.4:9-11, “there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience.” What rest is he talking about? He is talking about the rest that comes through faith in Jesus. He is talking about redemption from bondage to idolatry and sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

After a week of hard work, we all need rest. God thoughtfully provided a day of rest for his people. But here in Dt.5 we see that this rest has spiritual significance. It is the rest of redemption. Israel didn’t do anything to earn redemption. When we embrace Christ as Savior, Lord and King we are redeemed from bondage, not because we deserve redemption, but because God is merciful and gracious. We are redeemed by faith in Jesus not by our works. God wanted his people to never forget their redemption from slavery in Egypt so he blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.

Some would say that the 4th commandment no longer applies to us today. I myself have said that in the past. In one sense it does not apply since the Sabbath law is not specifically enforced by the New Testament apostles. In fact, in Rm.14:5 Paul, writing about non-essential matters, says, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” And in Col.2:16, Paul writes, “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath.” So it seems that followers of Christ are not bound by the Old Testament Sabbath laws.

That said, surely the spirit of the Sabbath is still very much alive. Worshipping God our Creator and Redeemer ought to be a joyful priority for all believers. What could be more important than the worship of God?

One wonders if we have not become too casual in our worship. We probably don’t set aside a whole day for worship like Israel did. But do we feel any sense of compulsion that we ought not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together in worship? I’m not suggesting we need to be in church all day. I don’t think it’s wrong to sit down on the Lord’s Day and watch T.V. or enter into other activities. But I do think we short ourselves when we do not set time aside for thoughtful rest, worship, and thanksgiving to God. What actually makes the Lord’s Day different from any other day that you don’t have to work? How is your rest on Saturday different from your rest on Sunday? Are you intentional and thoughtful about your worship of God? Amen.

Hallowed Be Thy Name

October 7, 2018

Names are very significant. In Europe and the United States we do not attach the same kind of significance that is found among people who live in other parts of the world. But we do value our names. We might say, “Hey you are dragging my name through the mud.” We try to keep our name good and honorable. This is what is going on right now in the process of naming a new Supreme Court justice. Mr. Kavanaugh is concerned about his name.

Well, God is concerned about his name. This morning we are looking at Ex.20:7, which is the 3rd commandment. It says, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” Of course we want to think about what it means to take the name of the Lord in vain, but before we do that, it might be helpful to think about the positive implication of this command. The positive implication is that the name of God is holy.


Sometimes we say that “holy” means to be set apart. God is certainly set apart from all else. But in my study I came to see that the idea of separation does not give the full sense of what the word, “holy” means. Holiness is “the quintessential nature of God.” Wheaton professor of Old Testament, John Walton writes, “Yahweh is holy, not because he conforms to some outside standard defined as holiness, but because he is God. Describing something as holy means that it is situated in the divine realm.” J.E. Hartley, in the Dictionary of the Old Testament Pentateuch writes, “In Scripture, holiness is exclusive to Yahweh; the holiness of anything else is derived, either from God’s presence or from consecration to the sanctuary. Further, because only God is holy, there is nothing either within humans or on earth that is inherently holy, and no Scripture attempts to define ‘holy.” In the Bible we find the holiness of God revealed in his character, actions, and his words. I’m thinking that God’s holiness is the sum total of all that God is. In Lev.19:2 God says, “I the Lord your God am holy.”

Well, if God is holy, then surely his name is holy. Psalm.29:2 says, “Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.” In Ps.86:9 we read, “All the nations you have made shall come and worship before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name.” The name of God represents who God is. And because of this we honor his name.

In the Old Testament God is referred to by a number of different names. The most holy name of God is Yahweh. When you see LORD in capital letters in the Old Testament that is the name Yahweh. This name was regularly spoken by the people of Israel. However at some point, perhaps after the Exile, the practice of speaking the name, Yahweh, ceased because it is holy. So when Jews would come to that name when reading or speaking about Yahweh, they spoke the name Adonai, which means, “Lord,” referring to God’s sovereignty. Hebrew was written using only consonants. In the middle ages little marks were inserted around the letters to show how to pronounce the words. These marks are called vowel points. Whenever the name Yahweh occurred they put the vowel points for the name, Adonai. And that gives us the name, Jehovah. I point this out to say that the name, Jehovah is not a name for God. Today, no one knows how to pronounce Yahweh. But in the Bible God’s name is not Jehovah. What is more, God never said that his name could not be spoken. When Moses asked what God’s name is, God responded with the name, Yahweh. “I am.” It is the name that reveals God in his ongoing loving-kindness and covenant faithfulness. God was revealing himself and inviting Moses and Israel to know him. When Jesus came to this earth God was inviting us to know him. In fact, Jesus called himself, “I AM.”

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray he said, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed, holy be thy name.” Jesus honored the name of God and taught us to honor the name of God. And since Jesus is God in the flesh his name is holy. I am reminded of Phil.2:9-11. Having become obedient to the point of death on the cross, we read, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” We bow in worship at the name of Jesus. We honor his name.


The name of God stands for all that God is. His name conveys his love and care. His name conveys his life. His is a name we can trust.

To trust in God’s name is to rest in his loving, faithful and good character. Because of who God is, what he does is always done well and is the right thing to do. So in Is.50:10 we read, “Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” It is not uncommon for us to feel as if we are walking in darkness. That is because this is a dark world. Not only are people’s hearts blinded by the evil one, but this world is filled with violence, anger, self-centered pride and immorality. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” “For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name.”

In Mic.4:5, we read, “For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.” To walk in the name of the Lord is to live in the way of the Lord. In other words our way of living reflects his loving and faithful character. It’s exactly what Jesus meant when he told us to make disciples, teaching them to do all that Jesus commanded. We are walking in the name of the Lord.

In Jn.20:31 we read, “but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” Later in 1Jn.5:13, John writes, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” The name of Jesus is life giving. To believe on the name of Jesus is to enter into a relationship with God and to receive his new creation life, which is an eternal kind of life. The name of Jesus is a powerful name that we can trust.


The Old Testament prophets spoke in the name, the authority of God. Jesus came in the name of the Lord. Followers of Jesus serve God in the name of Jesus.

In Col.3:17, Paul writes, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Whatever we do we are to do in a way that is in keeping with the name of Jesus. His name graces our actions. But let’s be more specific.

In Mk.9:41, Jesus says, “For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink [in my name or] because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.” Even the smallest kind of service done in the name or on behalf of Jesus is blessed. In Acts 9 we read about preaching in the name of Jesus. In Acts 2 we read about being baptized in the name of Jesus. In Mt.18:5, Jesus says, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” When we serve and care for children we reveal the humility that characterizes those who receive Jesus.

In Jn.14:13-14, Jesus says, “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Jesus encourages us to use his name when we pray. We can pray in his name with confidence that he will do it. Asking in his name surely implies that we are asking for things that are in keeping with his work and character. In the verse before he says that after he ascends to the Father we will be doing the works that he does. It is in this context that we pray in his name.

As followers of Christ, bearing his life in this world, we present a living picture of Christ to the world through our actions and words. We serve in God’s name.


What does Ex.20:7 mean? “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.” This idea of taking the name of God in vain is not just found in Israel. In Egypt and other Mesopotamian religions one had to be careful about making oaths in the name of a god and then not fulfilling the oath. One had to be careful about swearing to the truthfulness of what they were saying using the name of a god, if in fact they were telling a lie.

In the Bible we see various ways in which God’s name can be taken in vain. In Lev.19:12, God says, “You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.” When we make a statement whether in a court of law or just in general conversation and swear by God’s name that we are telling the truth, when in fact we are telling a lie, we are taking God’s name in vain.

Another way we profane the name of God is to make a vow, a promise in God’s name and not fulfill the vow. Eccl.5:4-5 says, “When you vow a vow to God, do not delay paying it, for he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you vow. It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.”

Another way that God’s name is profaned is when we use his name to manipulate God for our own purposes. I am reminded of Acts 19 in which it says that some itinerant Jewish exorcists in Ephesus noticed how Paul was able to cast out demons in the name of Jesus. A Jewish High Priest named Sceva had seven sons who decided to cast demons out of people invoking the name of Jesus. They would say, “I adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul proclaims.” In Acts 19:15-16, we read, “But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?" And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” Any attempt to use God’s name in a manipulative way profanes his name.

But perhaps the most common way in which God’s name is profaned is when we use his name in a casual way. God’s name and the name of Jesus are often used to punctuate our angry outbursts, our crude jokes, our surprise at things, our being caught off guard. We’ve all heard it. “Jeeesus Christ! What are you doing?” “O my God! I can’t believe it.” “Christ! I got a parking ticket.” We even say, “OMG.” Everyone knows what we’re saying. Muslims don’t do this because they hold the name of Allah as being holy.

And I’m not suggesting that every time we say, “O my God,” that we are taking God’s name in vain, but it does strike me that we are far too casual in our use of the name of God. Do we show deep respect and awe for God and his name?

When I was dating Angie and sitting in class at seminary, I sometimes found myself writing her name on my page of notes. I would try to write her name in artistic ways. It would have never occurred to me to write her name sloppily and I certainly would not have wanted to use Angie’s name in a derogatory way. Angie was becoming dear to me and her name represented all that Angie is.

The name of God represents all that God is. His name is holy. His name is dear to us who have come to know him through faith and allegiance to Jesus. How do you use the name of God? Amen


September 23, 2018

In the Roman Empire you could worship as you pleased except for one thing. Everyone had to offer incense to the image of the Roman Caesar. You could identify as a Christian and live to tell about it as long as you offered incense to the image of Caesar. Christians refused to do this little thing. And many were persecuted and martyred. Why did they refuse? They refused because idolatry is a serious matter that compromises a person from deep within.

Today we are looking at the 2nd commandment. The 2nd commandment speaks to the question of how we worship God. Can we use an image in our worship of God? Well not if you are a Christian. In the 2nd commandment God says, “Flee from idolatry that you may worship God wholeheartedly.”


In Ex.20:4 we read, “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.”

Some take this command to mean that we should never make any representation of any kind. According to Wikipedia, there is a proscription in Islam against the creation of images of conscious, feeling beings. “The most absolute proscription is of images of God in Islam, followed by depictions of Muhammad, and then Islamic prophets and the relatives of Muhammad, but the depiction of all humans and non-human animals is discouraged.” And so Islamic art is dominated by geometric patterns and calligraphy. Some Jews have the same understanding of this prohibition.

That said, in Ex.25 we find that when God gives instructions for the tabernacle, he tells Moses to make two cherubim that would sit on either side of the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant. Again in Ex.25 we read that the lampstand was to be adorned with sculpted flowers. In Ex.28 we see that the priest’s robe was to have pomegranates embroidered on the hem. In addition to this, in Num.21 it was God who told Moses to make the image of the bronze snake. When Solomon built the temple he made much use of representational art. I mention this to suggest that the Lord is not ruling out artistic imagery. He is ruling out imagery for the purpose of worship and by extension we should take this as a warning concerning the use of imagery in worship.

In Dt.4:15-19 Moses gives additional instruction on this. He says, “Therefore watch yourselves very carefully. Since you saw no form on the day that the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a carved image for yourselves, in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the air, the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth. And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.”

What I want us to see is that Moses emphasizes the fact that when God spoke to the people they saw no form. They heard a voice. What’s the point? The point is that any representation of God diminishes God. It reduces God into something of our own making. Since God is the Creator of all things, he cannot be represented by anything he created since he is over all that he created. Sometimes we describe a person as being larger than life. We look at a picture of the person, but it doesn’t really capture that person because they are bigger than that picture. Well God is bigger, more complex, more powerful, more magnificent and majestic than anything we can make or see. If we could see God it would be our undoing. He dwells in unapproachable light.

But while that is the truth about God, there is something in us that seeks to bring God down to our own size. I have a few objects on the communion table. Potentially they could be idols. David Baker points out that, typically in the Ancient Near East, elaborate rituals were used to transform an image so it became the ‘pure epiphany of its god.’ “The material image was understood to be animated by the divine essence…manifesting its presence…[and] believed to be alive and able to eat food, drink the water, listen to the music, and smell the incense brought by worshipers…the god was the reality embodied in the image.”


Verse 5 says, “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.”

We must not forget that Israel was surrounded by nations in which many gods were worshiped through idolatry. Idolatry was a constant temptation. When Jacob left his uncle Laban to go back to Canaan, Rachel stole the household gods of her family. They were small enough to hide in a saddle bag. Moses made the bronze snake. Later, in 2Kgs.18 we learn that the people worshiped the snake. Gideon made a garment out of gold, an ephod, and we read that the people worshiped it.

In v. 5 God prohibits bowing down in worship to an idol because he is a jealous God. Really? God is jealous! What is that all about? Well, the idea has to do with being in an exclusive relationship. In my understanding of the Old Testament, the nation of Israel came into being because God established a relationship with Abraham and promised to make Abraham the father of a great nation. But more than this, when Israel found itself helplessly enslaved in Egypt, it was God who redeemed Israel through his powerful hand. God cared for Israel, miraculously providing food and water, eventually bringing his people into a land flowing with milk and honey. It was God who entered into a covenant with Israel in which God promised to establish Israel and its throne forever.

Again and again in the Old Testament the relationship between God and Israel is described in terms of a marriage covenant. This helps us see that the relationship between God and Israel was not just based on power. It was rooted in love. God commanded Israel to worship him not because God is on some big ego trip, but rather because God is God and worship is the only appropriate response to the love and goodness of God.

But like an unfaithful spouse, Israel committed spiritual adultery. When a person commits adultery, they turn away from their spouse and yield themselves into the hands of their lover. They cede power over to their lover. The lover has his or her way with the person. The marriage covenant is broken and many marriages do not survive.

In Rm.1:21-25 Paul writes, “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”

It is clear in Romans that the root problem behind all sin is the failure to worship God alone. N.T. Wright writes, “The priestly calling of all humans was then to honor God, to thank and praise him. Instead, however, humans ‘swapped the glory of the immortal God for the likeness of the image of mortal humans, and of birds, animals, and reptiles.” Later he writes, “When humans worship parts of creation or forces within creation, they give away their power to those aspects of the created order, which will then come to rule over them.” This is why it is so difficult to abandon sin. We let it rule us

Back in Ex.20:5, God says that the impact of spiritual adultery is lasting. He says that the iniquity that results from idolatry is visited upon the children to the 3rd and 4th generations. In his book, “The Ten Commandments,” Dr. Rooker points out that, “Idolatry has never been connected to ethical behavior. In fact, sexual immorality often has accompanied the practice of idolatry.” That is exactly what we see in Rm.1. Think about it. If you saw the 4th generation from yourself, that would be your great, great grandchild. It’s possible. If you live a life of idolatry it will only bring disorder and sinful behaviors into your family. God says, your iniquity will be visited upon your family. And that is all too true.

Now again, most of us do not worship images, although many throughout the world do. But even Christians can be idolaters. Think of all the things we can worship. We can worship our family (ancestors), money, sex, pleasure, power, position, success, reputation, intelligence, and other things. In Col.3:5 Paul likens greed to idolatry. Idolatry is ultimately self-worship. Where you find idolatry you find fear, anxiety, immorality, disobedience, shame, deceit, division, addictions, anger, abuse, unforgiveness, and sadness. God has been rejected. The love that God has for us has been spurned. We think we know better than God and we pay a terrible price.


In v.6 we read, “but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

Before I say anything more, I think it is important to recognize that all of us are probably guilty of idolatry to one degree or another. Perhaps some would disagree with me on this. But my sense is that few of us know ourselves so well as to be able to make the claim that we never participate in some form of idolatry. We live in old creation bodies that are passing away and bear the brunt of sin.

At the same time we have been given new creation life in Christ. We have received the Holy Spirit of God. I believe that the Holy Spirit continually seeks to make us aware of the various kinds of idolatry that we struggle with. Hopefully, as Christians, we embrace the truth about ourselves and bow before the Lord in confession and worship.

That said, what we read in this verse is marvelous. While the iniquities of idolatry are passed on through the 4th generation, those who love God and keep his commands, those who worship God in this way, discover that his faithful, steadfast, covenant keeping love is conveyed to thousands. When we live in love, obedience, and worship of God, his love is in us and he expresses his love to others through us.

But look! God’s love is most clearly displayed in Jesus Christ, who Paul tells us, is the image of the invisible God. No need for idolatry. We have Jesus Christ and we worship him. For to worship Jesus is to worship God. To fix our eyes on Jesus is to fix our eyes on God.

And that leads me to put this question to you. Do you worship God with your whole heart? Have you entered into a life-giving relationship with God through faith in his Son, Jesus. Have you repented of your sins and called upon the name of the Lord to save you? Do you worship God alone? Amen.