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August 12, 2020 7:00 pm
Dr. Gregory Stiekes continues a chapel series entitled “Oh How I Love They Law.” Today’s scripture passages are Acts 17 and Exodus 20:4-6.
The post 793. You Shall Not Make For Yourself a Carved Image appeared first on THE DAILY PLATFORM.
Welcome to The Daily Platform from Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina. The school was founded in 1927 by the evangelist, Dr. Bob Jones senior. His intent was to make a school where Christ would be the center of everything. So he established daily chapel services. Today, that tradition continues with fervent biblical preaching from the university chapel platform.
Today on The Daily Platform, we're continuing a study series entitled Oh How I Love Their Law, which is a study of the Ten Commandments. Dr. Greg Stokes of the Bob Jones University Seminary will bring today's message.
It's a real privilege to be involved in the series on the Ten Commandments. We will be looking at Exodus 20, of course, where we find the record of commandment number two, which we're going to cover this morning. But I would also like you to turn to Act 17, Act 17. And we're going to begin by following the apostle Paul around for a few moments as he makes his way around the city of Athens. Act 17 in the middle of Act 17, Paul finds himself alone in this great city of Athens, having sent his coworkers, Silas and Timothy, back north to check on the churches that they have established, a Mac Madona. So if you'll look at Acts Cho 17, verse 16, the Bible says now, while Paul waited for Silas and Timothy at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him when he saw the city wholly given to idolatry.
Now, I want to go ahead and put this in perspective for us this morning.
Athens was the crown jewel of the ancient world when it came to all things cultural and philosophical. Do you recognize the names Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, Epicurus, Zino Demosthenes. He's the famous orator or Euripides, the famous playwright, all of them from Athens. If you are somebody in the ancient world and you weren't born in Athens, you got there as quickly as you could. Athens is an amazing tourist attraction today. But understand that as Paul walks through the city and Act 17, Athens is already a tourist attraction. Paul had come to this zeine off of culture and learning and religion. And if you today were to spend time in Athens, you would be fascinated with a massive forums and delicate figures of the statutes to the gods and the incredibly built temples even in ruins.
This city is fascinating, but according to Ax 1716, Paul is far from impressed. What Paul saw was not a tourist attraction, but a city wholly given to idolatry.
And the verse says notice that his spirit was stirred in him in the Greek language.
This is a word that means that Paul was angry, seething, exasperated with indignation.
Did he get so angry about something, especially something unjust or wrong, that you start to get this moral weight that settles down in your spirit until you can't stand it anymore and you have to say something or you. You have to do something about it. That's Paul in Athens. He has profoundly moved, burdened, enraged by the gross idolatry of the city. So he starts preaching the gospel in verse 17. He reasons with the Jews and the synagogue, as he always does when he goes into a city. And then he goes daily into the agora, the marketplace, to try to speak to the Athenian people, the gospel of Jesus Christ. And by verse 18, if you'll look there, the epicurean and stoic philosopher start paying attention to Paul. He'd probably been around talking long enough. And there was some debate in the verse about what he is preaching. But in verse 19, they decide we're going to check this guy out. And the Athenians had a way to do that. They had a system in place where the professional philosophers could evaluate any new or interesting philosophy. They heard they can feed on the area of bigots or an heiress hill sometimes as translated Marcil after the Roman name of God areas.
I try to place myself in Paul's situation and imagine this profound moment that God gave to him in his ministry as he stands there on Areopagus, ready to publicly proclaim his faith in Jesus of Nazareth.
Paul would have looked down and far below him. He would have seen the massive temple to have faced us with its 36 pillars, and he would have seen the altar of the 12 gods down there and the smaller temple to Apollo and above him, the Parthenon dedicated to Athena that the patron goddess of Athens. Paul on Mars Hill or the area of Bega's, was literally surrounded by idols. The Lord had not brought his apostle Paul to some random spot in Greece. He had brought him to the very Acropolis of. Pagan religious thought and philosophy in the first century, Paul was standing in the Harvard or Oxford of the ancient world. He was being asked to make his case before the philosophical elite of Yale, Cambridge and Notre Dame. And now Paul was on the spot. What is he going to say to these philosophical elites of the world steeped in their idolatrous culture? Well, on Paul's tour around Athens, he had encountered an altar with this inscription. I'd know stuff that oh, which means to the UN known God. No image per say. No idol. Just an inscription honoring an invisible God. And in a stroke of Holy Spirit induced genius, Paul seizes upon this inscription to this unknown, invisible God as a contrast to the panoply of ideals surrounding him. Paul says to them, If you'll look at verse twenty three as I passed by, I be held your devotions. I found an altar with this inscription to the unknown God whom therefore ye ignorantly worship him. Declare I unto you. Starting in verse 24, Paul says, in essence, this invisible God, the one that you don't know. He created all things. That's why Paul says in verse 24, God, that made the world and all things there in. This is where Paul begins with the invisible creator. And when it comes to our worship of our God. This is where we must begin also.
Now, if the invisible God created all things, it means that this God is, above all things, separate from his creation. That's why Paul continues in verse twenty four. He is Lord of Heaven and Earth. And if God is Lord of all He created separate from His creatures, he cannot, by sheer force of logic, dwell in temples made with men's hands. Those are, in fact, Paul's very words at the end of verse twenty four. This God dwell, if not in Temple's made with hands. Now I know that the Bible speaks about the manifestation of God's glory, filling the tabernacle and later the temple. But even Solomon's own words when he dedicates the temple run like this. But will God indeed dwell on Earth? Behold the heavens. Heavens cannot contain the. How much less this house that I have built. Solomon said. And if this invisible creator, God does not even dwell in Temple's made with hands, and he certainly needs nothing else, he does not need someone to fashion him or feed him or care for him. So Paul continues in verse twenty five. Look there. Neither is he worship with men's hands as though he needed anything, seeing he give it to all life and breath and all things.
Do you see that we cannot create God. God created us. We cannot make an image of him. We are made in his image.
Paul repeats the same idea down in verse twenty nine. He says, for as much then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold or silver or stone graven by art and man's devices. So you don't carve an image of this guy. His power and transcendence, invisibility and infinity defies the creature to attempt such an outrageous act.
God is not able to be graven, carved or shaped or fashioned to make an image of him, demeans him, cheapens him, likens him to his creation.
And it also demonstrates that the worshiper knows nothing of this God. And what is more, the wrath of God is coming upon Idol worshipers. Verse 30 and the times of this ignorance God winked at, in other words, in his mercy.
He was willing to overlook it for a time, but now command of all men everywhere to repent because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man, Jesus Christ, whom he ordains, whereof he has given assurance under all amen and that he raised him from the dead. Now, why was the apostle Paul so overwhelmed about the idols in the city of Athens?
Why was he so burdened to the point of deep melancholy and emboldened to preach the gospel? Well, consider the fact that Paul had been raised in a staunch Jewish home, was trained for the rabbinate at the feet of Gamaliel, was a Pharisee who was blameless when it came to keeping the law. He says of himself in Philippians three, Paul's moral imagination was shaped by the law, especially by the Ten Commandments. He knew the Ten Commandments. He knew their implications. They were burned into his soul. And so with this in mind, if you will turn to Exodus Chapter 20, we with this in mind can study this particular command, the teaching of which caused the apostle Paul to recoil at the thought of so many idols. When we come to Exodus Chapter 20 and the Decalogue or the Ten Commandments, we notice that the first four commands are about our worship, worshiping the one true creator God. The first commandment is concerned that we worship only one true living creator. Dr. Newton went through that passage last Wednesday. But the second, third and fourth commandments are not concern necessarily that we worship this God.
They're concerned with how we worship this God. We are not to work with carved images, command number two. We are to give the Lord the honor, do his name. Commandment number three. We are to count as holy one day in seven and set aside that day for the worship of this God commandment number four. So let's consider the meaning of the second commandment Exodus 20 versus fourth your six. You shall not make for yourself the KAB image.
And by the way, this is the strongest way to express the command in the Hebrew language.
Imagine your mother saying to you before you went out of the house, you will not go out looking like that. That will happen to you. That's the kind of emotional idea here in the Hebrew language. God is very serious. You shall not make for yourself a carved image. That's something cut or shaped or any likeness of anything. In other words, you will not make an idol. The words carved image in the word likeness are two common words in the Old Testament to refer to idols. Image is constructed from the mind of man that Venner. Then they were venerated or praised or honored as objects of worship. Now where did these Idol worshipers get their ideas for how to Shapp a shaper or fashion their false gods? Well, they imitated the world around them. The world that God had created. That is why if you look there, God says you will not make any likeness of anything that exists in three spheres, in heaven above and the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Those are the three spheres of God's creation that idolaters imitate when they fashion an idol. Their idols are copies of things in one of these created rules. When that when the children of Israel come out of Egypt, remember, at the foot of Mount Sinai, they worship an image of the golden calf, something that is in the sphere of that which is on the earth beneath. Aaron got the idea from Egypt, the place from which God had Simp had recently delivered them in the Egyptian capital, Memphis.
They worship the APUs bowl, but in the second, third and fourth commandments, we also see that God is against all of the worship of these idols and the fact that they represent things upon this earth. In fact, when God brought upon Egypt the ten plagues, you could look at those that you know this as a fronts directly against the gods of the Egyptians.
God showing himself that he has the final authority. The first two plagues the Nile. Turn to blood and frogs coming up out of the water where a direct assault upon the Egyptian gods fashion after likeness of things from the water. For example, the goddess Hacket, who had the head of a frog. Poor thing plagues three through six gnats, flies, cattle disease boils demonstrated God's authority over Egyptian gods patterned after things upon the earth. Plague seven through nine hail wind that broke locusts. Darkness demonstrated God's power over Egyptian gods patterned after things in heaven above like the famous RA, the sun God and the Israelites, having been surrounded by an idolatrous culture for centuries. And Egypt would have been tempted to mimic the Egyptian forms in the worship of their own and visible living and true God.
But that would be to look at what God created and fashion an image like the creation and call it God and outrageous and blasphemous affront against the God of creation, turning God who is exalted above his creation into the very thing he has made. And God says to them, You will not do this. You will not make these. In fact, you will also look at verse five, not bowed down to them or serve them.
These are verbs of worship. Bowed down is often followed by a reference to the ground or bowing low and serve in the worship context is to devote your time and your energy to the worship of God. God says you will not turn images of things in heaven or earth or water into objects that are used in worship.
Now, what is the reason for this prohibition versus five and six for I the Lord, your God am a jealous God. Let's pause there for just a second. What is God's jealousy mean? It means that he will protect that which rightfully belongs to him. Because of his justice and because of his love, he will jealously guard his name and his character because he is holy and he will jealously guard his children who worship him as a free act of his love toward us. It's not hard to understand the jealousy of God as husbands. We love our wives. And if another man begins to give our wife attention, it is proper that we are jealous about that.
For one, the attentions of this other person are not right, or just because of the promise of the marriage vow. For another, we love our wives. And if there is another person competing for her devotion, or if her own heart is drawn away, jealousy is a good and righteous response. That is why God is jealous. He's jealous that we worship him exclusively of the. Because of the relationship he desires to share with us and his love and mercy.
He's also jealous about how we worship him, and he guards the right opinion of his holy name. And in this context of worship, idols get in the way they come between us and God. They compete for our attention with God and God will have none of it. And so he tells his people, you will not have idols because I am jealous for what is right and you don't want to make me jealous. What does God do when he is jealous? Well, the text, if we read on, says that God will visit the iniquity of the fathers. He'll visit their iniquity with with judgments and on the children of the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.
But he will show steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments. Does that mean that God's going to judge the children for the sins of the parents? No notice in the verse. It says that it's those who hate God that he judges, but those that he loves are those that love him.
He blesses with. There is both a warning here and there is also a promise that God will bless those who obey him. Notice that those who violate this commandment are, according to this passage, committing iniquity and they are numbered. Among those who hate God and those who hate God can expect a judgment from God. So this is a warning for those who believe God to flee the sin of idolatry. But those whom God showers with loving kindness are those who keep the command to worship God in the right way. And this is the essence of the Second Commandment. The commandments about worship exist because God is the invisible, absolute holy, utterly separate from his creation. God.
Paul says in First Timothy six 16, that our God dwells in unapproachable light and no one has seen him. Probably not even the angelic beings have even seen God invisibility as part of his essence. The only way we've seen him is because Jesus Christ, John, when 18 has fleshed him out for all to see.
So what is this command mean for us today? What is God teaching us? How do we obtain the blessing that is implied in this promise? There are dozens of implications of this text for us this morning, but I want to consider three and they are exhortations that are implied in this text.
Number one, how we worship God matters to him.
It really does.
And I think it's unwise for us to overlook the simple application. You and I know that the question of how we should worship God has been fervently debated in the modern church.
What forms we should use, what styles of music, cetera. In the last decade or two, people in the church, frankly, have grown bored with the discussion and have decided, you know, we are just going to worship how we think best at our church and we don't want to talk about it. And some have argued that how we worship is not really a central issue. Anyway, it's a peripheral matter. So let's not worry about it. Let's just get along.
But I would urge you this morning that this is not where the Bible is pointing us to give up on the subject or to ignore it, because God is not only concerned that we worship him. He is equally concerned with how we worship him. Worship is not a peripheral matter. We were created to worship. Worship is at the heart of what defines us. Remember Jesus words to the woman at the well and John chapter for the father is seeking people to worship him in spirit. And in truth, God is not merely calling Christians, he's calling worshipers. It's true that historically our worship styles have changed over the centuries, but we have to realize something about that change until the invention of mass media. Those changes took place slowly over centuries, allowing the church to carefully evaluate those changes. And furthermore, the church was able to evaluate those changes in a time when people generally were more educated about theology and philosophy than they are today.
They could have meaningful conversations about worship forms, but today, not only do the changes in styles and approaches take place at lightning speed. I mean, I can be on the West Coast and design some song or some music and have it on the Internet all over the world in a matter of an afternoon. Not only do these changes take place at lightning speed, but we are also less equipped than our forefathers to have the discussions about forms of worship. Culturally, we are far more about science and mathematics than we are about theology and philosophy. We are in an era that asks, can we? Before it asks, should we? Can we? Is a question of technology. But should we? Is a question of philosophy. And in the absence of the philosophical rigor necessary to have a meaningful conversation about worship in general, it is easy to be swept away with it.
Whatever is culturally popular, don't mindlessly let that happen. Hebrews twelve twenty eight is one of the greatest chapters on worship and all the Bible in it instructs us to worship God acceptably or an acceptable in an acceptable manner.
The word acceptable is an adverb which tells us how something ought to be done. And if we are worshipers and God urges us toward an acceptable way of worship, then by the very force of logic there must be an unacceptable way of worship. So God would tell us, be diligent, learn how to have discerning and gracious conversations among brothers and sisters in Christ about our worship and be willing to draw lines, be willing to make good choices. Let's not grow weary of this conversation only because how we worship matters to God.
Secondly, our image of God is shaped by our worship.
Now, of course, the Coral Arius true. Our worship is shaped by our true image of God. If our knowledge of God is shallow, our worship will be shallow. But more to the point of the Second Commandment, how we worship God shapes our understanding of God.
If I can go back to the words of A.W. Towser that Dr. Newton referred to a week ago when I was speaking on the First Commandment, Towser writes in his little book, The Knowledge of the Holy. He says, We tend by a secret law of the soul, to move toward our mental image of God. The essence of idolatry, Tozer says, is the entertainment about entertainment, of thoughts about God that are unworthy of him. But but here is the main point that Towser is making in this book. He says, for this reason, the Gravies question before the church is always God himself. And the most important fact about any man is not what he at any given time may say or do, but what he and his deep heart conceives God to be like, like.
And that is Toaster's main points.
What we perceive God to be like, because we all will say that God has got a beauty. But what is beautiful look like and we all agree that God is a God of majesty. But how do you know, Majesty, when you see it's our concepts of beauty and truth and majesty and reverence and joy in our worship are shaped by our worship. That is one of the reasons God is so concerned in the Bible when he causes people to worship, especially the Old Testament, that they get the forms right and that they conduct themselves in an appropriate way and worship the forms they use were shaping their imagination about what God is like. We can train brilliant theologians with a robust theological nalla knowledge about God's omniscience and his omnipotence and about his he turn ality. But if we get the image of this mission omnipotent, eternal God wrong. If we really do not understand what God is like, then we will still be lacking in our knowledge of God.
Finally, we must carefully discern what we worship. You know, the second command reminds us. It reminds us that we like to create things we like to fashion and shape. And then we know what we do.
We delight in what we create, but we must be careful that we do not begin to have an inordinate affection for those things. It is so easy to shift from worshiping God himself and beginning to worship his gifts.
My mind keeps going back to that illustration Pastor Minnick used in his Bible conference sermon about that little key. Remember that that little key that we clutch and cherish, that little key that betrays what we really love when it comes to our worship of the invisible God is the temptation in our culture to make our choices based upon what pleases us. But when we make our worship choices based upon what pleases us, we are not really worshiping God. We are. Worshiping ourselves. And when we pretend to worship God. But we are really using that worship as a vehicle to worship ourselves. We become the worst kind of idolaters. Biblical worship is saturated with prayer and singing and reading of the scriptures and preaching of the scripture.
We sang a song this morning. You know why? Because the Bible says we ought to be singing songs when we worship. We don't have a choice about what we're supposed to be doing. We get under the authority of the word of God in our worship. But if our public worship becomes centered on our church or our style or our enjoyment or our attractiveness to the community, then we are no longer lifting our worship to God.
We are bringing God down to us, molding and shaping him into an image of our own making. Therefore, we must carefully discern what is truly the focus of our worship. You might say no. Does any of this really matter? Yes, it matters. It profoundly matters because worship is what we do. It shapes our love for God. Worship is our vehicle of love for God. Al Mohler and his helpful book on the Ten Commandments is even so bold as to say to worship the right God in the wrong way is to testify to the wrong God. So may God give us his rich grace in this area of worship. And may we stretch and grow in our understanding of who were worshiping, why we're worshiping and how we're worshiping so that our worship of this mighty, eternal, true, invisible God may be worthy of him. Father, give us grace that we might worship you in a way that is pleasing to you in Christ name. Amen.
You've been listening to a sermon preached at Bob Jones University by Dr. Greg Stokes. Join us again tomorrow as we continue this series on the Ten Commandments here on The Daily Platform.