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Sermon - 8/30/09
Mercy To Thousands - Exodus 20:

Audio Sermon

Mercy To Thousands

You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6)

We are in the second week of a ten-week series, looking at what are called “The Ten Commandments.” Last week we looked at God’s First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me,” which are important words from the Lord, expressed through Moses the prophet, the man of God.

This week we see the Lord enlarging on His first command, in which Almighty God expressed the reality that He is to be first in our lives. If you compare all this to real estate on earth, God owned the land and leased it out to humanity, who promptly gave it away to Satan, the enemy of God, an act which enslaved everyone who would ever live. God bought the land back through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, purchasing us at the same time. We are His, through Creation, by Right and by Purchase. We owe Him everything. “Do you not know,” Scripture asks, “that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

As individuals and as a people, we have no rights at all, and yet God gives us an eternal choice: We can trust in Him, obey Him who loves us, and have Him be first in our lives, or we can reject Him – forever.

Our need to understand and respond to the Ten Commandments was wonderfully expressed in the “God Speaks Devotional” of some years ago, in a section called, “What Part of ‘Thou Shalt Not…’ Didn’t You Understand? – God.” The book asks the question, “Why did God give us a list of rules to follow? Why is the Bible so full of dos and don’ts? Is He some kind of big egomaniac who created us so that He would have someone to order around?

Look at it this way,” the book continued. “Why doesn’t a mother let her child touch a hot stove? Why doesn’t a father let his kid run out into traffic? Rules like these don’t always make sense to a child, but they are meant to protect – a way of ensuring that beloved child’s safety and happiness. Similarly, abiding by the commandments of the One who created us and the universe in which we live should provide heightened levels of protection, fulfillment, peace (both internal and external), and well-being. The quality of our lives is most often a product of our choices. The problem is that we don’t always have the information or perspective we need to make proper choices. That is precisely why God, who loves us and greatly desires to see us succeed, has given us guidelines to live by.

And they conclude, “If you have been viewing the Ten Commandments as the big stick God uses to beat His creation into submission, it may be time to shift your perspective. God is for you, not against you!” And that’s exactly what Jesus said in John 3:17 – “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” That’s you. God wants to save – you!

These “carved image(s)” and “likeness(es)” in heaven and on/and under the earth, mentioned in today’s Scriptures which together are the Second Commandment – What are they? What does this mean? Are we forbidden from painting a beautiful picture? And that clay which seems to literally call to us and give us a need to create a beautiful sculpture, perhaps a vase or a human face – Are we barred from expressing the artistic side which longs to speak through art to the world? The answer is - NO, this verse is NOT forbidding the expression of the artistic, the creation of pictures and statues, any more than He would give us ears and then stop us from listening to music.

Many have hands that long to participate in the creativity that God has placed inside our hearts, and some have the ability to draw, paint, sculpt, write or create music because God gave it to them with precisely that intention – to create, so that others might be drawn to give praise to God.

God protects us. He calls us to love, to care, to create and to know His joy. Idolatry is like a blindness that hides Him or a deafness that obscures His tender words to us. He created us for a relationship of love with Him, which is the highest form of happiness we can know. To “not make for yourself any carved image (and) not bow down to them nor serve them” opens the door to worship God and find the joy of the Lord. God is “jealous” of us in a very positive way. He is the Protector who will jealously guard you all your life. This is not only for you, but also for your children. The alcoholic damages his or her own life, and also damages the lives of their children, and the ruin of them is generational. Your grandchildren, great grandchildren and more will be adversely affected by what you do (Exodus 20:4-6).

Today’s commandment concludes with an important truth about God – He has “mercy (for) thousands” who love Him and give their lives to Him. Can we utterly live in the manner He has chosen for us? The answer in eternity is, yes we will, but the answer for us now is – no, we can’t, not by ourselves! John the Apostle lived for a long time and he walked with the Lord far longer than most. He said, “We know that we know (God) if we keep His commandments.” John continued, “He who says, ‘I know Him’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3-4).

And that’s a problem, for we all have had our little idols, in which we loved, worshipped and served little “gods” of work, sports, play, and so on, loving them so much that God Himself was cast our of our thoughts. His commandments forgotten, we have emphasized some other part of life. It sounds like we are doomed and of course, without Him we are, but He shows “mercy to thousands.” He makes us safe.

To keep His commandments is indeed an impossible task, but when we trust in the Lord, something remarkable happens. He actually enters INTO us, doing in and through us what we cannot do on our own. It is a “mystery” that has been in the world, but is now revealed: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). He brings to you the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. And it is this love which enables us, sinners though we are, to keep the Commandments of God. John the Apostle concluded his commentary on keeping the Commandments, keeping the Law, by stating: “This is His commandment; that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:23). HIS love is given to us. John continued, “He who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us” (1 John 3:24).

Father, I want to keep Your Commands, but I have failed. I confess that I have sinned before You. I believe on the name of Your Son. Please fill me with Your love and with the Holy Spirit of God. Help me. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

Write to: Letters@FridayStudy.org

"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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