Exodus 20:4-63; Deuteronomy 5:8-10; Matthew 22:34-38; Mark 12:28-30
“10 Rules for Faithful Living: No Icons on the Desktop”
September 20, 2015
Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church
We come to worship today, O Lord, some of us filled with discontent, some with fear, some with anger, some with hurt feelings. But, dear Lord, we all came today. Empty our hearts and minds of malice and bitterness right now. Help us instead, to seek Your perfect power and presence, Your righteousness and redemption, Your Law and Your love in front of all other possible priorities, through Your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.
A Sunday School student was asked to list the 10 Commandments in any order.
His answer? “3, 6, 1, 8, 4, 5, 9, 2, 10, 7.”
Martin Luther once said that “anyone who knows the Ten Commandments perfectly knows the entire Scripture.” (The Larger Catechism)
We all know that Jesus agreed with Martin Luther when He was asked, by people who perhaps hoped to trip Him up, which of the 10 Commandments was the greatest, most important one. Both Matthew and Mark record this story. What is Jesus’ answer? (Mark 12) “29 ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”’”Jesus is merely quoting from Deuteronomy (look again at your Call to Worship from Deuteronomy 6). Love the Lord your God with all that’s in you, with all you’ve got, always, never-ending, without fail – have no other gods – no desire for riches, no dreams of popularity, no over-extended hopes for glamour, no worries, no fears – have no other gods!
The 10 Commandments, brief enough to be memorized by Sunday School children and comprehensive enough to guide our every thought and action. These Commandments are a far more than just a list of “thou shalt nots”, but it is a list of promises from God and they each contain the secret power to have the ability to obey them. For the next couple of months we will listen as God’s Word reminds us what He demands.
The historical/social context of the 10 commandments – escape from Pharaoh and unjust system of power and poverty
The three reasons for the Law – 1)to show us we need a Savior,
2) to keep us from killing each other (restrain evil-doing),
3) to tell us what God’s character is (and therefore as people created in the image of God what our character ought to be – guide for living the Christian life as we grow to resemble our Lord Jesus Christ) – sanctification
Here are the opening words, and then the second of the Big 10 Commandments from the book of Deuteronomy – the second reading of the Law of God. Hear the Word of God….—-
1 Moses summoned all Israel and said:
Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. 4 The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. 5 (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:
6 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. …
8 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
May God bless the reading, hearing, receiving of His Word which never fails. “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image … [to] bow down [to] or worship ….”
We got the First Commandment last week pretty clear – but what does this Second Commandment mean?
It seems straightforward – no idols, no icons, no things, that you might worship as more essential than God Himself.
This is really a Command about our inner-desires, isn’t it? Desire God – do not desire whatever it is that might take God’s place.
There have been debates and church splits over how to define and obey this Commandment – does it mean no art work of any kind? Churches have been vandalized and torn apart and destroyed because of a statue or a painting in it. It does say, after all, “do not make any image of anything in heaven, on earth, or in the water ….” But the Commandment adds the phrase about bowing down and worshiping. When the artwork becomes more important than that which it depicts, it becomes a sin. I think the issue here is about when our desires become disordered by yearning for what is enticing us as if God does not exist!
Why is there a Commandment about not making forms and images? Let’s ask this question another way: What are God’s physical characteristics? God is Spirit, right? So how do we accurately depict that with an icon? How would one appropriately make something that looks like God?How do we meet God in the Old Testament? ·
Fire … burning bush, pillar of fire·
Smoke … pillar of smoke·
Wind … hovered over creation – no way to precisely depict something that is ever changing shape·
Voice … God speaks with Adam and Eve, with Noah, with Abraham, with Moses, with Jesus! (with Paul.)
God reveals Himself through voice – sometimes spoken, sometimes written. So, God forbids the worship of the true God by way of any images or resemblances – there are to be none. In the time of Moses many nations claimed that their images were gods, others that their images were mere reflections of gods; but the God of the Bible says, NO IMAGES.
This Commandment includes some harsh words – I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me. The sins of one generation often have consequences that fall on the next. Parents and grandparents, we do teach our offspring right and wrong – take that role seriously.
But this Commandment also comes with amazing promise – I, the Lord your God, show love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Parents and grandparents, we do teach our offspring right and wrong – take that role seriously.
But the real reasons why worshiping idols don’t work is that idols – icons on our desktops, figurines in our parks, flags on our poles, money in our banks, dreams and desires that pretend that God doesn’t really exist – idols cannot engage with us, cannot be in relationship with us.
Listen again to the voice of God remind us why He gives us the Ten Commandments: The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our ancestors that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today.
God wants honest relationship with you, with us. If He is not in a living relationship with us, we might have an idol.
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah tells us that idols are nothing more than extra baggage we carry around with us – made of stone or wood but with no more integrity or glory than vanity or a puff of wind. Can we name our idols? We can probably all name idols that our neighbors have, or our pastor….
But let me step on some toes this morning with some generalizations that are at least partly true.Generationally we all carry some idols in our lives, things we value and worship, sometimes more than we value and worship our relationship with God. Ready?
I’ll start with the newest generation – those that are in what is sometimes called Generation Z (born after 2000). People in this Generation value “Beauty”. Beauty, above all else, is what is important. Beauty is good, and important, but should it surpass receiving the relationship with the God of Beauty?
Millennials (born between 1985 and 2000). People in this generation value that which is Good. If it is Good, for the poor, for the environment, for those who need “good”, than it is valued as most important; but should “Good” go beyond the God who created Good from nothing and expects, demands Good from His followers?
Busters (born between 1964 and 1985), sometimes called Generation X. This generation values what is Real, authentic, transparent. If it is “Real” it is worth our attention and time. But is it better than the only Real God there is?
Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1963). This is my generation. We value that which we recognize as Truth. Truth trumps all else, but should concepts of Truth outshine the One who is the Way and the Truth and the Life?
Builders (born between 1924 and 1944), most of us in this room. This generation is known more for their religious fidelity than the younger generations (as is evidenced by attendance in churches like ours across this land); and so they have come up with sayings like “I stand for God and Country”, “God and Flag”, “God and Duty”. But sometimes the tendency is to place Country, Flag and Duty as co-equal with, even out-doing, God.
This Second Commandment, along with the First, tells us that God does not want, does not need, and shuns these icons on our desktops – the God-ands we proclaim, the Truths we preach, our Real feelings, our Moral judgments, and even our Beauty admirations. These all become “forms” of a god. What God wants is our desire – above and before our desire of anything else, God deserves to be at the head.
How do we possibly gain victory over any of these idols that call our names, how are we successful over whole generational ideologies of value?
Let me give you two simple strategies: worship and prayer.
When we worship the only True God, when we gather together to sing His praises and when we come before His throne all on our own, we put God first – and all the idols of prestige and importance, the icons of philosophy and valued perspective, the forms of want and fancy become desire for God Himself!
If the Church ever turns our backs on the authority of these Commandments, may God have mercy on our souls. Let us worship the Lord our God, above and before all else, today and forever. Amen.
Psalm 119:11 tells us: “Your Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” Amen.
Hauerwas, Stanley; William Willimon; The truth About God: The 10 Commandments in the Christian Life; Abingdon Press; NY, NY; 1999.
The Law of Liberty; “Unfolding God’s Glorious Law”; Project Restore, Inc; Locust Dale, VA; 2006; P. 5.
Wilson, Tobin; “No Eikons on the Desktop”; sermon preached at Placentia Presbyterian Church; 08/16/2015.