Formations lesson for Sept. 2: Living Large
August 17 2001 by Tom Greene , Exodus 20:1-6

Formations lesson for Sept. 2: Living Large | Friday, Aug. 17, 2001

Friday, Aug. 17, 2001

Formations lesson for Sept. 2: Living Large

By Tom Greene Exodus 20:1-6 The Ten Commandments - the very words, for many of us, denote harshness and repression. We are like the boys who were practicing their knot tying in the Boy Scout room of the church. In the course of practice they made a strange-looking knot neither of them had ever seen before. "Look," one boy said, "I've invented a new knot!"

"What are you going to call it?" asked his friend.

Thinking for a moment and remembering where they were; he responded:

"The thou shalt knot!"

I am afraid we are guilty of thinking of the commandments as a list of "thou shalt nots." But are the commandments really negative? Did God give them to the ancient Hebrews as an affliction, as a burden to bear?

The impression we get when we read the Exodus story of the commandments is far from negative. There, in the midst of a high drama, stand the people of Israel around the foot of Mt. Sinai and Moses in the clouds meeting with their God named Yahweh, who gives him the commandments.

These commandments are given as a blessing, a gift from the mighty One who has saved the Israelites. They are the rules of life that establish a bond between Yahweh and His people, and anyone who follows them will experience freedom and joy.

When God gave the Israelites the Ten Commandments, He was saying, in essence, "I love you. Look what I've done for you. Now I want you to have something wonderful, that will help you live joyfully and productively in the land I'm going to give you. Here, learn these sayings and live by them. They will bless your lives."

The Big One (Exodus 20:2-3) This beginning commandment is basic to the nine that follow. All the others depend on whether they keep this one. If they have other gods, it may not matter to them whether they steal or murder. This is the crucial and fundamental requirement that God makes of those who desire to enter into the special covenant relationship with Him.

The next step belonged to them. If they were to remain in His presence, they were to give up their hope in everything else and rest it all in Him; letting God be God in everything, in every way with no hold-outs, no reservations, no hidden agendas. Just listening to Him for their direction. In falling down and worshipping God alone, they discover the essential foundation for the building of the covenant community.

Making Our Own? (Exodus 20:4-6) A little boy was busy drawing a picture.

"What are you drawing?" asked his teacher.

"I'm drawing a picture of God," he answered.

"But no one knows what God looks like," said the teacher.

"They will when I get through."

The point of the second commandment is that we shouldn't be busy seeking a concrete manifestation of God at all. We should only fall down and worship Him. He is the God of all gods and He is too far beyond us to be represented by anything we might create. He is shrouded in mystery - simply beyond all human imagining and understanding.

There are two kinds of sin: the first is the sin of secular culture - ignoring God as though He does not exist. The second is the sin of religious culture - thinking that we possess God and have some special rights to His powers and benefits. We are warned away from the first sin, ignoring God, by the first commandment, "You shall have no other gods before me." We are warned away from the second, thinking we possess God, by the second commandment, "You shall not make for yourself a graven image."

Religious people have a way of thinking that God belongs to them. We assume that we know all about Him and what He wants and how He behaves. We may not make actual graven images of God, but we do reduce Him in our minds to mental images that are just as small and limited. J. B. Phillips' little book entitled Your God Is Too Small suggests that is what we do to God. We make Him too small, thus hindering our living large!

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8/17/2001 12:00:00 AM by Tom Greene , Exodus 20:1-6 | with 0 comments
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