Friday, July 15, 2022

2022.07.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 20:18–26

Read Exodus 20:18–26

Questions from the Scripture text: Who witnessed what four things (Exodus 20:18)? What two things do they finally, appropriately do? To whom do they speak in Exodus 20:19? What do they ask him to do? What do they promise that they will do? What do they ask that it would not happen? Why? What does Moses tell the people not to do (Exodus 20:20)? What had God come to do? For what two purposes? Where do the people now stand (Exodus 20:21)? Where does Moses now go? Who speaks to whom in Exodus 20:22? To whom does He say to speak? What should Moses tell them that they have seen? What must they not make (Exodus 20:23)? Of what must they make the altar (Exodus 20:24)? For what purposes? What will Yahweh be causing to be remembered in particular places? To whom will He come in those places? What will He do to them? What material may be used for an altar (Exodus 20:25)? But what must be done to it? Why not? How big shouldn’t it be, and of what construction shouldn’t it be (Exodus 20:26)? Why—what ends up happening on such altars (verse 26)?

What does the object of our worship determine about the manner of our worship?  Exodus 20:18–26 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God wants us to draw near to Him in reverence, repentance, and remembrance of Him. 

Draw near to God in reverence. The passage begins not with a response to the commandments that have been declared but to the sensory experiences that attended God’s declaring of His law. The people no longer want to draw near. They no longer want to experience God. They just want instructions (Exodus 20:19).

Sadly, Yahweh agrees with their assessment of themselves (cf. Deuteronomy 5:28–31). They don’t fear Him. They don’t fear to sin. If they draw near, they will in fact be destroyed. But that wasn’t the purpose of the display. The purpose of the display was, “that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.”

God is still a consuming fire, but we can draw near. Why? Because Christ has both atoned for our sin, as well as won us grace to produce in us appropriate reverence and awe. This is how we are able to draw near to God not only in actual safety but also in appropriate reverence and fear (cf. Hebrews 12:28–29). This is what Moses says in Exodus 20:20. God announced His law in this manner, so “that His fear may be before you.” Draw near to God in reverence!

Draw near to God in repentance. Knowing God’s law, we should be amazed whenever we draw near and are not destroyed. But not by lack of explanation. We know why: Christ has suffered the wrath in our place and wiped out our guilt. Rather, we should be amazed by the love and mercy that have been extended to us. 

This rich goodness of God should lead us to repentance (cf. Romans 2:4). And it should lead us to hate sin all the more. The people who were still afraid of the penalty of their sin didn’t want to draw near to God. But when we see how hateful our sin is unto God, our response should not be to try to be far from God, but rather far from sin. How hateful our sin ought to be unto us! This is what Moses says in Exodus 20:20. God announced His law in this manner “so that you may not sin.” Draw near to God in repentance!

Draw near to God in remembrance. God has chosen how we may come near: a mediation that He alone has provided (the sacrifice of Christ) and a mechanism that He alone has prescribed (words). How did Yahweh bring them near? By talking (Exodus 20:22), not by images (Exodus 20:23)! By sacrifice where the main point was that He provided it: earth that He had made, and particular offerings that He would define (Exodus 20:24). 

If they use stone (which He had made), they are not to add their own touches by their tools (Exodus 20:25). Creative embellishment of worship profanes it rather than improving it! Exodus 20:26 refers to the wicked self-indulgence that characterized the man-made worship of man-made deities in the surrounding society. But it is true in every society: trying to make worship “bigger and better” doesn’t honor the immense (unmeasurable) God any more than little, simple worship. What it does is put us in the way of indulging ourselves rather than marveling at Him.

No, God gives us worship that is not an expression of ourselves but rather a remembrance of Him. “In every place where I cause My Name to be remembered” is what Exodus 20:24 literally says. He Himself will come. He Himself will bless. He is the great Actor in worship! He makes Himself known to us. He makes remembrance of Himself to us.  The Spirit witnesses to us here that the creativity of man and the remembrance of God are at cross-purposes. Draw near to God in remembrance!

How does the way of drawing near to God remind you of what You deserve and what He has done for us instead? What does this make you think of your sin? Who is the great Actor when we come to worship God? What does this mean we must refrain from doing? What mustn’t we aim at in worship?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we bless Your Name for bringing us near to Yourself through the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ. Forgive us for coming lightly. Forgive us for treating our sin and guilt as if it were a small thing. Or for wishing that we could keep our sin and worship You anyway. Forgive us for thinking or acting as if our creativity could improve Your worship. But cleanse us in Christ, and make us to draw near in reverence, repentance, and remembrance we ask, in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or TPH164 “God Himself Is with Us” 

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