The Name – the 3rd Commandment

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If we come at the idea of a name from the 21st century, we just think of what we say to identify people.  Your driver’s license and the bills that come into your mail slot all need your name.  We don’t think of a name as having more importance than that.

The Bible sees more significance to a name that identification.  Even in our time we can approach the difference if we use some other terms.  For example, there is a lot being said about Branding.   Companies are very concerned with their brand names.  They want you to think about Xerox when you think of photo copies, or Apple when you think of computers or phones.  The name represents the company.  Would you rather own a Cadillac or a Yugo?  For most of us that represents a lot about the quality of a car, not just the name.

We also think about reputation.  Does a person’s name give you a positive or negative response.  Bret Favre represents toughness and exciting football. Some people will never get over #4 in purple and gold, however.  George Washington represents courage and integrity.

These are the ideas that the biblical authors had in mind when they used the word “name.”   Specifically, the Name of God does three things.

It Represents God. At the end of the 10 Commandments, God says this:

24 “‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. 

God chooses to be represented by his Name – Jehovah, or Yahweh, which means I AM.  This name is what represents God.

It Reveals God 

Exodus 3;13-14  13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.  This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

When Moses as being sent to Egypt he asked for God to tell him his name. God gave him the name that is represented by four letters in Hebrew. YHWH.  This is pronounced in English as Jehovah – the original form had no vowels, so the vowels from the name “Lord” were put in and the Y changed to and I in Latin and then to a J in English. Scholars prefer to pronounce the name Yahweh.  It sounds like the Hebrew verb, “to be.”  And so it means “I am”.  God is the living God, not an imaginary god like those of the nations.  It means that God is self-existing. He was always, and he was not made out of anything else.  He is because he is.  God is the source of all things, because everything else was made my him and for him.

It Provides Access to God.

Numbers 6:22-27 – 22The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

24 “‘“The Lord bless you
and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”’

27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”

The Blessing, which we still use today, is an example of how the people received access to God by his name.  The priests were to pronounce this blessing over the sons and daughters of Israel. The blessing uses the Name of God three times

 

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Words & Images

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“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.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, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

             It might seem as if the Lord was against all art, but we know that in the tabernacle, there were many images that were approved by God. The command does not prohibit arts and crafts that contain images.

There are no images allowed for worship.  We are not to use images of any kind to stand as God for us.

When looked at the word image I found something interesting. The verb form of the word means to carve, hew or shape.  The old form of the command accurately used the expression “graven images.”  An idol or image that is prohibited would be something of wood, stone, metal or any other medium that was to represent God or any so called god for worship.  We are not to hew out any image to represent God to us.

What is interesting about the verb form of the word “idol” is that it is also used for the stone tablets that hold the Ten Commandments.  They were hewn out of the mountain and the words of the command were hewn into them. In fact, God cut out the stones and wrote on them his commands and gave them to Moses. God “engraved” the 10 Commandments one “hewn stones.”   Now the Second commandment says, do not make for yourself any “graved” images

One insight is that God will allow himself to be represented by words.  In Exodus 34, there is a passage where God allows Moses to “see” his glory.  But Moses only has a glimpse, as if from behind, of the glory of God, but the words are clear “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin…

            Engraved words, indeed the Bible whether engraved, written or spoken are the way in which God has chosen to reveal himself to us.  We are not to make graven images, but open our ears and our hearts to receive the engraved words of God.

What is a Pastor?

Sheep

The word pastor means shepherd. I am a pastor and have been for over 30 years. Sometimes when you do something for a long time you have to be reminded of the basics.  We can get lost in detail or repetition and we lost sight of the goal.  We can move from being pastors to being survivors, or salesmen, or self promoters.  We can be in business for ourselves.  But we are shepherds under The Shepherd.

I was taking a day off walk through a near by natural area, and a thought I’d scribbled on  a post it note the previous week reappeared in my mind.  I’d written down “lost sheep, potential shepherds and the lost”. So as my walk turned into a sort of prayer walk and meditation, I began to think about this.

As a Pastor I am a shepherd.  What does that mean?

Practically I have no actual sheep, but I deal with people.

In the Bible the word Pastor means shepherd and there is a lot on that theme.  Moses and David were shepherds before their calling to be leaders.  The Prophets sometimes spoke of the false shepherds in Israel who led the people into danger.  Jesus called himself a true shepherd. Psalm 23 is a loved psalm because we need the Lord to be our Shepherd.

So I have come to this description of a pastor:

  • Feed the Flock – go read John 10 where Jesus speaks of himself as the shepherd and then John 21 where he called Peter to “feed my sheep.”  Pastors feed by teaching, preaching, praying, guarding and training the gathered believers.  We care for the sheep who belong to someone else.
  • Find the Strays – Luke 15 has three stories of lost things that were found, the lost coin and the lost son are in there, but the first is the story of the shepherd who left the flock (regular attenders) to go find the lost one from the flock (a stray).  So we need to find those who are off in the bushes and invite them back into fellowship with the Lord and his people.
  • Welcome the Lost – Jesus used two metaphors to describe the mission of the church in Matthew 9.  After Matthew summarizes Jesus ministry in v.35 as teaching, preaching and healing, he spoke of the crowds of outsiders as sheep without a shepherd.  Then he switched from shepherds to harvesters, that God would send workers into the harvest.  Pastors should find ways to reach out to the outsiders.  They are not enemies, and even if they are, “while we were enemies, Christ died for us.”
  • Maintain the Pen – I’d like to stop at the first three, but there are practical matters.  Sheep would lived in walled in areas, pens.  We pastors have some practical structures to deal with like buildings, budgets and boards.  These can not be neglected, but a building, a budget and a board without the people would be nothing at all.

If this is so, then I can summarize my work simply.  As a pastor I am to:

  • Feed the Flock
  • Find the Strays
  • Welcome the Lost
  • Maintain the Pen.

 

1st Commandment

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“To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe in that one with your whole heart…to have a God, as you can well imagine, does not mean to grasp  him with your fingers, or to put him into a purse, or to shut him into a box.  Rather, you lay hold of God when your heart grasps him and clings to him.”

(Martin Luther, Book of Concord, quoted in Interpretation: The Ten Commandments, Miller, p. 19)

Deuteronomy 13

            Scholars agree that Deuteronomy 12 and 13 are applications of the 1st Commandment.  So we will take a look at Deuteronomy 13:1-4

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.  (ESV)

This chapter is a warning against false prophets.   What I want to focus on is a verse that adds to the positive description of the 1st Commandment, verse 4 has six expressions that define and clarify what it means to have no other God and to love God with all your heart, soul and strength.

You shall walk after the Lord your God.  So we start with our feet.  We can with our feet walk away from god.  We can walk in the wilderness with not plan or goal. Or we can walk after the Lord our God.  Our “walk” is the way in which we live. It is the direction and pattern of our lives.  So this means that God is the one who sets the direction and establishes the pattern of our lives.

You shall fear him.  We sometimes see fear when men or women encounter God or an angel of God. They fall to the ground, they withdraw from what seems terrifying, until the Lord says, “do not be afraid.” Synonyms for “fear” are revere respect.  You shall  fear, revere and respect the Lord.  Maybe we should think of this as our bended knees or if your knees are stiff, your bowed heads before the presence of God.

You shall keep his commandments.  We use our eyes to read the word of God, but we can see without seeing.  We need to see them as they are written and then keep them.  If we don’t keep them they will soon slip from our minds like the forgotten jokes and quotes of last week’s newspaper.  These are commands to keep.

You shall obey his voice.  So our ears hear the very voice of God.  We believe that the Bible is not only a historical record and a collection of great literature. Yes, we can start with that idea, but we soon come to realize that it contains the voice of the Living God and we need to obey them.  For us it is not in one ear and out the other. It is in the ear and down to the heart where decisions are made.

You shall serve him. The word for serve can mean to worship him.  We worship in church, and in private devotions, but we also worship him with any part  of our time or treasure that we give to him.

You shall cling to him.  This is the real definition.  We do not have faith when we stand far off with abstract knowledge. We have faith when we cling to him, as if we are holding on for dear life.   Cling to him the way a new born clings to his mother.  Like that newborn, we have no way to live without the strength of the mother and father.

10 Commandments – Plus and Minus

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The Ten Commandments have a positive and a negative side.

Most of the 10 are written in the negative.  “Thou shalt not…”  Yet when we think of them, we need to consider them to have a positive and a negative side.  Take each commandment and think of it like a coin. There is a head and a tail. There is a negative “do not do this” and a positive “because you should do this instead.”

John Calvin said this:

“Thus in each commandment we must investigate what it is concerned with… until we find what the Lawgiver testifies there to be pleasing or displeasing to himself….from he same thing we must derive an argument on the other side, in this manner:

            If this pleases God, the opposite displease him;

            If this displeases him, the opposite pleases him;

            If he commands this, he forbids the opposite;

            If he forbids this, he enjoins the opposite.

 

            “Therefore in the commandment, “you shall not kill” men’s common sense will only see that we must abstain from wronging anyone or desiring to do so.  Besides this, it contains, I say, the requirement that we give our neighbors life all the help we can….God forbids us to hurt or harm a brother unjustly because he wills that the brother’s life be dear and precious to us.”

(Calvin, Institutes 2:8.8)