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“Worship and God”

 

“You shall not make for yourself a 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.”  

Exodus 20:4-5, NKJ

 

In the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Church bodies number the commandments differently.  Though they still number them as ten, they do so in a different manner.

The passage above, from Exodus 20:4-5, Lutherans and Roman Catholics include as part of the First Commandment. Others number it as part of the Second Commandment, that of forbidding the making of idols.

The Israelites made an idol of a golden calf while Moses was on Mt. Sinai, even as God was giving the Ten Commandments (Exodus 32:1-6).  The Israelites were certainly worshiping an idol, that which was not God.

Instructive are the words of Luther from his Large Catechism.

“A god is that to which we look for all good and in which find refuge in every time of need. To have a god is nothing else than to trust and believe him with our whole heart. As I have often said, the trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.  If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God.” (Luther’s Large Catechism, 1st Commandment)

The people of Israel placed their confidence and trust in something which was not God.  That something which was not God, or a false god, was nothing other than an idol.  Things become idols (money, power, people, etc.) when confidence and trust is placed in them rather than the Creator.  But where confidence and trust is placed in the true God, those same things are not idols.

To worship anyone or anything instead of or in place of the true God, the God who reveals Himself in the Bible in the person of Jesus Christ, worships a false God, and therefore, worships an idol, whether that false god be a carved image or not.

Only in the God who makes Himself known through Christ, who was “born of a virgin, suffered, was crucified, died, and was buried” and who rose on the third day do you worship the true God.  Only through Him do you have sins forgiven and true and everlasting peace.

All other so-called “gods” are not gods, and do not give that peace which the Lord Jesus alone gives. Worship that is substantive is not worship invented by man, nor worship in what is invented by man, but that which is given and revealed by God—through His Son, Jesus the Savior.  Amen.

 

Luther

“There would be no harm in carving a statue of wood or stone; but to set it up for worship and to attribute divinity to the wood, stone, or statue is to worship and idol instead of God.” (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p92)

 

Prayer: Father, keep me from fearing, loving, and trusting in anyone or anything above you.  Amen.

 

 

 

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National Day of Prayer–Some thoughts

“The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”

Proverbs 15:29

 

In the Holy Name of the risen Christ. Amen.

NationalDayOfPrayer2According to the National Day of Prayer task force, “The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray for the nation. It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.”

This encouragement to pray is a good thing. In fact, God commands prayer (the Second Commandment).   Not praying, therefore, is a sin. Praying for the nation in which we live is also a good thing (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Prayer for ourselves and for others, as well as for our nation, is indeed “good” and “pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” God promises to hear prayer, as revealed through the Psalmist, “Call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me (Psalm 50:15).

Thus, not only does God command prayer. He also promises to hear prayer (Read the Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer in Luther’s Large Catechism). The command and the promise of prayer move the Christian to pray, and so His people do pray, even “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

Yet, the National Day of Prayer task force and the annual observance do not make the distinctions that God does. They lump people of all faiths together, as if all prayer of all people are acceptable to God, and therefore, heard by Ps1bHim.

Nevertheless, God does not hear the prayers of all people, as recorded in the Proverb text above. The Psalmist, too, exalts this truth by saying, “The LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish” (Psalm 1:6).

The righteous are they who look to God for mercy in Christ, who repent of their sin, who seek salvation from Christ alone, recognizing their dependency on the Lord for help and deliverance from sin and death. These are they who have faith, and only these have the certainty of God’s hearing and help (Hebrews 11:6; Luke 17:5-10; 1 John 5:14-15).

The wicked, however, are they who reject God’s salvation in Christ and have a different confession of faith than the faith revealed in Holy Scripture (John 8:31-32, 47; 14:23-24; 1 John 5:9-13; 2 John 1:9) . God does not hear the prayers of the unbeliever because they do not pray in faith (Romans 14:3; James 1:6).

We make such distinctions because God Himself makes such distinctions. Thus, instead of lumping all people together as having the same God, and praying to Him, we believe God’s Word and therefore, seek to speak the truth of that Word which alone converts souls from death to life.  We also humbly pray that the Lord would keep us from arrogance and pride, even as we pray for all people, our nation and ourselves, even concerning the more significant and eternal matters of God’s mercy and forgiveness through His Son, in whose Name God’s people with confidence pray.

Stubbornness and Idolatry

Then Samuel said: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.

1 Samuel 15:22-23

 

Through Samuel the prophet, God had told King Saul to “utterly destroy” (v3) the Amalekites for what they had previously done to Israel, their men, their women, their animals, everything. But instead of doing what the Lord had said, King Saul “spared the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to destroy them” (v9).

Saul had done these things, in clear opposition to what the Lord had said, with what he (and we) would have thought to be the best of intentions, “to sacrifice to the Lord” (v15).  The problem was this, that King Saul did not follow the Word of the Lord, but “did his own thing” and what he thought was right.  As a result, God rejected Saul as king (1 Samuel 15).

In not obeying God’s Word and going “his own way,” Saul committed the sin of idolatry.  Even though he thought that he was doing right, he was greatly in the wrong, even going against God, for he acted in defiance of God by putting his own thoughts and ways above the One who gives all things.

As it was with Saul, the sin of idolatry is inherent in each of us.  Stubbornness is this way.  We have God’s Word, and yet, we act and do according to our own will and desire, even considering that “going our own way” is in keeping with God’s commandments.  God says one thing, and yet, we think we know better and do something else, all the while convincing ourselves that we’re “doing the right thing.”  Thus, like Saul, we defiantly disobey the Lord, forsake His Word, and delude ourselves into believing that we are in the right, though God has given another Word.  This is nothing less than a rejection of the Word of the Lord.

The child of God does not remain in this delusion, convincing himself that he is in the right when God speaks differently.  Rather, the child of God lives continually in the state of repentance, sorrowing and grieving because of his idolatrous heart.  The child of God hears the Words of the Lord and seeks mercy and forgiveness for his stubbornness.  He wants to be rid of his sin, for he sees it for what it is, Coram Deo, before God.  He sees himself for what he is before God—nothing but a sinner.

And yet, it is sinners that God saves!  It is sinners that God forgives.  It is sinners for whom Christ died (John 3:16; Luke 15; Acts 13:38; Romans 4:7; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; 1 John 1:9; 2:12).

Your sin of idolatry God forgives, for Jesus Christ not only committed no sin, no iniquity, and no idolatry (1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).  This Jesus, on the cross, shed His blood which covers all your idolatries, all your iniquities, all your sins.  These are no longer yours to bear, for Christ has born them all.  And in exchange for these, Christ gives to you His righteousness, His sinlessness, and His perfect love to the Father.

In Christ, you are born anew, born of God, given new life, good in God’s sight.  Instead of listening to your own voice and the words of sinful man, being born anew, you hear Christ and His words and “deny yourself” (Matthew 16:24).  As a child of God, you want to hear God’s servant, who preaches Christ to you.  You want to join with other Christians at the Lord’s Table who confess the same faith and are united in the one true doctrine according to Holy Scripture, the living Word of God.  And you forgive others their sins against you, just as God in Christ has forgiven you.  And so you do, by God’s grace!  Amen.

 

Quote

“American Protestantism and fundamentalism have, in large measure, adopted the U.S. consumer and marketing perspective; thus all different types of churches are marketing Jesus to particular segments of the community.  Individually, we are lords of our lives.  No community or family can tell me what my personal faith should be.  I can define it myself, then find a church to give me what I think I need.” (Harrison, Christ Have Mercy, 115)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, giver of all good things, grant that I not deny Your most Holy and precious Word for my sake, because I want to do my own thing and go my own way.  Keep me in the faith that I not deny you.  Lead me not into the temptation of trying to define faith or the church my way that I forsake Your life giving Word for what I think that I need.  Rather, keep me steadfast in only Your Word, for only in that is their true and everlasting life, through Your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.  Amen.

 


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