Memory Text: ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me’ (Exodus 20:2-3, NKJV).
Introduction: The importance of the first three of the Ten Commandments cannot be overestimated. The Lord summed them up in the gospels: “And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment” (Matthew 22:35-38).
If the first and foremost commandment of the Law is to love God, and loving God is explained more fully in the first three commandments, we are dealing with the very essence of the Law in this lesson. We can say, then, that our study is crucial because the heart of the matter is man’s number one priority—his worship of God.
Because the worship of God is primary, false worship is one of the greatest evils man can practice. Idolatry is a serious problem, and not just for the Israelite of Old Testament times. The final sentence of John’s first epistle (1 John 5:21) is a warning against idolatry. Idolatry is dangerous because it involves the worship of demons and other man made gods (1 Cor. 10:20; Deut. 32:17), and because we can do it thinking that we are actually worshipping God (cf. Exod. 32:1-6; 1 Kings 12:28-30).
One of the finest books written in recent years is Loving God, written by Chuck Colson. In the introduction to this book, Colson describes his attempt to learn from other Christians what it means to love God:
The greatest commandment of all, Jesus said, is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We have memorized those words from our kindergarten class but had never really thought about what they meant in practical terms; that is, how to fulfill that command. I wondered if others felt the same way.
This is why our text is so important. Not only is loving God our highest priority, but it is one which is poorly understood, so far as its implementation. Most thoughtful Christians may be able to tell you that loving God is the most important duty of man, but they struggle with the very practical matter of how such love is expressed.
So, we may ask, What God do you worship? “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1. The LORD GOD, Jehovah our God is God. He is the one who has created all things. He put everything in its place. Therefore, Jehovah is worthy of honor, of praise, of devotion, and of adoration. Because He is the creator, the sustainer, the redeemer, He is worthy of worship. That is why it is recorded in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Let us dive into our study!
Holy Ground – One of the best ways to understand worship is to view those in the scriptures as they worship. In the book of Exodus, we see a new nation learning to trust God, and we can gain much insight by viewing their worship of God in response to His dealings with them.
It may not be an unusual thing for Moses to see a bush burning in the desert. He may have seen them many times. But to see the burning bush was not consumed and that it kept burning and burning. This was a “great sight,” for Moses; something remarkable, even supernatural.
Question: In Exodus 3:1–15. What foundational elements of true worship do we see?
As Moses approached the burning bush, it was God who told Moses to take off his shoes, for this was holy ground. It was the Lord who made a clear distinction between Himself—the Lord—and Moses, a sinner in need of grace. The Lord made known to Moses His holiness and the attitude in which he needs to approach Him. He showed Moses that these are the foundational elements of true worship. Just like Moses, reverence, awe, and fear—these are the attitudes that are crucial for us in order to engage in true worship. Today, when we enter our churches, synagogues, and houses of prayer, we must enter with this attitude of reverence, awe and fear.
No Other Gods – Exod. 19:9–19
It is now three months since God rescued the people from Pharaoh’s army, and Israel has arrived at Sinai. God tells Moses to remind the people what He has done for them, and to put before them the idea that they will be a covenant people if they are willing to obey Him. They answer, in verse 8: “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
And so, beginning in verse 9, God says, “I’m coming down on the mountain” ( Exodus 19:9-15). God tells Moses to have the children of Israel get ready.
Question: What do we learn here about “getting ready” to worship God? –
It seems that most of the time, we want to focus on the end of verse 10, “… let them wash their garments.” And we want to make a point about people to wear their best clothes when they come to worship God. Notice however, that’s not what this verse says.
First of all, it says for them to wash their clothes, so the best thing you can get out of it is “Don’t come dirty.” But when we focus on the clothes, we miss the bigger point. Look at the beginning of verse 10: “Go to the people and consecrate them …” That’s the important point: they were supposed to get their hearts ready.
In fact, that is carried through when the Law is written down (read Lev. 11:44-45). Now, we begin to understand. This wasn’t about nice clothes. It was about consecrated hearts and holy living. When we come to worship God, we need to “get ready” by living everyday lives that honor Him with holiness. We need to live righteously if we want to come into His presence. Now, before you say, “Oh, that’s just the Old Testament,” look at 1 Peter 1 (read vv. 13-16). What we need to do, when we are “getting ready” to come before God, is we need to look at our lives and consecrate our hearts.
Question: So, what are we going to carry into our own worship?
- First, that when we’re “getting ready” to come to God, we need to focus more on consecrating our hearts than on looking stylish.
- Secondly, when we understand God from what we get out of worship, it better equips us to be willing to serve Him.
“These Be Your Gods . . .” Exodus 32:1–6
Time passes. Moses recounts to the people all that God has told him, and the people answer, “All the words which the Lord has spoken we will do.” Moses goes back up on the mountain, and God begins to explain to him how to build the tabernacle. Finally, Moses is ready to go back down to the people.
Question: what happens while he’s gone away from them? Ex. 32:1-6 How did they go from a people who understood what God had done for them, who understood the majesty and power of God, and who were committed to obedience to Him – how did they go from that to this?
More importantly, could this happen to us? Absolutely it could! This is what happens when we lose our focus on God. And if you want to see some bad worship, then you let a majority of people lose their focus on God, and pretty soon, their focus will be on themselves, and they’ll be doing things that please them. And you’ll hear them say, “How could God not be pleased? We’re worshipping Him. We’re just using the talents he gave us.”
But God has never just accepted any worship. The very first example of worship that we have is the worship of Cain and Abel which we had dealt with in our previous lesson and God did not accept them both. God wants worship to be what He wants, not what we want. And worship that’s unacceptable to God—is what happens when we lose our focus.
In Exodus 32, there’s one more important point to be seen. Go back to Exodus 24:9-11. These leaders had seen God. They had dinner with God!
And then we get to chapter 32, and the people are worshiping a golden calf? How did this happen?
Read Ex. 32:25 – This is one more way of false worship when you have bad leaders; Leaders who are not firm. What was Aaron thinking? He’d seen God! And not just Aaron, Where were Nadab and Abihu? Where were the seventy elders? As far as we know, the only one who went with Moses was Joshua. Where were the leaders of Israel?
The fact is that the leaders of Israel had lost their focus as well. They had taken their eyes off of God and had led the children of Israel into great sin. And it is a sobering lesson for leaders of God’s people today. Verse 25 tells us that the people could have been controlled. Certainly, they wanted to do this, and they are not excused for their sin, but suppose one of their leaders had stood up and said, “We’re not doing this. In fact, not only are we not doing this, we’re going to repent that we even had this thought. We’ve seen God. He’s not a cow! Our words can’t even do justice to what God is! We are not doing this!”
We need leaders who are willing to say, “We’re not doing that!” What we need are leaders who are focused on God, so that our worship stays focused on God.
“Show me your glory” – People of Israel had broken their covenant with God in this ‘golden calf’ experience. They had profaned His name by their false worship. But Moses pled with God on their behalf (Exod. 32:30–33). Because of their idolatry and terrible sin, God commanded His “stiff-necked” people to remove their ornaments so that He might “know what to do” to them (Exod. 33:4-5). The author tells us that to those who, in humility, repented, the removal of their ornaments was a symbol of their reconciliation with God (Exod. 33:4–6).
Just like Moses, we need leaders who are humble and reverent. We need leaders who will plead and intercede on our behalf, feeling the pain and separation of others because of their sins. And who will bring His people to true worship. Moses’ desire to see God’s glory was not one of curiosity or presumption but came from a deep heart hunger to sense God’s presence after such blatant apostasy, says the author.
Worship should be about God; it should be about us in humility and faith and submission, seeking to know more about Him and His “way” (Exod. 33:13).
Ellen G. White puts it so beautifully saying, “Humility and reverence should characterize the deportment of all who come into the presence of God. In the name of Jesus we may come before Him with confidence, but we must not approach Him with the boldness of presumption, as though He were on a level with ourselves. There are those who address the great and all-powerful and holy God, . . . as they would address an equal, or even an inferior. There are those who conduct themselves in His house as they would not presume to do in the audience chamber of an earthly ruler. These should remember that they are in His sight whom seraphim adore, before whom angels veil their faces. God is greatly to be reverenced; all who truly realize His presence will bow in humility before Him”— Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 252.
“True reverence for God is inspired by a sense of His infinite greatness and a realization of His presence. With this sense of the Unseen, every heart should be deeply impressed. The hour and place of prayer are sacred because God is there. . . . Angels, when they speak that name, veil their faces. With what reverence, then, should we, who are fallen and sinful, take it upon our lips!”—Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 48, 49.
How is our experience of worship with the Lord? How do we approach in His presence? Let us make our worship experience more meaningful and fulfill the Lord’s desire of worshiping ‘in truth and spirit.’ God Bless You!!!