DayBreaks for 12/6/16 – Addition, Subractaion and the 10 Commandments

DayBreaks for 12/06/16: Addition, Subtraction and the 10 Commandments

Our math lessons start with addition and subtraction. If we don’t get that down right, we’ll be in a mess our entire lives. It is foundational. I took courses through trigonometry and calculus (first year) and I have to say that I don’t believe I’ve ever used a think I learned in either of those classes…but addition and subtraction? All the time!

Our preacher right now is doing a series on The Loveable Law – and it’s about the 10 commandments. Sure, there are many who might wonder why he is calling it the “loveable law” because all they see in it are prohibitions and they think they’re intended to crush the joy and fun out of life.

Such is not the case, however. It is a loveable set of laws because the motivation behind them being given was love – and a desire to see the highest possible good for humans.

The first commandment, he posited, is about addition: Exodus 20:3 (ESV) You shall have no other gods before me. “Before” can equally be translated “besides” which gives the meaning of “in addition to”. For who knows how long, mankind has tried to add to God by creating other gods, as if there was something lacking in the one true God. But how can you add anything to something that is already infinite?

The second command is about subtraction: Exodus 20:4-5 (ESV) – 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 or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me…  These verses aren’t about art for art’s sake, but about attempts to create something that will aid us in worshipping, something that attempts to capture an attribute of God. For example, in the wilderness, the golden calf (much more likely a bull) was fashioned, the text says, to remind them of the God who led them out of Egypt. They just seen a huge display of God’s power and the bull was fashioned to remind them of the power of God. But here’s the problem: is God’s strength like that of a bull? Bulls get tired, bulls die. God doesn’t, so the golden bull was taking away from God’s greatness, not exalting it. And what about other aspects of the “bull”: have you ever seen a bull of compassion? A bull demonstrate mercy? Wisdom? No!

So our idols can never properly represent God, and when we try too hard to picture him in human likeness, or in the image of an ox or lion, those things will by definition diminish Him. God wants us to have a true concept of Him (at least as true as humans can have of an infinite Being) because it is only when we have a true image of Him that we will have the proper worldview and live properly.

Do you have other gods besides Him – ones that you’ve “added”? Do you subtract from His greatness by statues or images that can never capture the truth about Him – not even in the slightest?

PRAYER: Let us learn that there is nothing to be added to Your greatness and cautious that we don’t take anything away from it, either, Lord! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2016, Galen C. Dalrymple.  All rights reserved.

DayBreaks for 2/27/12 – Builders of Golden Calves

DayBreaks for 02/27/12 – Builders of Golden Calves

From the DayBreaks archive, dated 1/17/2002:

Exodus 32:1-4 – “1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”  2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.

This passage is one of the saddest passages in Scripture.  It hadn’t been all that long since God delivered His people from the clutches of pharaoh through a series of miraculous interventions.  You’d think that for a while, they would have been faithful.  But therein is the lesson for us: as humans, we are fickle creatures, prone to wander into sin as fast as our feet and hearts can take us.  We are not really all that different from the Israelites after all.

But what is interesting to me is that it was Aaron, the man who was to be first high priest, that made the golden calf.  The people wondered about the fate of Moses.  He’d been gone longer than anyone had anticipated.  I’m sure he hadn’t taken much food or extra luggage when he went up the side of the mountain, and the Israelites knew it, too.  Perhaps he’d frozen.  Perhaps he’d starved.  Perhaps he’d died of thirst, or been torn to pieces by a wild animal.  If any of those things had happened, the people would probably have concluded that the “God” they’d been following wasn’t all that powerful after all (in spite of all they’d witnessed in Egypt).  Or, perhaps, just perhaps, Moses had been guilty of sin and God had decided to strike him dead.  So, it was time for a new god.  This one would be golden – from a human perspective, a vast improvement on one that couldn’t even be seen.

In his book, Into the Depths of God, Calvin Miller had this to say about those who build golden calves: “Golden calves are the glitzy work of those Aarons who have not traversed the upper slopes of Sinai.  Those who have, meet that God who is the only food that can appease their hunger.”

Moses would never have built the calf after he’d encountered God in the burning bush, nor after he’d come down from Sinai.  He’d “seen” the real thing – who would need a cheap, golden imitation?  Miller also noted about the gods in our own lives: “Making Christ in our image avoids the painful work of being conformed to his.

Once we have encountered God in the truest and purest way, we will have no hunger for cheap imitations, and nothing else will even come close to the experience of the real thing. 

PRAYER: Father, keep us from building golden calves and following false gods to avoid the pain of being conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright 2012 by Galen C. Dalrymple.

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