Treasure God's Word

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

Joshua 1:8    

Joshua faced the biggest challenge of his life.  

Moses had just died.  Joshua was now the leader of God’s people.  The Israelites were ready to cross the Jordan River and begin the conquest of their long-promised land.  This conquest would not be quick or easy and Joshua must lead them.  Undoubtedly Joshua felt intimidated and alone.  Could he do it?  

God comes to Joshua and charges him with the crucial ingredient that he would need above all other ingredients.  

Joshua, I have given you a Book, the Book of the Law.  Treasure this Book.  Study this Book.  Follow this Book.  Fill your heart with this Book so that you think about it all the time and speak of it in every situation.  Above all, Joshua, obey my Book.  The point is not to know my commands but to obey my commands.  Joshua, if you do this, then no matter what else happens, you will succeed.  I will put my hand upon you and you will have success in life.  

God’s message to Joshua is God’s message to you.  If you want your life to prosper, if you want true success in life, if you want success in the eyes of God, then the path is simple:  Treasure God’s Word.  Fill your heart with God’s Word.  Live your life by God’s Word.  

If you do that, your life may not be easy but you will have God’s hand on your life and you will know true success.  

There is no other way.

More Caught Than Taught

You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.  You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Deuteronomy 6:7-9  

When it comes to parenting, the first task is to be the kind of person you want your children to become.  Be a model of loving and obeying Jesus.  

Then you will be ready to teach their children God’s Word, the “words that I command” (Deut. 6: 6).  When God tells parents to talk about them “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise,” he is not calling us to give our kids a non-stop theological lecture.  The fire-hose approach doesn’t work very well with children.  Rather, God’s point is for parents to always be alert to the teachable moment, at all places and at all times.  Bring God’s Word to bear on the situation, both in private (in your house) and in public (by the way), both in the evening (lie down) and in the morning (rise).  

He goes on to make a similar point with verses 8-9:  “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”  

God’s Word must govern all we do (our hands) and all we think (our foreheads).  It must govern all we do privately (houses) and publicly (on your gates).  

God is saying to parents:  Teach your children God’s Word in every situation, all though the day.  When your child lies, when your child has a fear, when your child is nervous about a test, when your child is hurt by a friend, when you lose your temper, when your child doesn’t want to go to church, when you buy a new car, when your child gives part of his allowance to God, in all these situations bring God’s Word to bear.  Seize the teachable moment!  

But remember:  Your first focus is not teaching, but doing.  Love and obey Jesus yourself, for when it comes to parenting, the aphorism is true:  More is caught than taught.

Authentic Parenting

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.

Deuteronomy 6:6  

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 contains not just the theological foundation of our faith (verse 4), and not just the most important command in the law (verse 5), but also the crucial passage on parenting in the Bible (verses 6-9).

When God turns to parenting, he begins with the hearts of parents, not the hearts of children.  God is saying to us:  

First, focus on your own heart.  These commands must be on your heart.  Before they will be on the hearts of your kids, they must be on your heart.  Model what you want to see in your children.  If you want your kids to love God and obey God, let it begin with you.  The first task of parenting is right here:  Love and obey your God.  

The word is authenticity.  Parents don’t have to be perfect.  But they do need to be authentic.  Be the kind of person you want your child to become.  The essence of parenting is not what we do but who we are.  The focus is not changing your children but changing you.  Or, more accurately, letting God change you.  

Albert Schweitzer, a brilliant philosopher, mathematician and medical doctor, who spent much of his life as a missionary to Africa, once remarked, “There are only three ways to teach a child.  The first is by example, the second is by example, the third is by example.”  

In some ways, parenting is an overwhelming task.  There are so many principles to know and follow.  You need more wisdom than you’ve got.  

However, in some ways, the task is simple: Bethe person God wants you to be. Be a man or woman who loves God and obeys God with all your heart. Bethe kind of person you want your kids to become.

Your Mission

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Deuteronomy 6:5    

Remarkable isn’t it?  The main thing God wants from us is our love.  He’s the God of the universe and he longs for us to love him back.  

What does this tell us about God?  At heart, he is a lover.  He is the God who loves.  In fact, 1 John 4:8 declares:  “God is love.”   

What does this verse tell us about the Christian life?  It’s a love affair.  If you thought the Christian life was about religious rules or church rituals or being good enough, you’ve had God all wrong.  It’s all about love.  Receiving God’s love for you and then loving him back.  As Brennan Manning notes in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel:  

Over a hundred years ago in the Deep South, a phrase so common in our Christian culture today, “born again,” was seldom or never used.  Rather, the phrase used to describe the breakthrough into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ was, “I was seized by the power of a great affection.”  

These words describe both the initiative of God and the explosion within the heart when Jesus, instead of being a face on a holy card with long hair and a robe with many folds, becomes real, alive, and Lord of one’s personal and professional life.  Seized by the power of a great affection was a visceral description of the phenomenon of Pentecost, authentic conversion, and the release of the Holy Spirit.  The phrase lent new meaning to the old Russian proverb, “Those who have the disease called Jesus will never be cured.”  

What does it mean to love God?  It includes affection, devotion, tenderness, gratitude.  It includes loyalty, obedience, surrender.  You want to know him, be close to him, please him. 

Furthermore, this love relationship is not tepid and lukewarm, but passionate and wholehearted.   Love the Lord with all your heart, all your soul, all your might.  Go all out!  Give yourself in love and obedience to the God who made you.  

Jesus was once asked, “What is the greatest commandment in the Law?”  He didn’t hesitate.  He went right to Deuteronomy 6 and quoted this verse.  The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might.  (See Matthew 22:34-40.)  

Dear friend, this is your purpose in life.  This is your top priority.  This is your mission.  Love him!  Love him with all you’ve got.  Love him with all you are.

So Much Blood

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.

Leviticus 17:11  

So much blood is shed in the Bible.  So many sacrifices, so many bulls and rams and goats and lambs are sacrificed.  Blood runs freely.  

What is God saying to us?  

God is teaching us about sin.  God is teaching us that sin is serious before a holy God and that sin must be paid for with our lives.  Our only hope is if a substitute dies in our place, if the blood of a substitute is shed instead of our blood.  

This truth begins in the Garden of Eden, after Adam and Eve sin.  Fig leaves won’t do and God covers Adam and Eve with animal skins.  Blood is shed.  

It continues all through the Old Testament.  So many sacrifices.  So much blood.  All of it as a covering for sin.  

And then, Jesus shows up.  His messenger, John the Baptist, calls out, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  Then, his life culminates on a cross.  His blood is shed.  Sin is paid for.  Your sin.  My sin.  

Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22b).  

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood (Revelation 1:5b).  

Knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot (1 Peter 1:18-19). 

The precious blood of Christ.  The Lamb of God.


For I am the Lord your God.  Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy.

Leviticus 11:44a

To say that God is holy is to say that God is not only separate from sin, but that God is separate from everything.  God is different from everything else in the universe.  God is far above everything else and everyone else in the universe.  Nothing can even be compared to God.  God is the holy God.  As the exalted seraphim call out in Isaiah 6:3, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”  

The Book of Leviticus proclaims that God is the holy God.  Every sacrifice, every law, every command, declares that God is holy.  In fact, the word holy appears in Leviticus more than in any other book of the Bible.  

Moreover, several times in Leviticus God commands his people that they also must be holy, separate from all sin and dedicated wholly to God.  

For I am the Lord your God.  Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:44a).  

For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God.  You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy (Leviticus 11:45).  

You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy (Leviticus 19:2b).

Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God (Leviticus 20:7).  

You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine (Leviticus 20:26).  

The people of Israel were to be different because they belonged to God.  They were a chosen people, a special people.  

That is also our calling as followers of Jesus.  We are a special people, a chosen people, a holy people, the people of God, set apart from sin and dedicated wholly to God.  “But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16).  

This is our identity.  This is our calling.  This is our destiny as God’s holy people.

The Glory of God

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”

Exodus 34:6-7a    

Moses had made the audacious request to God:  “Show me your glory!”  God loves the request, a request born of hunger to know God, and says “Yes!”  

Early the next morning, Moses chisels two stone tablets and climbs Mt. Sinai.  God comes down to earth in a cloud and reveals his glory to Moses.  “The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin’” (34:6-7a).  

God is revealing to Moses his glory, his attributes, his essence.  “Moses, this is my glory!”  

God is saying for all time:   

This is who I am.  This is my essence.  I am the compassionate God, bursting with relentless tenderness and affection for you.  I am the gracious God, the God who extends grace to those who don’t deserve it.  I am abounding in love.  I don’t have just a little love for you.  No!  I am crazy about you!  I am overflowing with love for you!  I am abounding in faithfulness.  I am worthy of your complete trust because I am faithful and true.  I will do what I say.  I am forgiving.  I am the God who can remove your sin as far as the east is from the west!  

Is this the way you see God?  I hope so because this is who God is.  And how you see God will shape everything in your life.   

See God the way he is, in his resplendent glory.

Show Me Your Glory

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’”

Exodus 33:18-19a    

All through the Book of Exodus we see the greatness of God.  We see God’s greatness and glory in the burning bush, the ten plagues on Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of Pharaoh’s army, and more.  Perhaps more than any book in the Old Testament we see the power, the glory, the majesty, the grandeur, the sovereignty, and the holiness of our great God.  

Then, after all of these incredible events, Moses makes this bold request of God:  “Please show me your glory.”  

The request reveals Moses’s passion for God.  This is not a passion for what God can do for Moses, but a passion for God himself.  This is a passion, not for God’s head, but for God’s face.  For God himself.  

Augustine once wrote:  “Give me a man in love; he knows what I mean.  Give me one who yearns; give me one who is hungry; give me one far away in this desert, who is thirsty and sighs for the spring of the Eternal Country.  Give me that sort of man; he knows what I mean.  But if I speak to a cold man, he just doesn’t know what I am talking about.”  This describes Moses in Exodus 33.  

God loved Moses’ request.  And he says “Yes!”  But note what God says when he answers:  “I will make all my goodness pass before you.”  Not his greatness but his goodness.  When God reveals the essence of his glory to Moses, he will reveal his goodness.  Yes, God’s greatness is vital, but apparently God’s glory is seen primarily in his goodness.  

The next morning God does what he promised and reveals his glory to Moses:  “The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.  The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin’” (Exodus 34:5-7a).  

When he reveals his glory to Moses, he proclaims his goodness, that he is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and loving, faithful and forgiving.  

The glory of our God!

The Content Soul

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.

Exodus 20:17    

In the tenth commandment God tells us to not lust for things that don’t belong to you.  Don’t become obsessed with things that belong to others.  Don’t let something become an idol to you because it has become too important.  

The tenth commandment takes us from actions to attitudes.  It concerns desire – the desires of our heart.  To be clear, the problem is not with desire but with desiring the wrong things, desiring things that don’t belong to us, and giving free rein to our desires.  

The problem with coveting things that don’t belong to us is that we believe a lie.  We believe the lie that if I had that thing I would be happy.  But life doesn’t work that way does it?  We get that thing and then we want something else.  Our desires and longings are satisfied only in Jesus.  

Bruce Marshall, in his book The World, the Flesh, and Father Smith, sagely observed, “The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.”  

The opposite of coveting is contentment.  God had blessed King David in so many ways, and yet when he saw Bathsheba on the roof, he violated the tenth commandment on coveting.  That in turn led to the violation of the eighth commandment on stealing and the seventh commandment on adultery, and finally, the sixth commandment on murder.  God’s way is always best!  Whenever we break God’s commandments we hurt ourselves – and so often, we hurt others.  

In contrast to David, Paul could say, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound.  In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need” (Philippians 4:11-12).  That’s contentment.  And that’s where joy and peace are found.  God’s way is always best.

Tell the Truth

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

Exodus 20:16    

Though God uses the vocabulary of the law courts in the ninth commandment, he is calling us to truth-telling in every way.  

The truth matters to God.  He is a truth-teller and a lover of truth.  Lying is a failure at loving because lying ruins relationships and destroys the threads of trust that bind people together.  

We can lie in all sorts of ways.  When we inflate stories or résumés, we lie to impress people.  If we are afraid to be honest and disagree with a strong person, then we lie to please people.  We can also lie to make a profit if we lie to a customer or make false advertising claims.  When we slander, we lie to discredit someone.  A big reason we lie is just to avoid trouble or punishment.  At other times people lie for convenience.  For example, if we call in sick at work when we are not sick or if we say “we’ve shipped it” when we haven’t.  There are also the small lies of exaggeration.  

But no matter the form of dishonesty and duplicity, God calls us to stop lying and tell the truth.  He knows that every lie poisons human relationships and erodes our character.  

God hates lying and he delights in truth-telling.  Even though dishonesty may be extremely common, we must obey God, declare an all-out spiritual war on lying, and decide we will follow in the footsteps of our truth-telling God rather than in the footsteps of Satan, who is the arch deceiver and the father of lies.  

Tell the truth!

No Stealing

You shall not steal.

Exodus 20:15    

Because God wants us to respect the property of others, because God wants us to treat others in the way we want to be treated, because God wants us to love our neighbor as ourselves, he tells us plainly not to steal.  

Stealing is more nuanced than we might think.  

One way to steal is seizure – old-fashioned theft.  This includes burglaries, shoplifting, car theft, muggings and store robberies.  It includes pilfering items from your workplace.  Moreover, we can steal productivity from our employer if we consistently come in late, take too long for lunch or work on personal things.  Unless we make this time up, we are stealing time from our employer.  

Another form of seizure could be called long-term borrowing.  We borrow something from a friend.  A ladder, a book, a CD.  We intend to return it, but the days go by, perhaps the months go by, and we just don’t return it.   

Besides seizure, there’s deception.  We are not honest about the house or the car we are selling.  A businessman is not honest about a product or a service.  A mechanic is not honest with a customer about the brakes.  A physician is not honest with a patient about a surgery.  We lie on our income tax return.  Will Rogers once said that “the income tax has made more liars of the American people than the game of golf has.”

In addition to seizure and deception, there’s fraud – withholding something that belongs to someone else.  If we hit a car in a parking lot and don’t leave a note, if a husband does not make child support payments, if a landlord does not return a deposit that is due, if we do not pay a bill we owe (assuming we are not unemployed and make some provision to repay), in all these cases, we violate the eighth commandment.  

There are a lot of ways to steal besides robbing a store.  And God tells us,“Do not steal.  Treat your neighbor the way you want to be treated.  In obeying my commands, you are liberated, liberated to enjoy life and to enjoy me.”

No Adultery

You shall not commit adultery.

Exodus 20:14    

Sex within marriage is wholly good.  It is God’s gift to every married couple.  But sex is powerful.  It is not just the merger of two bodies, but the merger of two souls.  When sex is treated casually and promiscuously, then great damage is done.  People are hurt.  Marriages are wrecked.  Families are destroyed.  

Our culture may minimize adultery, and Hollywood may even glamorize it, but down deep every person knows instinctively that adultery is wrong and a terrible betrayal of the love, commitment and loyalty of marriage.  

So God gives us the seventh commandment for our good.  He gives us the commandment for our protection, to protect us from the pain, hurt and destruction of adultery.  

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus quotes this commandment and gives the true spirit of it:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).  

Jesus is teaching us that the seventh commandment precludes not just physical adultery, but also heart adultery.  Don’t look at other people as objects to be used, but as persons to be loved.  

This does not mean it is wrong to notice attractive members of the opposite sex.  That’s not lust, but the normal response of a human being.  Lust comes when we go beyond that and begin to fantasize about having sex.  Then it becomes a violation of the seventh commandment.  

One more issue:  How can we avoid adultery and stay faithful to God and, if married, stay faithful to our spouse?  Three brief suggestions.  

First, give constant priority attention to your marriage.  Work on your marriage and never take it for granted.  

Second, guard friendships with the opposite sex.  Don’t be reckless.  Decide in advance on appropriate boundaries and guidelines.  

Third, draw close to Jesus.  Fall in love with Jesus.  Find all your satisfaction in the one who alone can fill the human heart.

Life is Sacred

You shall not murder.

Exodus 20:13    

No human being has the right to take the life of another human being because human life is sacred.  Only God has authority over life and death.  

The sixth commandment may seem as dry as dust, but behind this commandment is the unfathomable love of God for each one of us.  Every human being on the planet matters to God.  He sent his Son to die for us.  We have inestimable worth to him.  He loves us.  That’s why murder is so serious to our God.  

This commandment not only prohibits murder, but it also prohibits suicide (self-murder), infanticide (murder of the newborn), abortion (murder of the unborn) and euthanasia (murder of the aged).  In every way, God calls us to a profound respect for human life.  

Then, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus takes this commandment to a deeper level.  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).  

It’s not enough just to avoid the act of murder.  God is also concerned about the attitude of anger and the words of anger.  The attitude of anger and words of anger come from the same hate-filled heart that can lead to murder.  Jesus tells you and me:  “These are wrong too.  These are unacceptable for my followers.  Bring these to me and let me fill your heart with my love and forgiveness.”  

Human life is sacred.

Honor Your Parents

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

Exodus 20:12    

There are innumerable books on marriage and just as many on parenting.  But how many books have you seen on the responsibility of children to their parents?  Yet when God chooses one aspect of the family to include in the Ten Commandments, he does not choose marriage or parenting.  Instead, God speaks to children about their parents:  “Honor your father and your mother.”  

Why is this so important to God?  At least three reasons.   

First, a stable society needs stable families and there are no stable families unless children honor their parents.  

Second, children must learn respect for authority or they will not make it in life, and respect for authority begins in the home, with their parents.  

Third, it is only right that children honor their parents, for all normal parents sacrifice endlessly for their kids.  Most parents would die for their kids.  In a heartbeat.  It is only right that the children respect their parents.  

How do we practically obey the fifth commandment and honor our parents?   When we are young, it’s pretty simple:  We obey.  We obey right away, preferably with a good attitude.  

But as we grow older and leave the home, we no longer obey our parents, but we do honor them.  We express respect, appreciation and love.  We call or write.  We help them if they need it.  We care for them if they need to be cared for.  We treasure them and affirm them.  

In all these ways we honor our parents.  In doing so, we honor God as well.

True Rest

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Exodus 20:8  

On the seventh day of creation, God rested.  He rested and blessed the seventh day.  In the Ten Commandments, he calls us to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.  

God has designed us for Sabbath rest.  We need it.  We need one day in seven to stop working and rest.   

The point of the Sabbath is not a bunch of man-made rules, what you can and cannot do.  The Pharisees made that mistake.  The point is simple:  Sabbath rest is God’s gift to you.  Receive the gift.  Enjoy it.  Take a break from work routines.  Relax.  Rest.  

God has designed you for a true Sabbath rest.  

But what is a true Sabbath rest?  First, it is the absence of work.  Second, it is the presence of worship.  

The absence of work means you cease from whatever activities constitute work for you – your job, housework, bills, errands.  

The presence of worship means a day lived in God’s presence.  A non-hectic, non-harried day to pray and play.  

People live for the weekend, but the weekend doesn’t refresh.  People are just as soul-weary on Monday mornings as they were on Friday afternoons.  Why is this?  The problem is that there is no true Sabbath.  They have the absence of work without the presence of worship.  If you fill the weekend with entertainment and sports and recreation and work on the house, then your spirit is never refreshed.  Your soul is never restored.  You need to let God breathe life into your soul.  

Sabbath rest, regular Sabbath rest, true Sabbath rest, is God’s gift to us.  It is God’s antidote to keep us from ruining our lives with hurry and busyness and overcommitment.  It is a gift that is absolutely essential for our physical, emotional and spiritual health.

The Name of God

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

Exodus 20:7    

Why did God give us the Ten Commandments?  

God did not give us the Ten Commandments for our salvation, as in “Keep these commandments in order to be saved.”  That would be futile, for no one would be saved.  Thankfully salvation has always been by the grace of God.  It has always been God’s work for man, not man’s work for God.  

So why did God give us the Ten Commandments?  Three reasons.  First, the Ten Commandments (and all 613 commandments in the Mosaic Law) reveal the nature and character of God.  Implicitly, by the nature of these commandments, we see that God is holy, that God is good, that God is wise, that God is just, that God is sovereign.  The Ten Commandments reveal God’s character.  

Second, the Ten Commandments reveal to us how to live our lives well.  These commandments are God’s gift to us, given for our good, to guide us and protect us.  

Third, the Ten Commandments reveal our sin.  They show us that we fall short of God’s perfection, that we could never be good enough to please a holy God and save ourselves, and that we need a Savior.  The law leads us to Christ.  

The third commandment concerns the name of God.  Do not misuse God’s name.  Do not profane God’s name.  Do not take God’s name in vain.  

This commandment carries several implications.  First of all, don’t use God’s name as profanity.  Don’t take God’s holy name and use it to give voice to your unholy feelings.  Honor God’s name because to honor God’s name is to honor God.  

A second implication:  Don’t swear falsely in God’s name.  Don’t use God’s name in an oath to make a false statement.  

There is a third implication.  The Hebrew term carries the connotation of “unreality.”  Here’s the point:  Do not treat God as if he is unreal, as if he did not exist, as if he were not present with you.  Never live your life as if God didn’t exist, for God does exist.  He is right here with you.  Live your life in the presence of God.  Live your life in the awareness of the presence of God.  

If you do, if I do, I imagine that it would change how we live.  

God is real.  God is here.  Practice the presence of God.

No Images

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.

Exodus 20:4    

The first commandment warns us:  Don’t worship false gods.  The second commandment warns us:  Don’t worship the true God in a false way.  Don’t worship God with idols or images.  

The problem with images is simple.  Any image of God inevitably reduces God to less than he really is.  Any idol inevitably obscures the glory of God.  

It is vital that we see God as he is, as the great, loving, infinite, sovereign and merciful God that he is.  Because if we do not see God as he is, in all his glory, then we will not worship him or love him or trust him or enjoy him as we ought.  

That’s why, in the opening sentence of his book The Knowledge of the Holy, A.W. Tozer wrote:  “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  

For years I struggled with my view of God.  I tended to see God as great and big and holy and sovereign.  But in my heart of hearts, I did not see him as kind and loving and forgiving and gentle.  And this distorted view of God hurt me.  How it hurt me!  It strangled the life and joy out of my relationship with God.  Of course I haven’t arrived in my view of God, but I am well on the journey, and today I see God more and more as he is, full of relentless affection and overflowing grace.  

The second commandment, like all ten of the commandments, is for our good.  It tells us that God has not given us tangible images to reveal who he is.  Rather, he has given us his Word.  

To see God as he really is, read God’s Word.  Every day, open God’s Word and meet him there, in the pages of Scripture.  

See God as he really is, in all of his resplendent glory and grace.

Put God First

You shall have no other gods before me.

Exodus 20:3    

This is the first of the Ten Commandments – not just first in order but first in importance.  

Whatever is first in our lives, whatever is most important to us, that’s our god.  Whether it is money, career, family, spouse, children, hobby, sports, house, car, or a host of other things, whatever is most important to us, that’s our god.  And, if it is anything other than the true living God of the universe, then the Bible calls that idolatry.  

Put God first.  

God has the supremacy in the universe.  After all, he’s the Creator.  He’s the Almighty.  He’s the sovereign, holy, infinite God.  He is King of kings and Lord of lords.  In every way God has supremacy in the universe.  He must have supremacy in our lives and hearts.  

If we put God first, what does that mean?  It means wholehearted devotion, total obedience, absolute loyalty.  It means we will love him, serve him, obey him, trust him, worship him, seek him, please him, fear him, and follow him.  It means we will stop playing God in our lives and let God be God.  It means surrender.  Unconditional surrender.  Glad surrender.  Surrender of all that we have and all that we are.  

Nothing must come before God in our lives.  He alone is God and King.  He calls us to loyalty and fidelity because he alone is God.  

We must ask ourselves:  What is the most important thing in my life?

The Red Sea

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.  For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.  The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Exodus 14:13-14

There is one event that the Old Testament keeps going back to time after time after time.  In fact, the Old Testament refers to this event one hundred times.  This episode is not only the central example of God’s power to rescue his people, but it is also the main Old Testament picture of what God does for us in Christ.  

This central event is the Exodus, the deliverance of the Israelites out of slavery with the ten plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.  

But the Exodus is not just of paramount theological importance, it is also of greatest practical encouragement to the spiritual life.  

Moses and the Israelites have reached the shore of the sea when they see the Egyptian army bearing down on them.  The people are terrified.  After all they have been through, will they be massacred when they have almost made it?  They complain bitterly to Moses.  

Moses’ response is classic.  This is his finest hour of leadership.  “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today.  For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.  The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”  

These words are life-giving words.  They speak to our overwhelming problems and needs.  They speak to the biggest challenges in our lives.  They speak to the problems we are wrestling withright now.  

Consider your biggest burden as you prayerfully hear God’s voice to you:  “Fear not.  Stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord.  The Lord will fight for you.  You need only be silent.”  

The Israelites were in an impossible situation that day.  Maybe you feel you are in an impossible situation right now.  It’s not impossible for God.  Nothing is too hard for God. Hecan do it!   
Trust the Lord.  Trust the Lord with all your heart.  Cry out to him.  Refuse to give way to fear.  For the Lord will fight for you.  

Why don’t you call out to him right now?

The Great I AM

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”  And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’”

Exodus 3:14  

It was a pivotal moment in biblical history.  God appears to Moses in the burning bush, to call Moses to lead his people out of slavery.  In the poignant exchange, Moses asks about God’s name.  Keep in mind that in the Israelite culture, your name was not a label but a disclosure of who you were.  Names mattered!  

So God replies:  “I AM WHO I AM... Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  

That reply is not so clear is it?  What is God saying about himself?  “I AM WHO I AM”?  At the very least, this name is rather enigmatic and mysterious.  But that fits, doesn’t it?  There is mystery with God.  He’s incomprehensible!  Who else but God would have a name like this:  “I AM WHO I AM”?  

But we can say more about this name.  It suggests that God has life in himself.  He is completely free, self-existent and sovereign.  He is eternal and unchanging.  He is not dependent on anything else.  Because he is not dependent on anything else, he is invincible.  He does as he chooses.  His word cannot be stopped.  This all means that God is trustworthy.  He has the sovereign power to come through for us.  

This is who God is!  Sovereign.  Unchanging.  Eternal.  Self-existent.  Free.  The source of all life everywhere.  Not dependent on anything else.  Mysterious.  Incomprehensible in his greatness.  Completely trustworthy.  

God gives Moses a shortened version of his name:  “Tell them that I AM has sent me to you.”  This is where things get interesting.  Because when Jesus shows up on the scene, he uses seven “I am” statements to describe who he is, such as “I am the door,” “I am the vine,” and “I am the bread of life.”  These seven “I ams” echo the burning bush passage of Exodus 3.   

But there’s more.  In one discussion, Jesus tells the Jews that he was alive during Abraham’s lifetime.  At this the Jews go apoplectic.  They are furious at what Jesus is suggesting, that he was alive at the time of Abraham.  Jesus doesn’t back down an inch:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).  

Jesus does not say, “Before Abraham was born, I already existed” or “I was already alive.”  No, in a pointed reference to Exodus 3 Jesus proclaims, “Before Abraham was, I am!”  

The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was saying.  So they picked up stones to kill him, for he was claiming to be God.  

This is Jesus, the same one who spoke to Moses in the burning bush.  The great I AM, sovereign and eternal and unchanging.  Here to rescue his people from bondage.