EXODUS 20:1-17

THE BACKGROUND

God began his relationship with his chosen people when he chose Abraham and Sarah to parent a great nation.  Many decades later, they find themselves in Egypt, serving Pharaoh as slaves.  God, with Moses’ help on the ground, delivers his people from slavery.  They wander in the desert wilderness for 40 years.  During this wandering, they find themselves at the foot of a holy mountain—Mount Sinai.  It is here that God gives his people some basic rules for living.  We call these rules the Ten Commandments.

THE DETAIL

The Ten Commandments may be broken into two sections or tables.  Table One concerns our relationship with God (vv. 1-8).  Table Two concerns our relationship with others. (vv. 9-17) God begins by reminding them of what He has done for them.  He reminds them that they have been in relationship for a very long time, and that he has cared for them on their life’s journey.

THE TAKEAWAY

Many sermons have been preached on this passage.  I would like to focus on verse 5b  “…for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…” and verse 6 “…[I am your God] showing steadfast love... to those who love me and keep my commandments”.  God loves us to the point of being jealous.  He wants our love in return.  Keeping his commandments are just one way of showing Him our love and gratitude.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that we regularly break most of these commandments. What can we do about that?
 

1 CORINTHIANS 1:18-25

THE BACKGROUND

We Christians do cherish the cross.  We wear it as a necklace or earrings.  Many of us have a cross on a wall in our homes.  It has come to symbolize our faith in Jesus, and that is a good thing. But we need to remind ourselves of what the cross really was two thousand years ago.  It was the method that they used to execute the worst of society’s criminals.  A modern day equivalent would be the electric chair or a hangman’s noose.

THE DETAIL

  • Paul begins today’s passage by splitting people into two groups:
    • Those who are perishing (non-believers)
    • Those who are being saved (believers)
  • Paul states that reverence to the cross is foolish to those who don’t believe.  If you’re a non-believer, it’s downright ridiculous to cherish an implement of execution.  But If you are a believer, “it is the power of God”. (v. 18)
  • Paul quotes Isaiah 29:14b in verse 19.  Keep in mind that Paul is quoting from memory*, so the words don’t exactly match.
  • In verses 20-22, Paul challenges the reader to consider God’s wisdom, which is far different than human wisdom. 
  • Paul drives a stake in the ground, when he says “… but we proclaim Christ crucified…”  (v. 23a)  He is saying that, foolish or wise, this is what I believe, and I don’t care what others may say.
  • He wraps it up nicely in verse 25.

THE TAKEAWAY

There is some graffiti that was unearthed in Rome.  It makes fun of a Roman named Alexemenos for worshiping Jesus on the cross.  It must have seemed odd to non-believers back then for people to worship someone who was executed in this manner.  We wouldn’t think of wearing a necklace which had a little gold hangman’s noose on it, would we?  That would be foolish. But we do understand the power of the cross.  We proudly proclaim Jesus’ dying on the cross as our key to salvation.

 

*He could also be quoting from the Septuagint, which was a Greek translation of the Old Testament, written a couple of centuries before Jesus arrived on the scene.  It frequently differs somewhat from our translations of the Bible from the Hebrew.
 

JOHN 2:13-22

THE BACKGROUND

Jesus goes on a rampage in the temple.  I must admit that this story has always been a puzzle to me.  Why did Jesus do this?  Let’s investigate it together.   

THE DETAIL

  • Jesus was near Jerusalem for the Passover, so he and his disciples went “up to Jerusalem”. Jerusalem was built on a high hilltop, so “up” is appropriate. 
  • When he sees all the commercial activity going on in the temple, he becomes angry, and makes a mess of things.  He says “Take these things out of here!  Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!”  (v.16)
  • His disciples recalled Psalm 69:9.  (v. 17)
  • Jesus is questioned by the Jewish authorities.  Jesus, of course, turns this confrontation into a teaching moment.  It appears to be a riddle of some sort.  To the Jews, it seemed absurd to rebuild this magnificent stone temple in three days.  Jesus, of course, was referring to himself and not a stone building.       (vv. 18-22) 

THE TAKEAWAY

As I stated earlier, this story was puzzling to me.  Part of the temple practice required the people to bring an animal to the Lord’s temple to be sacrificed for various reasons.  Many would show up, and buy their sacrificial animal on the spot. Since many came to the temple from distant lands, they would need to exchange their currency for local tender, in order to make their purchase.  It all seemed very practical.  So why would Jesus be upset?  The answer lies in his word in verse 16, and his disciples observation in verse 17. Jesus had a zeal or passion about keeping the Lord’s house pure.  The Lord’s house should be a place of worship and nothing else.  But over time, practical matters crept in, creating a distraction from what was important—worship.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Lent is a good time for us to reflect on many aspects of our spiritual lives.  This can include questioning why we go to church, and what we do there.  Quality worship can be summarized in the word ACTS.  That stands for:

  • Adoration—Praising God.
  • Confession—Admitting our failure to live up to His expectations.
  • Thanksgiving—Thanking God for his many blessings.
  • Supplication—Asking God to provide for our needs.

Anything we do in church that is more than this is not worship, but extra.  What might this be?  Are we there to:

  • Worship God or be entertained?
  • Offer praise and thanksgiving, or get a religious “warm and fuzzy”?
  • Connect with God, or do we treat church more like a Christian club?
  • Discuss our relationship with God, or discuss politics and current events?
  • Gather to glorify God for what he has done for us, or gather to conduct “church business”.

To be sure, many of these “extra” things are part of being a responsible modern Christian.  But they have their time and place.  Knowing Jesus’ reaction to the “clutter” in his Father’s house, we should work hard to prevent to cluttering up our worship time. We should adopt a little of Jesus’ zeal for God’s house and purity of worship.