Friday, April 15, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-04-15 [Moses Meditations] 2a. Limits

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; Exodus20:4-5

Worshipping a mountain or a tree or a rock as your god is dealt with in the first commandment. In fact, one would think that the first commandment pretty much covers everything... (What part of "no other gods" is hard to understand?!?)

The second commandment deals with making images, it has to do with making your own gods. It's about creating a god that suits you. This is powerfully covered by Isaiah who talks about wealthy people using gold to make their idols and poor people using wood. They cast and carve them carefully so that they "do not topple" lest the kids bump "god" over when they're running around the house! (See Isaiah 40, pasted below)

The second commandment has to do with picking and choosing what you want your god to be like. It is about limiting God. When we make an idol we are trying the "concretise" God. Andrew Greeley suggests that idolatry is about "making an absolute of the relative." Making an idol means we are trying to get a "handle" on God.

While we don't have many physical idols today, there are many Christians today who are guilty of adapting their "picture" of God to suit themselves.
- Many have a "name it and claim it theology" turning God into a heavenly vending machine.
- Many have a "critical judge with a big stick" theology
- Many would like to put God in a box, confidently saying "God will never..." or "God will always..." when actually they are going beyond what is revealed in Scripture.
- This is particularly true in the area of "spiritual warfare" where many people have got caught up in "spiritual cowboys and crooks" and they have developed a complex set of "rules" and "prayers" (more like spells) that go beyond what Scripture actually teaches.

The second commandment is about God's sovereign freedom. He is bigger and greater and more complex than we can grasp and we should not limit Him. When people made idols they had the "measure" of their god - there was no room for mystery. When we deal with the one true God, there will always be mystery for we can never have the full measure of Him.
Isaiah 40:18 To whom, then, will you compare God?
What image will you compare him to?

19 As for an idol, a craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and fashions silver chains for it.
20 A man too poor to present such an offering
selects wood that will not rot.
He looks for a skilled craftsman
to set up an idol that will not topple.

21 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Thursday, April 14, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-04-14 [Moses Meditations] 1. Exclusive Relationship

You shall have no other gods before me. Exodus20:3

If the commandments reflect the nature and character of God, then what does the first command teach us?

It is tempting to think that the first and the second commandments portray God as insecure, narcissistic and full of petty jealousies, but that would be to grossly underestimate the nature of God.

God is completely good, all powerful, all glorious. The bottom-line is not that God is _dependent_ on our worship (He is not a needy God) but quite simply that He _deserves_ it. He is so glorious, so majestic, and so magnificent that glory naturally belongs to Him. It's like gravity - you can't go against it.

If I were to ignore gravity and walk off a cliff, what will happen to me? Will I float gently down? No, I will begin to accelerate downwards at a rate of 10m/s until I reach terminal velocity and meet the ground with a terminal crash!

Our Creator is magnificent - just look at the stars!
Our Father in Heaven is majestic - just watch the sunsets!
Our King is glorious - just spend some time trying to understand DNA!
Our Saviour is worthy of worship - just think about the cross.

When He calls us to worship Him alone, He is simply telling us the truth. There is no-one and no-thing that can fill God's shoes. If we worship anything else, we are worshipping a fake.

The universe "just works" when its Creator is acknowledged.
Trying to ignore or replace Him is like trying to ignore gravity: we're going to get hurt.

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-04-13 [Moses Meditations] God's CV

And God spoke all these words:
2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery..." Exodus20:1-2

We come now to the giving of the Ten Commandments. Moses has had the people prepare themselves. Sinai is rattling and smoking like a volcano and the people can hear God's voice like thunder. Moses has headed up the mountain and the people are waiting in anticipation...

Many people see the ten commandments as the ten-rung step-ladder into heaven. They think that the commandments were given as a way of proving our worthiness for heaven.

The Pharisees of Jesus' day had turned the Ten Commandments into an entire system of piety. They elaborated on the rules, adapted the rules for changing circumstances, in some areas they made the rules more manageable and in other places they turned one commandment into multiple boxes to be ticked.

But they missed the point! The ten commandments are not a "Save-yourself-plan" but a picture of what our God is like.

In Isaiah 6 we read that the angels around the throne describe God as "Holy Holy Holy." The Ten Commandments give us some idea of what the angels mean...

When we look at the Ten Commandments from the perspective of the character and nature of God rather than a list of do's and don'ts there is a lot that we can learn. The ten commandments show us what God likes and doesn't like. They give us an insight into the things that are issues for Him. The Ten Commandments are like a timeless CV for the Almighty.

Notice too, those who think that Commandments are about saving yourself, that God introduces Himself: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery." He is the God who saves - we don't save ourselves.

Join me as we start with the first command tomorrow...

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

EMMDEV 2011-04-12 [Moses Meditations] co-inky-dink?

Welcome back after the school holidays!
The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, "What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" Exodus18:13-14

A COINCIDENCE is when God does a miracle and decides to stay anonymous.

We all know the account of Moses and the advice his father-in-law Jethro gives him about delegating responsibility... It's one that is used in business leadership courses even today.

Here's the scene: Moses is busy from sunrise to sunset adjudicating over the affairs, great and small, of the Israelites. Jethro advises him to appoint leaders over tens, fifties, hundreds and thousands and to delegate responsibility to them. Moses followed Jethro's advice and it worked out well...

But the co-inky-dink in the story is the fact that Jethro's visit just so happened to come _just_ _after_ the victory over the Amalekites (this was our EmmDev just before the holidays) where Aaron and Hur had stepped in and held Moses' arms in the air so that the Israelites would win the battle.

My question is: Would Moses have been as open to his father-in-law's advice if he had not recently experienced the power of teamwork first-hand?

I find it wonderful to to look back on important developments in my life and to realise that God has been leading me, using one experience to prepare me for the next and bringing the right people along the way who will walk the next stretch of the road with me.

Thanks be to God for His Providence!

Theo Groeneveld
You can see past EmmDevs at