One of my favorite movies growing up was the 1953 Disney movie Peter Pan. It had everything a boy could want, adventure, pirates, Captain Hook, sword fights, treasure, flying, and of course, playing all day and never growing up. One of Peter Pan’s companions is the fairy Tinker Bell. According to the story, she is so small that she can only hold one feeling inside at a time, which explains when she gets angry or jealous, she is rather unpleasant to be around. There is a part in the story that in Captain Hook’s obsession to get Peter Pan that he tries to poison him. Tinker Bell discovers the plot and drinks it before he can. However, we find that Tinker Bell is not dying of poison but of not enough people believing in fairies. Peter Pan tells the audience to show that they believe in fairies by clapping their hands. Tinker Bell is saved because people believed hard enough in fairies. As if clapping could save someone from the deadly effects of poison. Got to love Disney.
Although I loved the movie, this part of the story is one of the worst pictures of faith. Basically what the story was saying, if you believe in something hard enough, it will come true.
The 1st commandment is concerned with who we worship. The 2nd commandment is concerned with how we worship. When God gave this commandment to Moses, he added how offensive it is to God to worship Him in any other way than how He has commanded us in the Bible. God said,
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image—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 nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
It is pretty serious when God’s wrath goes to the fourth generation. When someone’s great-great grandchildren would be dealing with the impact of the choices of a past sinful generation.
Why is God so specific about this commandment? As you remember, God’s people Israel were slaves in Egypt. They imitated what they saw around them which was the Egyptian worship of their gods. When God says “in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth,” He is specifically telling them to stop trying to be like the Egyptians. Let me give you some examples,
* The “heaven above” refers to the Egyptian sky gods they were worshiping, such as:
Ra (sun god) and Horus (falcon-headed god of the sky),
* the “earth beneath” refers to Egyptian animal gods they were worshiping, such as:
Hekhet (god in the form of human female w/ frog’s head) and Hathor (cow goddess),
* and the “water under the earth” refers to the Egyptian river and underworld gods:
Hapi (god of the Nile), Sobek (crocodile god of the Nile)
Many of those Egyptian gods were targeted by the plagues, as God destroyed the idolatrous culture showing HE ALONE is the one true God. The crazy thing was even after Israel left Egypt they were still worshipping these false gods of Egypt. They were worshipping God plus the gods of Egypt.
It is easy to hear this and think how foolish Israel was. We would never worship a lady with a frog head. As I mentioned last week, the idols you and I worship are way more sophisticated. Money, video games, relaxation, friends, good grades can all become our modern idols. The Bible uses Egypt to represent the world and our slavery to sin. We are to leave it behind and not worship in that way any longer.
How did Egypt worship? They put their faith in things of creation and that they created and did not follow the Bible in how God wants us to worship. How does God want us to worship? In John 4:24 it says “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” There are two parts to true worship. The first is worship is spiritual. If God is a spirit then we worship Him in our spirit, in our heart.
Deuteronomy 4:12 says “And the Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice.”
God is a spirit so you are not going to see Him with your eyes, but you will hear Him in your heart. The second part is also very important. The second part of worship is in truth. If we just follow our hearts in worship we will be in danger. The prophet Jeremiah wrote that the heart is horribly wicked and deceitful. Just following your heart is a bad thing. That is why the second part is so important. We need the truth of God’s Word. Worship must involve the lively preaching of God’s Word. That is true faith. Two parts. A sure knowledge of God (head) and a heartfelt trust in Him (heart). Not some Peter Pan version of faith where we invent our own way of worshipping God.
Too often we judge worship on how the band sounded, if we liked the songs, how funny the preacher was, and not on whether or not we got to hear the Word of God and sing praises to our Father. It is an awesome privilege to come and worship, to hear God’s Word and to be able to respond in prayer and praise.
I enjoy fishing. I sometimes go out very early before the sun rises or I stay out until dark and see the sunset. Sunrises and sunsets are beautiful. There are days the water is a deep blue and the waves have a silver shimmer to them. You cannot help but notice how awesome creation is. I’ve talked to fisherman that say they never go to church because nature is their church and that is how they get close to God. Where in the Bible does it say that is OK? To stop gathering together in fellowship with other believers? To stop regularly going to church? It doesn’t. This is man making nature an idol, which breaks the first commandment. This is man inventing a way to worship God against what the Bible says on how to worship. This is breaking the 2nd commandment.
You and I can do this too. When we need all these other things to get us to feel like worshipping God. We make excuses like I didn’t worship God because I was bored, the music was too loud, it didn’t get me fired up, etc. You are focusing on created things in order to get you in the mood to worship God and this is wrong. The question you need to ask is did you get a chance to worship God in spirit and in truth? Which means from the heart, our spirit, and with our head, the truth of God’s word. If you did, then hallelujah! Celebrate that you got to hear God’s Word taught. Psalm 42 says
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
We are to hunger and thirst to hear God’s Word and then to respond appropriately to it by living out a stronger life a faith based on what we hear. God at His Word is more than enough to satisfy our soul.
We cannot be like Peter Pan and believe in God however we want, as long as we believe in it hard enough, because there are serious consequences for doing this wrong. “For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” We typically think of jealousy as a bad thing but God’s jealousy is like a husband’s jealousy for his wife. He is not going to share her with anyone else and he is going to get pretty upset if some other dude starts getting too close to her. God is jealous because He loves us and wants all of us for Himself. Listen to the promise though, that comes from that deep love, “but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
When we worship God in spirit, from the heart, and in truth, with our head knowing God’s Word, we are following His commandments, and when we are following God’s commandments, we show we love Him, and He will richly bless us with His mercy.