Skip to comments.The Rev. Samuel Edwards: "On the One God"
Posted on 05/02/2006 6:23:52 PM PDT by sionnsar
This sermon by the Rev. Samuel Edwards of the Anglican Church of the Holy Comforter in Alabama concludes his series on the Ten Commandments. After reading this one, I can see how covering the Commandments in reverse order actually may have been a most helpful way to expound on them, because this sermon literally does fulfill the series:
Sermon on the Second Sunday after Easter (2006)May we indeed "attend to God constantly" for that is in truth the evidence that "our citizenship is in Heaven."
Countdown to Godliness: Sermon X.
On the one God
God spake these words, and said: I am the Lord thy God; Thou shalt have none other gods but me.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
We come now to the end of this reverse-order consideration of the Ten Commandments. When I say, the end, I do not mean only or even primarily the termination of the series. The word end is not just used to describe a finishing or a conclusion after which whatever is ended ceases to be; it also refers to the fulfillment of a purpose. In this sense, when something reaches its end, it has become what it was meant to be from the beginning.
Here, in the first commandment, God defines for us our end. He tells us who he is and then he tells us what we are to do about it. He does this so that we clearly know that if we are to reach our end to find the fulfillment of our personal being, the drive for which is planted within us at the instant of our creation then we must put him before all else, our selves included.
Let us begin our look at this commandment by setting it in the context in which it was originally delivered. The Israelites have been brought out of Egypt and are now encamped at the foot of Mount Sinai. This is the place where Moses encountered God in the bush that burned but was not consumed where the Lord commissioned him to deliver the people from slavery where the Lord announced his Name by which he was to be known: YaHVeH I am that I am, or He who Is, or the living God. This is the place to which the coming of this people under Moses leadership would be the sign that the Lord had truly sent Moses.
Now that the first stage of the deliverance has been accomplished, the Lord for the first time directly addresses all the people. The first thing he does is identify himself, just as he had identified himself to Moses out of the burning bush: I am the Lord thy God. I am the God who is: This is my Name, and unlike any other name in, above, or under the earth, you gain no advantage over me, you can make no claim on me, you can have no control over me simply by knowing and using that Name: I am who I ever was; I am who I now am; and I will be who I will be.
The question whether there are other gods is not now addressed, but the commandment which follows makes the question of their existence or non-existence merely academic for the Israelites. Thou shalt have none other gods but me. It doesnt matter whether there are other gods: If the Lord the God of Israel has called you into his people, there are at the very least no other gods for you.
We must not overlook the fact that this commandment is delivered in the second person singular: It is directly addressed to each member of the nation personally, not collectively. Here, at the beginning of the history of the Church for the assembly of Israel is the beginning of the Church the theme of personal accountability to God is explicitly present. It is not simply, You, as a group, shall have no other gods. It is, Thou each one of you shalt have no other gods. To be sure, a person whose faith is weak or immature can be supported by those whose faith is strong, but no one whose faith is non-existent can hide himself behind those whose faith is genuine and expect to be safe from the personal consequences of persisting in his unbelief. Once he has encountered the God of Israel, no one is excused from the responsibility of making a decision about whether he will forsake all other gods and cleave only unto him.
This commandment is a demand to set the Lord God at the very apex of our concerns above self, above spouse, above children, above family, above institutions, above country, above culture, above power, above control, above our personal likes, dislikes, dreams, and visions. Do not think for a moment that God requires this of us because he needs it. Lacking nothing, he needs nothing. If we obey, that does not enhance his divinity; if we rebel, it deprives him of nothing.
God requires this of his people of each person he calls because if it is lacking, that person cannot become fully and truly human. This commandment is first because it addresses the chief end of man, which, in the famous words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever. Saint Augustine even more famously put it, O God thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in thee. [Confessions, I.i.] The Lord Jesus the full, perfect, and sufficient image of his Father puts it definitively when he says to us, Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye except ye abide in me. [John 15:4]
God has made us for everlasting fellowship with him. That is our end, our purpose. No other will do; no other can satisfy us; in no other can we find ourselves. If we are to fulfill that purpose that we must be brought to reflect Gods character to show his likeness to the fullest extent of which created nature is capable. This is only possible through sharing the life of his Son and abiding in his Spirit. If we are to do that, we must have the same focus of attention as does the Son, for only so can we see as he sees and do as he does and love as he loves and let everything else take its place and find its end in him.
The reason God commands us to worship and serve him alone, then, is that we simply cannot be fully human unless we do so. He does not need our worship and service at all; rather, it is we who need to worship and to serve him here (but not just in this place) and now (but not just in this hour) at all times in all places.
Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord; and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. [Deuteronomy 6:4-9]
We are to attend to God constantly. A Christian who only pays attention to God when he is engaged in his Sunday routine is going to be no more effective than a football player who only thinks about the game between kickoff and final down. Such a player does not have his head in the game and is at best no help to his team. At worst, he is a positive hindrance.
God calls us each of us to get our heads, our hearts, our hands into the game. What we do here of a Sunday is essential, but it cannot be and is not meant to be the totality of the worship that we offer to God. It is meant to be both a distillation of the worship we are to offer not only with our lips, but in our lives and a means of enabling us to transform the totality of our living into an act of worship. Here, at this table, God provides for us the True Manna and the fruit of the True Vine who makes it possible for us to keep this, his central commandment, and to show forth his majesty and his glory in this world until he transforms it, and us, into the everlasting splendor of the world to come.
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