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Deuteronomy - Chapter 4, Lesson 5
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Pastor Ovid Need
NOTE: Time requires I leave in the minor errors, e.g., abbreviations in text, wrong abbreviations, mixed tenses in a sentence (though I have tried to catch all of them), caps, etc. As time progresses, we will correct the lessons. There are also some comments at the end of this chapter.
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Many times today, Deuteronomy 4:14-20 is taught completely different from its context. There is nothing wrong with the way we look at it today, but we miss so much. I know this is a boring part to many and most may pass this over. Moses restates the Second Commandments, Exodus 20:4-6. Notice, then, that there are TWO different prohibitions in Exodus 20:1-6: first, against other gods, and second, against serving Jehovah God after the manner used by the heathens in serving their gods.
The Pulpit Commentary deals with this section thusly:
VV. 15-20 -- As the people had seen no form or figure when God spake to them, so they were to beware for their very lives (cf. ver. 9) of acting corruptly by making any kind of image, whether of man or of beast, for the purpose of worshiping God as represented by it; they were also to beware of being so attracted by the splendour of the heavenly bodies as to be forcibly seduced to worship them and offer them religious service. They were not in this respect to imitate the heathen; for God had delivered them out of the furnace of Egyptian bondage, had taken them for himself to be his special possession; and therefore they were to take heed not to forget the covenant of Jehovah their God, nor to offend him by making any image or representation of him as an object of worship. Among the heathen, and especially in Egypt, images were the very pillar and support of religion; but in Israel, as God had revealed himself to them without form, it was as a spirit he was to be worshiped, and not under any outward representation.." (Emp.. added. III.59.)
Keil on Ex. 20:22-26, comments under "THE GENERAL FORM OF DIVINE WORSHIP IN ISRAEL."
As Jehovah had spoken to the Israelites from heaven, they were not to make gods of earthly materials, such as silver and gold, by the side of Him, but simply to construct an altar of earth or unhewn stones without steps, for the offering of His sacrifices at the place where He would reveal Himself. "From heaven" Jehovah came down upon Sinai enveloped in the darkness of a cloud; and thereby He made known to the people that His nature was heavenly, and could not be imitated in any earthly material. "Ye shall not make with Me," place by the side of, or on a par with Me, "gods of silver and gold," -- that is to say, idols primarily intended to represent the nature of God, and therefore meant as symbols of Jehovah, but which became false gods from the very fact that they were intended as representations of the purely spiritual God--Ver. 24. For the worship of Jehovah, the God of heaven, Israel needed only an altar, on which to cause its sacrifices to ascend to God. The altar, as an elevation built up of earth or rough stones, was a symbol of the elevation of man to God, who is enthroned on high in the heaven; and because man was to raise himself to God in his sacrifices, Israel also was to make an altar, though only of earth, or if of stones, not of hewn stone. "For if thou swingest thy tool (lit. sharpness, then any edge tool) over it (over the stone), thou defilest it" (ver. 25). "Of earth:" i.e. not "of comparatively simple materials, such as befitted a representation of the creature" (Schultz on Deut. xii.); for the altar was not to represent the creature, but to be the place to which God came to receive man into His fellowship there. (Keil II. 127.)
Before we move on, notice Keil's mention that the elevated altar symbolizes the elevation of man to God. At the risk of being "excommunicated," let me say this: This pastor realizes that neither the Geneva Bible nor the King James Version of God's word is verbally inspired, despite what some of the brethren might contend. I will insist, though, that both Bibles are the closest thing the English speaking world has to the Spirit-breathed texts. Those who love the Christian God of the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ, should find it extremely encouraging that New World Order promoters, i.e., One Word Government, are working to make the English language the world-wide standard. (Though one of my nephews works for Microsoft developing software, I certainly am against Microsoft's total dominance of the operating systems. The Feds broke up AT&T for anti-trust violations, yet Microsoft has a larger share of the OSs than AT&T had of the phone service. I like W95 even less than I did Windows 3.11. Someone defined a computer as "a machine to run Microsoft Office." But, the major computer OSs and software are written in English; thus the huge world-wide impetus to learn English and make it the universal standard.)
The universal standard of English makes the preaching, teaching and reading of God's word in English possible world-wide.
However, both the Geneva and the King James are written in a very elevated form of English. We cannot avoid the fact that most, if not all, of the modern versions of God's word are motivated by at least two things: first, money. Neither the Geneva nor the King James can be copyrighted. They have been public domain for many years, so there is no profit in promoting either. Second, rather than elevating man to an elevated form of English, English has been and continues to be "deelevated" to the level of man.
So, what has the enemy done to undermine the word of God and the English standard of speech? Primary, he has lowered the word of God to the level of man with the many modern versions of "God's" word. Using Keil's symbol, the enemy has lowered the alter to man's level. Rather than man being elevated to God, God has been and is "deelevated" to man's level. A couple interesting comparison between the modern versions and the KJV showing how the word of God has been and is being corrupted are, John 3:18, 36 and 1 John 5:7. Some have changed "believe" to "obey," and some have changed the words clearly teaching the Tri-Une God, "The Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost," to unoffensive wording that does not teach the Trinity. The more radical of the Bible corrupters completely dismiss 1 John 5:7, saying it was not in the original manuscripts. V. 7 offends the "Jesus Only" crowd.
Notice Moses' warning against trying to worship Lord God with any kind of a physical image. It was not totally departing from the Lord God and turning to Baal that Moses warned against. Rather, the danger was trying to worship and serve Jehovah God in a heathen manner. As we follow Israel's history, we find this is exactly what happened: 1 Kings 12:25 and 2 Kings 17:15ff., record Israel's departure from serving God in the proper way to serving God under the calves, to the end of openly serving Baal and making their children pass through the fire.
Israel looked around, and saw how the heathens served and worshiped their false gods, both before images and in the heavens. The heathen methods of worshiping and serving their gods made inroads into the Hebrew worship of Jehovah God. They then tried to worship and serve their God in the manner used by the heathens to worship and serve their false gods. Of course, their efforts led to Baal worship, but they never openly denied the Lord God. Rather, they tried to serve both. (1 Kin. 18:21, 2 Kin. 17:33, 41, Hos. 10:2, Zeph. 1:5.)
Aaron tried to worship God in a heathen (Egyptian) manner when he set up the calf, and said, "here are your gods, O Israel, which brought you out of Egypt." (Ex. 32.) Notice Aaron did not deny the Lord God, saying, "tomorrow is a feast unto the Lord." (v. 5.) The calf was a similitude, a figure, that was to represent the Lord God. Aaron offered a way to worship Lord who delivered them from Egypt, a way like the Egyptians used to worship their god, Ra. The calf was not Ra, but only represented Ra.
This pagan manner of worshiping God, i.e., worshiping God under an image, was referred to in Exodus 20:22-26. The Lord said, "I talked to you from heaven, and you saw no similitude at all of me. Therefore, do not follow the heathens examples of trying to worship me, your God, as they worship their gods with images of silver or of gold. Rather, you will worship me through the altar of earth and through the sacrifices upon that altar. You can use nothing of this earth or the works of your hands to represent me, the Lord your God, the God of all heaven and earth."
The sin of using pagan means to worship the Lord God can be traced down from the warning in Exodus 20:22-26, to Israel's final carrying away into captivity. This effort to worship and serve the Lord God in a pagan manner is one to which God's people are very susceptible.
The brass serpent was an effort to worship the Lord God in a pagan manner. (Num. 21:9, 2 Kin. 18:4.) The same thing happened with Gideon's ephod (Jud. 8:26), and with Micah's mother. (Jud. 17:1-5.) These were all images dedicated to worshiping the Lord God; these were the result of the heathen influence of Egypt and Canaan as the Egyptians and Canaanites used visual representations to worship their false gods. Israel, despite Moses' many warnings, Israel followed the pagan practices. (2 Chr. 36:14-17.) 2 Chronicles 33:16-17 tells us that Israel tried to serve the Lord God after the manner of pagan worship, in high places and groves.
The first altar after the Flood was built on a mountain #Ge 8:20 Abraham also built an altar on a mountain #Ge 12:7,8 It was on a mountain in Gilead that Laban and Jacob offered sacrifices #Ge 31:54 After the Israelites entered the Promised Land they were strictly enjoined to overthrow the high places of the Canaanites #Ex 34:13 De 7:5 12:2,3 and they were forbidden to worship the Lord on high places #De 12:11-14 and were enjoined to use but one altar for sacrifices #Le 17:3,4 De 12:1 #De 16:21 The injunction against high places was, however, very imperfectly obeyed, and we find again and again mention made of them #2Ki 14:4 15:4,35 2Ch 15:17 etc. (Online Bible.)
1. Heb. 'asherah, properly a wooden image, or a pillar representing Ashtoreth, a sensual Canaanitish goddess, probably usually set up in a grove #2Ki 21:7 23:4 In the Revised Version the word "Asherah" (q.v.) is introduced as a proper noun, the name of the wooden symbol of a goddess, with the plurals Asherim #Ex 34:13 and Asheroth #Jud 3:13 The LXX. have rendered _asherah_ in #2Ch 15:16 by "Astarte." The Vulgate has done this also in #Jud 3:7. (Ibid.)
After King Solomon's death, his son Rehoboam, at the urging of his young counselors and by the hand of the Lord, sought to increase his father's high tax rate. Israel then divided, and ten tribes followed Jeroboam, and two remained with Rehoboam, according to the word of the Lord. However, Jeroboam was fearful that Israel would return to Rehoboam if they had to go all the way to Jerusalem to worship God, as commanded in the law of Moses. So Jeroboam built two calves. In building the calves, Jeroboam did not deny the Lord God; he did, however, offer the service of the Lord God under the two images at Dan and Bethel. He used the calves to represent the Lord God Jehovah. He offered another way to serve and worship God other than the proper way at Jerusalem. (1 Kin. chap 12. For further study into this, see "Edersheim's Old Testament Bible History," chp. 11, pg. 136-38, chp. XII, pg. 126. Josephus attributes the final fall of the Hebrew race to Jeroboam's two calves for worshiping the Lord God: "This was the beginning of miseries to the Hebrews, and the cause why they were overcome in war by foreigners and so fell into captivity. But we shall relate these things in their proper places hereafter." Antiquities, Book 8, chp. 8, Sec. 4).
Protestants rightly teach Deuteronomy 4:15-20, Exodus. 20:4-6 and vv. 20-26, as a prohibition against idol worship. But it goes much farther than simply against idol worship. Exodus 20:4-6, shows us that the problem dealt with is the attempt by God's people (even the ones who love Him dearly) to worship and serve their God in the same manner used in service to false gods. The warning is against looking around and seeing how the heathens serve their gods and then trying to serve our God in the same manner. God's service is not a business, and cannot be viewed as such. It is a ministry to God which obviously requires far more dedication than a business.
The Lord God has clearly shown how he desires his people to serve him in his word. Departure from his way is idolatry and wickedness. It was the cause of Israel's judgment as Israel tried to serve the Lord God with the same methods used by the heathens. The same judgment will fall today if his people try to serve him in the same manner which the heathen use to serve their false gods.
Among the hundreds of pagan methods of serving the false gods, here are a few imitated by God's people in their service to him. A few moments of serious consideration will lead to many more pagan methods than listed here, for they go into every area of life.
Pagans use "deficit financing" (debt) to serve their gods. "Deficit financing" is as unscriptural as concubines, yet God's people use this means to serve Jehovah God.
Pagans look to education to provide all of their needs as they serve their gods of humanism. God's people have willingly and gladly embraced the god of education. Rather than a dependence on the Arm of the Lord, we now see dependence upon education.
Pagans seek political solutions to man's problems. Many of God's people, having given up any hope in God converting the pagans, have embraced the same solutions. Or the other extreme believes that Christians must not be involved in politicks, so they many times take a sit back and wait for God's supernatural rescue from the mess their indifference has made.
Pagans look to science and modern medicine to cure the effects of ungodly and undisciplined life-styles. God's people have also forsaken the ways of the Lord that lead to a long and emotionally peaceful life.
God's people must reexamine every area of life and break down the high places and cut down the groves if they expect God to prosper them, to hear from heaven and to heal their land. (2 Kin. 18:4-7.)
The task will not be easy nor short-term. Ezekiel tells us that even after the victory is won by God, it takes seven years (a perfect number: they will not stop till the job is done) to discover and correct all the infiltrations of the pagan weapons of warfare into every area of life. (Ez. 39:8-22.)
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