Exodus 20:18-26 (NKJV)
Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off. Then they said to Moses, “You speak with us, and we will hear; but let not God speak with us, lest we die.”
And Moses said to the people, “Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.” So the people stood afar off, but Moses drew near the thick darkness where God was.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: ‘You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves. An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it.’
The clamor on the mountain is too much for the Israelites and they keep their distance. Good, they’re supposed to stay back anyway. Moses explains that this is just God’s way of intimidating them to keep them from sinning and not something to be feared generally. (That is, God isn’t unpredictably dangerous).
Then God reiterates the commandment against making idols but extends it a bit. They’re not only prohibited from fashioning idols, when they build an altar of stones they’re prohibited from fashioning the stones. The altar should be made of stones that are just as God made them; fashioning them profanes them.
Altars had to be all natural.
God loves his creation. That’s obvious, but we gloss over it. We make lots of noise about how God loves us (and, to be sure, God’s love for us is special) but we rarely take the time to appreciate God’s love for His whole creation.
The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge. – Psalm 19:1-2 (NIV)
Praise God for the beauty and wonder of His creation. Here are some favorite glorious things to browse.
Don’t worship the creation; worship Him. But meditating on the wonders He has wrought can make for wonderful worship.
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