Among American Gods: Idols & Altars


For Meditation

Doug Stuart, in his commentary on Exodus 20:22-26 says that "Worship is one of the most basic responses of any believer to the words and ways of his / her Savior or Lord.” God desires Israel to worship freely as a community as quickly as possible. He wants them to experience the goodness of the covenant life he just spoke to them in the Ten Words. He wants His life to take root in them, to flourish in them. 

Our communal worship is as extension and expression of the covenant relationship we have with God. Worship gives both form and function to that relationship. Just like a healthy marriage, covenant life with God requires regular and thoughtful activities, communications and reaffirmations in order to thrive. That is why God gives structure to the words his people hear and receive, to the songs they sing, to the sacrifices they offer. This is the reason why we as a church have Baptisms, celebrate the Lord’s Supper, speak Words of Confession, receive Benedictions and pray Prayers of Assurance. Relationship is the source of all our liturgy. 

The vision for worship and relationship in Exodus 22 does not always reflect the worshipping life as it is lived and experienced. For many of us, the religious elements of corporate worship feel like barriers to intimacy with God. This is not God’s intent, nor his desire. Despite our perception or experience, worship is always relational because worship exists as an extension and expression of covenant. 

For this reason, whenever we think about the formal religious elements of worship, our perceptions of God, whatever they may be, are always at play. And the most challenging question we can ask ourselves is this: Does the concept of God in my head, reflect who God really is? The image of God that stands behind Exodus 22 — is the image of a God who desperately wants His Life to bless to flourish in his people - and through them - to the ends of creation itself.

Reflection Questions:

When you think about the laws of God, the form our worship takes, the necessary and good limitations they place on us — what image of God emerges? What concepts about God govern how you think about your worship?  How are they similar to and different from Exodus 22?

Does the concept of God in my head, reflect who God really is? 

Exodus 22 sets forth the idea that both the form and function of our worship emerge from the beautiful instinct in the heart of God to see us experience the blessing of living His Life and being His People. How would your posture towards worship change, if you believed this?

Our weekly worship guide can be found here once finalized. 

Exodus 20:22-26

22 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites this: ‘You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken to you from heaven: 23 Do not make any gods to be alongside me; do not make for yourselves gods of silver or gods of gold.

24 “‘Make an altar of earth for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, your sheep and goats and your cattle. Wherever I cause my name to be honored, I will come to you and bless you. 25 If you make an altar of stones for me, do not build it with dressed stones, for you will defile it if you use a tool on it. 26 And do not go up to my altar on steps, or your private parts may be exposed.’"