Week 12 – Sold Out to God (The Shema, Part 1)

Growing up, I never did Black Friday shopping, but my wife convinced me to go with her once early in our marriage. I will never forget the site as we pulled into the parking lot of Target. It was dark and freezing cold, yet, the faint light from the light poles provided enough visibility to see a line of bundled-up shoppers that extended from the front doors down the length of the parking lot! After seeing the mob awaiting the opening of the doors, we decided to travel to another Target in hopes of lessening our chances of becoming like Mufassa, who experienced death by a stampede in Disney’s The Lion King. Much to our excitement, the second Target had a much smaller crowd of deal seekers. We walked right in just after a few minutes of their being opened to find the specific treasures that had drawn us out into the craziness. I can’t remember what Steph was looking for, but I wanted to find a fire pit that was wildly marked down. We were still newlyweds, and money was tight when it came to splurging on extras. This sale was a way that I could afford to splurge on a personal desire. We frantically searched for these fire pits until we came upon an empty display where probably no more than five of those pits could have sat! I couldn’t believe it! These firepits were advertised as one of their biggest deals, and they only had a handful, and they had already been sold!

As bad as I hoped to buy a fire pit and enjoy a fire and smores with Stephanie on a date night at the time, I couldn’t make another one appear. The store couldn’t go to the back and bring out another because they were entirely out; there wasn’t another to grab. They were sold out, and since they were sold out, nothing was left for anyone else. While I believe that it is inappropriate for a store to have a handful of an item that they mass promoted available on a Black Friday only to sell out of them in a matter of minutes after opening, I also believe that the Bible challenges us to be like these limited supply of fire pits, being completely sold out to God with nothing leftover, held back from Him. However, often times we find ourselves completely depleted, giving ourselves to everyone and everything else with nothing left over for Him. This week’s Scripture will help us see what is keeping us from being a devoted follower of Jesus. Next week, the Shema will also help us consider what it means to be completely sold out to God.

Continuing our journey, we briefly examine Numbers, the fourth book of our Scriptures. After the Israelites receive the ten words, case laws, and the way God expected them to worship Him, He leads them north to the border of the land that God promised to give them as His people. At this location, twelve men are selected to go into the land of Canaan and check it out and provide a report of their findings to the people upon their return. Upon their return, all twelve spies agreed that the land was great! It was indeed a land flowing with milk and honey. However, ten of the twelve spies didn’t believe that God could give them the land as He had promised. Unfortunately, these ten convinced the Israelites as a whole of this too.

When you think about the context in which this decision of unbelief is made, it is almost unbelievable that this is the direction and counsel that this generation of Israelites traveled. This same group of people experienced God’s power as He delivered them from Egypt and displayed His superiority over the pantheon of gods and goddesses through the ten plagues. These Israelites saw God part the Red Sea so that they could safely travel to the other side and saw the same walls of water that provided them a highway to travel crash down upon their enemy and close in a watery grave for them. These were the same people who had experienced the visible presence of God as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. They had heard the voice of God from Mount Sinai, received His law, and entered into a covenant relationship with Him. He had already demonstrated His provision for them with manna new every morning (except for the Sabbath). Yet, they did not believe that the LORD could give them this land because of the might of its inhabitants.

Since the people of God did not believe in the promise of God, He led them south into the wilderness. Over the next forty years, the nation spent its time in the wilderness until all that generation who did not believe that Yahweh would give them the land died. Once the unbelieving had passed away, Moses, along with Joshua and Caleb, and a new generation of Israelites found themselves at the border of the promised land. The book of Deuteronomy begins with Moses summarizing the teachings of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers to the people before they enter the land God is giving them. The summary reminds them of the overall covenant stipulations, a blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience but doesn’t stop before explaining practical reasons for this obedience and how embracing these practical truths allows us to communicate our love to God, our Mighty Redeemer.

What do we learn from Deuteronomy?

Deuteronomy teaches us that there is only one God, and His name is Yahweh.

Deuteronomy 6:4

“Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.

Deuteronomy teaches us the theological truth that there is only one God, and He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In the ancient world, this claim of only one God was unique. Other ancient cultures had a pantheon of gods and goddesses, and some even had a hierarchy of deities within those pantheons. Some ancient cultures even included the practice of ancestor worship. This belief in monotheism was countercultural then, and with our increasingly pluralistic culture, those who hold to the revelation of the Triune God through the Bible as being the only God will also find themselves more and more at odds with a culture whose embracing of universalism continues to grow.

However, the Israelites could embrace the truth of one God because He had revealed Himself to them in mighty and precise ways (Deuteronomy 4:35-39). We as believers can also remain faithful to the Biblical doctrine of monotheism because God has revealed Himself to us in many ways through the prophets, His Word, and His Son (Hebrews 1:1-3). He has displayed His power in our lives by freeing us from sin (Romans 6:18; Colossians 1:18), the abiding presence of His Spirit (Romans 8:16), increasing our Christlikeness (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:18), and answering prayers (Psalm 145:18).

Since there is only one God, worshipping anything other than Him is wrong.

Deuteronomy 4:15-19

“But be very careful! You did not see the Lord’s form on the day he spoke to you from the heart of the fire at Mount Sinai. 16 So do not corrupt yourselves by making an idol in any form—whether of a man or a woman, 17 an animal on the ground, a bird in the sky, 18 a small animal that scurries along the ground, or a fish in the deepest sea. 19 And when you look up into the sky and see the sun, moon, and stars—all the forces of heaven—don’t be seduced into worshiping them. The Lord your God gave them to all the peoples of the earth.

Logically, the flow of thought is that if Yahweh is alone God, then to worship anything other than Him is wrong. There is no wonder that the first two words given to the people in Exodus were not to have any other gods except for Him and not to make any images to worship. Before going any further, let me ask you this question.

Are you a monotheist or a polytheist? Do you believe in one God or many gods?

Depending on where you currently find yourself in your spiritual journey or search for God, you may say that you still lean towards the idea of there being many gods. Maybe you find yourself holding to a belief system of there being many gods, and if that is you, please continue reading or skim down to find the link to watch a video that explains how the God of the Bible has revealed Himself as the one true God by revealing the depth of His love that He has for you as one made in His image!

For those of you who are reading and are a follower of Jesus, you most likely answered my question with ease and without hesitation. However, let me present the question from a slightly different angle. We will look at this question from a different perspective by first defining what God or a god is.

God is whatever we worship.

How do we know what we worship?

The God we worship is whatever we take absolute delight in, what we value the most, what we find our happiness or joy in, or what we spend most of our time and money pursuing and attaining.

So we do well to ask ourselves once again, are we a practicing monotheist or a practicing polytheist? Do we have Jesus simply as a chief god among many gods or God alone? Do we have any idols in our lives?

At age 47, the writer William Giraldi’s father died tragically in a motorcycle accident. Giraldi’s father was a decent husband and father, but he also had a possession that he seemed to cherish more than anything—his motorcycle. Every Sunday for most of his adult life, he cruised the highways with his biker companions. His life advice often focused on two words: Ride hard. Eventually, his dedication to riding at “insane speeds” would lead to his death.

After his father’s death, William tried to make sense of and then write about his father’s zeal for biking. The younger Giraldi visited the accident scene and talked to the coroner who had examined his father’s mangled body. For his final stop, Giraldi and his uncle stopped in at the motorcycle shop where they had inspected his father’s bike.

Giraldi writes:

[The mechanics] at the shop looked at my uncle and me and solemnly nodded in respect: a comrade had fallen, and we were the comrade’s family …. these men on motorcycles reveled in the camaraderie, the bond; they were a band of primordial hunters out for the kill that would sustain them …. [My father belonged to] a private club that chose its members carefully. It was noble to be part of this thrill that was larger than each of them. Every Sunday the ride replaced God, a substituting savior.

After reading this tragic story, you can quickly identify Giraldi’s father’s idol. There is nothing wrong with motorcycles or friendship with others that share your passions; these things only become problematic when they become the gods we worship instead of reasons to worship our God. The same goes for all the things we enjoy or are sources of fun and pleasure. I like sports, fishing, playing video games, good food, and I love spending time with my wife and kids. All of these things and people that I find enjoyment in should be cause for worship but never be the center of my worship. We can enjoy everything God has given us, but they cannot be the source of our supreme joy nor consume us.

When God’s gifts of grace become gods where we place our faith, they become counterfeit saviors. For Mr. Giraldi and anyone who follows his same path of idolatry, anything substituted for the Savior will, one way or another, ruin their lives and the lives of those around them. One of the mechanics told Giraldi’s son, “… to go out doing what you love … that’s the only way to die. It’s honorable.” But William wrote: “Of course, I don’t believe that … There’s nothing honorable about dying a violent death at forty-seven years old and leaving behind a score of family members whose lives are all ruined in some way.”

So how about you? Is there a motorcycle in your life? Is there a life’s creed you live by other than something found in God’s Word? Is your heart’s supreme focus on knowing and living for Jesus, or have you substituted Him for a counterfeit savior? These false saviors are dangerous for your well-being and the well-being of others in your life, in the present, and possibly negatively affect their choices that affect their eternity. What would you be doing if you were to die doing what you loved? Would it ruin those closest to you or inspire them to love Jesus sacrificially and wholly?

Before quickly answering, prayerfully reflect upon your own life by using the questions above to know what you genuinely worship and who or what has your heart’s supreme devotion. If it is anyone or anything but God may we confess our sin to God, receive His forgiveness, and make Luke 4:8 our prayer.

Jesus said to Satan,

‘You must worship the Lord your God
    and serve only him.

Interested in knowing more about the God of the Bible who claims to be the one true God and how He has demonstrated His love for you? Click on the cross below to discover how you can know your Creator relationally immediately! If you make the decision to follow Jesus, please let me know. I would be honored to celebrate with you and walk with you as you walk with Jesus.

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