3. God’s Revelation (cont’d)
Originally God revealed Himself in paradise through the things that are made, in the Holy Spirit, to the man as he stood in the image of God in the state of original righteousness, God had called out of nothing, by the Word of His power, the whole beautiful universe. And every creature in that universe was indeed a Word of God, a symbol by which God revealed Himself to man. The whole creation spelled the name of the creator. For “the heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.” Creation was indeed an elegant book, in which every creature was a Word of God, declaring His glory, and spelling out His name. And in the midst of that beautiful creation as it stood in all its pristine clarity stood man, who was capable of reading that book. Adam was formed after the image of God. And through His Spirit God gave him the light of the true knowledge of Himself, in order that he might enter into the fellowship of his creator and glorify His holy name.
But what did man do? He forsook the revelation of his God, and turned to the lie of the devil. He proposed to say of himself who and how and what God is. The result was darkness. For his mind was corrupted by the darkness of the lie, so that he always loved the darkness rather than the light, and always turned a deaf ear to the Word of God, in order to follow after the lie of his own imagination. Through the fall the recipient of God’s revelation was so changed and corrupted that he can no longer truly hear the Word of God. And not only was the recipient of the revelation changed, but also the medium of that revelation through the works of God’s hand in creation, as well as in providence, was fundamentally altered. This dare never be overlooked, for the creature is made to bear the curse of God and is subjected to vanity. Man himself pines and dies through the fierce wrath of God upon him. It is true that “the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and godhead; so that they are without excuse.”. But do not forget that through these things that are made “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.” . No natural theology can ever be constructed by that fallen man, so darkened in his understanding that he will always lie about the living God, and by that man as he stands in the midst of a cursed creation. There is indeed a revelation of God in all the things that are made, but this cannot be understood properly except by faith in Jesus Christ and in the light of that other, that higher, revelation which God gave in and through Him, and which we have in the Holy Scriptures. There is, therefore, only one recipient of the revelation of God: the new man in Christ Jesus. In the light of Christ do we see the light. He not only revealed the Father, but He is the revelation of the God of our salvation. And this revelation we possess only in the Holy Scriptures. In Him the revelation of God in nature and in Scripture are one, even as God is One, but always so that we can receive the former only in the light of the latter.
Standing by faith and through grace in the light of Him who is the light of the world, and therefore taking our firm basis in Holy Scripture, we can hear and understand the Word of God also in creation and history. In God’s light we see the light. For then we not only discern God’s eternal power and godhead, nor do we only behold God’s wisdom in the design clearly manifest in all the works of His hands; but we also hear and understand the Word of His wrath in all the groaning creation,—in the howling storm, the roaring thunder, the devastation wrought by earthquake and volcano, by hail and fire, in the silent speech of the barren desert, the thorn and the thistle, the groaning creature, the din of the battlefield, and the cry of suffering and dying men. But even more: we see the essential unity of the so-called general and special revelation of God also in this, that the whole groaning creation as with uplifted head stands in expectation of its participation in the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we see things happening in a parable. Adam is an image of the One that was to come and that is to come again. The earthy is a picture of the heavenly. The sower that casts his seed into the ground, the seed itself that dies and lives again, the sun in the heavens and the stars in multitude, the lion and the lamb, day unto day and night unto night then are heard to pour out the same speech, the promise of redemption to be realized in the kingdom of heaven that is at hand. In that kingdom revelation shall reach its highest possible level, in the tabernacle of God. There we shall see Him face to face, and know even as we are known.
And to those that are redeemed and delivered by the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, but who are still in their sinful flesh and in this world of darkness the God of our salvation comes through the law, and says: “My people, I am Jehovah your God, that delivered you out of the land of Egypt, out of that terrible bondage of sin and death in which you refused to listen to my Word and followed after the lie of your own imagination. I am God alone, and there is none beside me. I am the infinitely glorious Jehovah, exalted above all that is called creature. And I am jealous of my honor, and will give it to no other. Now then, as I revealed myself to you in the face of my Son as the God of your salvation, listen to my speech. Receive my revelation. Diligently hearken unto my Word, the Word of the gospel of Christ. Do not speak, but listen. Be silent, and hear my Word. Never say anything of yourselves about the Christ in Whom I reveal myself to you, but listen to my Word. For I am not a creature like you. I am not like anything you see or hear or touch or taste or handle or even imagine in your heart. I am God, Jehovah, the infinitely glorious Lord. Whatever you think or speak about me in yourselves must surely be a lie, an image, a product of your darkened mind. Therefore be very still, and let me speak to you through my Word and Spirit concerning myself in my Son Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.”
Such is the Word of God to us in the second commandment.
We must therefore diligently hear the Word of God.
If we fail to do this and to heed the Word of God as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, the result is disastrous. This you may ascertain for yourselves by simply looking round about you in the modern church, and by taking note of what mere men make of the revelation of Christ and the gospel of God concerning His Son the moment they forsake the Scriptures and make their own image of the Christ revealed in them. Then they deny that He is the Son of God, the only begotten God in the flesh, and reduce Him to mere man. Then they look upon Him as a good man, and an ideal man, who died for his principles; but they trample the blood of atonement under foot. Then they deny that God raised Him from the dead, that He is the exalted Lord at the right hand of God, and that He shall come again to judge the quick and the dead. Just as in Adam we forsook the Word of God our Creator, to speak and rely upon our own word, so we once more then trample underfoot the revelation of the God of our salvation, and deny His power to save.
And therefore we must hear the Word that comes to us through the second commandment and in the whole of Scripture: “Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven image of the God of thy salvation in Christ, but hear and believe His Word, the gospel concerning His Son.”
4. God Is A Jealous God
The second commandment is motivated by a terrible threat and a glorious promise: “For I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”
Jealousy is rooted in love. We are not jealous of strangers, that bear no relation to us or to those whom we love, but only of those that stand in love relation to us and whom we love. Thus, a man is jealous of his wife,ff.: “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man’s wife go aside, and commit a trespass against him, And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and be kept close, and she be defiled, and there be no witness against her, neither she be taken with the manner; And the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled: Then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and he shall bring her offering for her,” etc. That indeed also in God jealousy is rooted in His love is evident from the second commandment itself. For in His jealousy He not only visits the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation, but He also shows mercy unto thousands of them that love Him and keep His commandments. That both wrath and mercy can be rooted in the love of God is explained from the fact that God always loves Himself, and all creatures only for His own name’s sake. Hence, He is jealous of His own glory, and will never give it to another.
That this motivation occurs with the second commandment must be explained from the fact that it is especially image worship that is an attack upon the glory of God and that denies His infinite majesty. This, however, does not mean that the jealousy of God is limited only to the second commandment. It has been correctly remarked that it concerns especially also the first commandment. We read in: “Take heed to thyself, lest thou make a covenant with the inhabitants of the land whither thou goest, lest it be for a snare in the midst of thee: But ye shall destroy their altars, break their images, and cut down their groves: For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” And in : “Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; For the Lord thy God is a jealous God among you, lest the anger of the Lord thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.” Moreover. it must be remembered that the first, and also the second commandment are basic for the whole law, and that therefore this motivation that God is a jealous God applies undoubtedly to all the Ten Words.
In His jealousy God shows Himself, first of all, as a God of wrath and a consuming fire. He visits the iniquity of the fathers upon their children in the third and fourth generation.
The question is: how must this be understood?
It is evident that this cannot mean that God ever punishes righteous children for the sins of their wicked fathers. Even though it may be true that the consequences of certain sins run in the line of generations, according to Scripture it certainly is not true that God punishes innocent children for the sins which the fathers have committed. This is very evident from. There we read: “The word of the Lord came unto me, saying, What mean ye that ye use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, saith the Lord God, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the .soul that sinneth, it shall die.” . And in the same chapter, : “Now, lo, if he beget a son, that seeth all his father’s sins which he hath done, and considereth, and doeth not such like, That hath not eaten upon the mountains, neither hath lifted up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, hath not defiled his neighbor’s wife, Neither hath oppressed any, hath not withholden the pledge, neither hath spoiled by violence, but hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment, That hath taken off his hand from the poor, that hath not received usury nor increase, hath executed my judgments, hath walked in my statutes; he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live.”
It is true, of course, that there is such a thing as organic and corporate responsibility. God created the whole race in Adam .as the head; The first sin of Adam was imputed to every individual human being that ever came and shall come out of his loins. In this sense God surely visits the sin of our first father upon all. For “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”. But even in this case the sin of the father is not visited upon his righteous children. For by that one sin all men have become corrupt, totally depraved, incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all, evil, so that the Word of Scripture is applicable to all men, “There is none righteous, no not one; there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are altogether become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no not one.” . The result is that all the children of Adam actually do sin. They all corroborate and show in their whole life that they heartily agree with the sin which Adam committed, so that if they stood again before the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they certainly would commit the same rebellion against God: “Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: There feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.” . Hence, even in the case of the relation of the human race to Adam it cannot be said that God visits the iniquity of the wicked fathers upon the righteous children.