Summary: Teaching on how we can approach a holy God as we are!

Of idols and altars

By Andrew Chan

Pilgrim Baptist Church, Vancouver, BC

Text: Exodus 20:22-26


It is in the context of thick darkness that God spoke to Moses, while others remained in a distance.

Fear of folks understandable - saw thunder, lightning, and trumpet sound, the mountain in smoke.

Moses spoke: “Do not be afraid” – this awesome sight purpose is not given then to drive people away. Office of mediator seen here in Moses. Legitimizes Moses (19:9). This was from God’s perspective – a moment of intimacy (19:4) as He carries them away from slavery, as on eagles’ wings. Yet His holiness, glory is a barrier to sinful people. How does the imperfect people approach the perfect holy and “terrible” deity? Need of mediator.

1. Why forbid making of idols?

i. No rival gods – given Israel sufficient demonstration of His presence among them

ii. Implication: need no images of him as if He were absent

iii. Contrast of God who speaks vs. gods people make that can’t have a relationship (speak).

iv. See 1 Cor. 8 – idols are nothing…

“You have seen for yourselves that I have spoken from heaven” is there any need for images?

2. Altars of earth: very plain (v.24), simple or undressed unhewn stones(v.25). No alteration of stones.

i. Not be tempted to think of a graven image

e.g. cut here and there poof! Magic comes out an idol!

ii. Matthew Henry: “The beauty of holiness needs no paint”.

3. Altars are to be made low (v.26)

i. against pagan concept – higher the altar, the nearer you are to heaven

ii. sexualized worship (exposed nakedness)

that’s why high places were abominable to God

iii. elevation of the heart not of the sacrifice that God looks at

4. “Wherever…” sense of God can be worshipped anywhere

God comes and blesses people – assurance of God’s gracious acceptance of people’s worship

John 4:24 – God is accessible in spirit and in truth not just limited to a place

Heb.10:19ff. – enter through Jesus, our mediator ( 1Tim.2:5,6)


a. Ought not be any rivalry for affection of God’s people, Jesus demonstrates His love – cross – loves us while still sinners just as it was in old days imperfect ex-slaves Israelites who complained fought God

b. He is present, no need for images made of Him, the Spirit ever present – call to him now

c. Sacrifice worship – not to be elaborate, simple, come as you are

d. No need to have fancy stuff, no need hymn books, nor projectors, is it the heart of worship that God is after – God seeks worshippers

e. Tempted to think: only with things/objects can God be reached, steps to God? God stepped down to us! In our plain altars! The altars of our lives!

f. God can be worshipped anywhere, since now we are the temple where His spirit dwells

g. God will come to us and bless us

All of these flies against pagan concepts of worship

Through this we see God is truly seeking worshippers.

He has shown how one who is an Israelite can come near God who is holy. “Tell the Israelites…”

Now it because of Jesus!

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