Summary: If we are going to respect and commit to obey the commandments we have a right to know "Who says so? By Whose authority?"
“Law & Order: SPU – Who Says So?”
Exodus 20:1-2; Mt. 22:34-40
The church I served in Grand Rapids had a lot of acreage and had turned part of it into 3 softball diamonds. Monday - Thursday nights, all summer long, various church leagues played their slow-pitch games there. Three of the leagues ran everything for their evening but one league was run directly by our congregation. For a while I was in charge of the recreation ministry and therefore of that league. One evening I dropped by to see how the games were going. I got there just in time to see, on one of the diamonds, a young man (late teens or early twenties) decide to show off and act like a jerk. The umpire had called a third strike on him and he proceeded to argue vociferously. When the ump remained silent, this young man gave him a chest bump and then began to holler while nose-to-nose with the umpire. I walked onto the field and told him that his behavior was unacceptable and he was therefore done for the night. Stunned, but not deterred, he looked straight at me and said, “Who says so?” “I do,” I replied. “And who are you?” he said. “I’m one of the pastors at this church and I’m in charge of what happens on these fields. You’re behavior is way out of line and not acceptable. End of discussion. You have 2 minutes to get 100 yards away from the field or your team forfeits.” He began to argue with me – I simply said “You now have 1 minute and 45 seconds left before I declare a forfeit.” At that he, tho’ not happy, left.
As much as I didn’t like that confrontation, or the young man’s attitude, I have to admit he asked a fair question: “Who says so?” In other words, “By whose authority?” God anticipated that the Israelites might ask the very same question when Moses presented the law to them. So before writing out the commandments on the tablets God identified himself – he established His authority. And if we are going to respect and commit to obey the commandments, we, too, have a right to know “Who says so? By whose authority?” For what God is and has done determines what his special persons must do. So, just who is this God?
The God who gave the commandments is THE GOD WHO IS OUR CREATOR. (Exodus 20:1) “I am…” God begins by stating that he is the God who appeared to Moses, the God, as we established a couple of weeks ago, who was is, is is, and will be is; the God who was at the beginning and will be at the end, and is now; the God who will be whatever He needs to be to accomplish His purposes. In Exodus 19:5 God told the Israelites that if they obeyed his commands they would become His treasured possession and “Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” God began with the fact that He is the Creator andowner of the world. He would say it again in the 4th commandment (20:11): “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them…” God as Creator was familiar to the Jews. When the high priest Melchizedek blessed Abram, he declared, “Blessed be Abram by God most High, Creator of heaven and earth.” (Gen. 14:19) The Psalmist would later stress it as well (24:1-2): “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; for he founded it upon the seas and established it upon the waters.”
Think about it. If you invented or created something – some gadget or computer program, whatever it is – you would own it by virtue of being the creator. You could get a patent to support that. You would have the authority to determine how it would be used. It would be your right as the owner.
It’s been said that this is SIMILAR TO PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS. Good parents have authority by virtue of being parents. They use their authority to love their children and will do everything they can to provide for, protect, and prepare them for adulthood. They will not give their children over to someone else’s rules or guidance. Good parents have authority over, and take full responsibility for their children’s welfare. So God, our Creator, our Father, our Parent has, by virtue of being our Creator, full authority over our welfare and therefore every right to establish the rules, guidelines, and laws for life.
And in these relationships, PARENTAL RULES ARE BINDING. Children are not in a position to negotiate the contract! God has built laws into nature – such as the law of gravity – and he has built laws into the fabric of relationships. As Walter Harrelson wrote, “These prohibitions are designed for the good of these freed slaves. Life and joy and peace lie ahead for those who quite simply rule out such conduct as is here specified. God has a right to demand what God will, and God does not need to explain.” God, as our Creator, is entitled to be regarded with reverence; we are not our own to follow whatever course we desire. As Paul would later say, “In him (Jesus) we live and move and have our being….we are bought with a price.” We are bound to God.