eternal life, God, love No Comments

“If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31). In every sports contest, the players desire to go undefeated. Whether they do so or not, will depend upon them, i.e. their athleticism, strength, endurance, skills, health, coaching, opponents, etc. In sports, human ability determines the outcome. In the spiritual battle between God and Satan and good and evil, divine power is available to secure the victory over sin and death. Because of God’s power, any human being that loves Him and follows Him can stand in the victor’s circle.
The Contrasts.
God is for us. But, Satan is against us. Jesus is our friend. Satan is our enemy. Jesus is our Advocate (I John 2:1-2). Satan is our adversary (I Pet. 5:8-9). Through Christ we can be victorious (I Cor. 15:56-58). Following Satan will lead to defeat (Rev. 20:15).
The Choices
Choose up sides. When we were young and wanted to play softball, we chose up sides. We picked among several players to be on separate teams. We always wanted the best players on our team so we would have the greatest opportunity to win the game. God is: all-powerful, all-wise, all-knowing, all-good and all-just. Satan is “all evil.” Now, who would you want on your team? Not only consider the players, but consider the positions. Whose side are you on? (Ex. 32:26). You must be for God! Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad” (Matt. 12:30). God is the best player and being on His team is the best place to be.
The Confidence
God will accomplish His purposes and His promises (Rom. 8:28-30). He can bring us to glory (Matt. 19:26). With God on our side and we on His, we cannot be defeated! Paul explains the power of love in binding us to the heart of God in Rom. 8:35-39. He asks, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Does he refer to Christ’s love for us or our love for Christ? Obviously, he refers to our love for Christ in this verse (v. 35). God’s love for us is absolute. Paul mentions 17 things in the next few verses all of which could affect our love for Christ but would not impact God’s love for us. Later, Paul mentions the love of Christ for us (v. 37). God’s love for us and our love for Him makes us inseparable. If we are inseparable, then we are undfeatable! “We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!” We have the power to prevail.
The Crown
Earlier in Romans 8:29-39, Paul wrote, “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firsborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” Paul speaks of the redeemed. To be glorified is to possess eternal life. Yes, God can bring us to the ultimate goal of the Christian life. That goal is life with Him forever!

God’s Foreknowledge and Man’s Free-Will

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The sermon Peter delivered on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is recorded by Luke. A significant statement made by Peter in the sermon brings together two important concepts in Scripture. Peter said, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknoweldge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” In one sentence, the foreknowledge of God and the free-will of man are brought together. How do we harmonize these important concepts?
First, the foreknowledge of God is clearly taught in the Scriptures. The prophecies recorded in Scripture prove the foreknoweldge of God. God foreknew that Abraham would become the father of many nations (Gen. 12:1-2; 22:17-18; Rom. 4:17). God foreknew that a new covenant would be made with Israel (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:6-13). God foreknew that Jesus would be crucified, buried and raised again the third day (Isa. 53; Psa. 2; Psa. 16; I Cor. 15:1-3). To these prophecies, we could add hundreds more. The foreknowledge of God is a fact.
Second, the free-will of man is taught in the Scriptures. Freedom is implied in our view of ourselves. We know intuitively that we have the power of rational thought and volition (power of choice). When faced with two choices, a man knows that he can think about each choice, evaluate the arguments pro and con, and then decide which he thinks is best to pursue. Here is a good question for determinists, “how do determinists know that they do not possess rational thought?” Freedom is also implied in our treatment of others. People hold other people accountable for their actions. The usual way that we deal with each other is that we praise others for their achievements and blame them for their failures. We treat other people as individuals possessing will, aspirations, personality, etc., and not as mundane objects (a toaster or a book). We hold others accountable for their choices and we emphasize personal responsibility for their conduct. Freedom is also implied in the words of Peter who indicts those who crucified Jesus saying they did so with wicked hands. Later, he will command them to repent of this sin (Acts 2:38). Clearly, the apostle is holding them responsible for their conduct.
Third, how do we harmonize God’s foreknoweldge and man’s free-will? To know is not necessarily to cause to happen. God is infinite in knowledge. He sees everything (past, present and future) in one present moment. We are finite in knowledge. We see the past (limitedly) and present (also limitedly), but we do not see the future. God can foresee the choices of free individuals before they make those choices. We simply do not understand this type of knowledge because we are finite beings. God has such power and wisdom, that foreknowing the actions of free men, He can so interweave, or enmesh, His plans with the plans of free men that he can bring to pass, through their free choices and the sending of His prophets and His Son and through His providences, results which were not intended or foreseen by men, but which did not take away their freedom of choice (The Hub of the Bible, James Bales, 119). Man is a limited, finite, being. God is infinite in all of His perfections, including knowledge. God’s foreknowledge is absolute. Man’s free-will is real, but limited. Man is not God! This reasoning helps us avoid the charge of a contradiction between God’s foreknowledge and man’s free-will. If we affirmed that both were absolute, we would be affirming a contradiction. It is wrong to assume that man has unlimited freedom, or that he has no freedom. Freedom is not unlimited, but it is still real freedom. A contradiction is a statement or propositon that affirms that something is both A and not A at the same time and in the same circumstance. If we said that God had absolute sovereignty and man had absolute free-will, we would be affirming a contradiction. However, we affirm that God is sovereign and man’s free-will is limited. A man has freedom to choose, but he does not have the power to accomplish anything that he chooses. Also, he is limited by God. God tells man what to do. Men do not tell God what to do. God holds man accountable for his conduct. This ultimate accountability will be manifest in the Judgment Day. You might want to recall that Satan has freedom, but his freedom to act is also limited (Job 1-2; I John 3:8). Satan is not co-equal nor co-eternal with God. Jesus could cast out demons. But, demons never cast Jesus out of anybody. Demons do not have the power to do anything that they want to do. No one tells God what to do. No one holds God accountable for His actions. Clearly, there is a difference between God and man; God and Satan, God and demons. God alone has absolute power to accomplish what He purposes!

In The Sight of God

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The Holy Spirit declares, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifested in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13).  The phrase, “in the sight of God” occurs twenty-two times in the New Testament and numerous times in the Old Testament.  Indeed, all things and all people are under the divine scrutiny of God.  There are at least six aspects to consider when searching for the meaning of this phrase: God’s watchfulness, judgment, spiritual discernment, care, approval and will.
God’s Watchfulness.
In addition to the general statement found in Heb. 4:13, Paul gives Timothy a charge under God’s watchful eye in I Tim. 6:13, “I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  James declares that we must humble ourselves in the sight of God (James 4:10). These passages capture the concept that everything we do takes place under God’s watchful eye.
God’s Judgment
After Simon the sorcerer was baptized (Acts 8:12-13), he coveted the power to be able to lay hands on someone and impart miraculous gifts.  Peter rebukes him and says, “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God” (Acts 8:21).   God’s judgment was against the thought that one could purchase the gift of God with money. Consider these passages from Psalms.  “Arise O LORD: let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight” (Psa. 9:19).  “Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?” (Psa. 76:7).  “…he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight” (Psa. 101:7).
God’s Spiritual Discernment
In Acts 4:19, Peter and John make a choice to reject the commandment of the Sanhedrin to not speak or teach in the name of Jesus.  They did so based upon God’s perspective rather than man’s perspective.  A judgment has to be made regarding who they will follow and obey.  They ask others to make their own choice.  Then, they state that they must speak the things which they had seen and heard.  They would not be silenced because they knew God’s viewpoint on the matter.  They were more concerned about what God thought of the matter than what men thought.  God discerns the intents of the heart.  Paul writes, “For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ” (II Cor. 2:17).  Paul knew God discerned the intents of his heart.  Luke 16:15 draws a contrast between what men esteem and what God esteems.  “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”
God’s Care
The phrase “in the sight of God” also indicates God’s care.  God has an active concern for the disadvantaged.  “He shall spare the poor and needy, and shall save the souls of the needy. He shall redeem their soul from deceit and violence: and precious shall their blood be in his sight” (Psa. 72:14).  Also, God cares for His saints.  “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Psa. 116:15).
God’s Approval
One of the most common senses in which the phrase, “in the sight of God” is used is of the divine approval of God.  In Acts 10:31, Cornelius finds approval by God for the alms which he gave.  Paul indicates the care he had for the Corinthian church was executed in the sight of God (for God’s approval) (II Cor. 7:12).  Paul extols honesty “in the sight of the Lord, and in the sight of men” (II Cor. 8:21).  He also commends holiness in the sight of God (Col. 1:22).  The works of faith, labor of love and patience of hope are highlighted by Paul as hallmarks of the church at Thessalonica (I Thess. 1:3).  Certainly, these qualities are approved by God.  We should be God-pleasers and not men-pleasers (Heb. 13:21).  Peter commends the “meek and quiet spirit” which is in the sight of God of great price (I Pet. 3:4).  Finally, John shows that obedience is essential to pleasing God (I John 3:22).
God’s Will
Sometimes the phrase, “in the sight of God” has the sense of “according to God’s Will.”  Paul states, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:11).  We can know what is good and acceptable “in the sight of God” because we know His will (I Tim. 2:3).  God determines what is hidden and what is revealed based upon His own purposes (Luke 10:21).
The phrase, “in the sight of God” denotes:  a God-centered perspective; a biblical perspective, a just perspective, a compassionate perspective and a God-honoring perspective.  The way to live a life that brings glory to God is to live life “in the sight of God!”

Face To Face With God

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In II Samuel 12, one of the most dramatic moments in the life of David is revealed to us.  David is confronted by the prophet, Nathan, regarding his sin with Bathsheba.  David comes face to face with himself, with God’s judgment, with God’s grace and with God’s glory.
Face to Face With Yourself
Facing the truth about yourself is most troubling.  Many avoid it entirely.  The lies we tell ourselves are attempts to conceal the truth about ourselves.  Some questions we must consider are: “Who do you think you are?”  and “Who do you think God is?”  David was the champion of Israel, her greatest warrior, Israel’s most illustrious king, and author of many of the Psalms.  Yet, he was a sinner.  David’s fall began with an indecent thought about another man’s wife.  It grew with site of her unclothed (II Sam. 12:2-4) and it blossomed into lust that concluded in sexual sin.  It developed further in lies and murder.  His sin was accomplished “secretly” as far as men were concerned, but “openly” as far as God was concerned. Nathan was sent by God to confront David about his sin.  God knows all things including the secret things of man. Nathan tells a short story about a man who took another man’s only lamb.  David immediately perceives the injustice of the act and condemned it.  Then, Nathan tells David, “Thou art the man.”  This stunning revelation to David pierced through the lies David had told himself and exposed the truth about him.  This is strong medicine.  But, its design is to save the soul.  David confesses his sin (II Sam. 12:13, Psa. 51:4).  He comes face to face with the truth about himself.  Sin is a great leveler.  David now occupies common ground.  His need for redemption is shared with all others who have succombed to temptation’s power.
Face To Face With God’s Judgment
When Nathan delivers God’s message to David, it contains God’s judgment.  God, through Nathan, rehearses all of the blessings he had given to David.  God gave David everything he needed and more.  He said that, if that were not enough, He would have given him even more.  David’s sin involved ingratitude for all that God had given him.  David was not content.  He desired what God had forbidden. God’s justice rains down hard on David.  God said that the sword would never depart from David’s house.  He told David that He would raise  up adversity against him from his own house.  God would take his wives and give them to his neighbor before all Israel.  Finally, God told David that the child conceived with Bathsheba would die (II Sam. 12:14).
Face To Face With God’s Grace
David confessed his sin (II Sam. 12:13).  Honesty with self shatters pride.  He pleads for mercy, cleansing and grace (Psa. 51).  God answers his plea and pardons his sin (II Sam. 12:14).  God told David, “I have put away thy sin.  You will not die, but the child conceived between you and Bathsheba will die.”  All of the consequences of sin are not erased by God’s forgiveness.
Face to Face With God’s Glory
The Lord struck the child so that it became very ill (II Sam. 12:15).  David pleads for the child’s life.  He prays and fasts.  He lays prostrate on the ground all night.  On the seventh day, the child dies.  David arose, washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes and went to the house of the LORD and worshiped.  This moment deserves a long pause for thought.  While many curse God or attack God and turn away from Him after facing similar dilemmas, David in a moment of deep humility and profound reverence, enters into God’s presence and worships.  He enters into the presence of God and contemplates His glory.  There are times in the human experience, when we must let God be God!  David’s loss is great.  His heart is heavy.  His humility before God stays any anger and he quietly draws near to God.  In this act of deep devotion, he reveals his utter dependence upon God (II Sam. 12:16-23).  Here is the man later described as “a man after God’s own heart.”
Before the child died, David hoped in God’s providential will.  He states, “Who can tell whether the child may live?”  David knew God’s revealed will.  But, he hopes in God’s provdential will.  Once the child dies, David knows that God’s revealed will and His providential will are one.  There was no going back.  He must go forward.  Yet, he continues to hope in God’s revealed will–the resurrection of the dead.  David says, “he will not come to me, but I will go to him.”  All is resolved by absolute trust in God.
David’s Journey and Ours
Every person must come face to face with the truth about himself/herself.  Every person must come face to face with God and know His judgment, His grace and His glory.  This is the pathway of redemption.  Everyone who desires to see God and be with Him in eternity must walk it.

Essential Elements of Thanksgiving

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A key concept related to thanksgiving is reciprocity.  Here are some important elements involved in thanksgiving.
The Benefactor.  The One who is the ultimate source of every good gift and every perfect gift is God!  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).  “Father of lights” refers to God as the creator of the greater and lesser lights in the heavens.  God is the creator of all things.  He has the power to bless and the will to bless.
The Gifts.  God gives us our daily bread (Matt. 6:11).  He gives His Son to die for the sins of mankind (the unspeakable gift-II Cor. 9:15).  He gives everlasting life (John 3:16; Matt. 19:29).  He gives love, mercy, and grace (Eph. 2:4-9).  He gives us truth (Eph. 1:9). He gives all spiritual blessings in Christ (Eph. 1:3).  He gives us everything needful to sustain us in this life and in the world to come.
The Blessed.  God acts for the highest good of His special creation–man.  He sends the sunshine and the rain on the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45).  In a sense, God blesses each person on the earth.  However, in a special sense and in a special way, God blesses His own children.  The people of God are His speical creation (Eph. 2:10).  God bestows the greatest spiritual blessings upon those who are “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
The Thankful.  The “thankful” are a special class of people who recognize God’s goodness toward them and reciprocate with gratitude.  The truly blessed give back something to God.  The nature of the gifts they give are different from God’s gifts to them.  But, they give:  (1) their love; (2) their devotion or worship including praise and adoration; (3) their lives in covenant relationship with Him; (4) their service (the labor of their hands including benevolent acts to others; and (5) their loyalty (faithfulness over time).  The thankful have humble hearts that have been touched by God’s grace.  They reciprocate out of sense of being debtors to God for all He has done for them.  Through gratitude they complete the circle of fellowship with God.  The truly thankful are Christians who reciprocate gratitude for God’s grace!

Almighty God

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“And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Gen. 17:1).  This is the first time, the name, Almighty God, appears in Scripture.  This is the tenth name for God in the Old Testament (beginning with Genesis 1:1).  This name means, the Strong One. God is all-powerful.  No power is as great as God’s.  Every force under, in, or above, the earth must therefore be dependent upon, subservient to, and by the permission of, Him who told Abram, I am God Almighty.
Creative Power.
God created the entire universe from that which did not exist before (Heb. 11:3). “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”  God spoke the universe into existence.  “He spake and it was done, he commanded and it stood fast” (Psa. 33:9).  Gen. 1:3, “And God said, Let there be light, and there was light….”  The word of God is powerful.
Punitive Power.
Due to the extreme wickedness of man, God determined to destroy the earth by a universal flood (Gen. 6:5 and 7).  Noah was commanded to build an ark to the saving of his house.  Noah did all that God commanded.  The time came for the windows of heaven to be opened and the fountains of the deep to be broken up and God caused the entire earth to be flooded 15 cubits above the mountains (Gen. 7:20).  This was a miracle.  It demonstrates the punitive power of Almighty God.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb. 10:31).
Providential Power.
Several times in the book of Genesis God demonstrates His providential power.  In Gen. 14:19,20, the king of Salem, Melchizedek,  recognizes the providential hand of God in helping Abraham secure a victory over Chedorlaomer and those kings allied with him.  He states, “And blessed be the most high God,which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand…”  In Gen. 20:18, God intervenes to protect the purity of Sarah, Abraham’s wife, and to protect the promise He had made to Abraham and Sarah concerning the son of promise, Isaac.  The sacred text reads, “For the LORD had fast closed up all the wombs of the house of Abimelech, because of Sarah Abraham’s wife.” Many times in the book of Genesis, God’s providential power is manifested.
Miraculous Power.
God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah concerning having a son took twenty-five years to fulfill.  The time period alone was a test of Abraham and Sarah’s faith.  Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90 years old when Isaac was born.  Both were old.  Sarah was past the time of child bearing.  She had been barren all of her life.  Yet, God blessed them with a baby son.  Isaac was the son of promise and God miraculously intervened in order for Abraham and Sarah to become parents.
Saving Power.
The first Messianic promise is recorded by Moses in Genesis 3:15.  The seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent (Satan) and Satan would bruise his heel.  The seed promise continues with Abraham.  Gen. 12:3, God told Abram, “in thee shall all nations of the earth be blessed.”  Later, in Gen. 22:18, God said, “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.”  This passage is referenced by the apostle Paul in Galatians 3:16, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made.  He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”  Jesus Christ is the promised seed (Messiah) of Abraham.  Jesus brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel.  The Gospel is God’s power to save men from the consequences of sin (Rom. 1:16, 6:23).  To be saved means to be delivered from the eternal consequences of sin which is everlasting punishment by God.  God has the power to save and He has the power to condemn.  God can save to the uttermost them that come to Him in faith and loving obedience to His Will.
Almighty God is a name for God that all of us must remember.  God is all-powerful.  God is over all.  We must be subject unto Him, fear Him, and surrender our lives in humble service to Him.

Elohim–The First Name For God In the Bible

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     We have just completed VBS for the summer.  We studied an important theme:  Exploring the Nature of God.  The material was published by Promise Press, c. 2010 and distributed through Gospel Advocate, Nashville, TN.  I enjoyed the study of God through in-depth consideration of five names for God:  Elohim, Yahweh Elohim, Yahweh Jireh, Yahweh Nissi, and Yahweh Ra-ah.  The first name for God in the Bible comes from the Hebrew term Elohim (Gen. 1:1).  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Here are some significant facts about this name for God.
     First, Elohim is a plural noun.   The singular form would be Eloah which is poetic and rare.  In prose, the plural has to be used whether polytheistically or monotheistically because there is no other suitable word (Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, p. 239). 
     Second, the plural form in and of itself does not indicate a Triune God, but hints in the context of Genesis 1 do indicate a Triune God.  In Genesis 1:2, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”  The  Holy Spirit is referenced in this passage.  In Genesis 1:26, the Scriptures declare, “And God (Elohim) said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”  The plural pronoun “us” indicates that more than one person was present in the Godhead.  From John 1:1-3, we learn that the eternal Word was present at the time of the creation of all things and all things were created by Him (see also Col. 1:16-18).  A grammatical analysis of John 1:3 shows that Jesus Christ is the indirect agent in creation and God the Father is the direct agent.  Therefore, the word Elohim refers to God the Father, the Eternal Word and the Holy Spirit as the context of Genesis 1 affirms.
     Third, The plural form is better understood as indicating a plenitude of power (Baker’s Dictionary of Theology, p. 239).  The fullness of the authority and power of God is inherent in this word.  By the word of God (Elohim), the universe and everything in it comes into existence (Heb. 11:3, Psa. 33:8-9).  God is the First Cause and He Himself is uncaused.  Only God (Elohim) can create (bring into existence out of nothing material that which did not exist before).
    Fourth, man (created by God in His image) sustains a relationship to God by virtue of God being his creator.  This is a general relationship in which all men and women are the offspring of God.  Consider Paul’s words delivered on Mars hill in Athens, “For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.  Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you.  God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us:  For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.  Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.  And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:23-30).
     Fifth, God (Elohim) has the power to bring man into full reconciliation with Himself through Jesus Christ (II Cor. 5:18-19).  Consequently, we can become the “children of God” in a spiritual sense which elevates us to the status of “sonship”.  This spiritual status is achieved through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.  We obtain the remission of our sins through the power of His blood (Eph. 1:7) and we are regenerated through the power of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).  Remission of sins and regeneration (new spiritual life) lead to sonship.  “…Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). 
     Sixth, God (Elohim) is the only one to be worshipped.  God the creator is the only God and He is the only being in the universe worthy to be worshipped.  (see Exodus 20:3).

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