Domesticating God

Humanity’s Quest for Comfort and Control
Bible

Do· mes· ti· ca· tion

the adaptation of something to meet the expectations or tastes of ordinary people

Throughout history, humans have desired to control their environment. We are innately afraid of the unknown. We seek comfort, security, consistency. We grew tired of searching and hunting for food, so we invented agriculture. We saw a way for more efficient work and utilized animals. In the industrial revolution, we made even further strides in making work both easier and faster.

We make straight roads and climate-controlled houses. We even make lights so that even the darkness can not dictate to us what can and cannot be done. We create clocks and calendars to mark out our plans. Humans are truly masters of controlling, creating, and domesticating their environment. We even have planted flags on the moon, and sent rockets deep into space!!!

And I do not think this is a bad thing. In fact, I would say that was God’s intent. He created us in His image, to be like Him. He told us to rule and care for this planet and all His creations. He made us creators like Him, that we should have imagination and create more life! This is a wonderful and incredible privilege.

Genesis 1

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Of course, as with all things, there are abuses. I am not saying humans should do whatever they want, or mistreat God’s creation. But in the ideal, humans are caretakers of the planet for God’s glory. And in that quest, we have achieved amazing things.

The drive behind much of humanity’s domestication of creation is comfort, consistency, and control. We do not desire to be in pain, or even any form of discomfort. So we change the shape of landscapes and even create buildings and cars where we control the temperature. We are fearful of tomorrow, and we desire to be able to know and take charge of our modes of provision and protection. And, above all, we desire to be in control, masters of our own lives, and sometimes even other’s.

Genesis 3

3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”

2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”

4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

We were given everything; comfort, security, and even were placed to steward it all. But given the choice of trusting God from whom we derived our life and authority or taking up the mantle ourselves, we chose the latter. And when I say we I mean all of us. While I doubt you have been approached by a talking snake about fruit, we all face that same decision every day. Will we trust God, even with things we don’t understand or do we need to take the reins ourselves?

I suspect if you are reading this, this isn’t new information to you. Whether you have spent some time around the church or the Bible, or even just turned on the news and watched this playout, we know this. We’ve seen this. This is the basic tension, in all decisions, at all times, throughout history. No matter the debate or circumstance, it boils down to will I trust God or not.

“will I trust God or not.”

The Choice

Run, Trust, Or Domesticate

Obviously, humanity chose not to trust God. We took life into our own hands, and would rather be in control than live in trust.

Bible TimeLine:

  • Adam and Eve turned from God
  • The world becomes increasingly evil
  • God regrets he made humanity, sends a flood, but saves the family of Noah
  • Humanity unifies in their defiance of God at Babel
  • God disperses humanity across the earth
  • God chooses one family out of which he plans to redeem the world (Abraham)
  • Israel is subject to slavery in Egypt, God rescues them
  • They go to Mount Sinai where God makes a covenant with them
  • They agree to the terms of the covenant, and then immediately break it

This is the point of the story I want to zoom in on.

Exodus 20

1And God spoke all these words:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

Exodus 24

7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it aloud to the people. Again they all responded, “We will do everything the Lord has commanded. We will obey.”

A covenant is a form of a binding agreement, like a supercharged contract. More than just a legal obligation, a covenant has a blood obligation- to break a covenant is to willingly invite death. God lays out a covenant with Israel, that he will be their God, will continue to bless and protect them, that they will be His vessel of blessing and redemption to the whole earth. In exchange, he lays out their part; primarily in the ten commandments.

Much like in the garden, humanity has again presented a choice: will they trust God or not.

The first two commandments are:

 

Z

Have no other gods

  • Serve no one else
  • Give no one else your love and loyalty
Z

Don't make idols

  • Don’t reduce the creator to something within creation
  • Don’t diminish God to the level of your understanding

These commands are about who God is and how we are to relate to Him. His commands are not about creating distance; the entire point of the covenant was to build a relationship. Essentially, this is a marriage ceremony between God and Israel. In order for any relationship to flourish there are expectations and obligations.

No friendship, partnership, or romantic relationship can endure unless both parties agree on how they want their relationship to function. God wants Israel to know Him, but he wants them to know the real Him. Not a fabricated idea, not something they come up with. He wants to know them and be known. Is this not the heart desire of all of us?

That’s why God chooses Israel, rescues them, and brings them to Sinai. He makes this covenant with them so they can be His people, and He will be their God. And out of this, he hopes to redeem and be known by all of humanity. Israel agrees to the covenant, and God comes to speak to the people and reveal His covenant to them.

Exodus 19

16 On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him.

God is on top of the mountain in a storm. He is a God of lightning and fire, whose voice is like thunder. He is awesome and terrifying. He splits the sea and holds the power of life and death.

That’s intimidating. That is not something anyone has categories for. We know how to handle human leaders; bosses, governors, presidents, we even have categories for kings and queens. But a God who appears like lightning and with such power, who is outside time and the limits of human understanding? You have only a few options. Run, trust, or domesticate. 

You can run, or fight, or decide you don’t want to be involved with something you can’t control or fully understand. We fear commitment because by necessity it means submitting to another person who is different than us, and ultimately and individual. We cannot control them, and so to partner in that level of intimacy involves a huge level of trust and sacrifice.

We can and should choose to trust. We cannot know God outside of His revelation to us. We can know Him only as much as he shows Himself; in scripture, in the person of Jesus, in His church, and the witness of His Spirit in us. But God is so much more, more than we can write, think, or talk about. He is beyond our mental capacity. But at the same time, desires to know us and wants us to know Him. This is tension. It is similar to the tension in any relationship. You really only know a person to the extent they are open to you. There must be respect and allowance for the fact that they are an individual, separate from you, and different. With God, we call that Holy.

“This tendency, though common, is grossly mistaken. God is not a bigger, better version of you—that simply creates a God in your own image, which Scripture calls idolatry. The God of the Bible, by contrast, is a different type of being altogether; indeed, he is Being itself (or absolute Being, as the church fathers liked to say). There is none like him. He’s in a class of his own. The difference, then, is not merely quantitative; it’s qualitative. As the medieval theologian Anselm put it, God is someone than whom none greater can be conceived. He is the Perfect Being.”

 

“Even when you do meet in Scripture divine attributes that are communicable—reflected in you, the creature, in some small way—always remember, they are true of God in a way that they are not true of you. You may love, but God is love, and he is love in infinite measure. You may become holy, but God is holy, eternally and immutably; he is holy in infinite measure.”

Matthew Barrett

Author, The Gospel Coalition

This leaves us in a place of reverence, worship, and trust. We call that faith. It’s the main thing God wants from His human partners. He does not expect us to totally understand Him, and He knows we will mess up. But he does desire and require our faith.

In the garden of Eden at the beginning of time, we are told the snake is crafty, and convinces the humans to distrust God. Here we find out that humans too can be just as crafty and deceitful, lying to themselves to justify their behaviour. In a choice between trusting God or not, Israel tries to invent a third option.

Hebrews 11

6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Moses goes up on Sinai to receive the ten commandments, the written covenant the people just agreed to. He is up there 40 days and 40 nights.

Exodus 32

When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us a god who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “This is your god, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.[Yahweh]” 6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

If the covenant is a marriage between God and Israel, the ceremony is still going on when Israel decides to cheat on God and break their vows. Moses is literally getting their “marriage license” signed while Israel commits idolatry and adultery.

I have grown up with this story and heard it many times, I’ve even seen the movie. Normally when I read this story I thought “How could Israel turn to another god so quickly?” It seems absurd. How did they forget all He has done for them?

Of course, we do this too in our lives, and that is a lesson you can draw out of this. We don’t fabricate physical idols, but we do turn our hearts and worship the same thing those statues represented for ancient people. Money, sex, power, politics, and any number of things.

Worship is not just a posture or action but an attitude and lifestyle. When we make anything our main priority it becomes an idol. This is another valid lesson for this passage, and these are the ones I often thought of. But recently, I noticed that’s not exactly what Israel is doing here. They are in fact doing something far more dangerous.

 

What did they make? An idol yes, but notice they say this is the god who brought them out of Egypt…that’s what Yahweh did. Aaron even goes so far as to say they are having a festival to Yahweh when they worship the statue. 

They are not turning to a new god, they still think they are worshiping Yahweh. But they have decided to do it their way. In the choice between trusting God or not, they tried to have it both ways. They liked the idea of serving God but did not like the idea of surrender to a God outside their comprehension.

The God in the storm was wonderful and powerful, but also frightening. They wanted His promises, but not at the cost of their own control. So they try a compromise: we will worship Yahweh our way. The way we know, the way we can control. The way inside our comfort zone. The way that doesn’t ask us to do anything we don’t want to. 

This is no less idolatry, but it is far more deceptive and dangerous. They convince themselves they can live how they want to, justify their actions, and claim to serve Yahweh. They are lukewarm.

Revelation 3

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Being lukewarm is dangerous, because not only are we still actually sinning but now we are blinding ourselves to it. Rather than just sinning, and ignoring conviction, we callused ourselves to it, believing we are in the right, all the while doing wrong.

According to Revelation 3:15-16 God would rather us be hot or cold. Hot, on fire for Him, or cold, totally turned away. A cold person knowingly does wrong, and chooses to run from conviction… but they still feel it. A cold person also does no harm to God’s kingdom, because their actions are not associated with God. But when a lukewarm person does sin in the name of God, not only do they hurt themselves, but now others will look and equate their actions with God.

I’d say it is easier for a cold person to become hot then a lukewarm to. Because a cold person can see their sin, but a lukewarm person has blinded themselves to it. Someone who doesn’t see their need for a savior cannot be saved.

God chose Israel to redeem the world, so all people can know Him. Now, as they worship their idol, the other nations will look on Israel and see no difference. They are not holy(separate and different). They engage the same practices, therefore their God is no different or better.

When we worship God our way, we are deciding he is not holy.

Not only does this harm themselves, but it hurts God. He loves these people, who time and time again betray Him. They are like an adulterous spouse who cheats on their marriage partner, and even while they are in the act they claim they love the one they made a covenant too. It’s disgusting, and ridiculous. We would not accept or believe such a person, who so blatantly disregards the vows they made, yet we accept the same logic in the worship of God.

To turn away and deny God is one thing, to say you love God while living the opposite is worse. God created everything, for love, for joy, for our good, for us to know and enjoy Him. We chose everything but God. God then gave everything, in the person of Jesus, to redeem us from our gross failure and betrayal. We are the adulterous spouse, lying to ourselves and others about our relationship, all the while committing ourselves to sin. Yet God steps in to save us, because he wants us and loves us that badly.

Israel domesticated God at Sinai, when they made God to be less then he was. They declared Him not holy, that he was not separate or different. They decided they could manage God, His worship, and be in control. Israel did it at Sinai, but we do it at Calvary. They did it in the past, but I fear we still do it today. Everyday.

Unleashing God

Recognizing The Ways We Domesticate God

Do we do this? Do you do this? Do I do this?

Yes. I believe we all do, in different ways and at different times. Most likely, we don’t even realize we do it. That’s why it’s so destructive. Israel did it and pretended they were still worshiping Yahweh. We can do it and think we are still serving Jesus.

I do not write this to accuse. I am just as guilty of it as anyone. My goal is not that you read this and feel condemned, but rather convicted and excited. Convicted, because we have diminished God for our own benefit, and excited because when we let God be God, that’s where the adventure begins. By not allowing God to work fully in our lives, the way he wants to, we miss out. But when we truly surrender and worship God for who He is and how He wants to be worshiped, the possibilities are endless.

Domesticating is when you adapt something outside your control, to be in your control. We do this with animals, landscapes, agriculture, etc… And we do it with God. If on any point we adapt God or our understanding of Him to better fit our own lives, we diminish His power. What does this look like for you? I think for each person it will be different, as only God knows your heart. But there are some practical things I think we can look at, and if we are honest, examine ourselves against. Let’s look at the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 20)

” Israel did it and pretended they were still worshiping Yahweh. We can do it and think we are still serving Jesus.”

Commandment 1

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.

Command one starts with I am the LORD (Yahweh) your God

  • Does not seem like a command, more like a statement. But it is fundamental for the rest.
  • We must properly recognize who God is, and who He is not.
  • We must view God the way he actually portrays Himself.
  • We can only know God by the way he revealed Himself, namely Scripture.
  • If we allow experience or circumstance or any other source to shape our ideas or opinions of God, then we are not worshiping the true LORD (Yahweh) but an idol we have fabricated.

QUESTION:How do you think of God? What attributes does He have? Does your idea match what Scripture teaches concerning God’s character?

Don’t have other gods.

  • In the west we don’t typically worship other deities, at least by name. But anything we serve with all our loyalty, love, and devotion is a “god”.
  • How we spend our time, money, and energy ultimately shows what our god is.
  • Other gods may include:
    • Money
    • Sex
    • Work
    • Family
    • School
    • Relationships
    • Achievements
    • Sports
    • Possessions
    • Drugs
    • Video Games
    • Self
    • Fitness
    • Anything that consumes our focus

QUESTION: What consumes most of your time? Energy? Affection? Are any of these competing with God?

Commandment 2

You shall not make for yourself an idol

An idol is a physical image that represents a being or deity that is unseen. While they can include any of the “gods” we just talked about, we can also make idols of Yahweh, as Israel did.

  • Any view I have of God that is not congruent with scripture is an idol
  • If I ignore scripture because I don’t like it or it doesn’t fit with my idea of God, then my idea of God is an idol.

We can also idolize people, even spiritual leaders. Scripture doesn’t say the people idolized Moses, but notice as soon as he is gone they go astray. Their faith was dependent on him, not God. While they followed God by following Moses, it seems they may have made Moses out to be a form of idol. 

QUESTION: Is your faith rooted in God, or does it depend on someone else? Has another person or circumstance caused you to be distant from God? If so, you may have been idolizing that thing or person. When they fell and failed you, as idols always will, your faith fell too.

Commandment 3

You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God

This is about the reverence we have for God. It means not taking His name lightly. This applies to our use of His name in prayer/conversation, and it also applies to our character. It is shown in the respect we have for God, His church, and His people. People will see how we live our lives, either as reverent, or irreverent. This will speak more loudly about our faith than anything we can ever say.

QUESTION: How do you talk about God? Does your speech honor Him? Does your life tell a story of reverence or the opposite?

Commandment 4

Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy

This command is about the way we honor God with our time. There are different ideas about how to do this and on which day of the week, but for you, what does that look like? We should honor God by giving Him our best, and this includes our time. The call to take one day to rest and focus on Him is about trust. Will we trust God to provide and care for us, or not? Do we need to be in control? I feel we can often overlook this one, and come up with many excuses to not honor God with our time. Such as: “I am too busy”, “I’ll do it later”, “God will understand” etc…

QUESTION: Do you honor God with your time? Do you set aside one day a week not just to rest, but to rest in Him? What do you do differently on this day that makes it Holy?

Commandment 5

Honor your father and your mother

We are to respect and care for our family. As children, this means obedience and trust, much like we are called to trust God. As adults, we have to make our own decisions but are not released from our obligation to respect our parents. Paul expounds upon what Christian households should look like.

Colossians 3

18 Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. 20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. 21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

QUESTION: How do you honor your parents? Even in disagreements, do you show respect? Do you think God is pleased with the way you treat and lead your family? Is there a difference between how your family really is and the way you portray it to the rest of the world?

Commandment 6

You shall not murder

Most human cultures throughout history have seen murder as a great evil, and not something any of us too often considers. But as with all the laws, God is addressing a heart issue, not just a physical action. Jesus brought this heart issue into focus.

Matthew 5

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

1 John 3

Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

QUESTION: Do you harbor bitterness or resentment toward anyone? This hurts us and is opposite God’s character. He chooses to freely forgive and love His enemy. We are called to the same. This is not to suggest putting yourself in danger but is about the heart of the matter. In your inmost being have you forgiven the person, the circumstance, or even yourself?

I find the phrase “I forgive but I don’t forget.” is most often said by people who have not really forgiven. Consider: Psalm 103:12 and Hebrews 8:12

Commandment 7

You shall not commit adultery

Sexual relations with anyone other than one’s spouse is considered a sin by scripture. It distorts God’s plan for the family, hurts individuals, and marriage is an analogy for Christ and His church.

This command is domesticated when we try to redefine what really “counts” as sex, how far is too far, or just decide it’s not that big of a deal. Scripture is clear that any form of sexual activity outside of a marriage covenant is sin. With one’s self or others. Jesus even went further, saying that even lust, having inappropriate sexually charged thoughts is sin. They both transgress the heart of the issue: honoring God’s design for marriage. When we make lite of or even joke about sex in a way that is not what God intended, we hurt ourselves and others.

Ephesians 5

3 But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

Matthew 5

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

QUESTION: How far is “too far”? Does what we watch, listen to, and talk about honor God’s view of marriage? In what ways have we diminished the seriousness of this command?

Commandment 8

You shall not steal

Stealing is another one many would consider obvious, but consider some of the ways it may have slipped into our lives unnoticed:

  • When we take resources from work or others we deem as “inconsequential”. “This won’t hurt them”.
  • When we use paid time on personal things.
  • When copying or taking digital content without permission.
    • It has become common, even within the church, to consider digital theft ok.

“A Christian should never want to steal the property of others—but that’s what happens when we download songs without the permission of the publisher. A Christian ministry should never want to force someone to work for them for free—but that’s the situation when a church photocopies scripts or sheet music without permission. Legally and ethically, we should follow the copyright laws and provide due compensation to the creators of the works we use.”

GotQuestions.org

QUESTION: How have I redefined stealing to make my lifestyle “ok”?

Commandment 9

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor

As Christians, we are called to a standard of truthfulness. It is improper for us to lie, hide the truth, be deceptive, or engage in dishonest practices. Along with this goes gossip, saying, spreading, or implying something of someone so others will view them a certain way. When we take unwarranted action against someone’s reputation, we dishonor God.

QUESTION: At what point does a lie become a sin? At what point does hiding or manipulating the truth become a lie? Does “don’t tell anyone else but”, “I just need to vent”, “pray for so and so because”, or “just wanting to know” negate responsibility for gossip?

Commandment 10

You shall not covet

Coveting is the sin of jealousy, of wanting what someone else has. It is the motivation behind murder, adultery, and theft. It is also a fundamental distrust in God as a provider, and a declaration that what He has provided is not good enough. Paul learned that contentment was the key to joy, but coveting is never satisfied. Greed has no end.

QUESTION: What are you jealous of? What do you deserve?

Our Choice

Will We Trust God Or Not

These are some of the ways we can reduce God, and there are many others. Whenever we shrink Him to fit into our understanding, we have made an idol. I don’t need a small god. I need a God who is all-powerful!

 

In the end, each one of us will stand before God and give an account. On that day all will be brought to light. For myself, I eagerly want to be in the light now. I love God, and I want to love Him for who He is, not some version I come up with. 

 

This is of course a lifelong process, and we all make mistakes on the way. I pray you have been challenged and encouraged, I know I have been by this study.

 

When we domesticate God we may get to do things our way for a little longer, but we miss out, both now and eternally. God has an amazing plan for us, and I know I want every bit of it. I don’t want to miss or skip any part because I was unwilling. When we don’t understand, let’s seek God. When we don’t find the answer, let’s trust God. Don’t let a momentary confusion negate all the good He has already done. Persevere. Theology attempts to explain all of God, but in doing so I fear it has made idols. To think we can with limited human words express all of who God is and how He works is ridiculous. Let’s not cling to man’s theological frameworks about how God should work, and instead seek Him and love Him, for He loves us. In the end, the question is: Will We Trust God, Or Not.

QUESTION: How have you domesticated God?

“Will We Trust God, Or Not?”

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