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Foundation for the Ten Commandments

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The Ten Commandments - God Permits No Rivals

Exodus 20:1-3

Pastor Oesterwind

Exodus 20:1-3 “And God spoke all these words, saying:  ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  You shall have no other gods before Me.’”

Review:  God promises His presence while warning Israel of the danger of His closeness in Exodus 19.  It seems like a contradiction.  While God loves us and cares for us, He demands payment for our sin.  He will not overlook it or sweep it under the rug.  That is why the law brings us to Christ.  We simply cannot keep it because we are not perfect.

The Ten Commandments are a part of God’s moral law.  They contain principles for holy behavior in all areas of life.  These principles are as important today as they were in the day the finger of God inscribed them on stone.  Cain murdered Able before the engraving of the commandments.  Sodom practiced its deviant forms of perversity before the engraving of the commandments.  

Galatians 3:24 states that “the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”  The law acts as an old schoolmaster and brings us to an awareness of sin and guilt.  Romans 3:20 “…By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” 

We cannot keep the law; Jesus can and did.  Galatians 4:4 “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law …”  Jesus was born under the law and met all the obligations of the law.  No one had ever done this and no one else ever will. 

We must obey the moral law to show that we are saved and have become children of God.  Exodus 20:2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage” (cf. Deut 5.6).  Here we learn two reasons for obedience:

1.       Who God Is - “The Lord your God”; Creator with the right to command His creation and look after their welfare

2.       What God Has Done - “Brought you out”; If God redeems, we must serve and submit (1 Cor 6.20)

Upon this foundation, we will look at each commandment under the following traditional arrangement:

The Two Tables of The Ten Commandments:

·         Commandments 1 - 4:  Rules for Living with God

·         Commandments 5 - 10:  Rules for Living with Man

Both tables of the 10 Commandments are inextricably linked.  You cannot truly love God while hating your fellow man or love your fellow man without loving God who instills love.  Keeping all the law boils down to loving God and others. 

A Challenge to Commit the Commandments to Memory

More people remember the ingredients on America's favorite burger than remember the ingredients in America's favorite book, according to the latest study.

In anticipation of the new animated movie release of The Ten Commandments, Kelton Research conducted a poll of 1,000 people to determine basic knowledge of the Ten Commandments. Eighty percent of those polled knew that a Big Mac had two all-beef patties and 62 percent knew that it had pickles. But less than 50 percent could remember even seven of the Decalogue.

Further polling via "man on the street" interviews also bore grave news. Testing knowledge of the Ten Commandments versus popular culture knowledge, most people polled could remember the names of all four of the Beatles rock group, but many could not even remember one commandment.

"Which Do You Know Better?" Houston Chronicle (10-19-07)

“Our God now shows His kids about sin with commandments.”

       1.            Our - Other; You shall have no OTHER gods before Him.

       2.            God - Graven; You shall not make for yourself any GRAVEN image.

       3.            Now - Name; You shall not take the NAME of the LORD your God in vain.

       4.            Shows - Sabbath; Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

       5.            His - Honor; Honor your father and mother.

       6.            Kids - Kill; You shall not kill (murder). 

       7.            About - Adultery; You shall not commit adultery.

       8.            Sin - Steal; You shall not steal.

       9.            With - Witness; You shall not bear false witness.

   10.            Commandments - Covet; You shall not covet.

A Careful Look at the First Commandment

Exodus 20:1-3 “And God spoke all these words, saying:  ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.  You shall have no other gods before Me.’”

The Hebrew grammar in these commands is very emphatic.  W. H. Gispen writes, “God absolutely did not want the Israelite to do this [break the first commandment], and He fully expected that he would not do it” (Gispen, 189). 

His literal rendering of the commandment is as follows:  “There shall not be other gods besides or before My face or person” (Gispen, 189).  Besides/before can also carry the meaning of over or in preference over.  Israel was to have no other gods besides the LORD.

·         “Yahweh had opened himself to a special relationship with Israel, but that relationship could develop only if Israel committed themselves to Yahweh alone. Yahweh had rescued them and freed them, delivered them and guided them, then come to them. The next step, if there was to be a next step, belonged to them. If they were to remain in his Presence, they were not to have other gods” (Constable quoting Durham).

·         “The sentence is quite a general one, and not only prohibits polytheism and idolatry, the worship of idols in thought, word, and deed (cf. Deut. 8:11, 17, 19), but also commands the fear, love, and worship of God the Lord (cf. Deut. 6:5, 13, 17; 10:12, 20).”[1]

·         The first commandment is foundational.  God will not allow rivals.  He will not be compartmentalized to what we deem the spiritual part of our lives.  God demands dedication of body and spirit for His service.  We worship Him alone.

·         Polytheism vs. Monotheism

o   For four centuries Israel lived in Egypt.  Here, they served many gods:  gods of the land, the mountains, the rivers, the sun, the grave, and so forth. 

o   That Israel was affected by this is clear in Ezekiel 20:7-8a “Each of you, throw away the abominations which are before his eyes, and do not defile yourselves with the idols of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.  But they rebelled against Me and would not obey Me. They did not all cast away the abominations which were before their eyes, nor did they forsake the idols of Egypt.” 

o   There are no other gods (Deut 4.35, 39; 1 Kings 8.59-60; Isa 44.8; 45.5-6, 14, 18, 21-22; 46.9).

·         Deuteronomy 4:35 (NKJV)
35To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord Himself is God; there is none other besides Him.

·         Deuteronomy 4:39 (NKJV)
39Therefore know this day, and consider it in your heart, that the Lord Himself is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.

·         1 Kings 8:59-60 (NKJV)
59And may these words of mine, with which I have made supplication before the Lord, be near the Lord our God day and night, that He may maintain the cause of His servant and the cause of His people Israel, as each day may require, 60that all the peoples of the earth may know that the Lord is God; there is no other.

·         Isaiah 44:8 (NKJV)
8Do not fear, nor be afraid; Have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one.’ ”

·         Isaiah 45:5-6 (NKJV)
5I am the Lord, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me, 6That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting That there is none besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other;

·         Isaiah 45:14 (NKJV)
14Thus says the Lord: “The labor of Egypt and merchandise of Cush And of the Sabeans, men of stature, Shall come over to you, and they shall be yours; They shall walk behind you, They shall come over in chains; And they shall bow down to you. They will make supplication to you, saying, ‘Surely God is in you, And there is no other; There is no other God.’ ”

·         Isaiah 45:18 (NKJV)
18For thus says the Lord, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the Lord, and there is no other.

·         Isaiah 45:21-22 (NKJV)
21Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me. 22“Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

·         Isaiah 46:9 (NKJV)
9Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,

·         Does the first command assume the existence of other gods?

o   Not in the sense that competing deities exist - there is only one God

o   In the sense that false gods hold real sway over people; behind each is demonic influence

o   Galatians 4:8 “…When you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods.”

o   Any time we serve those which by nature are not gods, we do so before the face of God - in His very presence. 

o   This is a choice we make.

Joshua 24:14-15 “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord!  And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

1 Kings 18:21 “…Elijah came to all the people, and said, ‘How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.’ But the people answered him not a word.”

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

Never say never…





Solomon Broke this Command

The greatness of King Solomon began with a very good response to a question asked by God in 1 Kings 3:5:  “Ask! What shall I give you?”  Solomon humbled himself before the LORD and said, “Give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people that I may discern between good and evil.  For who is able to judge this great people of Yours” (3.9).

God was pleased with Solomon’s response and gave to him a “wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like [him] before [he lived], nor shall any like [him] arise after [his death]” (3.12).  God also added riches and honor for Solomon.

1 Kings 9:4-7

“Now if you walk before Me as your father David walked, in integrity of heart and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded you, and if you keep My statutes and My judgments, then I will establish the throne of your kingdom over Israel forever, as I promised David your father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man on the throne of Israel.’ But if you or your sons at all turn from following Me, and do not keep My commandments and My statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods and worship them, then I will cut off Israel from the land which I have given them; and this house which I have consecrated for My name I will cast out of My sight. Israel will be a proverb and a byword among all peoples.”

Just a few chapters later, we’re told the tragic story of Solomon and his turning point in 1 Kings 11:5:  “For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.”

God responds to the breaking of the first commandment in 1 Kings 11:9-11.  “So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded.  Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, ‘Because you have done this, and have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to your servant.’”

The clue to Solomon getting off track is found earlier in 1 Kings 6:38:  “…In the eleventh year, …the house was finished in all its details and according to all its plans. So he was seven years in building it.”  Seven years for the Temple.  It was very grand, but notice 1 Kings 7:1:  “But Solomon took thirteen years to build his own house; so he finished all his house.”  Thirteen years to build his own house and seven to build the Lord’s house. 

Deuteronomy 17:16 warns that Israel’s king “shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, ‘You shall not return that way again.’”  But 1 Kings 10:26-29 tells the tragic story:  “Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen; he had one thousand four hundred chariots and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king at Jerusalem. The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones, and he made cedar trees as abundant as the sycamores which are in the lowland. Also Solomon had horses imported from Egypt and Keveh; the king’s merchants bought them in Keveh at the current price. Now a chariot that was imported from Egypt cost six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse one hundred and fifty; and thus, through their agents, they exported them to all the kings of the Hittites and the kings of Syria.”

Deuteronomy 17:17 warns “neither shall [Israel’s future king] multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself.”  1 Kings 11:1-3 states, “But King Solomon loved many foreign women, as well as the daughter of Pharaoh: women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites— from the nations of whom the Lord had said to the children of Israel, ‘You shall not intermarry with them, nor they with you. Surely they will turn away your hearts after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love.  And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart.”

Solomon admits at the end of his life (Ecclesiastes 2:1) that he said in his heart, “Come now, I will test you with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure”; but surely, this also was vanity.

Ecclesiastes 2:4-8 “I made my works great, I built myself houses, and planted myself vineyards. I made myself gardens and orchards, and I planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made myself water pools from which to water the growing trees of the grove. I acquired male and female servants, and had servants born in my house. Yes, I had greater possessions of herds and flocks than all who were in Jerusalem before me. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the special treasures of kings and of the provinces. I acquired male and female singers, the delights of the sons of men, and musical instruments of all kinds.”

Ecclesiastes 2:10 “Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I did not withhold my heart from any pleasure, for my heart rejoiced in all my labor; and this was my reward from all my labor.”

Ecclesiastes 2:11 “Then I looked on all the works that my hands had done and on the labor in which I had toiled; and indeed all was vanity and grasping for the wind. There was no profit under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 2:17 “Therefore I hated life because the work that was done under the sun was distressing to me, for all is vanity and grasping for the wind.”  Solomon hated life under the sun; he should have been living life with the Son. 

All of this was very gradual in Solomon’s life.  I fear it is gradual in our own lives.  The gods we serve are not made of wood, metal, or stone.  Instead, they are the gods of money, lust, and power.  Philip Ryken states that there are two tests for this kind of idolatry (564 f):

1.       What do you love? 

a.       When your mind is free to roam, what do you think about?

b.      How do you spend your money?

c.       What excites you?

d.      False god of sport and recreation?

e.      Hobby or personal interest?

f.        Having the latest and greatest?

g.       Career?

h.      Personal health and fitness?

2.       What do you trust?

a.       Your addictions? Drugs, alcohol, sex, shopping, another obsession?

b.      Your job? 

c.       Retirement and insurance policies?

d.      Government?

e.      Family?

We don’t see the idols we worship because we worship so many.  If we claim to serve God but spend all of our time and energy providing for our desires, we’ve broken the first commandment.  The only solution for this tragedy is to develop and true love for God.  Who or what do you love more than God?  Who or what do you trust more than God?  These are critical meditations for every single one of us!

34 - Immortal, Invisible


[1]Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (2002). Commentary on the Old Testament. (1:395). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.

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