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1st Commandment

1st Commandment

July 14, 2024 by Pastor David Hubbard
Passages:Exodus 20:3

Sermon Synopsis

Exodus 20:3
3Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
No Other Gods
“If everyone was taught one basic spiritual law, your world would
be a happier, healthier place. And that law is this: everyone is God.
Everyone.” This is what a lady by the name of Shirley MacLaine said
after a trip to the Andes Mountains.
“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.” This is
what the Lord said at Mount Sinai.
“Be still and know that you are God.” This is what Maharishi
Mahesh Yogi said, who founded Transcendental Meditation.
Psalm 46:10 says,
“Be still, and know that I am God”. This is what
the Lord said, who founded the heavens and the earth.
“To put it plainly, our unconscious is God. God within us. We were
part of God all the time… Since the unconscious is God all along, we
may further define the goal of spiritual growth to be the attainment
of godhood by the conscious self… We are born so that we might
become, as a conscious individual, a new life form of God.” That’s
what a psychiatrist says in one of his best-selling books.
But the Lord God Almighty, in his best-selling book, the Bible, has
this to say in Isaiah 46:8-9: “Remember this, fix it in mind, take it
to heart, you rebels… I am God, and there is no other; I am God,
and there is none like me.”
A sports psychologist who gets paid to motivate athletes and also to
conduct seminars for the U.S. military, for AT&T, and for other
major corporations, describes his work this way:
Much of this work is about spiritual stuff, but we don’t ever say that
because people start getting nervous when you talk about that… Our
stance is that people are unlimited in their individual abilities, that
as humans all of us are infinitely able to do anything we want.
This man gets rich selling the notion that each of us has the
unlimited power of a god.
But a carpenter from Nazareth, who never made any money
motivating athletes or soldiers or corporate personnel, didn’t agree
that “all of us are infinitely able to do anything we want.” The
carpenter said in John 15:5 “Apart from me, you can do nothing”.
When someone asked Jesus,
“Show us the Father,
” Jesus didn’t say,
“Look inside yourself.” He said,
“Anyone who has seen me has
seen the Father”. There is only one God, and it’s not you or me.
The voices which urge us to think of ourselves as God aren’t
anything new. Way back in the garden of Eden, a certain snake,
whispered to Eve in Genesis 3:5,
“You will be like God”. Now, that
sounded pretty good to Eve and Adam—but then the real God
showed up. The guilty couple tried to hide from him. They were
afraid. Because doing their own thing hadn’t made them gods, after
all. They weren’t even fit to be God’s friends any more.
Today, that demonic voice of the serpent still hisses,
“You will be
like God.” Psychiatrists claim that the human unconscious is God.
Gurus of Eastern religions claim that everybody and everything is
God (and that God is nothingness). New Age writers in today’s time
stir all this pantheism and self-worship together in a brew and
serve it up, seasoned with words such as “Christ” and “Holy Spirit”
to suit the tastes of those with a Christian background. For those
who prefer more exotic flavors, the myth of yourself as God is
spiced up with crystals, shamans, channeling, extraterrestrial
masters, ancestor worship, nature worship, occult rituals, and
whatever else can be borrowed from ancient tribes or modern
science fiction.
For those who like to think this way, it’s a rude interruption to hear
a thundering voice that says “I am the Lord your God. You shall
have no other gods before me.” But like it or not, that is what the
living God says. When he gave the Ten Commandments, this
command was first.
Idolatry
We’re living in a time when the first commandment,
“You shall
have no other gods before me,
” isn’t in fashion. Some people say
everything is God, others say there is no God, still others declare
themselves to be God. Some pray to their own infinite potential,
some pray to trees and stars and earth, others pray to their dead
ancestors. We’re surrounded by a ton of many different voices,
promoting a wide assortment of gods and goddesses and all sorts of
different ways to enjoy their favor.
Who would dare to say only one of them is right, that there is only
one God, and only one way to receive his favor? For many people, it
is strangely comforting to be surrounded by a hodgepodge of
religions. With so many different ideas, religion seems to be a
matter of personal opinion and private taste. Whatever I happen to
believe is true for me, right?
How disturbing, then, to hear a voice booming from Mount Sinai,
“You shall have no other gods before me.” How troubling to hear
that same voice declare with terrifying simplicity: “And there is no
God apart from me, a righteous God and Savior; there is none but
me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am
God, and there is no other”.
For many people today, it sounds narrow-minded and almost rude
for the Lord to insist that he alone is God and that he alone can save
us. We feel more comfortable with the notion that all religious
opinions are equally true, and that all roads eventually lead to God.
But the quiet voice of the carpenter says,
“I am the way, the truth,
and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” The
apostle Peter said bluntly,
“ Neither is there salvation in any other:
for there is none other name under heaven given among men,
whereby we must be saved.” There is just one God and one way to
be right with him. Whether we like it or not, that’s the way it is.
The first commandment requires worship of the one true God and
prohibits idolatry. “What is idolatry? Idolatry is having or inventing
something in which one trusts in place of or alongside of the only
true God, who has revealed himself in his Word”. Much of what
passes these days for high ideals or deep spirituality is in fact
idolatry. A number of years ago, a Hindu chaplain to the United
Nations said:
The United Nations … is the way, the way of oneness, that leads us
to the Supreme Oneness. It is like a river flowing toward the source,
the Ultimate Source. The UN becomes for us the answer to world
suffering, world darkness and world ignorance. The inner vision of
the United Nations is the supreme gift. This vision the world can
deny for 10, 20, 30, 40, 100 years. But a day will dawn when the
vision of the United Nations will save the world. And when the
reality of the United Nations starts bearing fruit, then the breath of
immortality will be a living reality on Earth.
Apparently, if God wants to remain the Supreme Being and the only
Savior, he’ll have to get himself elected Secretary General of the UN.
It is idolatry to pin our hopes for world peace on a political
organization. But fans of the United Nations aren’t the only ones to
worship a political entity. What about those who thought socialist
revolution would create a workers’ paradise? And what about those
who speak of the United States as “the last, best hope for
mankind”? No nation or political movement is the “last, best hope
for mankind.” Anyone who thinks so is an idolater. There may be a
proper sort of patriotism or a right concern for political ideals and
world peace, but it’s idol worship to pin our hopes on any earthly
government rather than the kingdom of God.
According to the Bible, Jeremiah 17:5 says,
“Thus saith the LORD;
Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm,
and whose heart departeth from the LORD..” Psalm 146:3 says “Put
not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is
no help.” I’d rather trust my future and the future of the world to
Jesus Christ than to Donald Trump, or Joe Biden, or any other
political leader.
Another movement which more and more people idolize is the
environmental movement. The Creator calls us to care for his
creation, but some prominent organizations are pushing nothing
less than nature worship. For example, the Sierra Club’s
Environmental Health Sourcebook, Well Body, Well Earth, gives
instructions on how to have spiritual communion with the earth,
and then it says,
When you are done with your conversation with the spirit of the
living Earth, say goodbye to it, just as you would say goodbye upon
parting from a friend… The more you contact the voice of the living
Earth, and evaluate what it says, the easier it will become for you to
contact it and trust what it provides.
This praying to the earth and trusting it is idolatry. It fits the
pattern the Bible describes in Romans 1:25. “Who changed the
truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature
more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.” It’s right
and good to care for the creation, but it’s terribly wrong to worship
it.
The first commandment calls us to acknowledge the basic fact that
there is just one true God. We can’t pretend the earth is God; God
doesn’t say,
“I am the living earth.” We can’t pretend our political
agenda is God. God doesn’t say,
“I am whoever you want me to be.”
And we can’t pretend we are God; God doesn’t say,
“I am who you
are.” God says,
“I am who I am”. “I am God, and there is no
other.”
Trustworthy God
When God says,
“You shall have no other gods before me,
” he is
saying that he is the only divine being who exists, and he is also
saying something more. He wants us not only to know about his
existence but also to put our trust in him. He wants us to have
confidence in him. Why should we trust him? Well, God doesn’t
command us to trust him blindly. He’s earned our trust. He has
acted on our behalf in such a way that we can be sure of his deep
desire to help us and confident of his power to do so.
When God gave the Ten Commandments in the fire and smoke atop
Mount Sinai, he didn’t start right out with the first commandment.
He began by saying who he was and what he had done: “I am the
Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of
slavery.” Before giving any orders or commandments, the Lord
wanted his people to realize that he was their God. He rescued them
before they even knew his laws. He saved them from slavery, not
because they had done anything to earn his favor, but because of his
mercy and his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He chose
them as his people, not because they were so impressive and
upright, but just because he decided to love them.
God is someone we can trust. He isn’t just the God who exists, but
the God who loves and saves. He showed that to the people of Israel
in their exodus from slavery, and he showed it supremely in the life
and work of Jesus Christ. When we were totally unable to save
ourselves from our sin, when we had no claim at all on God’s
kindness, the Lord came to earth in the person of his Son. Jesus
fulfilled God’s law perfectly by his holy life. He took our sins upon
himself and suffered the penalty we deserve when he died on the
cross. He broke death’s power over humanity through his
resurrection, and then he sent his Holy Spirit to draw people to
himself. If anyone ever earned our trust, Jesus has.
Our Lord did all this for us before we did anything for him. That’s
why the Ten Commandments are preceded by a reminder that God
rescues from slavery. And that’s why in the letters of the New
Testament God’s instructions on Christian living are so often
preceded by a declaration of God’s salvation in Christ. God tells
what he did for us before telling us what we must do for him. We
must trust him before we can begin to obey him.
Technolatry
The first commandment calls us to acknowledge that the Lord is
God, and no one else. It calls us to base our eternal destiny on Jesus
Christ and on nothing else. And it also calls us to look to God as the
one who supplies our everyday needs.
All too often, when it comes to the various problems of day-to-day
life, many of us fall into what I call technolatry. We tend to look to
technical know-how as god and savior. We trust medical techniques
to cure our diseases, agricultural techniques to supply our food,
psychological techniques to deal with our hangups, sociological
techniques to make our families solid and our cities safe, business
techniques to make our finances secure, and so forth. In
technolatry, you may still go to church on Sunday mornings—and
even there the worship may be shaped by church-growth
techniques—you may still go to church on Sundays, but for all
practical purposes, in day-to-day life you look to technology to get
what you need. That is technolatry.
Now, the first commandment is not opposed to science and
technology as such. In fact, genuine science historically became
possible only when people were convinced that there is just one
God. As long as people believed in many gods, real science was next
to impossible. Ancient creation myths taught that the world sprang
up out of conflict between different gods and goddesses, and idol
worshippers believed that different events in nature and history
were caused by a variety of different gods with different agendas.
Science arose among those who believed that behind all of creation
lay the working of a single great Intelligence. Only with that belief
could there be any concept of regular patterns in creation. Only then
was there any confidence that people as the crown of creation could
discover at least some of the Creator’s designs.
So belief in one God was the very foundation for the scientific
enterprise and the technology it produced. But a strange thing
happened along the way. More and more scientists stopped
believing in God at all and made science their god. They ignored the
Designer and made the design their ultimate reality. Meanwhile,
more and more ordinary people, even if they still believed in God’s
existence, stopped looking to him as the source of all good things
and started looking at technology as the one to supply their needs.
Technology was no longer seen as one of the ways God provides for
our needs. Technology came to be seen as the great provider.
But when we fall into technolatry, joy and beauty and purpose begin
leaking out of our lives. We’re left with a dead, gray world of
technique for the sake of technique, where we sometimes feel
ourselves reduced to parts in a machine, and where our technology
threatens to turn our cities into mushroom clouds and our planet
into a garbage dump.
The increase in New Age spirituality and nature worship and self
worship we looked at earlier is in large part a reaction to the
horrible emptiness and deadness of technolatry. Cars and
computers and cable TV may be nice, but they don’t fill the
emptiness in our souls. When people can’t bear the thought of
living in a world empty of the supernatural, they fall for almost any
religious guru or New Age idea that promises to breathe some
spiritual significance and awe and mystery back into their lives.
But it’s foolish to bounce from technolatry to some other form of
idolatry, to rebound from scientism into superstition, to go from
relying on no God to approving every idol under the sun, to go from
denying the Creator to worshipping the creation, to go from seeing
ourselves as meaningless machines to seeing ourselves as gods. In
order to recover our sanity and our spiritual health, we must
embrace the truth that there is one God—not zero, not many, but
one. We must believe in one God, and look to him and pray to him as
the one who is the ultimate Provider of our every need, who
numbers the very hairs of our heads. Technology is a gift from him,
not a substitute for him. Technology is one more expression of his
Fatherly care, not a replacement for his care.
Loving God
The Lord says,
“You shall have no other gods before me.” He wants
to be acknowledged as the only God who exists, the one we trust
with our eternal destiny, the one we look to for our daily needs. And
in all this, God claims the right to our highest love, our deepest
reverence, our fullest honor, our complete obedience.
God demands that we love him more than we love anything else.
There is no other God, and so there is no one else who deserves to
be the object of our highest love. The heart of true religion, stated in
the Old Testament and repeated by Jesus in the New Testament, is
this: “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God
with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
strength”.
God insists on being our highest love. The Lord is a jealous God.
This jealousy is not a flaw in God’s character, but one of his
perfections. What sort of husband thinks it’s okay for his wife to
love other men more than she loves him? Only a husband who
doesn’t really love his wife. God loves his people so intensely that
he won’t allow us to love anyone or anything more than we love
him. Jesus said,
“Anyone who loves his father or mother more than
me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more
than me is not worthy of me”. We keep the first commandment
when we love God above all.
Along with this love, God calls for the reverential fear and
worshipful honor that is his due as the God of the universe and the
Savior of his people. He says in the Bible,
“I am the Lord; that is my
name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols”
(Isaiah 42:8). We keep the first commandment when we bow before
God’s majesty, when we tremble at his power, when we praise his
character, when we thank him for his goodness.
Closing
Jesus says in one of his great prayers, in John 17:3,
“Now this is
eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus
Christ, whom you have sent”. The first commandment shows us
our idolatry and drives us back to the source of eternal life, to the
only one who can save us. And once we know his salvation, the first
commandment calls us to put this great God and Savior first in our
lives.
To put it all in a nutshell: “What does the Lord require in the first
commandment? That I, not wanting to endanger my very salvation,
avoid and shun all idolatry, magic, superstitious rites, and prayer to
saints or other creatures. That I sincerely acknowledge the only true
God, trust him alone, look to him for every good thing humbly and
patiently, love him, fear him, and honor him with all my heart. In
short, that I give up anything rather than go against his will in any
way”.

Exodus 20:3

“You shall have no other gods before me.

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