Exodus 20:1-3

Sermon preached on March 30, 2008 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2008. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at http://www.cantonnewlife.org/.

On the night of December 20, 1995 an American Airlines 757 flying from Miami to Cali, Columbia crashed into a mountain on approach to Cali. Of the one hundred and sixty-three people aboard only four survived. It was a terrible accident and was a classic example of what aviation crash experts call Controlled Flight Into Terrain. There was nothing wrong with the plane, with the engines or with the navigation equipment. The plane did exactly what the pilots told it to. But it crashed because the crew flew a perfectly good airplane into the mountain.

A series of missteps led to the disaster. The plane was two hours behind schedule and as they were approaching Cali the air traffic controller gave them the option of changing their approach to a more direct route and they decided to take it. Their original plan was to fly down a valley between the mountains, fly by the airport and then turn 180 degrees and land. But that would take extra time and when the flight controller gave them option to land without going around the airport, they decided to take it. The abbreviation for the new approach was ROZO and one of the pilots punched the letter "R" into the plane's navigational computer and never checked to see if the right destination was selected. It wasn't. The computer selected the closest match for the "R", which was ROMEO, the city of Bogota. So the plane turned left and started heading for Bogota. At the same time the pilots realized that they needed to lose altitude quickly because they had planned on going around the airport and so they were way too high for a direct approach. So they engaged the speed breaks and started descending rapidly. But they soon sensed that something was wrong and didn't understand why the plane had turned left. So they started trying to figure out where they were. They were basically lost, flying around in the dark between the huge mountains that were all around them. They kept trying to figure out where they were and it wasn't until a ground proximity warning alerted them that they tried to pull up. But it was too late and they crashed.

They were so distracted trying to figure out where they were that they forgot about flying the airplane safely. Even when they tried to pull up and gave full power to the engines they forgot to disengage the speed breaks—so they didn't have a chance of clearing the mountain. One report said that the pilots forgot the fundamental rule of piloting an airplane—they neglected to fly the airplane.

As we live our lives it's important that we do not forget the number 1 rule of life. It's important that we don't forget why we exist and why we are here on this earth—to worship and glorify our great God.

That's what the first commandment teaches us. We read, (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 slavery.
You shall have no other gods before me.'"

The first commandment demands that you worship God with everything that is in you.

God tells us here to worship Him exclusively and zealously.

It means you need to put God on the throne of your life and live exclusively for Him.

This is what the commandment is all about. Although most of the commandments are framed in negative terms, they also have
a very strong positive side. Since we are not to have any other gods besides Yahweh, it means that we are to enthrone Him as the Lord of our lives.

We must not miss this. The commandments have both a
negative and a positive side. For example, when we are told not to take God's name in vain, it doesn't mean that if we are silent, or if we never use that name for God (like the ancient Jews) that we have kept the commandment. No. Not talking God's name in vain is only part of it. It also means that we are to honor and revere God with what we think and say. In the same way, when God tells you that you are to have no other gods before Him, He is also telling you that you are to enthrone Him on the throne of your life.

Ryken writes that because we are told not to have any other gods before Yahweh, (Written in Stone, p. 60)

"This does not mean that it is permissible to worship other deities, so long as we put God first."

Hindus have thousands of gods. I was on the web researching this and I came across a Hindu site where they wanted visitors to vote for their favorite Hindu god. That's not what God is telling us here. He doesn't mean that we are to have him as our 'favorite god'. Ryken continues, (p. 60)

"When God says, 'before me,' He is not trying to tell us where he falls in the rankings!"

No. Not at all. John Calvin writes, (Sermons on the Ten Commandments, p. 58)

"For God cannot allow any rival."

Philip Ryken writes that if we are going to truly keep this commandment, (p. 47)

"we must not only stay away from false religions, but we must enthrone the one and only true God as our supreme Lord."

We see this as well in Jesus' words in Luke 14:26. He said,

"If anyone comes to me
and does not hate his father and mother,
his wife and children,
his brothers and sisters—
yes, even his own life—
he cannot be my disciple."

Jesus told us that He has to be first in our lives, that He has to be so enthroned as Lord of our lives that no one, not even those closest to ourselves, are allowed to compete with Him for our love and affections. In Revelation 2 we see that Jesus rebuked the church in Ephesus. He said, (Revelation 2:4-5)

"Yet I hold this against you:
You have forsaken your first love.
Remember the height
from which you have fallen!
Repent and do the things you did at first."

The fact that this commands means we need to enthrone God as Lord of our lives is also confirmed by the summary of the first table of the law that is given in both the Old and the New Testaments. You'll remember that in Matthew 22:35-40 one of the Pharisees, who was an expert in the law, tested Jesus and asked Him,

"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment
in the Law?"

Jesus replied and quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5.

"'Love the Lord your God
with all your heart
and with all your soul
and with all your mind.'
This is the first and greatest commandment."

That's a summary of the first table of the law. That's a summary of the first commandment. We are to love God with everything in us.

This leads us to one of the two questions whose answer can show you whether you are keeping this commandment.

The first one is

what do you love?

Do you love God? Do you love Him with everything that is in you? Do you love spending time in His Word? Do you love talking to Him? Do you love meditating on His character? Do you delight in Him? These are the things that the first commandment are all about.

Examine yourself in regards to
what you love. In the 3rd century Origen wrote, (quoted from Ryken, p. 66)

"What each one honors before all else, what before all things he admires and loves, this for him is God."

"What do you desire?" How do you spend your money? What do you get excited about? Those questions can show you if you have something else in the place of God. Ryken writes, (p. 66)

"A false god can be any good thing that we focus on to the exclusion of God."

In the sixteenth century John Calvin wrote about the devotion that we should give to God. His discussion raises questions like: (Institutes, II:8:16) Do you adore Him? Are you awed by His greatness? Does your heart rise to praise and worship Him because of who He is? Are you filled with gratitude to God for His goodness to you? Do you praise Him for all that He has given you.

We are to love God first and foremost. He is to be everything to us. Our whole lives, our whole existence is to be devoted to His glory. Everything in your life is to be subservient to your service of Him.

James Montgomery
Boice says of the first commandment, (Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 227)

"We break it whenever we give some person or thing the first place in our affections which belongs to God alone."

What led Adam into sin? It was Eve. Adam wasn't deceived by Satan like Eve. When she came to him with the forbidden fruit and he understood that she had eaten it, he faced a choice—who did He love more—God or Eve? Which one was going to be His god? Who was he going to choose?

James Montgomery
Boice says of this commandment, (Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 227)

"Quite often the substitute god is ourselves or our opinion of ourselves. It can be such things as success, material possessions, fame or dominance over others."

In Matthew 6:24 Jesus said,

"No one can serve two masters.
Either he will hate the one and love the other,
or he will be devoted to the one
and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and Money."

Is there anything in your life that is ahead of God? If so, that's the god you worship. He is to be dearer to you than anything else—than your own life. Turn from your false god and put God back in His rightful place.

In addition to the love test—who do you love most, there's also the trust test.

When it comes right down to it—do you trust God?

By that I'm not talking about paying lip service to this. No. I'm talking about when things go terribly wrong. Who do you trust in then?

For example, in 2 Chronicles 16:1-3 we read that in the thirty-sixth year of Asa's reign Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and fortified Ramah to prevent anyone from leaving or entering the territory of Asa king of Judah. So Asa took silver and gold out of the Lord's temple and out of his palace and sent them to King Ben-hadad of Syria, asking him for help. He agreed to help and he attacked Israel so that Baasha had to withdraw.

But Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him:

"Because you relied on the king of Aram
and not on the LORD your God,
the army of the king of Aram
has escaped from your hand.
Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers
of chariots and horsemen?
Yet when you relied on the LORD,
he delivered them into your hand.
For the eyes of the LORD range
throughout the earth to strengthen
those whose hearts are fully committed to him.
You have done a foolish thing,
and from now on you will be at war."

Philip Ryken writes,

"What do you trust? Where do you turn in times of trouble? Martin Luther said, 'Whatever thy heart clings to and relies upon, that is properly thy God.' Similarly, the Puritan Thomas Watson said, 'To trust in any thing more than God, is to make it a god.'"

Do you truly trust God? When things are going really badly—do you trust God?

By that I don't mean those people who only call out to God when you get in trouble. Lots of people do that. If someone is on a plane, or a ship and it gets into trouble lots of people will cry out to God and promise to live for Him if He'll get them out of that jam. That's not what I'm referring to. Those people don't really trust God—they're merely turning to Him because they don't have an alternative. If they do get out of the trouble they're in—they soon forget about God.

No. When you're in trouble, when things go all wrong—when you're facing cancer, or the danger of certain death, or some other horrible reality—do you trust God implicitly then? John
Calvin writes,

"Trust is the assurance of reposing in him that arises from the recognition of his attributes, when — attributing to him all wisdom, righteousness, might, truth, and goodness — we judge that we are blessed only by communion with him."

Calvin goes on to talk about prayer and how if someone keeps this commandment, they will, resort,

"to his faithfulness and help as our only support."

Do you trust God implicitly? Do you have such trust in God that you're like Job, who in the midst of his suffering, said, (Job 13:15)

"Though he slay me,
yet will I hope in Him."

Do you trust God like Jesus did when He was faced with hunger after He was in the wilderness for 40 days. Satan came to tempt Him and said, "Since you're the Son of God, turn these stones into bread." But Jesus said, (Matthew 4:4)

"It is written:
'Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes
from the mouth of God.'"

Is your trust in God like that of Abraham, when he was ordered by God to offer Isaac, the son of promise, as a sacrifice? When God ordered him to do that we read, (Genesis 22:3)

"Early the next morning Abraham got up…"

He was prompt to obey. Hebrews 11:19 tells us that

"Abraham reasoned that
God could raise the dead,"

Is your trust in God like that of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who, when faced with the fiery furnace, said to King Nebuchadnezzar, (Daniel 3:16-18)

"we do not need to defend ourselves
before you in this matter.
If we are thrown into the blazing furnace,
the God we serve is able to save us from it,
and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.
But even if he does not,
we want you to know, O king,
that we will not serve your gods
or worship the image of gold you have set up."

What do you trust? Some trust in their jobs, their insurance policies, their pension plans, etc., etc. If you keep this commandment—God will be your help and strength and you will resort to Him in times of trouble. He will be our hope.

The third thing I want you to see about this commandment is that

this command is for you.

The Hebrew verb that is used is singular in number. That's why the KJV translates it with a 'thou'.

"Thou shalt have
no other gods before me."

What this means for you is that God is addressing you personally. This commandment is for you. As the old Puritan Thomas Watson put it, (The Ten Commandments, p. 49)

"Because the commandment concerns everyone, and God would have each one take it as spoken to him by name."

Many people today are like Pharaoh, who, when Moses came to him and told him that the Lord, the God of Israel commanded him to let the people of Israel go, said, (Exodus 5:2)

"Who is the LORD,
that I should obey him and let Israel go?
I do not know the LORD
and I will not let Israel go."

He thought he was exempt from what God wanted him to do. But he wasn't. He owed obedience and allegiance to God. When he refused to obey he was punished. His refusal to obey led to his destruction.

It's the same with anyone today. But note the
preface to the 10 commandments. God said,

"I am the LORD your God…"

Although what we have here is specifically directed to the people of Israel, as Pharaoh found out, it applies to everyone. God describes Himself as, the "Lord your God". The Hebrews words are 'Yahweh' and 'Elohim'. The name 'Elohim' designates God as Creator and Preserver of all things. (Bavinck, Doctrine of God, p. 108) The name 'Yahweh' is the name that God revealed to Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3. God told Moses that He was the same God who appeared to the patriarchs. He is the great "I Am", or the "He will be that He will be". He will be what he has been for the patriarchs, what He is now He will remain. He is the Unchangeable One, the eternally Self-consistent One. John Calvin writes,

"God first shows himself to be the one who has the right to command and to whom obedience is due."

The point of this is that the reason anyone should obey God, should honor Him as first in their life is because He is the true God, the God who is without beginning and without end. He is self-existent. No one created Him. Quite the opposite—He created all things and all things owe their existence to Him. Israel, Pharaoh, all human beings owe their existence to God and are responsible before Him. It doesn't matter who you are, this commandment applies to you. He is worthy. Not only that, but God created you for His glory and He demands that you worship and put Him first in your life.

But there is more. God tells them
that He brought them out of Egypt. John Calvin writes, (Institutes, II 8 15)

"For the Lord means that they have been freed from miserable bondage that they may, in obedience and readiness to serve, worship him as the author of their freedom." "deliverance is mentioned in order that the Jews may give themselves over more eagerly to God, who by right claims them for himself… in order that it may not seem that this has nothing to do with us, we must regard the Egyptian bondage of Israel as a type of the spiritual captivity in which all of us are held bound, until our heavenly Vindicator, having freed us by the power of his arm, leads us into the Kingdom of freedom."

God has been good to you. He may not have brought you up out of Egypt but he's probably been better to you than that. You've never been a slave in a foreign land. God has given you a life of freedom. He has given you many good things. As we read in James 1:17,

"Every good and perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father
of the heavenly lights,
who does not change like shifting shadows."

So it doesn't matter who you are. God has been good to you. Every good things you have enjoyed has come to you because of His grace. Not to thank Him for these gifts is the height of ingratitude. Not to praise Him for His goodness to you is inexcusable. Not to serve Him with all that is in you is to render evil for good. Not to accept and thank Him for Jesus is one of the greatest evils that can be.

Lastly, if you're not a Christian, this passages shows you that

you were created to worship God.

A lot of people spend a great deal of time trying to figure out why they're on this earth. It's not hard to figure out. The Bible tells you that you are here to worship God. You were created to worship.

Everyone worships. You are worshipping something. Many today worship money, others worship pleasures like sex, others worship knowledge, or power, or themselves.

But it's horrible to worship the wrong thing. You need to worship God and worship Him in spirit and truth. The only way to worship God acceptably is through Jesus. In John 14:6

"I am the way, the truth,
and the life.
No one comes to the Father
except through Me."

And in Matthew 11:27 Jesus said,

"All things have been committed to me
by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him."

Jesus came to live and die for us—to show us the Father, to bring us to Him, to enable us to worship Him acceptably. Go to Him today.