Scripture Lesson:–Exodus 20
Text:–Exodus 20:3 “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
Introduction:–This morning we are beginning a study of that ancient code, known as the Ten Commandments. I have called these old laws “Ten Rules for Living.” By them ten rules for living, I do not mean that they speak the final word on human conduct. I remember that Jesus Christ summed up these ten commandments into one law of love when he said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and will all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and the neighbor as thyself.” But in this day, when so many of our people are confused, when so many of them have flung away their old convictions and let go their old mooring, I am wondering if these rules may no serve as guideposts to them, so that they may find finer and fuller ways to live the Christian life.
Philosophers and all thinkers are agreed that even the most primitive races of mankind reach out and beyond the world of matter to a superior being.
It is a natural thing for man to reach out after God; when all of his physical needs are satisfied he still has a hunger and thirst of the soul that needs satisfying. Man does not need to be commanded to worship, as there is not a race so high or so low in the scale of civilization but has some kind of god. What they need is to be directed in their worship.
Remember to whom this commandment was given, and we shall see how necessary it as. The forefathers of the Israelites had worshipped Idols, not so many generations back. They had recently been delivered out of Egypt, a land of many gods. The Egyptians worshipped the sun, the moon, insects and animals. The children of Israel were going-up to take possession of a land that was inhabited by heathen, who also worshipped Idols. There was therefore was a great need of such commandment as this. There could be no right relationship between God and man in those days, until man understood that he must recognize God alone and not offer him a divided heart.
Let us look now at this first commandment. Very apporprivately* it begins with God. That is always the best place to being. The first commandment has a bried preface. “I am the Lord thy God..thou shalt have no other gods before me.” This code or commandment you see, beings with a great assumption. It assumes the reality of God. It begins by asserting that God is. He, the author makes no effort to prove God. He simply affirms him. In so doing, he is in harmony with all the other writers of the Bible. The psalmists do not argue about God. They realize him and rejoice in his mercies. The prophets never undertake to prove God; they proclaim him. This so true of Jesus. He lived in constant fellowship with the Father. He communed with him; he did his work through the might of his power. He revealed him, saying, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”
God available, is the assertion of the first law. “I am the Lord thy God..thou shalt have no other gods before me.” That means, that God is not only a reality, but he is really accessible. He is available for human need. I may fall at his feet, and if I will, may say with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” I may shout with the victorious certainty of Paul, “My God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Every man, asserts this ancient law, may have God for very own.
Of course, the conception of God that was prevalent when this code was written is not our conception. Man’s conception of God has changed vastly since then. Since then, the Word had become flesh and dwelt among us, and we have been privileged to behold his glory. We have seen him, this god, gather little children into his arms. We have seen him bend over outcasts in love and mercy. We have seen him make every man’s burden his own. We have heard him say, “If God were here in me, for he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”
But the fact that our conceptions of God change with the passing of the years does not mean that god changes. Though our conceptions of God change, God abides, the same yesterday, today, and forever.
Now in saying that God is ours for the taking, this ancient lawgiver speaks in harmony with the whole Bible. This affirmation that sounds heartenigly* in the O.T. rises to a shout of victory in the New Testament. Whatever man may miss, he does not need to miss God.
You do not have to go to the heathen lands today to find false gods. America is full of them. Whatever you make most of is your god. Whatever you love more than God is your idol. Rich and poor, learned and unlearned, all classes of men and women are guilty of this sin.
A man may make a god of himself, of a child, of a mother, of some precious gift that God has given. He may forget the giver, and let his heart go out in adoration toward the gift.
Many make a god of pleasure; that is what so many hearts are set on. If some old Greek or Roman came to life again and saw man in a drunken debauch, would he believe that the worship of Bacchus had died out?
Others take fashion as their god. They give their time and thought to dress. They fear what others will think of them. Let us not flatter ourselves that all idolaters are in heathen countries.
With many others it is money. We have not yet gotten through worshipping the golden calf yet. If a man will sell his principles for gold, is he not making that fact his god? Too many men say, Give me treasures here, and act perfectly satisfied. I don’t care for heaven. But at the end of life, he will be dissatisfied. When he hears the words, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
The soul of a man has never been satisfied with false gods. Can pleasure, riches fill the soul that is empty with God? No they cannot. These shall be as nothing, when one faces the years of eternity. Why is it that in a trying hour, when a man who has been talking against God, why is it that in the darkness of affliction, why is it that then call in believers, they call in the ministers of the gospel, to administer comfort and solace and consolation in the last hour. They than become aware that it is only through the power of the gospel, through faith, a man can be saved.
But since God is available, how are we to come into the richness of our inheritance. How may we come to possess God and be possessed by him? I order to possess God we must meet certain conditions. That is just plain common sense. Some people fail to meet these conditions because they are preoccupied. A minister once put this question to a man, whom he thought was preoccupied. “How can you ignore the fact of God as you do? He was an honest man. He answered frankly, “I keep busy. I do not allow myself to think about God.” There are those who, like the guests invited to the marriage feast, are too interested in land and oxen, in the newly married wife, to have any time for God. Naturally, they fall to find Him, whom to know is life eternal.
Of course, to know God is the supremest* of privileges. It is this knowledge that, above all else, brings us inward strength. To have God in your life is to have poise, to have serenity, it is to have courage. It is to have an outgoing love. Possessing God, we do possess all things. But in spite there are those to whom God is no more than an embarrassment. But he can be real.
Conclusion:–Friends, can you say that sincerely, that all your hope is centered on God in Christ?
Are you trusting him alone? Are you ready to step into the scales and be weighed against the first commandment? God will not accept a divided heart. He wants to be the absolute ruler. There is not room in your heart for two thrones. No man can serve two masters. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. You cannot mix worship of the true God with the worship of another god. There is no room in your heart, if Christ is there. If worldliness should some in, godliness would go out.
Which master will you choose to follow? Be an out-and-out Christian. “Him only shalt thou serve”. Only thus can you be well pleasing to God. The Jews were punished with seventy years of captivity because they worshipped false gods. They have suffered almost two thousand years because they rejected the Messiah. Will you incur God’s wrath by rejecting Christ too? He died to save you? Trust Him with your whole heart, for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
I believe that when Christ had the first place in our hearts, we shall have power when we shall have put Him in his rightful place. If we let false gods come in and steal our love away from God, the God of heaven, then we shall have no peace or power.