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Exodus 20:1-17


Intro:  This passage of Scripture has come to be known as the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are as follows.

  1.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me, vv. 1-3.

  2.  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, vv. 4-6.

  3.  Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain, v.


  4.  Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy, vv. 8-11.

  5.  Honor thy father and thy mother, v. 12.

  6.  Thou shalt not kill, v. 13.

  7.  Thou shalt not commit adultery, v. 14.

  8.  Thou shalt not steal, v. 15.

  9.  Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor, v. 16.

10.  Thou shalt not covet, v. 17.


These commandments are not mere suggestions. They are binding rules for living. They are not just a list of commands given to the Jews thousands of years ago; they are a standard of living that applies to all people, in all places at all times. They are commandments that God expects us to keep every day we live.


Let me make a few observations about the Ten Commandments and the Law of God.


Keeping the Ten Commandments cannot save anyone. Salvation can never be earned by keeping the Law.

•   “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sinRom. 3:20.

•   “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith,” Gal. 3:11.


No one can keep the Law perfectly anyway.

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be,” Rom. 8:7.


If we violate even one command in the Law, we are guilty of violating the entire Law of God.

“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all,” James 2:10.


Seeking to be justified by keeping the Law will only dig the pit of our guilt before God deeper.

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them,” Gal. 3:10.


Salvation does not come by keeping the Law, but by believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified,” Gal. 2:16.


The Law cannot save because the Law only serves to point out our sinfulness. Ill. “7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead,” Rom. 7:7-8.


God gave the people of Israel the Law to teach them that they were sinners, and that they lacked the power to save themselves. He gave the people of Israel the Law, not to save them, but to teach them the truth that salvation comes only through faith in the God Who saves.


God gave Israel the Law to reveal to them the hopelessness of their sinful condition. He gave them the Law to point them to His solution for sin: the Lord Jesus Christ. Ill. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” Gal. 3:24.


Salvation does not come by the Law. It comes through faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus lived a sinless life. He perfectly fulfilled all the just demands of God contained in the Law. Jesus Christ perfectly and completely fulfilled the moral law of God, and when He died on the cross for the sins of His people, He forever satisfied all of God’s demands for perfect righteousness on their behalf.

•   “25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus,” Rom. 3:25-26.

•   “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world,” 1 John 2:2.

•   “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins,” 1 John 4:10.


When lost sinners come to Jesus Christ by faith in the Gospel and are converted, they are given His perfect righteousness. This imputed righteous, this alien righteousness, do for us what we could never do by trying to keep the Law. The imputed, alien righteousness of Jesus Christ makes us acceptable to God.

•   “6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace,” Eph. 1:6-7.

•   “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith,” Phil. 3:9.

•   Ill. Romans 4:16-25!


You and I could never please God through our own efforts or through good works and deeds. After all, the best we can produce is wretchedly filthy in His eyes. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away,” Isa. 64:6.


While we could never please Him through our works and our goodness, God is pleased in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Several times God Himself said, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Isaiah tells us that God “… shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquitiesIsa. 53:11. If we are in the Son, then God is satisfied with us! Ill. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him,” 2 Cor. 5:21. Ill. Phil. 3:9.


So, we do not have to keep the Law to earn salvation. Salvation is the gift of God, through grace, by faith in the Gospel. However, this does not eliminate God’s demand that we keep His moral Law.


There are two types of Law given to Israel in the Old Testament. There is the Ritual Law, which covered the sacrifices and the regulation of worship in the Tabernacle and the Temple. The demands of the Law of rituals were done away with when Jesus died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice. When He died, the veil of the Temple split from top to bottom, symbolizing the end of the Jewish system of worship, Matt. 27:51. The law of ritual ended that day forever, but the moral law of God still today.


The Moral Law of God has to do with how we live our lives. It has to do with how we treat God and other people. The Moral Law of God is not about earning salvation; it is about honoring God in all we do. The Moral Law of God is contained in the Ten Commandments, as well as in all the commands, both positive and negative, given to us in the Word of God.


We do try to keep the Moral Law of God in order to earn salvation. We try to keep it because it honors God. We try to keep His Moral Law because our obedience to that law demonstrates the depth of our love for Him. “If ye love me, keep my commandments,” John 14:15.


Keeping the Moral Law of God pleases God and brings the blessings of God into our lives. “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him,” John 14:21.


When we strive to honor and keep the Moral Law of God, we prove that we are born again.

“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments,” 1 John 2:3.

“In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother,” 1 John 3:10.


The key to keeping the entire Moral Law of God is found in the first commandment. If we can honor the spirit of the first commandment, the rest will be taken care of. If we can live our lives so that we never introduce another god ahead of the true and living God, we will have no problem honoring the rest of the commands of God’s Moral Law.


I want to take this passage and preach for a while on the subject No Other God. Let me share the lessons taught here. These lessons have the potential to help us live holier lives for the glory of God.



The statement of verse 3 is very simple and very clear. God simply says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” While this statement was simple and clean, it was also revolutionary.


Every other culture operating in the world at that time was polytheistic. They all recognized and worshiped a multiplicity of gods. In verse 2, God reminded Israel that He had delivers them “out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” This is a reminder that they had been delivered from slavery, but it is a reminder of so much more.


The Egyptians, like all the other cultures around them, worshiped hundreds of gods. They gave their lives and their love to all sorts of manmade gods represented by idols and animals. The Egyptians had a sun god, a water god, a moon god, a snake god, a frog god, a fly god, and on and on and on. When God delivered Israel from that country, He also delivered them from the influence of that pagan system of worship.


When these commandments we have read today were given, Israel was on their way to a place called Canaan. When they arrived there, they would encounter a race of people who also worshiped many gods. If Israel was not settled on the idea that God alone was God, they would be in trouble at the very heart of their spiritual lives.


Of all the nations on the earth in those days, only Israel was monotheistic. That is, they had one God and His name was Yahweh, or Jehovah. That was to be their primary identification. They were to be the people of God, serving Him and worshiping Him alone! “4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: 5 And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might,” Deut. 6:4-5.


When God tells them to have “no other gods”, it does not mean that God recognizes any other deity beside Himself. He knows there are no other Gods. He is alone in His position, His rank and His glory as God. God is not making room in the universe for other gods, He is simply declaring that He is God alone!


The word “god” in our text means, “ruler, judge, or lord.” The true God knew that no other gods existed, but He also knew that anything that received the supreme love, adoration, worship and service of the people would eventually become their lord. It would, in essence, become their god.


That is why He says “thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The phrase “before me” literally means “over against me, or before My face.” In other words, God wanted no other love, no other allegiance, no other authority to come between Himself and His redeemed people. Our gaze is to be on His face alone, and not on the face of another god. God is a jealous God, and He will tolerate no other gods in the lives of His people, Ex. 20:5!


If you will study the history of Israel, it becomes clear that they had a tendency to accumulate other gods. They were continually allowing the gods of the pagans, or their own selfishness, to come before the true and living God. They constantly suffered because of they failures in that area.


We have the same tendency! We need to understand that anything that rules us is a god in our lives. Martin Luther said, “Whatever thy heart clings to and relies upon, that is properly thy God.” The Puritan Thomas Watson said, “To trust in any thing more than God, is to make it a god.” Anything that is allowed to control any part of our lives is a god. It might be pleasure, family, work, dreams, possessions, money, sports, people, or anything else you can name. If it is ever allowed to come before your relationship with God Almighty it a a god to you!


If you really want to know something about the real god in your life, look at where you spend your time, your money, and what has your heart. Those three things, time, money and affection are the true indicators of who is the Lord and God of your life.


The first part of this commandment is negative. Nothing in life is to be allowed to become a competitor with God for first place in our hearts and lives. He is God and He is God alone! Ill. “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else,” Isa. 45:18.


  I.  A Divine Requirement



The reason God possesses the right to make such a demand of His people in found in verse 2. He says, “I am the Lord thy God.” In that statement, God declares His identity. The word “Lord” identifies Him as “Sovereign, Almighty, and Supreme.” It identifies Him as “the self-existent One.” It reminds us that He is the “I AM”. It declares Him to be the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present God of creation, revelation and salvation.  Because that is Who He is, no mere god of human origin should ever be allowed to supplant Him in our lives. There is no god ever devised by the wisdom of man that can do any of the things He can do.

•   “1 Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. 2 Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? 3 But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased. 4 Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands. 5 They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: 6 They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: 7 They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat. 8 They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them,” Psa. 115:1-8.

•   “5 To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like? 6 They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship. 7 They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble,” Isa. 46:5-7.

•   “1 Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: 2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not. 5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good. 6 Forasmuch as there is none like unto thee, O LORD; thou art great, and thy name is great in might,” Jer 10:1-6.


God has the right to make this demand of His people because of His identity as God, but He also possesses the right because of His investment in His people. He delivered them from from Egypt and from their slavery in that land, Ex. 3-14. He purchased them to Himself through the blood of the innocent Passover Lamb, Ex. 12:1-13. He owned them and He had the right to do as He pleased with them. He also delivered them from the influence of the false gods of Egypt.


The same reason stand today. God is the same God He has ever been, He is still “the Lord thy God.” He has the right to demand absolute obedience to His will and His Word because He owns us. He purchased us to Himself through the blood of His Son the Lord Jesus Christ. He owns us, and He possesses all rights to our lives.

•   “19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? 20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s,” 1 Cor. 6:19-20.

•   “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works,” Titus 2:14.


He has also delivered us from the influence of the false gods of this world. Ill. “Howbeit then, when ye knew not God, ye did service unto them which by nature are no gods,” Gal. 4:8.


One more quick thought here, when the Lord says, “I am the Lord thy God,” that phrase is in the second person singular. That statement speaks of God as being in a personal relationship with each and every one of His redeemed people. He is “the Lord thy God.” If that is true, we must never allow anything to come before Him and become a god in our lives.


  I.  A Divine Requirement

 II.  A Divine Right



The whole point I have been trying to get to today is this: when we maintain the spirit of this first commandment, we will not break the other nine. When the first commandment is the controlling force of our daily lives, our primary goal in life will be to glorify God with our lives.


Jesus Christ simplified and condensed this thought and made it even simpler to grasp. Ill. Matthew 22:37-40.

“36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”


When we love the Lord with all our heart and being, there will be no danger of our having any other god before Him. When He is first in our love, our life, and our affections, the spirit of the Law will be lived out in every thought and action of our lives.


Israel failed to to keep this commandment and they went after other gods. As a result, they were chastened and judged by God every time. The same will happen in our lives when we allow other loves to take His place in our hearts. (Ill. Heb. 12:5-12.)


When we allow this first commandment to become the overriding reality of our hearts, we will find that all the other commandments fall at its feet. For instance:

•   The second commandment is about worship, v. 4. When we love the Lord supremely, we will worship Him correctly!

•   The third commandment is about honoring God’s name, v. 7. When we love Him as we should, we will never do anything that will bring dishonor to His name!

•   The fourth commandment is about honoring God’s right to control even the daily events of our lives, v. 8-10. When He is the primary love of our hearts, we rest because He rested, and we will worship Him in all of life because He demands it.

•   The fifth commandment is about respecting authority, v. 12. When God holds the proper place in our hearts, we will honor the authorities God has placed over us in this life.

•   The sixth commandment is about the sanctity of human life, v. 13. When God is first in our lives, we will love others like He loves them and we will have no room for hatred or murder in our hearts.

•   The seventh commandment is the sanctity of the marriage relationship, v. 14. When God is first in our hearts, we will not use our bodies in a way that dishonors Him or our spouse. When God is first in our affections, sexual sin will not be a problem.

•   The eighth commandment is about the sanctity of the property of others, v. 15. When God is first, we will not take that which belongs to another..

•   The ninth commandment is about the sanctity of truth, v. 16. When God is first, we will be like Him and since He is a God who cannot lie, we will also be marked by the truth.

•   The tenth commandment is about contentment, v. 17. When God is first in our hearts, we will be content with the things He brings into our lives, and we will not seek look upon the blessings of others with jealous and lust.


When God is demoted in our hearts, and we love other things and other people more than Him, we set those things up as gods in our lives. When we do, we are in violation of the first commandment and we stand guilty before the Lord. When I allow anything to take His place as number one, I have essentially set myself up as god, and not only am I not qualified for the job, I have stolen glory from God. I am in sin!


This commandment comes before the others, because they all flow from this one. Everything must flow from God or it will fail. Everything must flow from God, or it will end in sin. Everything must flow from God, or He will not be able to bless it. Here is how Jesus said it: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you,” Matt. 6:33.


It is not stretch of the Scripture to say that if I can love the Lord before all, above all and in spite of all, I will have no problem living for Him. The problem with sin is always a problem in the heart. It is always a problem of love. When I break the Lord’s commandments, it is because I love myself more than I love Him.


Conc: Many years ago, on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, there was a painting by Norman Rockwell showing a woman buying her Thanksgiving turkey. The turkey is lying on the scales and the butcher is standing back of the counter, apron pulled tight over his fat stomach, a pencil tucked behind his ear. The customer, a lovely lady of about sixty, is watching the weighing-in. Each of them has a pleased look as if each knows a secret joke. There’s nothing unusual about a butcher and a customer watching as a turkey is being weighed, but the expression on their faces indicates that something unusual is going on. Norman Rockwell lets us in on the joke by showing us their hands. The butcher is pushing down on the scales with a big fat thumb. The woman is pushing up on them with a dainty forefinger. Neither is aware of what the other is doing.


Cecil Myers, who reminds us of that painting, says, “Both the butcher and the lovely lady would resent being called thieves. The lovely lady would never rob a bank or steal a car. The butcher would be indignant if anyone accused him of stealing and if a customer gave him a bad check, he would call the police, but neither saw anything wrong with a little deception that would make a few cents for one or save a few cents for the other.”[1]


That painting by Rockwell paints a vivid picture of how we try to live. Many people I’ve by trying to manipulate life to work it to their advantage. That’s what the Ten Commandments are all about. They remind us that there are eternal laws in the universe by which we must live if life is going to come out God’s way.


We can worship any god we please. We can serve self. We can serve sin. We can serve pleasure. We can serve greed. We can serve the god of false religion. But, if we are going to live lives that are blessed by God, then there must “be no other gods before” Him. He must be first, because He will not be second. He must be first, because He will bless those who allow others gods to come before Him.


What has the Lord revealed about your own heart today?

•   Has He shown you that there is some other god that had taken His place? Today would be a good day to get your spiritual priorities in order.

•   Has He shown you that you are lost? Today would be a great day to come to Jesus Christ for salvation.

•   Has He shown you that you have made a god out of the law, and that you have been trying to reach Him through obedience to rules? Today would be a good time to take off that yoke of bondage and rest fully in the finished work of Jesus Christ.


[1] Dunnam, M., & Ogilvie, L. J. (1987). Vol. 2: The Preacher's Commentary Series, Volume 2 : Exodus. Formerly The Communicator's Commentary. The Preacher's Commentary series (234). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Inc.

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