In Bible Study at my church, we are studying the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. Last night we looked at the first three commandments. For me, the study was very good and enlightening. God highlighted many points last night that I wanted to come home and study again. I want to share what God brought out to me.
Some say the ten commandments are not relevant to us today. I so disagree because God's Word is unchanging and eternal. Psalm 119:89 says, "For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven." Also, each commandment deals with the temptations which are common to man, even today.
It was three months after God had delivered the children of Israel out of Egypt, when they came to the Desert of Sinai and camped there beside the mountain. This was the place where Moses met God at the burning bush. This was also the beginning of the fulfillment of what God said in Exodus 3:12: “this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
I had always thought of the Desert of Sinai as a sandy dry place, but the Hebrew word for desert in Exodus 19 is “midbarn” which means: pasture, and large tracts of uninhabited land. A pasture is a grazing land for livestock, which brought to mind the love and guidance of God as brought out in Psalm 23. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (2) He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
The First Commandment
(Verse 1) “And God spoke all these words, saying:”
Normally God spoke to the people through His prophets, so my first question last night was, is God speaking directly to the people, or through Moses to them? I went to Exodus Chapter 19 and found that God did come down. He instructed Moses in 19:21-24 to tell the people to wash their clothes and consecrate themselves, and to stay off the mountain, emphasizing the holiness of God.
Then, the next day when the people were ready, God himself speaks to the people (20:1 "God Spoke"). So, right off, we can see that God wanted an intimate relationship with the people of Israel because He came down and spoke directly to them. As they are listening, they see the cloud and the storm and become so frightened that they asked Moses to speak to God for them, lest they die (Exodus 20:18-19).
(Verse 2-3) “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."
This verse declares God's power and salvation. In fact, the book of Exodus is not just about telling of Israel’s history, but also predicting how God will save His people again when He sends Jesus Christ to rescue the world. The Passover in Exodus Chapter 12 points to the sacrificial death of Christ on the Cross. The applying of the blood of a sacrificial lamb to the door posts (exodus 12:6-7) was sufficient protection against judgment of God, thus being washed by and covered in the blood of Christ is sufficient for salvation (1 John 1:7).
This verse also shows who and what the proper object of our worship should be--the only true God is to be worshiped. “You shall have no other gods before Me.” It was brought out by Pastor Wilbert that in that day they had all sorts of gods. They worshiped cows, the moon, water and so on. They had a god for every need. This made me think of Ecclesiastes 3:11 which says, "God has set eternity in the human heart." We are created to worship God and until we do, we try to fill the void with things such alcohol, drugs, food, people, possessions, success, money, status, ministry or whatever. None of which fills that vacuum in our heart that longs for God. Think about King Solomon. I can’t even fathom he really was. He wrote in Ecclesiastes 2:10, "And whatever my eyes desired, I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure." King Solomon had it all according to man’s standard (unlimited resources, power and respect, women and whatever his money could buy), yet he was not happy. All that proved to be meaningless, he said (Ecclesiastes 2:10-11).
Solomon ended up hating life. It became grievous to him. He realized he could not take anything he acquired with him when he left the earth. In verse 26 he says, “For God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy to a man who is good in His sight; but to the sinner He gives the work of gathering and collecting, that he may give to him who is good before God.” We are no different from Solomon. When we try to make things fill the void we sense inside, we end up hating the things we poured all our hopes into, because they fall short of truly satisfying us. One brother said last night that these false gods can sneak up on you. You can be doing something you think is good, and before you know it, you are chasing it, rather than God.
So, when God says, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” He is not saying that He wants to be first amongst all other gods. He's not saying that you can have as many other gods as you want as long He is first. He means He is the only true God. He is the only God who ought to be worshiped. He is the God who saves. And so, the first commandment deals with the “who” we should worship, as Pastor Demona pointed out.
The Second Commandment
(Verse 4-6) “(4) You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; (5) you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, (6) but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
There are a couple of things that were pointed out to me last night about this commandment. First is, I was taught that this commandment meant that we could not have pictures or any kind of representation of God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or Angels. But as God opened this commandment, I saw that we are not to make any representations of God or make any image with the intention to worship it. As said I earlier, the people had many gods that they previously worshiped. God basically said no more worshiping false idols. No idolatry. Idolatry is where something or someone - visible or invisible, is worshiped or placed before God.
Whatever your mind can conjure or whatever your eye sees (whether it be in heaven above, the earth beneath, or the water under the earth) it is not to be made into an object of worship. Verse 5 makes this point clear: “You shall not bow down to them or serve them.” God cannot, and will not, be limited to an image that we can conjure up in our finite minds. In Deuteronomy 4:12 Moses wrote, “And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice” indicating that the worship of God is to be word based and not image based. God makes Himself known to us through His written Word, and through Jesus Christ, who is the Word. Jesus said, “Whoever has seen Me, has seen the Father.”
The second point that stood out to me was “Visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me.” Some in Deliverance Ministries teach about generational curses based on this verse. A generational curse is the belief that curses are passed down from one generation to another due to an ancestor’s rebellion against God. For instance, if there is divorce, incest, poverty, anger, or other ungodly patterns in your ancestry, and you have a problem, it is believed that you are under a generational curse. Funny thing is these patterns are in every person's ancestry from the first family (Adam and Eve).
This doctrine was very popular years ago when I was a baby Christian. I was a single mom raising my children on a very limited salary. I was told the reason I struggled was because I was under generational curses. I went through several so-called deliverances to break the curses and free me of the demons that supposedly possessed me with no change until God told me to put the word in your mouth. I truly thank God for His Word of Truth that makes us free indeed! Every individual is responsible for their own choices (Jeremiah 31:29-30). “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12). The standard that God uses to determine who is saved and who isn’t is faith in Jesus Christ.
The Third Commandment
(Verse 7) “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.”
God opened so much regarding this commandment. There are at least three ways this command is commonly disobeyed. I’m not going to get specific here, or nitpick because there are many ways God’s name is taken in vain today.
The part that says God will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain had me praying and repenting and asking the Holy Spirit to help me to break any habit I have acquired of taking God’s name in vain. It's a good idea to keep our mind and mouth before the Lord God. Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 12, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words, you will Be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” -- Matthew Chapter 12:36-37
We will finish up our study of the Ten Commandments next Wednesday night. Come back next week to see the conclusion.
What are your thoughts on the first three commandments?