The 1st: “No other gods before Me”


Sermon Text: Exodus 20:3
Sermon Series: “The Ten Commandments” (#2)

Watch Sermon Video:

Main Points:
I. Relationship, relationship, relationship!
II. In Jesus alone can we love God

Today, we’ll look into the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Why do you think this is listed as the first of the Ten Commandments? You’ll see why in today’s message. Why does God demand His people to trust Him alone? You’ll hear why this morning. Why does the Lord put all other gods together and dismiss them? You’ll find a clear reason for that today.

Most of all, what is the ultimate message of the First Commandment for Christians like you and me? That’s the final answer you’ll grasp today and give thanks to your heavenly Father. So, I’d like you to pay attention and grab every word you hear so that you may rejoice in the love of God the Father and the grace of Jesus the Son and our Saviour.

Firstly, I want you to know that this Commandment talks to us about ‘relationship, relationship, relationship.’ Real estate professionals say ‘location, location, location,’ meaning that the location of a property is its most outstanding feature, and all others are secondary importance. Likewise, ‘relationship’ is the most important feature of this Commandment, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”

I said ‘relationship’ three times with a reason. This Commandment implies three relationships – namely, Christians’ relationship with God, God’s relationship with other gods, and our relationship with other gods. Let’s briefly think about each of these relationships.

Firstly, our relationship with God.
As you know well, God is the Creator and we’re His creatures. Not just creatures, but His children chosen according to His good and righteous plan, and called and brought into His family through washing of our sins with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. So, our relationship with God is of Father and children.

If anyone is not sure whether he is saved or not, whether she is in this relationship of heavenly Father and His eternally blessed child, there’s an easy way to find out. Listen to Jesus the Son of God and only Saviour and Lord of the world as recorded in Jn. 6:44, “No one can come to Me unless the Father … draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” He means that the person who comes to Jesus and believes in Him is saved. Hear Him explaining this in v. 47 of the same chapter, Jn. 6, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” So, if anyone has come to Jesus and believes in Him, regards Him as his/her Saviour and Lord, that person is surely saved. This is reconfirmed in Rom. 10:10 in these words, “with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

With this reminder of our Father-children relationship with God, the First Commandment forbids us to neither disregard this relationship nor call any other ‘gods’ in the same way we address the God of the Bible. He explains in Isa. 1:3 how serious sin it is for God’s children to forget, discard or deny their relationship with their only true Father in heaven. Listen to God who describes the evil of His people Israel – it’s from Isa. 1:3, “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, My people do not understand.”

By this Command, He speaks to us, His children, to remember, first of all, that we’re His and He is our Father. He created us, raised us, saved us from sin and death, and He upholds us in His gracious arms. Our God speaks, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” meaning, ‘you shall not call anyone Father because I am your one and only Father.’

The second relationship this Commandment implies is that of God with ‘other gods.’
In a word, this is a relationship between the God who is real and others who are worthless idols. About this, the psalmist says in Ps. 96:5, “all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.” This word ‘idol’ used in the Bible can be rendered as ‘vain, insignificant or futile’ thing. So, the relationship between God and other gods is like the contrast between reality and vain imagination. One is real and living while the others are non-existent, shadows of vanity.

The Lord God proves this in many places in the Bible, such as in Isa. 43:10 and 11 in these words: “Before Me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after Me. I, I am the LORD, and besides Me there is no saviour.” Again, in Isa. 44:6, God emphasises who He is, “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts, I am the first and I am the last; besides Me there is no god.” Finally, Jer. 10:10-11 sum up and say, “the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. At His wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure His indignation. Thus shall you say to [all of the world]: ‘The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.’

No matter how much authority and power the idols claim to have, only vanity do they hold because they’re the void. It is perfectly reasonable, therefore, to have no other gods before the true and living God of the heavens and the earth!

The third relationship the First Commandment implies is our relationship with ‘other gods.’
Simply put, this relationship begins from man’s invention. Human beings – we ourselves – start this and develop it as a relationship. Because there’s no such beings as ‘gods’ in reality, they’re ‘idols’ created by man’s proud, self-centred heart according to his greed for power and control. All in the human race desire to become ‘gods,’ and such aspiration creates idols. As this First Commandment specifies, it’s ‘you’ of the humanity who ‘shall not have these idols’ before the true God. We, the fallen humanity, create them and establish a relationship with idols. So, God says, ‘Stop it’!

In this way, the First Commandment urges us to remember our family relationship with our true and eternal heavenly Father. He alone is the Father and we His saved and blessed children. This is why we are to neither invent any idols nor bring them into our relationship with our true God and Father.

Then, what is the fundamental message this Commandment speaks to us? In other words, what does this Command require of us? It is to ‘remember and remain in this relationship with our Father,’ isn’t it?

But, the question is – ‘Can you and I meet this requirement?’ Can any of us be always faithful to this command? Can any believer in the world keep his eyes and heart away from idols, false gods, throughout his life? No! The reality is that, although we’re justified and become holier daily, we constantly swing between pleasing our heavenly Father and indulging false gods of the world.

We hesitate to give full allegiance to the Father in search of pleasures of Mammon, that is, money or wealth of the world. We hear blasphemous words, expressions and images from all directions, but we often, if not always, remain silent and do little about it. We seldom pray for the advancement of God’s kingdom, rarely seeking God’s will for our families, church or the society we live in. Instead of being courageous for the name of the Lord Jesus, we often fear for any disturbance to our present life and its comfort. Moreover, most of us would like to stay in this world, if possible, than to leave here and join the saints above. Many believers would like to see Jesus’ return, if possible, many years later than in a few days’ time, let alone at this very moment, because we regard various things of the world more important than trusting and following God! This is evidence of our inability to be faithful to even the very first one of the Ten Commandments.

Surely, this troubles your heart. ‘Oh, no! I’m doomed because I can’t keep what this Command requires!’ Is this what comes to your mind? Do you say to yourself, ‘Dear me, I’m hopeless! If I can’t keep this, how could I be sure of God’s favour on me?’?

If you realise your hopelessness in terms of keeping this divine imperative, don’t be sad, don’t be alarmed, because you’re on the right track, seeing the intended objective of the First Commandment. It is originally intended to give you the sense of hopelessness so that you could seek help, search for a right helper. And guess what this helper might be. Yes, it’s Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Saviour and Lord! He alone can save us from our hopelessness; He alone can enable you and me to remain always faithful to this command and have joy in our one and eternal Father!

Jesus came to do this. Saving us from our hopelessness was the purpose of His coming to us. Listen to Him who says this in Jn. 6:38 and following: “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” He fulfilled all the requirements and demands of the law on our behalf. And, though sinless, He gave Himself up on the cross to give His life to us who believe and adorn us with His righteousness.

This is the ultimate message and purpose of the First Commandment – it guides you and me and all God’s elect to Jesus Christ, and urges us all to trust and depend on Him alone as our Saviour!

So, this Commandment that begins the Decalogue is more than relevant to us of the NT Church as well as those of the OT Israel. It leads us to Christ as it draws us to see clearly who we are as sinners. Not only that, but also does this Commandment urge us to trust and commit our all to Jesus! And, through Him alone may we relish the blessings of our relationship with the heavenly Father!

Therefore, no longer does this Command, “You shall have no other gods before Me,” any burden to any of us who believes in Jesus, but a joyful invitation to the Lord and sure reminder of our blessed relationship with Him and our gracious heavenly Father! ***

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