1. And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:1-3)
The first thing we want to take note of in this passage is the phrase "the Lord thy God". God identified himself as the omnipotent, omniscient, divine God: the Lord, or Yahweh. This encompasses everything that God is, says, and does; His total supremity over all of His creation. And yet, He also identified Himself as "thy God", a personal God who is involved in the lives of His children. He is big enough to be the all-powerful, all-knowing Divine Creator of all the world and everything in it, while at the same time being small enough to be a personal God, who cares about each individual's needs.
Many people mistakenly think that God is too far above them, too majestic, too holy, to be concerned with their problems, or to love and care about them as individuals. Nothing could be farther from the truth! The Bible says that He knows us each and every one, to such a degree that He has even numbered the hairs on our heads! (see Matt. 10:30) How awesome is that! There is no problem in our lives that is ever too big or too little for God to be concerned about.
God then reminded the people of all that He had done for them: things so powerful that they could have only been accomplished by the Almighty God himself. He led them out of Egypt, and out of bondage. This was done through awesome, incredible, miraculous displays of His supreme power and might; things that no other being could possibly even attempt. These things proved both His omnipotence and His love for His chosen people.
Because God is the Almighty, He could have demanded to be worshiped. He could have exerted His sovereign authority to force people to worship Him. But God doesn't want to be worshiped merely out of fear, or because He demands it. That kind of worship wouldn't truly be worship, would it? Instead, God wants to be worshiped out of love. He wants us to know His perfect and holy love for us; and then we will worship Him out of love and respect. We will worship Him because He alone is the divine Creator, the Lord, the Almighty Jehovah God, and He alone is worthy of our worship.
That is the reason the very first commandment is given: because the Lord is the only true God. Therefore, He is the only One to be worshiped. This very first commandment provides the motivation for keeping all the other commandments. If we love God, we will be committed to keeping all of His laws. It doesn't do a bit of good to keep all the others if our basic relationship with God isn't right!
Whatever we worship becomes our god. Some people worship money, and the luxurious lifestyle it can buy. Money becomes their god. In fact, the Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil! (see I Tim. 6:10) Many other things can also become gods if we give them a higher priority in our life than the one Almighty God. Things like jobs, fame, certain sports or entertainments----anything that we worship becomes a god to us, and breaks this very first commandment.
Superstition is also a violation of this first commandment. If you believe in a superstition, you are believing that God is not powerful enough to protect you from evil forces that would do you harm. You are placing your faith in that superstition, rather than in God.
Also, there are those who say this means we can have other gods, as long as we put God first. No way! That is not what it says at all! It means that no other gods exist; God is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end; there is no other god before Him or after Him, and He alone is to be worshiped.
2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or 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. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.
The second commandment is given that we might not worhip or trust in something made by human hands, whether it is a picture, a statue, or any other kind of image. It tells us that there is nothing in heaven, in the earth, or in the waters of the earth, that can ever begin to adequately depict His glory, majesty, and holiness. Our natural tendency is to believe what we see, but we have to always guard against some man-made image being used to represent our God. He is so much more than anything we could ever depict with any image or icon.
The Egyptians and other pagans worshiped birds, fish, and animals, believing that gods dwelt within these things. This commandment was also given to prohibit the worship of such things. While we may scoff at the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, there are some New Age religions today that teach such heresies, as well. However, this commandment is very clear: We are to worship the Creator, not the creation!
God has revealed Himself to all mankind through His Holy Bible, not through any objects that man's hands have made. God is a Spirit; How can any inanimate object represent a spirit? The Bible says we are to worship Him "in spirit and in truth." ( John 4:24)
Many persons pray using a crucifix, an icon showing Jesus Christ on the cross. How sad that is! Jesus is not on the cross--- He arose! Why would we ever want to pray to an image of Him on the cross? Many religions rely on statues and pictures to depict Jesus (and others). However, these statues and icons should not be worshiped; they cannot possibly represent the Almighty God, or His only begotten Son, adequately.
God is so much greater than all of His own creation; He is surely greater than any creation made by man!
The first commandment relates to our internal worship; our state of mind, or the state of our heart. The second one relates to our external worship, or HOW we worship. The third commandment tells us how we are to reverence God's name:
3. Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His name in vain. (Ex. 20:7)
This is a command to not take His name lightly, but instead to always hold it in the highest regard and not misuse it. If we misuse or abuse His holy name, we are dishonoring the Almighty God, and showing our disrespect of all that He is and all that He has done. We are holding God in contempt if we abuse His name. And by our example, we are teaching others to hold Him in contempt, as well.
In the Old Testament, a person's name told a lot about that person; it summed up the very essence of his being. The Bible tells us a good name is greatly to be desired; it should be chosen over riches.(Prov. 22:1) God's name is pure and holy and perfect, just as He is pure and holy and perfect; therefore we must be extremely careful in how we use His name.
Many persons use the names of God or His Son as common swear words. How horrendous it is to use the precious name of the Divine Creator as a curse word! Others take His name lightly by using it carelessly, as an exclamation of surprise, or excitement. Anytime we use God's holy name irreverently in any manner, we are guilty of using His name in vain. The Bible says that such persons will not be held guiltless. That is a powerful warning to be careful; the Bible says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb. 10:31)
We also take God's name lightly if we call ourselves Christians, but live in such a way that it brings dishonor to His name. If we do not live up to all that His name represents, we are showing our own disrespect and teaching others to hold His name in contempt, as well. God will not hold any blameless who dishonor His holy name in any manner.
4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabboth day, and hallowed it.(Exodus 20:8-11)
We also show our respect to God and honor Him when we follow the principle of the fourth commandment. Often, our daily lives become so frantic that we can't seem to find quiet time alone with God, to worship Him and be spiritually refreshed and renewed. By taking a day of rest from our usually busy routine, we can pause and reflect on our Creator and our relationship with Him.
Our time belongs to God, and by dedicating one day of the week to the Lord we are giving back to Him what is rightfully His. We are acknowledging that our time--- and our lives--- are truly His. This honors God, and shows others that He is the priority in our busy lives.
The sabboth day is blessed by the Lord and made holy; mankind is blessed by it, and in it. It is not to be just as any other day, but set apart from the rest of the week. However, Jesus allowed works of necessity, charity, and religious devotion on the sabboth day; for the
sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath. (Mark 2:27)
These first four commandments deal with our relationship with our heavenly Father. In our next lesson, we will look at the rest of the commandments, which deal with our relationship to others. We can never have a truly right relationship with others if we don't first have a right relationship with the Almighty God.