Exodus 20:3
These two commandments seem to be bound together naturally by the reason given in ver. 5. There Jehovah says, "I am a jealous God;" obviously such a feeling of jealousy applies with as much force to the worship of other gods as to the making of graven images. Consider -

I. THE POSSIBLE TRANSGRESSION HERE INDICATED. The having of other gods than Jehovah, and the representation of them by images of created things. The declaration here is not against more gods than one. Such a declaration would have been incomprehensible to the Israelite at this time, even to Moses himself. The utter emptiness of all idolatry, the non-existence, except as the imagination of a superstitious and darkened mind, of any other Deity than Jehovah was a truth not yet appreciable by those to whom Jehovah spoke. He had to take his people as they stood, believers in the existence and power of other gods, and proclaim to them with all the impressiveness that came from the demonstrations of Sinai, that none of these gods was to be in the smallest degree recognised. An idolater in the midst of his idolatries, and not yet laid hold of by Jehovah's hand, might as well have a thousand gods as one. Jehovah speaks here to those who are already bound to himself. Have they not made their promise? Did not the people answer and say, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do"? It was the right and dutiful course of every Israelite to worship him, serve him, and depend upon him. The great and pressing peril was that, side by side with Jehovah, the people should try to put other gods. And to have other gods meant, practically, to have images of them. How necessary and appropriate these two commandments were to come at this particular time and in this particular order, is seen when we consider the image-making into which Israel fell during the seclusion of Moses in the mount. This seems to have been the accordant act of the whole people; Aaron, who was soon to be the chief official in Jehovah's ritual, being the eager instrument to gratify their desires. Nor was this a mere passing danger to the Israelites, a something which in due time they would outgrow. The peril lies deep in the infirmities of human nature. Those whom Jehovah has brought in any measure to himself, need to be reminded that he is master. Jesus has put the thing as plain as it can be put, "No man can serve two masters." We canner serve God and Mammon. Dependence on something else than God, even though there be nothing of religious form in the dependence, is a peril into which we are all liable to come. It is hard to fight - harder than we imagine till we are fairly put to the struggle - against the allurements of the seen and temporal. Even when we admit that there is an invisible God whose claims are supreme, and whose gifts, present and future, are beyond anything that the seen in its pride and beauty can afford - even then we have the utmost difficulty in carrying our admission into practice.

II. CONSIDER IN PARTICULAR HOW THE COMMANDMENT AGAINST IMAGE-WORSHIP MAY APPLY TO US. Those who go in the way of right worship are in the way to a profitable knowledge of God. They come to be recognised by him, accepted by him, and blessed by him. Having graven images inevitably led away from Jehovah. There was no possibility of keeping the first commandment, even in the least degree, if the second even in the least degree was broken. Certainly we are under no temptation to make images, but it comes to the same thing if we have images ready made. It is conceivable that the day may come when not an image shall be left in the world, except on museum shelves, and the trade of Demetrius thus come to an end. But what of that? The change may simply be one of form. Why men should first have made images and called them gods is an impenetrable mystery. We cannot but wonder who was the first man to make an image and why he made it. But that image-making, once established, should continue and return into practice again and again in spite of all attempts to destroy it, is easy enough to understand. Habit, tradition, training, will account for everything in this way. Yet the practice of image-worship, at all events in its grossest forms, can only exist together with dense intellectual darkness. When men begin to think and question as to the foundation of things, when they get away from their mother's knee, then the simple faith in what they have been taught deserts them. There is a frequent and natural enough lamentation that those who have been taught concerning Christ in childhood, oftentimes in manhood depart from him by the way of scepticism, into utter disbelief and denial. Yet we must remember that it is exactly by this kind of process thousands in still image-worshipping lands have broken away from their image-worship. It has not satisfied the awakened and expanding intellect. There is this difference, however, that whereas the awakened intellect forsaking Christ may come back to him, and indeed actually does so oftener than we think, the awakened intellect forsaking image-worship cannot go back to it. But to something as a dependent creature he must go. A man leaving his old idolatries and not finding Christ, must needs turn to some new idolatry, none the less real as an idolatry, none the less injurious to his best interests because the image-form is absent. We must not make to ourselves anything whatever to take the place of God, intercept the sight of him, or deaden his voice. We may contradict the spirit of the second commandment, in doing things which we think profitable to the religious life and glorifying to God. A great deal that is reckoned beneficial and even indispensable in the Church of Christ, that has grown with its growth and strengthened with its strength, might come to look very questionable, if only the spirit of this commandment were exactly appreciated. How many splendid buildings, how many triumphs of the architect, how many combined results of many arts would then be utterly swept away! Men delude themselves with the notion that these things bring them nearer to God, whereas they simply take his place. In worshipping him we should regard with the utmost jealousy all mere indulgence of the senses and even of the intellect.

III. THE DIVINE REASON GIVEN FOR ATTENDING TO THESE COMMANDMENTS, Many reasons might have been given, as for instance, the vanity of graven images, their uselessness in the hour of need, the degradation in which they involved the worshippers. But God brings forward a reason which needed to be brought forward, and put in the very front place, where human thought might continually be directed to it. Polytheism and image-worship are indeed degrading and mischievous to man - but what is of far greater moment, they are also dishonouring to the glory of Deity. Those who were sliding away into the service of other gods were showing that they had no truly reverent appreciation of Jehovah; and in order to intimate the severity of his requirements with respect to exclusive and devoted service, Jehovah speaks of himself as possessing a feeling which, when found among men is like a devouring and unquenchable fire. A jealous man does well to be jealous, if he has sufficient ground for the feeling at all, if the affection, service, and sympathies that should be reserved for him are turned elsewhere. Think then of such a feeling, exalted into the pure intensity of a holy anger and bursting into action from God himself, and then you have the measure of his wrath with those who think that the glory of the incorruptible God can be changed into an image made like to corruptible man. He makes his jealousy apparent in unquestionable, deeply penetrating action. It is the action of the great I AM, who controls thousands of generations. God does, as a matter of fact, visit the iniquities of the fathers on the children, and the magnitude of what he does is accounted for by the intensity of his feelings with respect to those who give his glory to another. His almighty hand comes down with a blow the afflictive energies of which cannot be exhausted in one or even two generations. Say not that there is something unjust about this. That each generation must take something in the way of suffering from preceding generations is a fact only too plain, altogether apart from the Scriptures. The mercy of God is that he here gives us something in explanation of the fact, and of how to distinguish its working and at last destroy it. To serve idols, to depend upon anything else than God, anything less than him, anything more easily reached and more easily satisfied - this, when stripped of all disguise, amounts to hating God. And a man living in this way is preparing, not only punishments for himself, but miseries for those who come after him. Many times we have advice given us to think of posterity. Depend upon it, he thinks most of posterity who serves the will of God most humbly and lovingly, with the utmost concentration and assiduity, in his own generation. Note here also the unmistakable revelation of God's merciful disposition. He visits iniquity to the third and fourth generation of them that hate him. But those who love him are blessed to thousands of generations. Not that the blessing will be actually operative, for, alas, there may come in many things to hinder. But the expressed disposition of God remains. If the posterity of the faithful to God are unblessed, it is because they themselves are utterly careless as to the peculiar privileges into which they have been introduced. - Y.







Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.
I. This Commandment DOES NOT TELL THE JEWS THAT THE GODS WORSHIPPED BY OTHER NATIONS HAVE NO EXISTENCE; it tells him that he must offer them no homage, and that from him they must receive no recognition of their authority and power. The Jew must serve Jehovah, and Jehovah alone. This was the truest method of securing the ultimate triumph of monotheism. A religious dogma, true or false, perishes if it is not rooted in the religious affections and sustained by religious observances. But although the First Commandment does not declare that there is one God, the whole system of Judaism rests on that sublime truth, and what the Jews had witnessed in Egypt and since their escape from slavery must have done more to destroy their reverence for the gods of their old masters than could have been effected by any dogmatic declaration that the gods of the nations were idols.

II. THE FIRST COMMANDMENT MAY APPEAR TO HAVE NO DIRECT PRACTICAL VALUE FOR OURSELVES. It would be a perversion of its obvious intention to denounce covetousness, social ambition, or excessive love of children. These are not the sins which this Commandment was meant to forbid. It must be admitted that there is no reason why God should say to any of us, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." If He were to speak to many of us, it would be necessary to condemn us for having no god at all. The appalling truth is, that many of us have sunk into atheism. We all shrink from contact with God. And yet He loves us. But even His love would be unavailing if He did not inspire those who are filled with shame and sorrow by the discovery of their estrangement from Him, with a new and supernatural life.

(R. W. Dale, D. D.)

I. ALL WANT OF A POSITIVE ALLEGIANCE TO JEHOVAH IS A POSITIVE ALLEGIANCE TO ANOTHER ELOHIM OR SUPREME GOD. A self-reliant man, in the strict sense of the word, never yet existed. Man's nature is such that he looks without him for support, as the ivy feels for the tree or the wall. If he has not the true and living God as his stay, then he is an idolater.

II. ALL ALLEGIANCE TO GOD THAT DOES NOT RECOGNIZE HIM AS HE HAS REVEALED HIMSELF IS ALLEGIANCE TO A FALSE GOD. So a view of God as careless of personal holiness in His creatures, or as too exalted to notice all their minute acts and thoughts, or as tyrannical and arbitrary in His dealings with them, or as appeasable by self-denials and penances, is a view of a false god, and not a view of Jehovah, the only living and true God. And the man who, despising or neglecting the Holy Scriptures, and trusting to his reason or his dreams, or to nature, or to nothing, holds such a god before his mind, is an idolater; he has put another Elohim before Jehovah Elohim. Because the thought of the Divine Being which he thus introduces into his heart becomes the substitute for the true motion that should guide his life, he puts the helm into as false hands as if he had delivered it to Mammon. Several subordinate thoughts naturally follow.

1. The help of the true God, Jehovah Jesus, should be sought by us to overthrow our false gods. By that very act we should offer rightful allegiance, and, in so doing, consecrate our life to the rightful service of Him who is our rightful King.

2. How watchful we should be in this earth, where the false gods are not only plenty, but exactly after the fashion of our own depraved hearts! It was said of Athens that at each corner there was a new god, and some have even said that in population Athens had more gods than men. It is so with our unseen gods of the unregenerate heart. They abound with different names and different characters, according to the tastes and characters of different men.

3. The Word of God ought to be in our hands all the while. This is the only offensive weapon against our false gods.

(H. Crosby, D. D.)

This Commandment, as all the rest, hath a positive part requiring something, and a negative part prohibiting something.

I. We shall, in the first place, speak to WHAT IS REQUIRED here, and we take it up in these three things.

1. And first, it requireth the right knowledge of God; for there can be no true worship given to Him, there can be no right thought or conception of Him, or faith in Him, till He be known.

2. It requireth from us a suitable acknowledging of God in all these His properties. As —

(1)That He be highly esteemed above all

(2)Loved.

(3)Feared.

(4)Believed and trusted in.

(5)Hoped in.

(6)Adored.

(7)Honoured.

(8)Served and obeyed. And so —

(9)He must be the supreme end in all our actions that should mainly be aimed at by us.

3. It requireth such duties as result from His excellency, and our acknowledging Him to be such a one. As —

(1)Dependence upon Him.

(2)Submission to Him, and patience under cross dispensations from Him.

(3)Faith resting on Him.

(4)Prayers put up to Him.

(5)Repentance for wronging Him.

(6)Communion, and a constant walking with Him.

(7)Delighting in Him.

(8)Meditating on Him; and such other as necessarily may be inferred as duties incumbent on creatures in such a relation to such a God, whose excellency and worth calleth and inviteth men to all suitable duties.

4. Next, it is necessary that we add some advertisements to these generals.(1) That the Commandment requireth all these, and in the highest and most perfect degree.(2) That it not only requireth them in ourselves, but obligeth us to further them in all others, according to our places and callings.(3) That it requireth the diligent use of all means that may help and further us in these; as reading and meditation, study, etc.(4) That these things, which in some respect may be given to creatures, as love, fear, etc., yet, when they are required as duties to God, they are required in a far more imminent way.

II. In the next place, we should consider THE NEGATIVE PART of this Commandment, for the extent thereof will be best discerned by considering what is forbidden therein, and how it may be broken. This idolatry is either: —

1. Doctrinal, or idolatry in the judgment, when one professedly believeth such a thing besides God to have some divinity in it; as heathens do of their Mars and Jupiter; or —

2. Practical, when men believe no such thing, and will not own any such opinion, yet are guilty of the same thing, as covetous men, etc.

3. It may be distinguished into idolatry that hath something for its object, as the Egyptians worshipped beasts, and the Persians the sun or fire, and that which has nothing but men's imaginations for its object, as these who worship feigned gods; in which respect the apostle saith, "an idol is nothing" (1 Corinthians 8:4).

4. We would distinguish betwixt the objects of idolatry; and they are either such as are in themselves simply sinful, as devils, profane men; or they are such as are good in themselves, but abused and wronged, when they are made objects of idolatry, as angels, saints, sun, moon, etc.

5. Distinguish betwixt idolatry that is more gross and professed, and that which is more latent, subtle, and denied. This distinction is like that before mentioned, in opinion and practice, and much coincideth with it.

6. Distinguish betwixt heart-idolatry (Ezekiel 14.; Exodus 14:11, 12, and Exodus 16:2,3), and external idolatry. The former consisteth in an inward heart-respect to some idol, as this tumultuous people were enslaved to their ease and bellies in the last two fore-cited places; the other in some external idolatrous gesture or action.

(James Durham.)

First, there is the positive declaration of a personal God; and secondly, His claim to be worshipped as the one True and living God. The most obvious errors requiring our attention are four in number — Atheism, Polytheism, Pantheism, and Deism.

1. Except as a cloke for immorality and sinful indulgence, I am inclined to doubt the existence of Atheism, and the study of history confirms me in the doubt.

2. But what of the Polytheist, the worshipper, that is, of many gods; in this respect, at least, the very opposite to the last? It is not difficult to trace his origin. When time was young, men lived together in families, tribes, or small communities; beyond the circle of these they very rarely travelled. Before they were able to realize the idea of the oneness of the human race, each family would not unnaturally aim at being complete in itself; and as tending, especially to this, they would place themselves under the protection of some one particular god, and then gods multiplied, as a necessary consequence, upon the increase of people and subdivision of tribes. This was one cause. We might discover, without difficulty, others of a different nature. To take one instance, in times of ignorance, when the mind was unable to grasp the Infinite, men seized upon what was best in themselves, or what was noblest in nature, and deified this; and so at one time we find Earth, Air, Fire, and Water, receiving the homage of men; and at another we see temples arising to Faith, or Modesty, or Constancy, or Hope. But all this, whatever its origin, was openly denounced by the simple declaration standing at the head of the first table: "I am," etc.

3. Of the Pantheist I shall only speak briefly. The meaning of the term is: "one who believes that everything is God, and God is everything." He deifies all that is best in nature, especially the intellect or mind, and His Supreme Being is a combination of the united intelligences of the world. But if all that is intelligent, all that is best in created things, is God, then that which is best in myself is God, and demands my worship and adoration. And what is this but to give to the creature what belongs and is due to the Creator alone?

4. The Deist believes in a God, as his name implies, but does not believe that that God has ever revealed Himself to man; and this is to deny the Bible, to deny Christianity, to deny Christ. He holds that when the Supreme Being finished the creation of the world, He assigned to nature "Laws that should never be broken," and then withdrew Himself from the government of the universe. Again, besides the fact that the Deist will not allow to God any superintendence or control over the works of His hands, thereby cutting off from man his most consoling faith in an all-wise and merciful Providence, He casts him adrift on the wide ocean of life, with no compass to steer by, and no chart to preserve his vessel from shoals and rocks, and all the countless perils of the deep. If God has not revealed Himself to man, then what can he know of a future life, what of the immortality of his soul? And with this unknown, it matters not what be his life and conduct on earth, for death is the close of all things, and there is nothing but darkness beyond the grave!

(H. M. Luckock, D. D.)

Going after other gods is a snare of the spiritual life into which we are liable to drift before suspecting any danger, for it does not necessarily mean the pursuit of things evil in their nature, but of things, innocent enough perhaps in themselves, which, by impressing us with an exaggerated idea of their importance or blessing, absorb that devotion which we owe to God, and demand from us a service which is due to Him alone.

I. There is the God of PUBLIC OPINION. There is such a thing as healthy public opinion; but there are times when its tone becomes lowered, and a very imperfect standard of conduct is all that is needed to satisfy its requirements. It involves a moral effort to which many are unequal to retain, in its integrity, the sense of sinfulness attached to any course of conduct which God forbids when public opinion gives its sanction.

II. There is the god of PLEASURE. This is a deity which, when once installed in the heart of a man, is insatiable in its demands. Instead of remaining the handmaid of duty, it becomes its sworn foe; instead of being the solace and refreshment of toil, it harasses and interferes with our work. The man who is a slave to pleasure looks upon all work as a grievance more or less; to be shirked altogether, if possible, or to be got through as quickly as may be. His main interest in life is not centred in duty, but in amusement. But this exacting deity not only grudges every moment of our time which is not given up to its service, it grudges, too, every penny of our money which is not spent for its gratification.

III. There is the god of success. The dangers of the spiritual life attached to the worship of this god are very real. The man who worships success, who in his innermost heart values it more than anything else, and looks upon it as the one object to set before himself, by a natural law of his being, is prepared, if the need arises, to make any sacrifice for it, including even the incurring of God's displeasure. There is no more dangerous rival deity which we can admit into our hearts than success. It blinds us to all that is by the way. It makes us inconsiderate and unscrupulous in the struggle of life; and as the competition of life increases, and the chances of getting on become fewer, we are tempted to subordinate all higher considerations to the one idea of personal advancement. Another and by no means the least mischievous effect of putting too great store by success in any shape, is that it leads us to look to it for our sole encouragement and reward in the efforts both of spiritual and secular life. As "it is not in man to command success," it follows that those who make success their god can have nothing to fall back upon in the hour of failure.

(M. Tweddell, M. A.)

How shall we conceive of God? Who is He? What is His name? The First Commandment answers these questions. The language is local, but the meaning is universal.

I. THE MEANING OF THE FIRST COMMANDMENT FOR THE ANCIENT JEW.

II. THE MEANING OF THE FIRST COMMANDMENT FOR OURSELVES.

1. The Divine declaration.(1) The name "Jehovah." Jesus of Nazareth is Deity in exposition — the Word of God. See how the "I AM" of the burning bush reappears in the "I am" of the Nazarene (Matthew 18:20; Matthew 28:20; John 8:58; John 14:3; John 17:24; Revelation 1:8).(2) The Divine relation. Who is Jehovah's Israel in our day and land? It is the Church of the Living God (see Romans 2:28, 29; 1 Corinthians 12:27). If we really belong to Christ, truly loving Him and obeying Him and sharing His character, we are, in spite of all our diversities, one Christian personality; for in Christ Jesus there can be neither Jew nor Gentile, neither Greek nor Scythian, neither male nor female; for all in Christ are one, and Christ is all and in all.(3) The Divine deliverance. As it is the Church that is the true Israel, so it is Diabolus who is the true Pharaoh, and Sin which is the true Egypt, and Jesus who is the true Deliverer.

2. The Divine prohibition. We ourselves need this prohibition no less than did ancient Israel. For, although Christendom, theoretically speaking, is monotheistic, yet Christendom, practically speaking, is largely polytheistic. Recall, for example, the practical tritheism of many Trinitarians, conceiving the three Persons in the Trinity as three distinct Gods; or the practical dualism of many Christians, conceiving the Father as the God of wrath, and the Son as the God of love: or, again, conceiving the Creator as the God of nature, and the Redeemer as the God of Scripture. Behold in the Pantheon of our Christendom how many niches there are for various gods — the god of the deist, the god of the materialist, the god of the fatalist, the god of the sentimentalist, the god of the churchman, the god of the pantheist. CONCLUDING LESSONS:

1. Our indebtedness to the Jew for monotheism.

2. Jehovah is to be worshipped.

3. Jehovah alone is to be worshipped.

(G. D. Boardman.)

I. WHAT IS IT TO MAKE GOD TO BE A GOD TO US?

1. To acknowledge Him for a God. Deity is a jewel that belongs only to His crown.

2. To choose Him. An act of mature deliberation and self-dedication.

3. To enter into a solemn covenant with Him.

4. To give Him adoration.

(1)Reverence.

(2)Worship.

5. To fear Him. This fearing of God is(1) — To have God always in our eye, "I have set the Lord always before me"; "mine eyes are ever towards the Lord." He who fears God, imagines that whatever he is doing God looks on, and, as a Judge, weighs all his actions.(2) To fear God, is when we have such a holy awe of God upon our hearts that we dare not sin; "Stand in awe and sin not." It is a saying of Anselm, "If hell were on one side and sin on the other, I would rather leap into hell than willingly sin against my God."

6. To love Him. In the godly, fear and love kiss each other.

7. To obey Him.

II. THAT WE MUST HAVE NO OTHER GOD.

1. There is really no other God.

(1)There is but one First Cause.

(2)There is but one Omnipotent Power.

2. We must have no other God. This forbids —

(1)Serving a false God.

(2)Joining a false God with a true.

III. WHAT IS IT TO HAVE OTHER GODS BESIDES THE TRUE GOD

1. To trust in anything more than God.

(1)Riches.

(2)Arm of flesh.

(3)Wisdom.

(4)Civility.

(5)Grace.

2. To love anything more than God.

(1)Our estate.

(2)Our pleasures.

(3)Our belly.

(4)A child.If we love the jewel more than Him that gave it, God will take away the jewel, that our love may return Him again.Use 1. It reproves such as have other gods, and so renounce the true God.(1) Such as set up idols; "According to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah"; "Their altars are as heaps in the furrows of the field."(2) Such as seek to familiar spirits (see 2 Kings 1:6).Use 2. It sounds a retreat in our ears. Let it call us off from the idolizing any creature; and renouncing other gods, let us cleave to the true God and His service. If we go away from God, we know not where to mend ourselves.(1) It is honourable serving of the true God; it is more honour to serve God than to have kings serve us.(2) Serving the true God is delightful, "I will make them joyful in My house of prayer."(3) Serving the true God is beneficial; they have great gain here — the hidden manna, inward peace, and a great reward to come.(4) You have covenanted to serve the true Jehovah, renouncing all others. You cannot go back from God without the highest perjury.(5) None had ever cause to repent of cleaving to God and His service.

( T. Watson.)

I. FOUR THINGS ARE HERE REQUIRED.

1. That we must have a God — against atheism.

2. That we must have the Lord Jehovah for our God — which forbids idolatry.

3. That we must have the only true God the Lord Jehovah alone for our God.

4. It requires that all these services and acts of worship, which we tender unto the true and only God, be performed with sincerity and true devotion. This is implied in that expression "before Me," or in My sight. And this forbids both profaneness on the one hand and hypocrisy on the other.

II. IT FORBIDS US FOUR THINGS.

1. Atheism, or the belief and acknowledgment of no God.

2. Ignorance of the true God.

3. Profaneness, or the wretched neglect of the worship and service of God.

4. Idolatry, or the setting up and worshipping of false gods.

(Bp. E. Hopkins.)

The object of religious devotion has to be defined, and it has to be set into some ascertained relationship with ourselves.

I. What we have first to look at, therefore, is THE SELF-DISCLOSURE OF GOD, upon which He grounds His claim to Israel's devotion. God is a Person; a personal Spirit like our own; a self-existent, eternal Spirit, apart from and above His world; a Person capable of entering into converse with men, and acting towards them as Deliverer and Saviour from evil. What follows? This follows — "This God shalt thou have for thy God; and thou shalt have no other!" A tie on both its sides solitary and unique must bind the human person with the Divine; saved with Saviour; Jehovah's people with Jehovah's self.

II. We are now, you perceive, in a position to examine our fundamental law, or First Commandment, DEFINING THE OBJECT OF WORSHIP. It has resolved itself into this — a mutual relationship exists betwixt God and His human people, absolutely unique and exclusive. Besides Jehovah, Israel has no other Saviour; Israel, therefore, ought to know no other God. Jehovah is not simply first; He is first without a second. He is not the highest of a class of beings, but in His class He stands alone. Other Helper have we nowhere; beneath the covert of His everlasting wings must we run to hide. If we are not to people the heavens with shadowy powers, half Divine, or parcel earth among forces of nature, as the provinces of an empire are parcelled among satraps, or elevate human aid into the remotest competition with the Almighty's; if to us there is but one seat of power, source of help, well-head of blessing, Author and Finisher of deliverance from every species and form of evil: then, what undivided dependence upon God results! what absoluteness of trust! what singleness of loyalty! what unstinted gratitude! what perfect love! More is shut out than polytheistic rites. Superstition is shut out, which trusts in mechanical aids and not in the free, living, and righteous Will. Magic is shut out, which seeks to extort deliverance by spells from unholy spirits. Luck is shut out, and the vague hope in what will turn up. Spiritual tyranny is shut out, which makes one man the lord of another's faith and conscience. Policy is shut out, or godless state-craft, with its trust in human foresight, but none in the justice of Providence. Irreligion is shut out, which doubts if prayer avail or God can help, and puts its confidence only in the strongest battalions. Everything, in short, which divides the deep trust and hope of the heart between God and that which is not God, becomes a breach of loyalty to the unique, the solitary Deliverer.

(J. O. Dykes, D. D.)

1. It is quite evident that this Commandment prescribes a general "fitness of things," the proper relation of man to God; aims to promote the highest happiness, directing man to seek his good in the highest source — God Himself; and describes the nature of man, setting forth a great principle of his being, that he is capable of giving allegiance to God, has faculties and powers capable of knowing and loving God. Our power of knowing and loving Him in the distinguishing power of man, separating him from the brutes with whom he is in many other respects allied, Not to exercise this power is to cast away the crown of our manhood. Of course, we cannot know God fully. Our weak, limited minds cannot comprehend the Infinite One. If we could comprehend God, we would be greater than He. The unknowable in God leads us to worship the God we know. This command calls us to a constant advance in the knowledge of God, so securing the activity and development of our power of knowing, and making it our duty to carefully attend to the revelation He has made of Himself. This certainly commends the study of nature; not only the poetic listening to its subtle teaching, but the scientific research for its great truths. This certainly commends the study of the Scriptures. Every neglected Bible should thrill the conscience with the charge, "You have not yet taken the first step towards obeying this commandment." God's revelation of Himself in the Bible is progressive. It had reached a certain stage at the time the Law was given at Sinai, sufficiently clear and full to make man's duty plain. But it did not stop there. It unfolded through succeeding ages until it culminated in the Lord Jesus Christ. So this first commandment makes it our duty to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. To reject Him is not merely to reject an offer of mercy; it is to refuse to receive the complete revelation of God made in His Son.

2. The prohibitory form of the Commandment shows that there are tendencies in our nature to break this law of our being. We are prone to give supreme allegiance to and find our highest good in some person or thing other than God.

3. But even if we had full and accurate knowledge of the one true God, and were free from all debasing superstitions, we would still have tendencies drawing us away from entire consecration to Him. Whatever we value more than God, is our god. Wherever a man makes the gratification of himself his chief aim, he takes the crown belonging to God and crowns himself.(1) There is a strong tendency to make the gratification of even the lowest portion of our nature our chief aim and greatest delight. He only can have the highest animal enjoyment who remembers that he is more than an animal, and honouring God, seeks to discover and obey His laws of healthful living.(2) One would think that the exercise of our reasoning powers would lead the soul to God, yet there is a very strong tendency to make this exercise end in itself. Many of the great thinkers of the world have been worshippers of their own powers of thinking, and we who can with difficulty follow their great thoughts are prone to worship our own intellectual culture and acquirements, and to claim a considerable amount of incense from our fellow-men.(3) How prone we are to make our loved ones idols! Now the idolatry of loved ones does not consist in loving them too much, but in not loving them enough. The father who allows his child to so absorb his love that he has no thought of or love for God, does not love his child as an immortal spiritual being, nor does he regard himself as such.(4) Above the animal, the intellectual, and the social nature in man, is the spiritual. To ignore this nature, or dwarf it, is to degrade man. To have this nature in healthful control, and giving supreme allegiance to God, is to bring the whole man into obedience to this Commandment; it is to ennoble his social, inspire his intellectual, and elevate his animal natures; it is to reach the noble manhood God designs for us.

(F. S. Schenck.)

I. The question we are now to try and answer is, WHAT IS IT TO HAVE A GOD? I mean by this a true God, such as the Lord Jesus Christ is to us.

1. To have a God is to have one who can do three things for us.(1) The first thing we want our God to be able to do is, always to help. The little child always needs the help of its mother. The blind man always needs the help of some one to guide him. The sick man always needs the help of a physician. We need some one who can always help us. Then it must be some one who is present in every place, whose eye never slumbers, and whose arm never grows weary. Is there such a one to be found? Yes, God our Saviour is just such a one.(2) The second thing we want our God to be able to do is, always to save us. Our bodies are often in danger as well as our souls, and we want a God who can save them both. We can't preserve ourselves; and our best friends can't preserve us. Jesus says, "Look unto Me, all ye ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else. Besides Me there is no Saviour." We need a God who can always save.(3) But, then, there is a third thing that we expect God to be able to do for us, and that is, always to make us happy. When we are in health, and have affectionate parents and kind friends, and many comforts and enjoyments around us, we do not feel so much our need of God.

2. But, then, there are three things that He who is our God has a right to expect from us.(1) He has aright to expect our highest love. He is good; He is holy. "God is love." He expects, and He deserves, our highest love. It is right to love Him better than any one else; but it is neither right nor possible to love any one else in this way.(2) The second thing He has a right to expect from us is, our unquestioning obedience. It may not be always right to obey, without questioning, all that others command us; but it is always right to obey, without questioning, everything that God commands. He never does wrong Himself, and never commands others to do wrong.(3) Then there is a third thing God expects from us, and that is, sincere worship. Sincere means that which is true or pure. Worship. Let us see what this means. Worship is a word made up of two other words, viz., "worth," and "ship" or "shape." It means, then, that we should put ourselves in the position or shape that is worthy of God. Or, it means that we should render to Him the service that is worthy of Him. And what is the proper shape or position for sinners such as we are to put ourselves in before God? David tells us, when he says, "O come, let us worship and fall down; and kneel before the Lord our Maker." Yes, a position of humble reverence is what we should put ourselves in when we would worship God. This is the shape or condition worthy of God for sinful creatures to appear in. But the shape of a thing denotes its use or service. If you see iron put in the shape of a bright, sharp blade, you know it is designed to cut. If you see it put into a round shape, like a ball, you know it is designed to roll. If you see a pile of wood broken up into the shape of kindling, you know it is designed to burn. And if you see a man in the form of a servant, with an apron on, and his sleeves rolled up, you know he is designed for work. And so when we appear before God as His worshippers — in the form or shape worthy of Him — we mean to say that we are ready to offer Him our prayers and praises, and that we desire to serve Him. And when we do this honestly and earnestly, with all our hearts, that is sincere worship. This is the service God deserves. He is worthy of it.

II. THE REASON WHY WE SHOULD HAVE NO OTHER GODS THAN THE LORD. I wish to speak of three reasons.

1. The first reason is, because it is very foolish to do so.(1) God is too rich for any one to take His place. All the gold and silver, all the gems and jewels and precious things in the world, and in all other worlds, belong to Him. He has need of them to supply the wants of His creatures. It is very foolish to have any one else than the Lord for our God, because no one else is rich enough to be our God.(2) God is too great for any one to take His place. He is the greatest of all beings. How foolish it would be to blot out the sun from the sky, and then try to light up the world with candles! Yet it would be easier to do this than to put anything in the place of God.(3) And then God is too wise for any one to take His place. How strange it is that anybody should ever think of putting stupid idols of wood or stone in the place of God!

2. The second reason why we ought to have no other gods than the Lord is, because it is very injurious.(1) To have any other God than the Lord is injurious in two ways: one way in which it is so is, that it leaves us without help. Wouldn't it be very injurious to a sick man to leave him in a place where he could get no physician, no medicine, and no nurse? Wouldn't it be very injurious to a hungry man to leave him in a position where he could get no food?(2) The other way is this: it exposes us to many troubles. We are told in the Bible, "Their sorrows shall be greatly multiplied who go after other gods." All who are not Christians have some other god but the Lord. And all who do this will be made to feel how very injurious it is. When trouble and sorrow come upon them, they will have none to comfort them. When their sins press upon them as a heavy burden, they will have none who can give them pardon, and so lift off that burden. When they come to die, they will have no one to lean on as they go through the dark valley. At the judgment seat they will have no one to be their friend. In eternity they will have nothing to make them happy.

3. The third and last reason is, that it is very wicked. There are two things about this which show how wicked it is.(1) There is robbery in it. And it is not robbing our friends, or our relations, or our fellow-creatures, or the angels of heaven. Any of these would be bad enough; but this is worse than all of them put together. It is robbing God!(2) There is treason in it.

(R. Newton, D. D.)

"No other gods before Me." That is, "No other gods in My presence; in sight of Me." God will not share His sovereignty with any being. And this is the commonest way of breaking this Commandment in our day. There is no danger of breaking it through over-loving a fellow-creature, through loving a child, or a wife, or a parent, or a friend, too dearly. It is a frightful error to suppose that. But it is possible for us to think that God's power must be supplemented by man's power, by man's influence, by man's wealth, by man's work. A pastor may lean on God: — and a rich member of his congregation; but not without breaking the First Commandment. A politician may think that, besides God's favour, he must have popular favour, to give him success. A business man may have it in his mind that public sentiment — even against strict right — must be yielded to in his business, although he believes in God as above all. A parent may feel that fashion and wealth have a power that cannot be dispensed with in giving his child a desirable place in life. A professed Christian may feel that Jesus Christ will save him, if only he does enough for his own salvation. All these are ways of breaking the First Commandment; not very uncommon ways, either!

(H. C. Trumbull.)

Links
Exodus 20:3 NIV
Exodus 20:3 NLT
Exodus 20:3 ESV
Exodus 20:3 NASB
Exodus 20:3 KJV

Exodus 20:3 Bible Apps
Exodus 20:3 Parallel
Exodus 20:3 Biblia Paralela
Exodus 20:3 Chinese Bible
Exodus 20:3 French Bible
Exodus 20:3 German Bible

Exodus 20:3 Commentaries

Bible Hub
Exodus 20:2
Top of Page
Top of Page