Summary: A sermon on the Ten Commandments
Old Abbott and Costello skit. It doesn’t matter too much who is in what position in our lives until we settle the matter of who is on first. In other words, we need to know who is in first place in our lives. This issue must be settled! If anyone, or anything, occupies first place in our lives ahead of God, than our lives are out of control and out of balance.
“And God spoke all these words: 2 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. 3 "You shall have no other gods before [a] me.” Exodus 20:1-3
In the book The Ten Offences, the author writes, “To see what other gods have done to people, it is only necessary to visit Calcutta, a city in India dedicated to Cali, the goddess of death. It was in Calcutta that Mother Teresa ministered to some of the most wretchedly poor people on the planet. This is a city where years ago the “dead truck” picked up corpses of those who died each day from disease or starvation.
Or visit Haiti, a nation whose people prayed to Satan some 200 years ago that if he delivered them from the control of the French they would worship him. Black magic, oppression, grinding poverty and ceaseless killing have been the lot of the Haitians as their reward from their “other god.”
In fact, study the island that makes up Haiti, and you will find that it is divided in half. One half is Haiti, which is one of the most impoverished countries of the Western Hemisphere. The other half belongs to the Dominican Republic, a prosperous and fertile land where the people worship Jehovah God. It would be hard to find a more vivid contrast.
1. Only God could make this requirement!
God’s requirement is very simple. He demands to be in first place in every area of our lives. He knows that all men must have a God of some sort, and He demands that it be Himself.
We must come to understand who is making this requirement. Most of our Bible translations today have hidden the real name of God out of Jewish tradition. To protect His name from abuse Jewish rabbis used to substitute the name Adonai or Lord for each time the name of God appeared in the bible. The word Lord loses a lot of meaning because nearly every religion has some kind of Lord. It has become a generic term and fits in with the religious pluralism that dominates the post modern world that we live in.
In this passage of scripture, God says, “I am Yahweh, who led you out from slavery in Egypt. You are to place no other gods before me.”
The use of specific name clearly indicates that there is only one, true God. Knowing and believing this keeps us from the frustrating pursuit of an elusive and unknowable being who so many religions pursue and never catch.
The bible tells us exactly who God is and how we can connect with Him. Yahweh is not a vague, “higher power,” who cannot be known and embraced.
This is a very critical teaching this morning and I hope you are getting it. God has many names that describe His breadth and character.
While I am not going to digress into a study today on the names of God let me just list a few of the translations that show up in the Hebrew language:
Most High God
The Strong One
God of Hosts
God our peace
God our Healer
God our Righteousness
God our Provider
The first commandment is very precise and tells us who we are to worship. Such an exclusive claim makes people angry today. It is not inclusive. It is not tolerant. It is the crux of our downfall as a nation.
Not accepting God as God explains the dilemma that we find ourselves in.
The First Commandment can be summed up in three words: No other gods! But why, in a document like the Ten Commandments, that is essentially ethical in nature (i.e. it presents to us ultimate standards of right and wrong), would the author begin with our perception of God? What is the big deal with how people worship? Can’t people have good values without God and without religion? After all, there has been a great deal of talk over the past decade about the importance of "values clarification" in our schools at the very same time God was largely being eliminated from the market of public ideas.
Administrators are concerned about character education but there is no foundation of belief to build it on. How successful has the values clarification effort been? Do you think we are any closer to a public consensus concerning right and wrong today after all this talk about values clarification? I would suggest this morning that our schools are more lost in a sea of relativism than they have ever been, and there is more crime and immorality exhibited by young people than ever before in human history. The lesson that should scream out to us is that ethics must be based upon theology. That is, no concept of right and wrong can be effective and long-lasting unless it is based on a right concept of God. Let me give you an idea of what is not acceptable regarding our approach to Yahweh.