No Other God’s
CCCAG (May 21st, 2017)
Scripture- Exodus 20:1-3
About 20 years ago I was working a paramedic shift when we got called for a 14-year-old girl having an unknown medical problem in a local gas station. We responded over there and found that the medical problem was the fact that she was pregnant and her water had broken. We got her to the local community hospital, who then called us back an hour later to transfer her to a Milwaukee area hospital that specialized in high risk obstetrics.
It’s about an hour drive so I got to have a conversation with her, (we’ll call her Jane Doe). Jane was a ward of the state living in one of the local shelters for troubled kids. Jane was very open about her past- mom was into drugs and partying, dad was unknown and never in her life. Jane had been taken away from her mom at an early age and like many kids thrown in the foster system, ended up following in the footsteps of the parents that they got taken from. She had been in and out of foster care since she was 5 years old, and she suspected that the father of her child was a guy in his 20’s she met at a party.
When I was preparing for this message, and I remembered Jane, I realized she was an example of what people who have never known a father’s love, or even had a stable household to grow up in.
In Exodus Chapter 20, Israel is in a similar situation at the foot of Mt Sinai. A few weeks ago, they were slaves. In fact, for 400 years they have known nothing but slavery, and like Jane had no idea who their Father God really was.
They only knew God as Elohim- creator and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They had no personal relationship with God and knew very little about HIM.
They didn’t have the complete Word of God like we do, but only a mostly oral history that spanned Genesis 1:1 to now Exodus 20.
(Demonstrate using bible)
So God brings His children, who really do not know their father, to the mountain for the first family meeting ever between God and His chosen people.
Moses tells them to get ready, wash their clothes, abstain from intimacy with your spouse. Make sure your hearts are ready, pure and right because Father is coming home, and HE wants to talk to all of us.
And this is what God had to say
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 me.
Last week we talked about the law and specifically the moral law which is grounded in the 10 Commandments as being the white picket fence around God’s yard that protects His children from the danger that exists outside of His will for humanity.
Today we will be examining the first plank in the protective fence that God has around His yard to protect His children.
We begin by noting that the scriptures very clearly say that-
I. God Gave the Commandments
A. God gave them verbally and directly to the people, not through Moses.
One of the arguments in secular academia is that Moses simply took what he learned growing up in Pharaoh’s household and tweaked it a little bit for the Hebrew people.
The accusation says that Moses hijacked and plagiarized the Egyptian code of morality, repackaged it, and handed it to Israel.
Egypt indeed had a moral code, but it was substantially different than what God gave Israel and though Israel, us. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 10th commandments were nowhere found in any version of Egyptian law, nor were they part of the worship of the Egyptian goddess Ma’at who was their personification of Ethics and morality.
So the Ten Commandments are unique as they were given directly to millions of people from God’s own mouth. That’s right- Millions of witnesses to this event.
If they had come directly through Moses, the people who later copied and transcribed this narrative would have said, “Hey Moses, you got this wrong….”. Not only that, but when Moses read Deuteronomy to the people before he died, there would have been 6 million people questioning that narrative- “Hey, that isn’t how it happened! I saw the movie! Charleston Heston (I mean Moses) You came down from the mountain holding a couple of carved stones and said God gave them!”
Hollywood not withstanding, it’s very important for us to see the personal nature of God here.
God didn’t work through an intermediary in this case.
Our Father didn’t call a prophet to thunder at his people
He didn’t raise up a judge or a ruler to enforce His new covenant with His people.
God gave it directly. That means something.
If you have worked outside of your home for any length of time, you have had the experience of the memo. Memo’s are short letters used by management to convey information to employees so that everyone has the same information at the same time. Memo’s are meant as a time saving function and can be a valuable way to keep your workforce informed and up to date as to what is going on in a company.
However, they are often abused. Has anyone here ever experienced a phenomenon called leadership by memo?
Leadership by memo looks like this- Sue is cleaning lady (facility maintenance engineer) in a large office building and is a very popular employee. One day, she gets to visiting with the women in office 3 and forgets to empty the garbage in office 4 and a complaint is filed by the owner of said office. Sally’s boss gets the complaint from Human Resources and instead of pulling Sally aside he issues a memo to everyone saying how they all need to have attention to detail in their jobs and make sure that all of their assigned jobs are done or they will face disciplinary procedures up to an including termination.
Anyone ever experienced something like this. I have…more times than I care to remember.
Instead of dealing with Sue directly, the manager takes the lazy way out and writes a morale killing memo to the whole staff. Said manager then wonders why his or her staff hate them so much.
God isn’t a lazy manager. He deals directly with His children and calls the largest family meeting in history, and lays down the ground rules as to what it means to be called His kid. The fact that God gave the commandments is also notable in that it’s the first-time God spoke to an entire people.
These rules that God gives aren’t just precepts to govern a people or nation-they are absolutes that are meant to help the individual rule themselves.
God isn’t doing the leadership by memo, He is speaking not only to the crowd, but to the individual person who is there. Upon hearing the Ten Commandments, their reaction is notable-
Exodus-20:18 When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance 19 and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”
Hearing the law, the people were cut to the heart. Hebrews 12 says that
That God spoke in a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them.
God wanted His people to come close, but their sin separated them from coming near. The conviction they felt made them run and hide instead of come and receive.
The take away for us today is- God wants you to come near. These commandments are never intended to separate you from God.
They are intended to set you free so that you can live free of fear, doubt, unbelief. They are a window into the Father heart of God, and that He loves you enough to erect this fence to protect you from being outside of His will and into the domain ruled by a devil that only wants your suffering and destruction.
The second thing the bible tells us through the 1st commandment is-
God Introduces HIMself
As previously said, the Hebrews really didn’t understand who they followed. Even Moses didn’t know God’s true name in the beginning, only through the burning bush’s “I AM”
And God uses that in His introduction of HIMSELF.
“I am the Lord your God
God starts out saying, “I am” the one who called Moses from the backside of the desert.
I am delivered you
I am Elohim- God eternal, creator, deliverer. But that’s just a description of who I am.
But now, let me tell you my actual name
Why is that significant?
Imagine you belong to a mainline denominational church- the kind that assigns all of the pastors without any church input.
The new pastor shows up on Sunday and introduces him or herself as Pastor. (Act Out)
That’s it. Call me Pastor. If you don’t like that- call me Reverend.
“But pastor, what is your actual name?”
You don’t need to know, you just need to know what my role is.
That would be very rude and insulting in our culture.
Multiply that times 10 in Israel. A person’s name was everything. It told of their lineage (ben-father), their status, their character-everything was wrapped up in your name.
Prior to Mt Sinai, the people didn’t know God’s true name, only that he was God, and that created a certain distance from Him.
At Mt Sinai, Yahweh is establishing HIMSELF as Israel’s personal God, and gives HIS Name.
The take away for us is this-
God is a personal God. His relationship isn’t with a people, it’s with each individual person.
Just you, and God. God wants no obstacles from a personal relationship with each person alive.
There is a lot of talk about our country being a Christian nation, or being founded as a Christian nation.
That argument misses the point- God is a personal God to the individual, and a nation is Christian or Godly based on the individual relationships God has with a person, not a people group.
God has always, always, always desired a relationship with each person ever born.
God doesn’t want that relationship through a
or even a denomination.
He doesn’t desire to have an intermediary between HIM and HIS people.
God wants and desires a relationship with YOU!
That leads us to the actual command we are studying today-
II. Have No Other gods before me.
Remember- 400 years of living in a pantheistic nation.
Pantheism means you believe in multiple God’s. Egyptians had dozens of gods that they followed and worshipped, and some of that had infiltrated into the Hebrew culture, and God was dealing directly with it right off the bat.
God was saying-
“You don’t get me and Ra”
“You don’t get me an Osiris”
“Anubis has nothing to do with me”
Have NO other gods before me.
That statement is not a simply saying God is first among other gods you can worship. God isn’t saying “As long as I get primary role, you are fine to worship other gods”
God is saying, I want you to have nothing to do with any other form of worship. Period and explanation point!
That term “before me” means that God doesn’t want it ever to be in his sight.
It’s the same thing as a husband saying to his wife, “I never want to see you with another man” or vice versa.
God is saying, “You are mine, and mine alone, and you will never be involved with the worship of any other god.”
That’s why God says HE is a jealous God. He looks at your relationship with HIM the same way a husband should look at his relationship with His wife. If a man catches his wife with another man, there is generally going to be some rather intense moments of emotion involved and probably violence.
That’s how God feels about you messing around behind His back.
This idea of multiple gods isn’t something that primitive ancient people believed. You have a whole subcontinent in India that is largely Hindu and pantheistic.
In 21st century America, this is seen in the rise of universalism- all roads lead to the divine essence called by many names. That’s a growing belief today.
But breaking the first commandment isn’t just attending the wrong church, it’s having anything in your life that you put before God.
I like to refer to it as a “functional god”
A functional God is ANYTHING that you place on equal or higher importance than your relationship with Yahweh God.
Examples of functional gods-
Sleep- “I can’t come out to church on Sunday’s. God knows I need my sleep, and Sunday’s are my day to sleep in.”
Money- “I can’t possibly sacrifice to support the work of the church or give to missions. God knows I have a huge house payment, 3 car payments, a top of the line cell phone with unlimited everything, and the most expensive cable entertainment package money can buy. After all, God wants me to be a good steward and a good witness and pay my bills.”
Possessions- you know everything you own actually belongs to God?
There was a large gathering of pastors attending a conference on church growth, and one of the door prizes for coming was a $100 bill. They drew the name, and a small church pastor won the $100 bill. The pastor was very grateful, as he needed gas money and funds were low.
As he sat down, he heard a still small voice say, “Now give that $100 bill to the pastor who ministers to the Indian tribe near your old hometown.”
The pastor walked up during a break and took the man aside and gave him the money, saying that God wanted you to have this. Tears welled up in the mans eyes and he said, “I’ve been on that reservation for decades, and it’s hard work with very little fruit, and it seems sometimes God doesn’t notice. This is just Him reminding me to keep my eyes on my reward, because it’s coming”
God saying- Have no other gods before me means you have nothing that you will with hold from God if he asked. It means there is nothing more valuable in your life or your heart than HIM.
That means God gets to decide-
Drugs (marijuana recreational usage has normalized in many states and in church’s). (If time, discuss ramifications of 1 dose marijuana vs 4 anxiety meds)
Let me step on everyone’s toes and my toes 10 times- food. Do we use food for pleasure and comfort, or go to our prayer closets and seek God?
These are just a few examples of functional Gods. Those things that we think we need to bring us peace, comfort, or satisfaction.
When in reality, God is saying- You can’t find joy in the created. Joy is an eternal quality that is only found in ME.
A church building can even be a functional god for us
This last week we had tornados touch down in our area, and up in Barron County some people lost everything when their homes were destroyed.
Watching the news interviews, you could see the difference between those who had a relationship with God and who didn’t-
Those who didn’t believed that their whole world just ended, and that everything of value was now gone. They had that 1000-yard stare of a person in shock and without hope.
Those who believed were still shaken, but thankful that God saved them and their family from harm.
In January 2007 a tornado wrecked an entire town in Kenosha County and severely damaged our church, Prayer House.
A year before we joined that church they had just built their new million-dollar building. The tornado picked up the educational wing of the church, shook it, blew out most of the east side, and dropped it back down. The structure immediately started to collapse but a single central frame from the central load bearing wall fell on top of a bible that someone had left on the floor in the youth room, and it stopped the slide that would have collapsed the entire building.
Our church building was literally supported by the Word of God for a few days until the damage team got in and trussed up the structure.
That bible is in a box mounted to the wall today.
I remember we had several TV crews in to interview us about how we felt about God allowing a tornado to almost destroy our church.
Our associate pastor Nick Hubing was elected to do the initial interviews. He was the most photogenic among us short chubby guys, said, “You know, it’s a building. We like having it, but the most important thing is that the building was empty, because it should have had several people in it. You see the true church behind us- the people- working, cleaning, getting us back on mission to get this place ready to continue the mission God has given us to reach the city of Kenosha.”
That’s the right attitude about something that can become our functional God.
And that’s out our take way from this- Have no other God’s before Yahweh.
Nothing else will satisfy, nothing else will fulfill, nothing else will bring you true joy like an intimate relationship with God will.
The last thing I want to bring home this morning is reminding us of this-
III. This along with all other commandments are Personal- The commandments are not given to a people group but to individuals
Part of the Hebrew statement of faith says this-
Deu 6:6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.
It’s our Father saying to us-
You can codify this into your civil laws, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing.
You can carve them into a granite monument in front of a courthouse.
You can hang them behind your supreme court as they hear cases.
But they will never be effective until they are the governing set of personal ethics in your life.
Unless you see them as the window into God’s very heart, you will never learn to love them as the father’s protection for us to be set free, to live free.
Altar Call (musicians)
The thing about the 1st commandment is that everyone has broken it at some point in their lives. We have all sinned and fallen short of God’s plan for our lives. We are by nature rebels who want to have God plus something else.
But anything else on God’s plane is having another God before Him.
That’s why we need Jesus. Jesus has come to cleanse us from our need for functional gods. Jesus took the punishment for breaking the law of God upon himself on the cross and through believing in Him we can be restored to a right relationship with God.
Prayer for functional gods
Prayer for salvation