(In our Exodus sermon series, we are taking the summer to look in-depth at the Ten Commandments, one at a time.)
Text: Exodus 20:1-3
Our hearts can be crowded, always something or someone competing for our affection, our attention, our allegiance, our pursuit, our trust, and our worship. And none of them belong there. There’s only room for one ruler of our hearts, and that’s God Himself.
The Hebrew people were gathered around Mt. Sinai hearing God’s voice. But just three months earlier they were in Egyptian slavery, surrounded by the worship of false gods. Statues and idols and grand monuments and rituals – day in and day out. And since they were a conquered enslaved people for hundreds of years, it would have seemed at that time that the false gods of the Egyptians were more powerful than the God of the Hebrews.
But God changed all that. Through the ten plagues, He brought Egypt to its knees, and proved without a doubt the impotence of the false gods, leaving no doubt that Yahweh is the One True God. And it would be that victory that God would point them back to, over and over, to remind them of who He is, and what He’s done for them.
[20:1] And God spoke all these words, saying,  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
Before giving any of the Ten Commandments, this is how God introduces His covenant with Israel: God reminds the Hebrew people, since He is God, and since He saved their lives, He has a rightful claim upon them. It’s with this understanding that God then gives them the very first of the Ten Commandments:
[20:3] “You shall have no other gods before me.”
This is not only the first command but also the foundation for the rest of the ten commandments. “You shall have no other gods before me.” But what did this mean for the Hebrews, and how are we to understand it today? First, this means we are to:
Worship God Only
Now, this could sound like God is affirming that there are other gods that actually exist, and He just wants to be first among them.
God is not saying that. He’s not saying, “I am one of many”. God is saying “I am the One True God. Worship me alone.” When He says “You shall have no other gods before me, that phrase means “before my face”. One commentator compares this to a man taking a second wife while his first one is still alive. It’s breaking an exclusive covenant. So when God says we must have no other gods before Him, He is saying:
There is none beside God, or equal to Him.
There is no replacement or substitute for God.
There is only One True God, Yahweh, the Lord their God.
He is above all powers and authority, whether of heaven, of hell, or of humans. Above Him there is no god. Beside Him there is no god. He alone is the Sovereign, the One True God, who rules over all, reigns over all, is unmatched, unequaled and undefeated. This God has revealed Himself to His chosen people. They are His. And they are to worship Him alone.
For the New Testament Christian, to worship God alone is to come to and through and by His Son, Jesus Christ, very God of very God. Worship Him, follow Him, for He is God. Put Him first. See Him as the only one that belongs at the top of the heap in your life because of who He is and what He has done for us.
Love God Supremely
How can we love God supremely, more than other people or other things?
First, we must realize that this kind of love does not originate in us. It is not innate. It is foreign. It is something that must be imparted to us.
And in Christ, it is.
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
God’s love for us is the source of our love for Him. God’s grace for us is our source of strength to obey Him. Because of God’s love for us, He chose us, called us, revealed Himself to us, saved us, transformed us, and poured His love into our hearts in such a way that causes us to love Him.
God has loved us first, and His love is at the heart of all the commandments. His love, given to us through salvation in Jesus Christ, supernaturally empowers us to love Him. Because of what Jesus has done for us, how He has loved us, we can love Him.
For the Hebrew people, they had not only seen God’s power but they had received God’s love, evidenced by God’s patience with them and provision for them. But when Jesus came, that love of God was more fully realized and revealed to God’s people.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
When we receive the love of Jesus, when we realize the supernatural depth of His love for us, we will respond with supernatural love for Him.
Serve God Fully
A dozen times in Exodus, the idea of serving God directly connects with worshiping God. To serve the Lord is to worship Him. To worship Him is to serve Him.
How were the Hebrews supposed to “serve” God? That was a wide umbrella. It included obeying Him and His commands for their lives. It meant abiding by the sacrificial system and the instructions God gave the priests and the people. Serving God included following Moses and Aaron and the delegated leaders God gave to the people. And it meant keeping themselves set apart from the idols and idolatrous cultures that would surround them once they were in the Promised Land. To serve God meant you would not serve, or trust in, other gods.
This relationship between God and His people was meant to be exclusive, one that did not have competition. Jesus said…
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. (Matt 6:24)
Competing masters won’t work. Split allegiance creates a divided heart. And in this instance, Jesus wasn’t talking about idols of wood or stone. He was talking about money. What we love, we will serve.
But when we know the One True God, as revealed in the person of Jesus Christ, we can gladly, joyfully, fully serve Him with our lives the way Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 10:31…
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
This doesn’t happen by going on an endless idol hunt of our hearts. Instead of searching for all that is false, focus on the One who is true, who is real, who loves you more than you can imagine. Look to Jesus. See the beauty of who He is, what He has done, all that He has fulfilled for you.
And when you do, you’ll find no sin compares to His love. No pleasure compares to His peace. And no approval of man can measure up to the joy and forgiveness we have in Christ.