No other gods before Me Exodus 20:1-6

It was the most important event in the whole of the Old Testament since the creation of Adam and Eve. More important than Noah and the Ark. More important than the call of the great Patriarchs Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. More important even than the events of the Exodus, the ten plagues on Egypt and even the crossing of the Red Sea on dry land. It was the day that God made His covenant with His chosen people, the nation of Israel. It was the day Almighty God gave His Holy Law to His servant Moses. And the heart of the Law is summed up in ten commands written by God on two tablets of stone: theTen Commandments.
Exodus 20 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.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
The Ten Commandments begin with the most important of all.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
In other words, love God more than anything else or anybody else. Put God first in your life. Make God more important than anything else. Have no other gods apart from the one true God. “You shall have no other gods before me.”
In Mark 12:28 one of the teachers of the Law asked Jesus, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
Putting God first. Loving God with every element and every aspect of our being. Loving God with our hearts. Loving God with our souls. Loving God with our minds. Loving God with our bodies. Loving God more than anything or anyone else.
Then the Second Commandment explains and expands on the first. No idols.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
This was the heart of the faith of the Israelites. There is only one God. This was what set Israel apart from all the other nations who each had a multitude of gods. This was what was unique about the Jews in the face of the pantheons of Greek and Roman gods and all the strange Eastern and Mystery religions of those centuries. The Israelites were monotheists. They held to their belief that there is only one God. Each day they began their prayers with these words from Deuteronomy 6.
‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. No idols.
Putting God first. God the most important thing in life. No false gods – no idols. But is that really the way it is? Somebody has said a very wise thing.
“People today worship their work, work at their play and play at their worship”
Is God really more important than anything else in our lives? Do we actually worship God alone? What other false gods do people worship? We can easily answer that vital question by thinking about other questions. What is the object of our affections? What do we devote the most of our attention to? What do we give most of our effort to? What do we spend most of our resources on? What do we spend most of our time on? We say that God should be the most important thing in our lives. But consider that question from the other way round. Whatever it is which is the most important thing in our lives can become a false god which we can waste our lives serving and chasing after. Or look at it this way – what are we putting our trust in? What are we depending on for our safety and security? Are we relying on God? You shall have no other gods before me. What false gods do people serve or put their trust in?
The false gods of other religions
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
There is one obvious application of the first and second commandments which I am not going to say much about. But in this multicultural world of political correctness it needs saying. There is only one god. The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob is the one and only true God. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is the one and only true God. The God of Moses and of Israel and of the Ten Commandments is the one and only true God. All other so-called gods are false gods. They are idols.
The Bible views false gods in two ways. Sometimes it describes them as empty creations of human beings. False gods which humans have invented instead of worshipping the one true God.
ROMANS 1 18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, ….
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. …. 25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
So some false gods are merely objects created by human beings. But the Bible also describes false gods in another way.
Deuteronomy 32 16 They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. 17 They sacrificed to demons, which are not God— gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your fathers did not fear.
So the Bible says that not all idols are inventions of human beings. There are demons hiding behind false gods, at least in some cases. Evil spirits, supernatural beings which are entirely real and completely evil, masquerade as false gods to deceive people away from the true God.
Psalm 96:4 For great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens.
There is only one true God. All others are empty and worthless. That is how the Bible regards all the other world religions. Some of those religions actually do have physical idols – objects which represent their gods. Other religions do not. But all are mistaken. They may have millions of followers. Their followers may be sincere, but the Bible tells us they are all sincerely wrong. They are worshipping false gods. That is how the Bible views all the other world religions. And that is how the Bible views the many cults and Christian Deviations, from Jehovah’s Witnesses to Mormons. That is how the Bible views occult practices such as spiritualism. There is only one true God – every other object of worship and all the other so-called gods are only worthless idols.
Then there is another very common false god – another thing people put their trust in and pursue and in some cases we could even say worship.
The false god of Money
The Bible makes clear that money, wealth and possessions can become false gods to us. Jesus talked about the false god Mammon and said we have to choose between serving God and serving Mammon. The apostle Paul warns Timothy that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” Paul says in Colossians 3:5 that greed is idolatry or idol worship. Hebrews 13:5 urges Christians to “keep your lives free from the love of money.” Money, wealth and possessions, can so easily become false gods to people, especially in our Western materialistic society. People can spend their lives chasing after money instead of seeking after God. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught this.
Matthew 6 19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
For some people, money and possessions are all about status – the more they have the more important they feel. It’s about keeping up with the Jones’s. For others money is all about the enjoyment and satisfaction they get from spending it. If a person is relying on money to give them significance or satisfaction instead of relying on God then money is their false god – their idol.
For some people money gives them a sense of control over their lives and a feeling of independence. For others what matters is the feeling of security they get from believing they have enough money to cope with whatever life might bring their way, although of course money is not the answer to every problem. Money brings problems of its own. But if anybody is putting their trust in money to give them control or security, instead of in God, then money is their false god – their idol. And where your treasure is, your heart will be also.
Augustine said that idolatry is worshipping anything that ought to be used, or using anything that ought to be worshipped. For thousands of years, and more today than ever before, so many people are worshipping the false gods of money and wealth and possessions. But then over the last century other false gods have risen up which for some people even compete with Money.
The false gods of Entertainment and Celebrity
A dictionary tells us that an idol is an image or other material object representing a deity to which religious worship is addressed. But an idol can also refer to any person or thing regarded with admiration, adoration, or devotion. In today’s world the word idol is most often associated with the entertainment industry, with pop music, film and television. Almost every country in the world has its own version of the television talent show “Pop Idol”. So many people today are worshipping the fame and success of a particular kind of person. They are worshipping the false god of celebrity.
Our lifetimes have seen the rise of the cult of celebrity: the tendency of people to care too much about the lives of famous people. A century ago this began with people who had actually achieved something remarkable and worthwhile in their lives, great sportspeople and outstanding musicians or film stars. These so-called great people had their ardent followers and admirers – their fans. As you know the word “fan” comes from the word fanatic, and fanatic came from Latin and means “marked by excessive enthusiasm and often intense uncritical devotion”. The word “fan” was first used in America late in the 19th century to refer to baseball supporters.
It was in the middle of the Twentieth Century that popular acclaim and the media began to lift pop stars and film stars to celebrity status, and began to give some of them delusions of deity. I an interview in the London Evening Standard in March 1966 John Lennon said this about the Beatles. “Christianity will go. It will vanish and shrink. I needn’t argue about that; I’m right and I’ll be proved right. We’re more popular than Jesus now.” That idea that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus” was controversial at the time. But so many celebrities since have come to act as though they were much more important and significant than actually they are.
There is a nice young man from Canada with the name of Justin Bieber, who appeared at the V Festival in Hylands Park this year and I am led to understand is some kind of singer. At the age of 22 he has already been listed four times in the Forbes List of the ten most powerful celebrities in the world. Fans of Justin Bieber call themselves “beliebers”, an obvious play on the word “believer.” I guarantee that by just mentioning this fact, when I post this sermon on the internet it will generate more reads and more complaints than all of my other sermons put together! That is the influence of celebrity and the power of the internet today
The advent of television with hundreds of channels and the growth of social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, have fuelled the rise of this celebrity culture. Reality television shows like “Celebrity Big Brother”, “I’m a celebrity get me out of here”, and to the eternal shame of Brentwood, “The Only Way Is Essex”, have even created a new brand of celebrities who have never made any worthwhile contribution to society and with absolutely no claim to fame except that they are famous. Across the world perhaps the most well-known of these would be a lady called Kim Kardashian and her family. I learned a new word last week which is the technical name given to such people. They are called “Nonebrities” – people who are only famous for being famous – the prophets of the false gods of Entertainment and Celebrity.
There are many people who look for comfort or peace or meaning in their lives from being associated with a celebrity, by belonging to their fan club or collecting memorabilia or especially by meeting their idol. Some people even allow their favourite celebrity to shape their lives and their thinking as they try to look like their idol or sound like them or imitate their behaviour. Some people allow their idol to tell them what to think. And some celebrities believe that their fame and popularity gives them the right to tell their fans what to think and what to do and what to believe.
I was deeply troubled earlier this year during the whole debate about Britain leaving the European Union. For not the first time, the media were reporting the opinions of celebrities encouraging readers and viewers to vote the same way as the celebrity. It is ridiculous to think that a pop star or a film star or a television actor or a sports person, or even worse one of the “nonebritites” would have any better idea than any ordinary person about the rights and wrongs of Brexit. But papers and TV channels make their money from selling the opinions of these celebrities. Throughout human history, people have looked to their gods to tell them what to think and what to believe and how to behave. In today’s world, many people choose to listen to and be guided by celebrities. Many people adore and follow and some people even worship mere human beings for no other reason than that they are famous and popular. The false gods of Entertainment and Celebrity.
If we are trusting in possessions, or in people, or in anything else to do for us what only God can do for us, then we are worshipping a false god.
Here is the First Commandment
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
Put God first – before everything else. Nothing must be more important to us than God Himself. And here is the Second of the Ten Commandments.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them;
God first – and no idols. Worship God alone because He is the one and only true God! And we must not ignore the fact that this Second Commandment came with a solemn and indeed a terrifying warning!
You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,
God first. No idols. The Israelites took the Ten Commandments seriously. And so should we!

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