Part Four: The Commandments About God

You shall have no other gods before Me—v. 3.

God alone is to be recognized as God (Ex. 20:2-3). This doesn't mean we can have other gods as long as our God is first; "just keep Him on the top of the list." No way; this is exclusive! The words "before Me" mean "besides Me," or "in the presence of Me." So there are to be no other gods but our God—Deut. 8:11,17,19; 6:5,13,17; 10:12,20.

In our study of Old Testament characters, we discovered how Israel struggled with this in its history. David Guzik's Commentary for Exodus points out, "...great was the temptation to worship the gods of materialism (Baal, the god of weather and financial success) and sex (Ashtoreth, the goddess of sex, romance, and reproduction), or any number of other local deities."

We might say, "No one in our culture would worship idols today." On the contrary, today we are tempted to worship the same gods, but without the old names and images. Most would not recognize their priority pursuit(s) of materialism, sexual fantasies, and financial success as placing another god before the only God, but it is still a violation of the First Commandment. Even as believers, we must understand God doesn't want to be just added to our lives; we must bow to Him and give Him all of our devotion—our whole life!


Have you simply added God to your life, or are you bowing to Him and giving Him all of your devotion—your whole life? God must be loved first!


It's important to understand that this command and all the rest are negative, because they presuppose the existence of sin and evil desires in the human heart. But each command also reveals a provision for those who obey. In the First Commandment God says, in essence: "You shall have Me!" The positive side is God's declaration of love—He wants us, and He wants us to have Him! The Command implies that if God is first, there is love, devotion and relationship! This is not a static relationship. If God is first, you will love Him more and more, and discover His love is beyond measure. What an unbelievable provision comes with obedience—we love and are loved by God.


If we don't obey this command, we commit idolatry. I Cor. 10:14 says that we are to flee idolatry, and in I Cor. 5:11, we are told not to associate with those who call themselves Christians who are idolaters.

What are the implications if we don't obey this Command? We violate the next one (1 Cor. 10:14; 5:11; Eph. 5:5).


You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything...—vv. 4-6.

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 second commandment prohibits not only idolatry regarding false gods; it also deals with making an image of any created thing which we might worship. In that day as well as ours, worship was tied closely with images—idealized or even in our minds. God will not allow us to depict Him with any such image, nor replace Him with one.

This commandment does not forbid making an image of something for artistic purposes; God Himself commanded Israel make images of cherubim (Exodus 25:18, 26:31). It does, however, forbid the making of images as an "aid" to worship.


"John 4:24 explains the rationale behind the second commandment: God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth. The use of images and other material things as a focus or 'help' to worship denies who God is (Spirit) and how we must worship Him (in spirit and truth)"—David Guzik.

This is not a duplication of the first command. The first forbids the existence of other gods. The second forbids the making of other gods—idols. The first could be broken (initially) unconsciously, whereas the second references a conscious breaking—the volitional making of an idol. The reason for God's instruction against making images is that God is limitless and images are confining... Since God is limitless, whenever man makes an image, he limits and thus denies God. We chain and wrap up our thoughts of God (deity) when we shut Him up in marble and paint (R. Kent Hughes, ibid., p. 44).


For believers today, idolatry includes anything that we worship and give ourselves to before God (Eph. 5:5). This comman, however, more subtly calls us to go beyond our mental images and truly embrace God as He is revealed in His Word. Some violate this command by the limitations of their mental images of God! (e.g., "I like to think of God as a loving Father, not as a judge." That description limits God.)

Our God is transcendent, beyond our grasp or description; so idols are woefully inadequate to express His character and immensity. As we study God's Word, however, and fill our minds with it—especially as we study the life of Christ (Heb. 1:1-2)—we fulfill this command by allowing our minds to continue to grow, unlimited by our mental images.

The threat and promise which follow, relate to the first two commands (and the rest, too)— "...punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me"—v. 5c. This is hard for us to understand, but it implies that children will feel the consequences of their parents' sin. These are sobering thoughts for parents. Understand (even as it has happened to you), your children might experience some of the consequences of your sin. For example, they could also experience propensities toward intemperance or poverty from idleness or extravagance.

In other words, children might start life with some disadvantages/lacks/propensities/weaknesses of their parents. Maybe it is simply a family characteristic like lying, or anger, or pride. Whatever the exact meaning, it's pretty obvious that our sins impact our whole family, especially our children. One author, however, makes an important clarification, "This does not mean God punishes us directly for the sins of our ancestors; the important words are 'of those who hate Me'—if the descendants love God, they will not have the iniquity of the fathers visited on them. (Also) the focus here is on idolatry, and this refers to judgment on a national scale—nations that forsake the Lord will be judged, and that judgment will have effects throughout generations."

Notice again, the commandments are not always presented with negative consequences (v. 6)—”...but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” The duration of love and mercy is to thousands of generations. The duration of the wrath (logical consequences) of God is short in comparison. Jesus said in John 14:21—"Whoever has my commands and obeys them, He is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (See also vv. 15-21; I John 2:5, II John 6.) Obedience yields wonderful consequences, because all God’s commands are for our protection and provision.

So God wants no images or idols of any kind, or a love or practice we put before Him. If we keep His commandments, however, He will show love to 1000 generations of those who love Him—including us.


The positive side of this Command is the provision of the Word of God and a relationship with Him which is not limited by mental images or idols, but which grows and matures. When we embrace what we don't like to think about God as well as we what we like to think about Him, we can have a more accurate and complete view of Him, and a relationship of love, awe, giving and taking. He is a transcendent God, but also a personal God! The more we know about Him the more we will love Him.



You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” —v. 7.

Why is this a sin? This command reminds us that God's nature has been revealed in His name—Ex. 3:14. When we say God's name, we are speaking of His character; therefore, to use it in vain is to belittle or curse His character. The word "misuse" (or "vain"—K.J.) also means "to waste."

When we utter God’s name, we call on not only His character, but His provisions/resources. So it is profane to misuse His name because we belittle/curse His character and waste His provision. Certainly the guy at work or in class who attacks God's name with vulgar and uncouth language misuses it; it almost seems the norm for some. What a waste! If they/we only knew the power, the majesty, the character, the provision represented in the name, we would use it with the highest respect and honor!

God's name can also be misused by the person who claims to know God.


Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

This is the one who attends a gathering of the Church, sings the songs,and follows all the others, but then goes out and lives his/her life as if God did not exist—using His name and the trappings of Christianity as a cover for an empty, sinful, wasted life. That's also taking God's name in vain... living as if God didn't exist except in emergencies. A person using God’s name in vain does not seek guidance or the wisdom of God for life. He acknowledges His presence and existence, but is in reality living apart from God, by his life denying He is significant or important.


The positive provision of this command is, we get to use God's name in many wonderful ways:

  • When we obey this command, we have the privilege of honoring His name—"hallowed be your name."
  • We are able to ask for our provision in His name and He will hear us-
  • We are able to use His name in a very personal way such as "Abba Father," which means in our vernacular, "Daddy Father."
  • We may enter into praise and worship by blessing His name. Think of the many names we can use to describe our God and His provision for us!
  • How are you doing with God's name?
  • Are you loving Him with your words and praise...
  • Or have you been careless in your language and flippant with the name of God, or the name of Jesus?
  • Will people you know report your love for God because of the way you reverence Him in your speech?

  • In your mind, repeat all the names you can think of that describe your God.
  • Does this cause you to worship?
  • Does the mention of the name of God in prayer inspire hope and reflect your devotion?




Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. —vv 8-11.

8] “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9] Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10] but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. 11] For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”


The Israelites knew the history of creation(Gen. 2:3), that God rested on the seventh day. But now God blessed and hallowed the Sabbath, sanctifying the day for the first time. They had been prepared for this command, by the fact that the manna didn’t fall on the seventh day. Exodus 16:22-23—On the sixth day, they gathered twice as much —two omers for each person—and the leaders of the community came and reported this to Moses. 23] He said to them, "This is what the LORD commanded: 'Tomorrow is to be a day of rest, a holy Sabbath to the LORD. So bake what you want to bake and boil what you want to boil. Save whatever is left and keep it until morning.'

So the seventh day was to belong to the Lord, and was consecrated to Him by the fact that no work was performed. This applied to the Israelites, their children, slaves, cattle and foreign laborers among them. They were intended to rest from the labor that was so hard on the body and soul, that they might be refreshed. On the Sabbath, they were also to remember their bondage in Egypt and deliverance by the strong arm of the Lord—Deut. 5:14-15.

Over time, the Jews lost some of the original meaning of the Sabbath, and came up with some very legalistic applications that went way beyond God's intention.

"For example, in Luke 6:1-2, in the mind of the Jewish leaders, the disciples were guilty of four violations of the Sabbath every time they took a bite of grain out in the field, because they 1) reaped, 2) threshed, 3) winnowed, and 4) prepared food.

“Ancient Rabbis taught that on the Sabbath, a man could not carry something in his right hand or in his left hand, across his chest, or on his shoulder. But you could carry something with the back of your hand, with your foot, with your elbow, or in your ear, your hair, or in the hem of your shirt, or in your shoe or sandal. Also on the Sabbath, you were forbidden to tie a knot—except, a woman could tie a knot in her girdle. So, if a bucket of water had to be raised from a well, you could not tie a rope to the bucket, but a woman could tie her girdle to the bucket!"—Guzik.
When my wife and I were in Israel last summer, everything shut down for Sabbath. We thought it was pretty interesting to see that only the Sabbath/Shabot elevator was used on that day. Apparently it went one floor at a time, automatically stopping at each so no one had to work by pushing a button. Also, the food was cooked the day before in the hotels and only the non-Jewish served it the next day—cold, as heating up food was work.
"In very devout Jewish homes even today, one cannot turn on a light, a stove, or a switch on the Sabbath; one cannot drive a certain distance, or make a telephone call—all carefully regulated by traditions seeking to spell out the law exactly"—David Guzik.

Now the question is, how is this Sabbath command and the Law to be applied to us? It is interesting that not one of the New Testament summaries of the Law mentions the Sabbath—Matt. 19:17-20; Mark 19:17-20; Luke 18:18-21; Rom. 13:8-10.

We must further realize the Sabbath was culminated in the Sabbath rest in Christ—Heb. 4:1-13—having been a shadow of things to come in the Kingdom age—the New Covenant (see Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1). Col. 2:16 says, ”Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17] These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.” Heb. 10:1a repeats the same thought—”The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves.”

Scripture makes it clear, Christ is the Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8). After He completed His work on the cross, He also rested when He said, "It is finished." The Lord rose again on Sunday, and through His resurrection, a pledge to the world of the fruit of His eternal work, He has now made this day (Sunday) the "Lord's Day." The first day of the week was very significant in the New Testament:




Knowing the facts about the Sabbath, what is the most important thing to realize about the Sabbath today?

The Ten Commandments Today

All of the Old Testament Law is but an amplification and application of the Ten Commandments. Nine of the Ten Commands are repeated in the New Testament for believers today:
  1. No other gods before me—Acts 14:15; John 4:21-23; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19; 1 Cor. 8:6
  2. Make no idols or images—Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:22-23; 1 John 5:21; 1 Cor. 10:7,14
  3. Do not take His name in vain—James 5:12; Matt. 5:33-37; 6:5-9
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day. This is not repeated anywhere in the New Testament.
  5. Honor father and mother—Eph. 6:1-4
  6. Do not kill—1 John 3:15; Matt. 5:21-22
  7. Do not commit adultery—Matt. 5:27-28; 1 Cor. 5:1-13; 6:9-20; Heb. 13:4
  8. Do not steal—Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:10-12; James 5:1-4
  9. Do not bear false witness—Col. 3:9; Eph. 4:25
  10. Do not covet—Eph. 5:3; Luke 12:15-21


First, the most important purpose of the Sabbath is to be a shadow of the rest we have in Jesus—Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1a. He rested and so can we.

Second, the Sabbath is now not a "day," but a "principle." Because the Sabbath was fulfilled in Jesus, I believe today we are to build a “Sabbath principle” into the pattern of our lives as a weekly reminder of God; a day of rest on which God's creation, rest, and redemption are recalled and praised. I wonder if we are catching the spirit of the Sabbath's day rest, by giving the Lord an inconsistent attendance at worship services and a frenzied day of activity.

It is not incumbent upon Christians to follow the Mosaic Sabbath's stringent command to desist from labor and to rest, because the command is not transferred to the Lord's Day; but at the same time, wise Christians will incorporate the Sabbath rest principle into their observance of the Lord's day as best as they can, because the rest principle is rooted in our cosmos, so there is a genesis rhythm to life which, if observed, will benefit us physically and spiritually"—R. Kent Hughes, Ibid, p. 3.

Make sure you understand, I'm not speaking of a worship day as a law, but as a blessing. Ask yourself if you have been consistently acknowledging the rest you have in Jesus, and illustrating that by a consistent, disciplined, and excited commitment one day a week. As a test, ask yourself, “Would my family, children, friends know of my commitment to God and my rest in Him by my loving observance of a day to worship, rest and remember what God has done for me?"

On the other hand, if that is not the case, what has taken priority over the symbol of a Sabbath day's rest? Again, this is not a legalistic call, but a loving call to consider how you might illustrate with your life (and if married, with your family) a loving expression of Sabbath in your life. "Time spent with the object of our love, especially in corporate worship and restful communion, will unfailingly elevate our love"—R. Kent Hughes, p. 190.

Give some thought to these questions as a loving reminder of the relationship you have with God, and that relationships are best built when special time is set aside for that purpose. The positive provision for those of us who observe this principle of rest from our work is that we will have time to devote to our relationship with God. We enter the rest of God by giving up self effort, just as God rested from His work. If you do not know the Lord and have not received His rest, accept the work He accomplished on the cross and rest from your own efforts to be holy and godly. Enter into God's Sabbath rest.

What a remarkable blessing we have in these first four commandments... a great way to evaluate how we are doing spiritually. These words are foundational, and each very powerful in impact and implication.

We're moving on... in our next session, we'll look at how the two "tables" of the Law are arranged and what happens when we jumble them. We'll then dig in to the commandments that deal with our relationships with others. Don't miss it!