The Ten Commandments
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
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 bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.…” Exodus 20:1-3
1. What right does God have to give us His commandments?
Exodus 20:2: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
Isaiah 43:1: “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.’”
Ephesians 2:4-10: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
2 Corinthians 5:15: “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.”
God says, “I am the LORD your God.” He is JEHOVAH God, the Creator of all things. He is the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the only true God! He redeemed His people from bondage in Egypt. In fulfillment of His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God brought the people out of Egypt and was leading them to the land of Canaan, where He would fulfill His promise to send the Seed of Abraham – the promised Messiah and Savior – through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed (cf. Genesis 22:18). This is why God had the right to give these commandments to His people. He is the LORD God, their Maker and Redeemer! And this is also why the people should have listened to these commandments and gladly and willingly obeyed them.
God has every right to demand that we, too, obey His commandments; for He is the LORD God, our Maker and Redeemer – we belong to Him! He created and formed each of us in our mother’s womb (Cf. Psalm 139:13-16). He made us for Himself – to live for Him and serve Him. But instead of loving Him and serving Him, we love and serve ourselves. As fallen sinners, we do not and cannot keep God’s commandments as He requires. Because of His gracious love and mercy, the LORD God also redeemed us and won salvation for us by sending His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to suffer and to die upon the cross for our sins and then rise again on the third day!
We are the LORD’s – and doubly so! He made us, and even though we have come far short of keeping His commandments, He paid the just penalty for our sins, redeemed us and made us His own again! He delivered us from our bondage under sin and is leading us to the promised land of heaven, which is ours, entirely as His gracious gift! Therefore, the LORD God has every right to give us His holy commandments and to expect obedience! And, as His redeemed children – having His pardon and forgiveness for all our sins and failures for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, we have every reason to gladly and willingly obey Him!
2. What does God mean when He says, “You shall have no other gods before Me”?
The Hebrew literally means that we are to have no other gods before the LORD God’s face. He is present everywhere and sees all, so we are to have no other gods but Him! He is our Maker and Redeemer; there is no other god but Him.
3. What does this commandment forbid?
Isaiah 42:8: “I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.”
Matthew 4:10: “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.”
John 5:23: “All should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.”
Dr. Martin Luther in his Small Catechism explains this commandment in this way: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”
4. What does it mean to fear God above all things?
Psalm 33:8: “Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.”
Psalm 100:3: “Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”
Genesis 17:1: “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.”
Proverbs 8:13: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil.”
Proverbs 14:16: “A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident.”
Read Genesis 39:1ff. (especially v. 9) and consider how Joseph’s respect for God kept him from sinning.
The LORD God is the only true God; and we should “fear, love, and trust in Him above all things” (Martin Luther’s SMALL CATECHISM). We should remember that God is the Almighty Creator, and honor Him as such! We should obey His commandments and avoid all that displeases Him.
5. What does it mean to love God above all things?
Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
Deuteronomy 10:12-13: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the LORD and His statutes which I command you today for your good?”
Matthew 10:37: “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
Read Luke 22:54-62 and John 21:15-17. Did Peter love Jesus above all things on the night when Jesus was arrested?
Because the LORD God is our Maker and also our Redeemer, we should love Him with all our heart, soul and mind, and gladly live our lives for Him (cf. Matthew 22:37; 2 Corinthians 5:15).
6. What does it mean to trust God above all things?
Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”
Psalm 118:8: “It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.”
Psalm 56:3-4: “Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), in God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?”
Read Psalm 91. What does it say about trust in the LORD?
Since God has so wonderfully made us and provides for all our needs, and since He has through Christ’s sufferings, death and resurrection redeemed us from our sins and the eternal punishment we so deserve, we should also trust in Him with all our heart and commit our entire lives to His care and keeping.
Consider Paul’s trust in the LORD Jesus (2 Timothy 4:18): “And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”
7. Have we done what God requires of us in this commandment?
We must all admit our utter failure; for we so often neglect Him and push Him out of our lives as though He did not exist. Every time we sin against any commandment of the LORD, we are also failing to fear, love and trust in God above all things. We place ourselves and other persons and things before the loving God who gave us life in our mother’s womb and everlasting life in Christ Jesus, our Savior; and we neglect to give to Him the glory and honor due unto His name!
LORD God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be merciful to us and forgive us for our many failures to honor You as the LORD God, our Maker and Redeemer. Enable and teach us to fear, love and trust in You above all else. We ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ, God the Son and our Savior. Amen.
[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]