Exodus 20:3 ~ 20110710 ~ Pastor Rodney Zedicher ~ Ephraim Church of the Bible ~ www.ephraimbible.org
07/10 Exodus 20:3 Word #1 Worship Only the One True God
God's Ten Words
We are looking at God's ten words to his people. We know these in English as the 'Ten Commandments', but in the Hebrew of Exodus 34:28; Deuteronomy 4:13 and 10:4 they are called simply the 'Ten Words', and here in the introduction it says 'God spoke all these words, saying...'. These are God's words.
God's word is powerful and decisive. In the beginning, God spoke, and there was. As God's words, these can rightly be called commandments because they come from God and carry his authority. But calling them commandments might mislead us into thinking that they are given primarily as a checklist to make ourselves pleasing to God. They can never accomplish that. Rather they point out to us how far we fall short of the perfect standard, and drive us to Christ, who perfectly kept the law for us and was crucified for us to cover our guilt as lawbreakers. When God speaks, he communicates something about himself. In speaking his moral demands, he communicates something of his heart, his will, his character. He is telling us about himself. 'This is what I am like, and this is how I expect you to relate to me and to one another.'
Saved to God-Centered Worship
God said to Pharaoh 'Let my people go that they may serve me or worship me' (Ex.8:1). The first nineteen chapters of Exodus narrate God saving, rescuing, redeeming his people from forced slavery to a cruel tyrant, caring for their needs, and bringing them to himself. God, in an overwhelming display of undeserved kindness, has brought them to the base of the mountain, and now he is graciously defining for them what it means to serve him; what it means to worship him. We were created to worship, and we are redeemed to worship. God is outlining what acceptable worship should consist of. It is interesting that God starts with himself and works down. The bible is thoroughly God-centered. The vertical relationship precedes the horizontal. In the beginning, God...; In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. We must understand who God is and how we relate to him before we can understand who we are and how we should properly relate to one another. The first thing on his list is 'I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me'.
Who God Is
God is careful to identify himself. I am YHWH (in Hebrew) (or Jehovah), translated 'the LORD' – the I AM, the one who is, the ground and goal of all existence. I am YHWH your God, the God who has given himself to his people. YHWH your redeemer, your rescuer, the one who took you out of slavery. God's first instruction to his saved people is 'You shall have no other gods before me; you shall have no other gods in my presence, or before my face.'
Remember, Israel spent the last 4 centuries in Egypt, and the Egyptians served a whole pantheon of gods; the gods of creation (Atum, Amun, Ptah, Khnum), god of the sun (Ra), god of earth (Geb), god of sky (Nut), god of the dead (Osiris), god of justice (Ma'at), god of wisdom (Thoth), god of chaos (Nun), god of destruction (Sekhmet). Some gods were for protection, some produced fertility, some agriculture and crops. There were different gods that controlled different things, and their help was sought in different ways. Some were worshiped in temples, others in homes, some you carried an amulet in your pocket or around your neck. In contrast to all this, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob declares 'you shall have no other gods before me'. Your allegiance is to be single, your devotion is all to go to me. Moses reiterates God's ten words in Deuteronomy 5, and in chapter 6 he summarizes this way:
Through Jesus, (Mt.22:36-40; Mr.12:28-31; Lk.10:27) we have come to know this as the first or greatest or most important commandment, the commandment that summarizes and includes all other commandments. YHWH our God is one. Practice love toward YHWH with your whole being. He alone is to be worshiped. Our God demands exclusive worship.
Only One God
For this to mean anything, we need to know who this YHWH God is. If God is one and we are to have no other Gods before him, we need to know how he defines himself so that we can love and worship and serve only him.
YHWH, the LORD, claims to be the only God. There is no other. There are other supernatural beings, such as angels and fallen angels or demons, all created beings. They are powerful and dangerous and to be respected, but YHWH is in a class by himself. He is Creator; all else is created by him and for him. He is the one supreme, self-existent being. There is no other. He clearly demonstrated his superiority over all the so-called gods of the Egyptians and whatever supernatural force that was behind them.
Who is like the LORD our God? 'I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.'
The Father is YHWH
What else does this YHWH God tell us about himself? He claims to be our Father by rights of creation.
Jesus taught us to pray:
YHWH is our Father by rights of creation, and his name is to be honored above all.
To YHWH alone is all honor and glory due. He says:
The Son is YHWH
But Jesus has some interesting things to say about his Father. The Jews were interrogating Jesus to see what he was claiming about himself. They asked:
Jesus claimed that the God of the Jews, who was his Father, glorifies him! YHWH does not share his glory with another, but the Father glorifies his Son Jesus. In fact, back in John 5, Jesus claimed
The Father's goal is that all would honor the Son 'just as' – in the same way, to the same extent that – they honor the Father. In fact, to honor the Son less than the Father is to dishonor the Father. YHWH does not share his glory, and yet the Father and the Son share honor and glory equally! Let's look back at John 8 to see how Jesus finishes his conversation with the Jews about his identity:
Jesus claimed to exist before Abraham. In fact, Jesus was identifying himself with the voice that spoke to Moses from the burning bush. When Moses asked the voice for his identity, this is what God said:
The name YHWH is derived from the Hebrew verb 'to be'. God claims to be 'I AM; I AM WHO I AM; the self-existent one, YHWH. Jesus, in claiming to be the 'I AM' who existed before Abraham, was claiming to be YHWH. The Jews understood his claim as blasphemy and wanted to execute him on the spot.
The Gospel authors understood Jesus' identity as YHWH.
They were quoting Isaiah 40:3, which says:
They understood John, in preparing the way for Jesus, to be preparing the way for the coming of YHWH. Jesus is YHWH, and received worship as YHWH.
The Spirit is YHWH
Let's look at another interesting passage in the Old Testament that is quoted in the New. Psalm 95
We are called by the Psalmist to come worship YHWH our Maker and our God. Then in verse 9, he switches to the first person. Your fathers put me to the test at Massah and Meribah. Who is speaking? According to Exodus 17, it was YHWH who was put to the test.
So YHWH is speaking in Psalm 95. Why is this important? Because In the New Testament, the author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 95 and says:
So when YHWH speaks in the Old Testament, the New Testament authors can quote him and say 'the Holy Spirit says', because the Holy Spirit is YHWH.
The Lord is the Spirit; or the Spirit is YHWH.
The Holy Spirit is YHWH, the Son is YHWH, and the Father is YHWH. The Father is a unique and distinct person; the Son is a unique and distinct person, and the Spirit is a unique and distinct person. These three distinct persons are God, but they are not three gods; they are one God. This is what we find in the bible. And God communicates to us so that we can know something of what he is like. So when God says:
We should understand that YHWH is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and that YHWH is the only God who exists, and he deserves all our worship, all our devotion, all our affection. We worship this great God, this self-existent God who has always existed in the three persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We worship and honor and praise the eternal, immortal, invisible God, who is Father, Son and Spirit. We worship him alone.