Vol. 16 No 39 – September 24, 2017
The 1st Commandment:
Ex 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Deut 5:7, “You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Deut 6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
This first mandate, upon which all the subsequent are based, means that God was to be their only object of worship, and they were to live in blessed fellowship with Him as their glory and their guide.
This commandment prohibits every species of mental idolatry, and all inordinate attachment(s) to earthly and sensible things.
New Testament usage:
We see this command reiterated it the NT, when Jesus railed against Satan after his third temptation in Mat 4:10; Luke 4:8; cf. Rev 14:7.
Mat 4:10, “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY’.”
Our Lord also reminded the Pharisees of the greatest commandment given in the Law, Mark 12:29, the “Great SHEMA.”
Mark 12:29, “Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD’.”
Mark 12:32 (NKJV), “So the scribe said to Him, ‘Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He’.”
Other passages include:
1 Cor 8:6, “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.”
Eph 4:6, “One God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.”
1 Tim 2:5, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
James 2:19, “You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.”
Having other gods before God, means to worship falsely any other man-made god, whether it be of human image or animal or of creation. Worshiping the One true God was still a shocking thing in Paul’s day to the Gentile world. Paul spoke of this in Rom 1:21-23.
Rom 1:21-23, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”
In ancient times and even today, there have been made many wooden, metallic, or clay images of false gods like totem poles, the Buddha, or various paintings of presumed deified beings that people pray to and worship. Even inside “Christianity,” there are many statues of “saints” that are erected and prayed to by their followers, which are nothing less than false pagan idols.
Finally, there can be many other things or objects in your life that become a false god to you, when you trust and rely upon its presumed power to protect you. This can include, but is not limited to, your President or country, a bottle or drug, money, hobbies, sporting events or sports stars, entertainment stars, etc., as our Lord stated in Mat 6:24; Luke 16:13; cf. Gal 1:10; James 4:4.
Mat 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
Gal 1:10, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”
James 4:4, “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”
Committing adultery against God is worshipping or prioritizing other things in life rather than God, including false pagan god worship.
For us today, Alexander Maclaren puts the 1st Commandment like this, “For what is it but the declaration that at the center of things is throned, not a rabble of godlings, nor a stony impersonal somewhat, nor a hypothetical unknowable entity, nor a shadowy abstraction, but a living Person, who can say ‘Me,’ and whom we can call on as ‘You,’ and be sure that He hears?” (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture)
He goes on to say, “The first commandment enjoins, or rather blesses us by showing us that we may cherish, supreme affection, worship, trust, self-surrender, aspiration, towards one God. After all, our God is that which we think most precious, for which we are ready to make the greatest sacrifices, which draws our warmest love; which, lost, would leave us desolate; which, possessed, makes us blessed.” (Ibid)
The 2nd Commandment:
Ex 20:4-6, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 5You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
Deut 5:8-10, “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. 9You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 10but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
This prohibition is in regard to the making and worshipping of false gods. They were instructed to not make images of other “gods” or worship or serve them, Deut 4:15-20. The word “make” is the verb ASAH, עָשָׂה that means, “to make something out of something.” It is used of God for His creative acts of the earth, sun, moon, plant life, etc. in Genesis as the Creator. Therefore, by way of comparison and contrast, we are not to be creators of other gods.
This commandment also discusses the “mode” rather than the “object” of worship. It has two parts: the precept, vs. 4-5a, and the penalty or blessing, vs. 5b-6.
The emphasis remains upon monotheism as absolutely essential for the salvation of the covenant nation Israel. The Lord clearly spelled out to them that there was to be absolutely no concession to popular sentiment in favor of cultic images of any kind, whether in heaven above or on earth below, or even in chthonic deities residing beneath the earth itself, (for example those described in Greek mythology).
No likeness or representation of these man-invented deities could be tolerated, for this meant betrayal towards their Divine Lord and Redeemer.
There was not to be even an image of God. Why? Because, an image degrades God and damages men. The worship of God was to be spiritual, not material. His uniqueness, Ex 20:3 requires unique devotion.
“Idol” is the Hebrew Noun PESEL פֶּסֶל and is the most general term for the manufactured image, (usually of wood, stone, silver, or gold), of a god used in the OT. Cf. Isa 40:20; 44:15-17; 45:20; Nah 1:14; Hab 2:18-20. This word comes from the verb PASAL meaning, “to hew or to cut,” which was done to create an idol. The Greek equivalent is EIDOLON, εἴδωλον that means, “idol or image.”
An idol is a substitute for God and therefore not a god, for there is only one true and living God. In the OT, idols were formed by mankind in the image of any object created by God, including a man, woman, animal, bird, fish, the sun, the moon, stars, or anything else peoples’ wicked imaginations could conceive, Lev 26:1; Deut 4:16-19, for they were an abomination to God, Deut 27:15.
The presence of these idols were indicative of the sin and rebellion of the people, Deut 4:16, 23, 25; 2 Chron 33:7. Interestingly, while God was giving Moses this commandment, the people down below were already breaking it. Psa 106:19-21.
Psa 106:19-21, “They made a calf in Horeb, and worshiped a molten image. 20Thus they exchanged their glory for the image of an ox that eats grass. 21They forgot God their Savior, Who had done great things in Egypt.”
King Manasseh placed an Asherah pole, representative of the Canaanite goddess of love, in the Temple, resulting in Jerusalem’s eventual destruction by the Lord, 2 Kings 21:7.
Even things that represent God and His plan were banned, for example a Micah, (not the prophet of renown), set up detestable idols in a shrine in Dan, apparently in order to represent the presence of God, Judges 17:5. We also see that Hezekiah had to destroy the Bronze Serpent used by Moses in the wilderness because of false worship towards it, 2 Kings 18:4.
2 Kings 18:4, “He removed the high places and broke down the sacred pillars and cut down the Asherah. He also broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the sons of Israel burned incense to it; and it was called Nehushtan.”
God calls them dead, deaf, and dumb as they have no life, strength, or power, Jer 10:14; Hab 12:18-20, and they could not save, Isa 45:20.
In vs. 5, we have a figure of speech called hendiadys, when two expressions are used to convey a single idea. The phrase “worship and serve” means, “to offer religious adoration, veneration, and reverence to someone or something.” This is prohibited regarding any other god, and is held only for the One true God of Israel.
“Worship” is the Verb SHACHAH, שָׁחָה in the Causative Reflexive Hithpael, Imperfect that means, “to bow down, to worship, to prostrate.” The Hithpael means the subject is willingly bowing to the ground in worship of a false god and the Imperfect means an incomplete or ongoing action. Cf. Ex 23:24; Deut 4:19; Josh 23:7; 2 Kings 17:35.
Ex 23:24, “You shall not worship their gods, nor serve them, nor do according to their deeds; but you shall utterly overthrow them and break their sacred pillars in pieces.”
Deut 4:19, “And beware, lest you lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven.”
When some prostrates themselves before a god, it represents the powerlessness of the worshiper, who lies prone before the being possessing power and authority over them.
“Serve,” is the other prohibition in this commandment, which is the verb ABAD (avadh), עָבַד that means, “to work, serve, or be a slave to.” It is in the Causative Passive Hophal stem, Imperfect. The Hophal is always translated as a completed action, yet with the imperfect, it is a repetitive action. The causative passive means they are led to worship these false gods due to their apostate mental attitude towards the true God of Israel. So, we could say, “caused to serve or be enslaved to” the false gods “over and over again.” Cf. Deut 12:2, 30; Joshua 24:2, 14.
Deut 12:2, “You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations whom you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree.”
Deut 12:30, “Beware that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How do these nations serve their gods, that I also may do likewise?”
Joshua 24:14, “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.”
Israel was not to serve pagan gods, Deut 7:16; 11:16; 28:14; 29:18; Josh 23:7; 2 Kings 17:35; Jer 25:6, but only the Lord, Ex 4:23; 7:16; 8:1; 10:26, and they were to be judged if they neglected this command, Deut 8:19; 30:17; Josh 23:16; 24:20; 2 Chron 7:19, 22, because He was “a jealous” God, Ex 34:14; Deut 5:9; 6:15; 32:16, 21; Josh 24:19.
Ex 34:14, “For you shall not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
God is a “jealous God,” not in the sense that He is envious of other gods; for He knows that all other “gods” are figments of the imagination and do not really exist. The word “jealous” expresses His love for His people because He wants the very best for them. Just as parents are jealous over their children, and spouses over their mates, so God is jealous over His beloved ones and will not tolerate competition, Zech 1:14; 8:2. Therefore, He is zealous that devotion be given exclusively to Him. This is not as an envious egotism of any sort, but rather a firm insistence upon exclusive commitment to the Lord Himself. Because of His deep love, the Almighty insists that no other loyalty or attraction to any rival suitor of the believer’s heart ever be tolerated.
Such idolatry also involved serving Baal, Judges 2:11; 3:7; 10:6, 10, serving idols 2 Kings 17:12; 21:21; Ezek 20:39, and serving the Asheri, Deut 7:5; 12:3; 16:21; 1 Kings 15:13; 18:19; 2 Kings 21:7; 23:4; 2 Chron 15:16.
Baal was the lord of Canaanite religion and seen in the thunderstorms. He was worshiped as the god who provided fertility. His worship was as diverse as the communities in which he was worshiped. Each locality had its own Baal, who was named after the city or place to which he belonged, such as Baal-peor, Num 25:5; Deut 4:3; Psa 106:28; Hosea 9:10, Baal-hermon, Judges 3:3; 1 Chron 5:23, and Baal-gad, Joshua 11:17; 12:7; 13:5. Baal was considered the owner or possessor of the land on which his followers lived.
Baal was both the sun-god and storm-god. He was worshiped as sun-god when the people wished to express thanks and gratitude for light and warmth and fertility.
Worship of Baal as storm-god took place to appease the destructive nature of Baal, demonstrated by drought and storms that devastated the vegetation of the worshipers. The efforts to appease Baal whenever adverse conditions prevailed culminated in the sacrifice of human beings, usually the firstborn of the one offering the sacrifice. The victims were burnt alive, a practice in the Old Testament termed “to pass through the fire,” 2 Kings 16:3; 21:6.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel, under the leadership of Ahab of the household of Omri, was led to worship Baal as the state god, 1 Kings 16:31. The prophets Elijah and Elisha delivered the condemnation of God concerning Baal worship and tried to rid the land of the idolatry, 1 Kings 18:17-40; 2 Kings 1:9-16. The worship of Baal infiltrated the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The reform movement of Hezekiah was reversed when Manasseh became king, 2 Kings 21:2-16, as he reinstated Baal worship, along with worship of Assyrian gods and other gods.
The conflict between Baal worship and the worship of the Lord God is described in the Book of Hosea. The judgment of the people of God for their idolatry, and their restoration is given in Hosea 2. The Bible writers affirmed the supremacy of Yahweh and condemned the worship of any other gods beside Yahweh.
Asherim is the plural of the fertility goddess, Asherah, the mother of Baal, whose worship was concentrated in Syria and Canaan. According to ancient mythology, Asherah, the mother goddess, was the wife of El and mother of seventy gods, of whom Baal was the most famous. Asherah was the fertility goddess of the Phoenicians and Canaanites. She was called “Lady Asherah of the Sea.” Her worship included the wooden object that represented her and the Asherim pole. Cf. Deut 7:5; 12:3; 16:21; 1 Kings 15:13; 18:19; 2 Kings 21:7; 23:4; 2 Chron 15:16.
Deut 12:3, “And you shall tear down their altars and smash their sacred pillars and burn their Asherim with fire, and you shall cut down the engraved images of their gods, and you shall obliterate their name from that place.
The Lord foretold that Israel would turn away from Him to serve pagan gods, Deut 31:20. He warned that pagan wives would entice Israel to serve pagan gods, Deut 7:4, and anyone who enticed an Israelite to commit such sins, Deut 13:6; 17:3, would be put to death, cf. 13:9; 17:5. At the time of the conquest, Israel promised not to serve pagan gods, Josh 24:16, but to serve only the Lord, vs. 18, 21, 24, and they did so throughout the days of Joshua and the elders who outlived him, Josh 24:31; Judges 2:7. However, during the period of the judges, Israel frequently turned away from the Lord to serve pagan gods, Judges 2:11, 13, 19; 3:6f; 10:6, 10, 13; 1 Sam 8:8, which resulted in judgment; but when they repented and returned to serving the Lord, Judges 10:16, He gave them deliverance. As judgment for false god worship, Israel would be exiled and serve pagan gods in a foreign land, Deut 28:36, 64; 29:26; Jer 16:13.
The Lord commanded that Israel’s kings serve only Him; and if they turned away from Him to serve pagan gods, 1 Kings 9:6, He would cut off the nation, vs. 7. Israel did turn away from the Lord to serve pagan gods, Jer 11:10; 13:10; 16:11; 22:9; 35:15, which resulted in their exile and in serving the pagan King Nebuchadnezzar.
As noted above, pagan worship included serving the sun, moon, stars, and the hosts of heaven. Israel was not to serve these, Deut 4:19. Yet, King Manasseh worshiped and served them, 2 Kings 21:3; 2 Chron 33:3, and the people followed his example, Jer 8:2.
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If you would like more information on this subject, you may watch/listen to lesson:
#’s 17-099 – 17-100
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A PERSONAL NOTE FOR YOU
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore, our sins will never be held against us. Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life.
To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life. So right now, you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:
“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”
If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!