2nd Commandment – “No Idols”

Rule 2 – Exodus 20:4-5 “You shall not make for yourself an idol.”

Our culture here in the United States has become very good at finding substitutes for almost everything in life. Walk the aisles at HEB or Randalls and you’ll see all kinds of food substitutes: sugar and salt substitutes, butter “I Can’t Believe It’s NOT Butter!” cheese substitutes, cream substitutes, Niki used to like those Cream substitutes for coffee; French vanilla, caramel toffee, There are egg substitutes, bacon substitutes a crab substitute and more.

One time we were driving along I 35 and I instinctively hit the brakes when I spotted a police car on my left. It wasn’t until we passed him and I looked in my rear view mirror that I realized it wasn’t real officer,  just a  patrol car, a substitute for the genuine article.

All this is to say that in America substitutes, are big business. And I don’t think God is necessarily against this but as you can see in today’s text, He makes it very clear that when it comes to our relationship with Him, He will tolerate no substitutes.

This second law insists that the object of our worship must never be something of our own construction or something that is under our control. We must never make these things the focus of our day to day existence. Only God is to have that place in our lives.

Obviously we are more powerful and wise than anything we make on our own.  We can control the works of our hands. We can make many amazing things these days, but none of them are deserving of our worship.

Another truth we should understand as we study this 2nd commandment is that the impulse to worship is universal.  Anthropologists tell us that anywhere you go on this planet among any race of people from anywhere or any time period you will find people engaged in worship of some kind.  This is a God-given inclination.

There is a God-consciousness in the heart of every human being.   There is the desire of human beings to turn objects or people or even ideas into objects of worship.  God says don’t do that.

And when people take this natural inclination to worship and instead of directing it in its proper direction toward God they worship other things or images, this is idolatry.

The reality is that idolatry in our culture today is very widespread.  In our culture we worship the gods of materialism, sexual indulgence, and personal power. Their messages don’t just line the streets as they did in Athens in Paul’s day,  here they fill the magazine racks & airwaves!

The images and their deceptive offers go across the nation by satellite, cable, Internet, and slick four-color printing.  In our country we are surrounded by more false images than ever before in the history of mankind. They leer at us from billboards and magazine covers. They call to us in powerful visual impressions.  And, as every good advertising or network executive knows, the objective of these ads is to absolutely “capture” as many people as possible. They want to capture our attention, our imagination,  our money, our time and our commitment.   We see images of power, sex and happiness.

Have you ever thought, “when I get ______then I’ll be happy!”  That degree, marriage, job, car, body, position, $, vacation, etc.  Then we get that and we are not happy at all. Then we look to the next thing.

There is nothing wrong with money or a new car or wanting to wear attractive clothes or wanting to succeed in business. It’s just that these things and a hundred others may become idols to us as they begin to control our thoughts and desires.  We don’t worship objects as much as we worship images:  images of success, images of wealth, images of status, images of sensuality.

But you know, I think the most-worshiped false god in our society is SELF. We idolize our individual FEELINGS….we make and base major decisions on how we FEEL rather than on what God says. We worship happiness and self-esteem at all costs.  We care more about personal rights than God-given responsibilities. We worship how we look.  We especially bow down to our careers.  Whenever anything other than God becomes the absolute focus of our attentions and activities, that is idolatry.

One problem with idols is that they DISAPPOINT.   Advertisers say, “Wear our label and you’ll be popular, buy our product and you’ll be successful, drink our beer and it doesn’t get any better than this, buy our toothpaste and you’ll have sex appeal.”  They always promise more than they can deliver.

Have you ever ordered something or bought something that promised something and when you got it you were disappointed with what you got?  Anytime we put any person, any thing, any product in the place of God, anytime we expect anyone to solve all our problems or guarantee all our happiness we’re going to be disappointed.  Idols will always disappoint us.   They take and never give back. They use us up, drain us dry, and then discard us.

Idols are false fronts like we see on movie sets.  They look good on the outside but there is nothing behind them to back up their promises of freedom and joy. As the woman at the well discovered, you can drink all you want at the wells of the world but still be thirsty. The only way to satisfy our thirst for freedom is to be in relationship with God.

One way to put our idol to the test is to insert it into the 23rd Psalm.  Someone confessed to me that their boat was their idol.

Here’s the 23rd Psalm for our boat:     “My boat is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

My boat takes me lie down in quiet coves, and leads me beside quiet waters,

My boat restores my soul.  It guides me in paths of righteousness for my boats name’s sake.”

This can only go so far...  “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your propeller and your ski rope they comfort me?”  No, that’s not true.

Will your boat answer your prayers?  Will your boat raise you from the dead?  Will your boat save your soul from hell?  Will your boat welcome you into heaven?

Let’s put back the genuine article into the Psalm and into our lives, “The LORD is my shepherd!”



In the next post we will look at the 3rd Commandment

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1st Commandment – “No Other Gods”

 RULE #1  –  “You shall have no other gods before me” Ex 20:2

Do you married people remember your wedding ceremony? It probably contained some form of this phrase: I take you, to be my wedded wife or husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, and FORSAKING ALL OTHERS be faithful to you as long as we both shall live.” Marital vows are a pledge to a lifetime of faithfulness….a lifetime of exclusiveness.

No man or woman in their right mind would allow the spouse to strike a bargain before the marriage by saying, “I’ll spend most of my time with you, but I want to enjoy intimate relationships with other people some of the time.” No.  Marriage represents a firm, exclusive commitment to each other by both husband and wife.

And God calls us to have a similar exclusive allegiance to Him. Later on in the Commandments God says He is a  jealous God. God refuses to share the glory and the worship that is due Him with anyone or anything else. We were created to have an intimate, exclusive walk with God and God alone.

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus takes the ten commandments and then shows how our problems actually begin at the heart level. Referring back to the first commandment, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  In Jesus day as in our day money is something we often put above God.  To rephrase the first commandment, “Do not put your money before me.”  Jesus said, “You cannot serve money and God”  We think that giving is not important, but it is vital to our relationship to God and to worship.  Every time there was worship there was giving.  Jesus spoke of giving matter a factly, he said, “when you give, not if you give, the only compliment he gave the Pharisees was that they tithed.   If God is not first in our money he is not first.  We say Christ is lord, but not over my finances, then he isn’t lord.  It’s like saying “I’m half pregnant.”

When Niki and I were going to get married I told her 3 things.  I said, “I reserve the right to take off my ring anytime and to flirt.  I want to be free and not tied down.  Keep my options open.  I want to keep zeal and passion in my life, I don’t want to be tied down.”

I also told her that, “My time is more important than hers.  I come first then my family and friends.  I will spend time with you and your family only when it is convenient.  Granted there is nothing else going on that I want to be at.”

       And thirdly, “Money is tight, I need to spend it how I want so I will not support you.  If you want anything you have to get it yourself and you will have to work.  I don’t want you to make any demands on me; don’t ask for anything and our relationship will be great!”   Do you really believe that I said that?  Of course not! If I did, some of you would think, “Who do you think you are!  What a terrible person you are!”


God loves you, He sent Jesus to die for you. Because of Jesus, we have a relationship with God, we are saved from eternal punishment, we have peace, purpose, the Holy Spirit inside us, spiritual gifts, the enduring presence of God with us and a future in heaven.   He has given us so much! Let’s take our relationship with God seriously.



In the next post we will look at the 2nd Commandment.

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God Will Direct Me – Introduction to the 10 Commandments

Josh McDowell tells of a young man named Greg. Greg lived next door from a family who had an in-ground swimming pool in their back yard. He had never gone swimming in their pool. He barely knew the people, and a high wooden fence enclosed the pool. One dark evening when Greg knew his neighbors were away, he and his girlfriend snuck behind the house, scaled the fence, and entered the pool area to go for a swim. Greg threw off his shoes, climbed the ladder and, while his girlfriend was still taking her shoes and socks off, he leapt off the end of the diving board. Greg heard his girlfriend scream just before he lost consciousness.  The pool held only a few feet of water.  In the dark Greg apparently didn’t notice this. His dive ended with a shallow splat of water and a sickening crunch of bones. Greg’s late-night dive paralyzed him from the neck down for the rest of his life. Greg ignored the fence that his neighbors had erected around the pool. He probably assumed it was there only to keep him and his girlfriend from having fun. In reality it was meant for his protection, and his disregard of that boundary cost him dearly. Similarly, God’s laws are given to protect us.  When we ignore His moral boundaries the cost can be just as devastating.

So the nature of the Ten Commandments is not harsh or unloving. I think that the Ten Commandments would be best compared to a love letter…..a tender, heartfelt message written in stone by the finger of God. To coin Ron Mehl’s phrase…they are ten(der) commandments because that’s what God is like. He is tender and loving. That’s His nature. In fact, this set of laws is one of the most powerful expressions of God’s love in all of Scripture.

Even the context of the Ten Commandments shows this truth. Listen to the things God said immediately prior to the giving of His law. Exodus 19:3-6 says, “And Moses went up to God, and the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” In essence God told Moses, “Before you give the people these commands…before anything else, will you please remind them that I bore them on eagles wings? Remind them that I cared for them in their Egyptian bondage—as a mother eagle cares for her offspring. Remind them that I heard their cries and freed them from slavery…make sure they remember that when the Egyptian army attacked, I parted the Red Sea I made a way when there was no way. Make sure you remind them of My loving care Moses.” So these ten laws sprang from the tender love of God for His people.

By the way, this is one of the few times in the Bible that we see God writing anything! And He wrote these laws on STONE instead of papyrus because He knew that as fallen, forgetful beings we need things written and preserved.  And we do! We need God’s law. We need it written down.  (He wrote it on our hearts).

Without a holy standard we try to define what is true and right on our own and that can be a very dangerous thing.  It like the story from Chi Chi Rodriguez, the 8 time PGA tour winner who would tell stories of growing up in Puerto Rico.   He was driving down the street with a friend, going a lot faster than he should have been.

A light changed from yellow to red up ahead of him and he zoomed right through it….didn’t even slow down. His friend almost had a coronary.  He looked over at Chi Chi and sputtered, “Chi Chi, what in the world are you doing?  You went right through a red light!  Don’t you stop for red lights?” “My brother taught me to drive,” Chi Chi replied, “and he doesn’t stop for red lights. So I don’t stop at red lights.” And sure enough, a little farther down the road the pro golfer approached another intersection and blasted right through the red light. His friend was a nervous wreck by then and said, “C’mon, man! You’re gonna get us killed. What in the world are you thinking of?”  Chi Chi repeated, “My brother taught me to drive, and he doesn’t stop for red lights. So I don’t stop at red lights.” Driving a little farther, they came to an intersection with a green light. This time Chi Chi put on his brakes and stopped, nervously looking both ways. “Why are you stopping now?” his friend asked.  “This is a green light.” Chi Chi replied, “My brother might be coming!” As Chi Chi inferred….today’s society can be a very dangerous one in which to live…for it is one in which more and more people ignore God’s standards and decide on their own what is right.

The Ten Commandments are Divided into two Sections

  •  How we relate to God. (Commandments 1-4)
  • How we Relate to Others (Commandments 5-10)

The first four laws guide us in the way we relate to God…the way we revere, respect, and love Him. Glance at Exodus 20:1-17 and you’ll see what I mean: LAW #1 – God and God alone is God. LAW #2 – It is wrong to worship anything material as God. LAW #3 – God’s day is to be cherished and honored. LAW #4 – God’s name is not to be used recklessly.

And then the second section…the last six commandments….deal with how we are to treat each other…how we are to love, and respect each other. LAW #5 – Father and mother are to be honored. LAW #6 – Human life is sacred. LAW #7 – Sexual purity and fidelity is demanded. LAW #8 – The rights of property are to be observed. LAW #9 – False and slanderous speaking about others is condemned. LAW #10 – The desire to possess that which is not ours is branded as wrong.

Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments when he was asked what was the greatest commandment.

 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’   This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’   Matt 22:37-39

So Jesus taught that our relationship with God and our relationships with our fellow man are intertwined. We can’t love and respect God properly if we don’t love and respect each other and we can’t love and respect each other properly if we don’t also love and respect God. Without the horizontal aspect of a proper relationship with our fellow man, our faith would become a selfish impractical thing in which we are concerned with our own soul and our own vision of God and nothing more. And without the vertical principle of loving God we wouldn’t value each other enough we wouldn’t see ourselves as special creations of God. people would be looked at as things and not as persons. The Ten Commandments then teach us that we need both a proper horizontal relationship with each other and a proper vertical relationship with God. The next time you see the intersecting beams of calvary’s cross let it remind you of this truth: We need to practice both LOVE FOR GOD and LOVE FOR OUR FELLOW MAN.

 The Purpose of the Ten Commandments are to lead us to Jesus.

Christianity did not come into the world without roots and foundations. Remember in Matthew 5:17 Jesus said, “I am not come to destroy the law — but to FULFILL it.” In other words Jesus came to show the law’s true purpose. And the law that Jesus came to fulfill began with these ten basic principles for life.

“So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.”  Galatians 3:24

In the Greek-speaking world of Paul’s day, there was a type of household servant called the paidagogos or guardian. This person was in charge of the child’s moral welfare; it was his duty to oversee the child’s character development. One of a guardian’s responsibilities was to take the child to school each day. He was not the child’s teacher, but he was responsible to see that the child was, in fact, under the teacher’s care. And in this New Testament text, Paul borrows this picture from his culture and says in effect, that the law has the same function. It is our “tutor” our “paidagogos.” So, the commandments in the Bible are designed not only to say, “Do this,” and “Don’t do that,” but to lead us to the person of Christ Himself. For as we attempt to obey God’s law we see both God’s holy perfection and our sin.

The law sheds a powerful light on our sinful state and leads us to realize how far we fall short. Like a paidagogos the law leads us to “school” where we see our need for Christ.

In the next posts we will look specifically at each commandment.




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God Will Deliver Us – Exodus 12

Before it even touched the water, the Navy’s amphibious assault ship USS New York had already made history. It was built with 24 tons of scrap steel from the World Trade Center.

Steel from the World Trade Center was melted down in a foundry in Amite, La., to cast the ships bow section. When it was poured into the molds on Sept. 9, 2003, those big rough steelworkers treated it with total reverence, recalled Navy Capt. Kevin Wensing. It was a spiritual moment for everybody there.  Junior Chavers, foundry operations manager, said that when the trade center steel first arrived, he touched it with his hand and, “the hair on my neck stood up.” “It had a big meaning to it for all of us,” he said. “They knocked us down. They can’t keep us down.”  What’s the ships motto?  “Never Forget.”  That’s also the motto of today’s scripture. God never wants us to forget what He would do through the Passover.

Chapter 12 of Exodus is one of the most important chapters of this book, and perhaps one of the most important of the Old Testament. The reason is that it paints for us a picture of the human condition, and God’s plan to save mankind.

The Passover was the most significant event in Israel’s history, so significant that God used the Passover to change the very calendar of Israel and it was the first feast or remembrance of each year. Grasp the magnitude of what God was doing in the Passover: God had a plan to save and deliver His people, all of them.  God had a plan to show every future believer the importance of the blood of the Passover Lamb.  God had a plan for the forgiveness of sin, every sin that Jesus Christ would willingly take upon Himself.

1  The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in Egypt, 2  “This month is to be for you the first month, the first month of your year. Exodus 12:1-2 (NIV)

I’m sure that most of us can recall a memorable New Year’s Eve, or New Year’s Day that we participated in with our families. The Hebrew people of God were about to experience a New Year’s like no other. It would be so significant, that it would begin their new calendar. Every time a new year rolled around, they would be reminded of what had happened to them, and their forefather’s way back in Egypt, when God sent the death angel, and delivered them from Egyptian bondage.

3 Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household. 5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect. Exodus 12:3, 5 (NIV)

12:6-11: For the Israelites to be spared from the plague of death, a lamb with no defects had to be killed and its blood placed on the doorframes of each home. What was the significance of the lamb? In killing the lamb, the Israelites shed innocent blood. The lamb was a sacrifice, a substitute for the person who would have died in the plague. From this point on, the Hebrew people would clearly understand that for them to be spared from death, an innocent life had to be sacrificed in their place.

The festival of Passover was to be an annual holiday in honor of the night when the Lord “passed over” the homes of the Israelites.  The Hebrews followed God’s instructions by smearing the blood of a lamb on the doorframes of their homes. That night the firstborn son of every family that did not have blood on the doorframes was killed. The lamb had to be killed in order to get the blood that would protect them.

This foreshadowed the blood of Christ, the Lamb of God, who gave his blood for the sins of all people. Inside their homes, the Israelites ate a meal of roast lamb, bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast. Unleavened bread could be made quickly because the dough did not have to rise. So, they could leave at any time.  Bitter herbs signified the bitterness of slavery.

12:29, 30  Every firstborn child of the Egyptians died, but the Israelite children were spared because the blood of the lamb had been smeared on their doorframes. So begins the story of redemption, the central theme of the Bible.

Redemption means “to buy back” or “to save from captivity by paying a ransom.” One way to buy back a slave was to offer an equivalent or superior slave in exchange. That is the way God chose to buy us back—he offered his Son in exchange for us.

In Old Testament times, God accepted symbolic offerings. Jesus had not yet been sacrificed, so God accepted the life of an animal in place of the life of the sinner. When Jesus came, he substituted his perfect life for our sinful lives, taking the penalty for sin that we deserve.  He redeemed us from the power of sin and restored us to God. Jesus’ sacrifice made animal sacrifice no longer necessary.

We must recognize that if we want to be freed from the deadly consequences of our sins, a tremendous price must be paid. But we don’t have to pay it. Jesus Christ, our substitute, has already redeemed us by his death on the cross. Our part is to trust him and accept his gift of eternal life. Our sins have been paid for, and the way has been cleared for us to begin a relationship with God (Titus 2:14; Hebrews 9:13-15.

Each year the people would pause to remember the day when the death angel passed over their homes. They gave thanks to God for saving them from death and bringing them out of a land of slavery and sin. Believers today have experienced a day of deliverance as well—the day we were delivered from spiritual death and slavery to sin. The Lord’s Supper is our Passover remembrance of our new life and freedom from sin. The next time struggles and trials come, remember how God has delivered us in the past and focus on his promise of new life with him.

I believe that we can compare the Passover to our Christian experience, and recognize two important truths that we should “Never Forget.”

We Need to Remember Who we Are.  We are God’s redeemed people, a people who have been delivered from bondage. Theirs was physical slavery; ours was spiritual enslavement to Satan.  God came down, and delivered us. He did not allow us to remain in agony and suffering, and despair. He sent Moses to them, as their Deliverer. He sent Christ to us, to deliver us from darkness, so that we could walk in His marvelous light.

They had no power to deliver themselves, neither do we. God had to send one who would lead them out of bondage, into the freedom of being the children of God.

Secondly, I believe that God wants us to Remember What He has Done for Us.

Everything about what they were instructed to do was significant. God promised that when He saw the blood, He would Passover them, and not destroy them as His plague of death struck Egypt. We need to always remember that it is by the blood of Jesus that we are redeemed, and that apart from that blood we would perish with the rest of the world when God’s judgment falls.

Our redemption is in the blood of Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, who gave Himself for us, that we might be saved, and given a home in Heaven. Nothing but the blood of Jesus can cleanse us, and rescue us bondage of death.

Jesus established the Lord’s Supper after He had led His disciples in celebrating Passover, for He is the fulfillment of the Passover as the Lamb of God who died for the sins of the world. Each time we share in the Lord’s Supper, we look back and remember His death, but we also look ahead and anticipate His coming again. When Jesus returns, a wonderful exodus will take place! The dead in Christ will be raised and the living believers will be caught up with them and taken to heaven to be with the Lord (1 Thes. 4:13-18).

Our soldiers died for our country’s freedom, and Jesus died for our spiritual freedom, may we never forget.




 Life Application Study Bible, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1988), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 112-114
Memorial Day Weekend Sermon, by James Powell


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