Lectionary Calendar
Saturday, September 23rd, 2023
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24
Take our poll

Bible Commentaries
Exodus 20

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-26

Chapter 20

And God spake these words, saying ( Exodus 20:1 ),

Now the people said, "All that the Lord commands, we will do." All right this is what the Lord has spoken. Now these are the commandments of God.

I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, and out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me ( Exodus 20:2-3 ).

First of all, "I am Jehovah thy God." The word Jehovah is a beautiful word; it is a verb which means, "the becoming one". A word by which God expresses Himself and that which, in that which He desires to be to His people. God wishes to become to you whatever your need might be. "The becoming one", Yahweh, a verb "to be". So God becoming to you, "I am Yahweh thy God who has brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

Now as we said this morning, that doesn't mean that God has to, you know, that God is first in your life, and then you can have all other kinds of gods, as long as He's first God in your life, before in a sense of precedence. "I've got to be the greatest God of your life, and then you can have all kinds of gods under me." No. Before, that is, "in the presence of Me, you're to worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve." You're not to have any other gods. He is to be the exclusive God of your life. "You shall have no other gods in the presence of me, before me."

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And showing mercy unto the thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments ( Exodus 20:4-6 ).

So the prohibition of making graven images. And it goes actually of any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, which would include then the angelic beings, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth, whatever those creatures might look like. "Thou shalt not make them, thou shalt not bow down thyself to them."

Now men, as we pointed out this morning, have always been guilty of making their own gods. Man is conscious of God. The heavens declare the glory of God, the earth shows forth His handiwork, and there's a universal consciousness of God in every culture of man. Concepts, ideas of God exist.

Now many men have been guilty of making their own gods. A man, when he makes his own god usually starts out with this premise, "If I were God, this is what I would be. This is what I would do. This is how I would respond. This is how I would react." So the Greeks made their own gods. In your Greek mythology, you have their concepts of god, which are really an expression of what they would be if they were God.

Now some fellow having been in love with a girl, and another suitor won her away from him, "If I were God, you know, I could live up there and I could bring magic potions, and I could use my powers and then she would be mine instead of his." So you have your gods that are entwining themselves in the love affairs of man, and all of these kinds of things. Because, "If I were God I would use these powers for an advantage in my relationship with men." And thus, you find that is sort of a basis of your Greek mythology, men creating their own gods.

When a man makes a god, he actually makes the god like himself. A man's god is usually a projection of himself. A man is oftentimes worshiping himself, a projection of himself, and that is what he is worshiping. Most generally when a man rejects the true and the living God, his god is just a projection of himself.

This is why I sort of cringe whenever anybody comes up to me and says, "Well, I don't know why God would do this". What they are saying is, "If I were God I wouldn't do that. I could sure figure out a better way of doing it than this way." That person is close to creating his own god.

"If I were God this is what I would do. If I were God this is how I would respond". And if God doesn't respond the way I would respond, then I get angry, and I say, "Well I can't understand why God did that, why God allowed that." As though God has made a real blunder. "He really goofed on this one. I don't know how God could be so stupid" is really what you're saying. "I can see so much better than that. I could work it out in such a much better way. Oh, if I were only God, what I could do." If you were God, I'd hate to be in this universe very long.

When Job and his friends were talking about God, "Well God is this, and if I were God, that", you know, and they were giving all their ideas about what God was, and what God was doing and so forth, which were projections of their own selves, their own concepts, putting them in the mind of God, sort of.

When God came on the scene, after these guys had all expressed their concepts of God, and how God works, et cetera, when God came on the scene, "All right, Job, gird yourself like a man, you've been talking about things that you really don't know anything about. I'm gonna ask you a few questions. First of all Job, where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me if you think you know so much. How would you like to guide our tourists through the sky?" How would you like to guide our tourists through the sky? Our tourists is known as the runaway star. Its speed is estimated at a hundred and fifteen miles a second. How would you like the job of guiding that big old thing through the sky? Wheeling that thing around at that kind of speed?

"Tell me", God says. "Can you bind the sweet influence of the Pleiades?" And He went on and, Job said, "Hey, that's all right God you just keep running it. I don't know anything about it." Yes, we'd have a difficult time running this universe, I'll tell ya. We have enough problems just running our own lives.

So man makes a god like himself. But then he often makes the god less than himself. As David points out, "The gods of the heathen are vain. They cut them out of the forest. Eyes they have, but they cannot see, ears they have but they cannot hear, feet they have but they cannot walk, mouths they have, but they cannot speak." Man made a god like himself. He carved his god out of a piece of tree limb.

Sat there day after day, carving out his little gods. He carved ears on his little god. He carved eyes on his little god. He carved a nose on his little god. He carved a mouth, he carved feet. But the thing is, the eyes that he carved on his little god can't see. The ears that he carved on his little god, can't hear. The mouth that he carved on his little god, can't speak.

So a man made a god, he made him like himself. Because I have ears, I put ears on my god. Because I have a mouth, I put a mouth on my god. Because I have feet, I put feet on my god. But though I made him like myself, I made him less than myself. Because the feet I've put on my little god can't walk, thus he is less than I am. His eyes can't see, thus he is less than I am.

Then David said, "They that have made them have become like the gods they have made." In other words, a man becomes like his god, and if you make a god less than yourself, you are being degraded. You're on the road down. You are becoming less than what you were. If your god can't see, you soon become blind to the things of God. If you can't-if your god can't hear, you soon become deaf to the voice of God. You become insensate, as your god is insensate. That's the danger of making gods. You become like them. But yet, they are less than yourself.

So God strictly prohibited trying to make any likeness or representation of Himself. Now in the light of that, why is it that in the church we have statues of Jesus Christ or even pictures which constitutes a likeness?

What is a man signifying when he makes an idol? He is signifying the loss of the consciousness of the presence of God in his life. Whenever I make an idol, a reminder, it is only indicating that I have lost something vital in my relationship with God, and I need this little relic as a reminder of God because I've lost the consciousness of His presence. If I'm living in the consciousness of the presence of God, I don't need any little relic to remind me of God. But the making of the relic not only indicates the loss of the consciousness, but somehow there is a desire to regain that which I've lost, and somehow I would like to be conscious of God again, so I make a reminder so that I can be conscious of God. But it is always an indication of a degraded spiritual state.

Now people can make idols out of many different things. "The place in the church where I was sitting when I came into the consciousness of God, ooh." You'd be amazed how many people come back and they sit in that same place trying to regain that which was lost at that place. "I was sitting here, right in this spot when I really became conscious of the presence of God. Oh it was so glorious I just, ooh", you know. And so you'll return and try to duplicate a past experience of God's consciousness, thinking that it relates to a place. "While I was wearing those shoes" so you dig around, find the old shoes again, you know. "As I was wearing these shoes when I became aware of the presence of God", and all.

Hey, you've lost something friend. Paul the apostle said, "In Him we live, we move, we have our being"( Acts 17:28 ). God is here. God is with you. You've lost the consciousness, not that He's not with you. You've just lost the consciousness of His presence with you. And thus, you're looking for something that will somehow remind or bring back that experience of the past. But God has new experiences for you, and He doesn't want you living in the past experiences. He wants you living in a fresh day-by-day relationship of fellowship in His love and in His grace, experiencing daily that overflowing grace of God in your life.

So the prohibiting of making first of all the likenesses. Why? Because once you've made them, the next thing is so often the bowing down to them. Then that leads to the serving of them. So the progression. You make a god, then you next are worshiping your god, then finally you're serving your god. "But no man can serve two masters" ( Matthew 6:24 ).

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes his name in vain ( Exodus 20:7 ).

What does that mean? It means much more than just using the name of God in a profane way. As you hear people in their conversations using the name of God in a profane way, it's much more than that. "Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain." What does it mean? It means that if you take the name of Jehovah, it means that you have placed Him as the Lord, the guide, the director of your life.

Now if you don't give Him the chance to guide and direct your life, you've taken His name in vain. So many times we say, "Oh Lord, Lord." Jesus said, "Why do you say Lord, Lord, and you don't do the thing that I command you?" ( Luke 6:46 ). If you're not obeying Him, you've taken His name in vain.

Thus the greatest blasphemy is not that which you hear on skid row, but the greatest blasphemy is that of those who make an acknowledgment of God in their words, and maybe even in their deeds by attending church and so forth, and yet God doesn't have a place in their daily life through the week. You never give God a place. You never give God a chance. You never open up your life to God during the week; it's just a Sunday relationship with Him. That is taking the name of the Lord your God in vain. That's the greatest blasphemy.

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work ( Exodus 20:8-9 ).

Therefore if you're on a five-day week, you're unscriptural. If you want to really you know, be tied to the law,

The seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, or maidservant, not thy cattle, nor the stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made the heaven and the earth, and the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it ( Exodus 20:10-11 ).

Honored it. Now there are a lot of people, who today, like to make a big issue over the Sabbath day and over worshiping on Sunday. They say, "The Sabbath day is the day you should worship God." They've even gone so far to say that Sunday worship is the mark of the beast. So you've all been guilty of taking the mark of the beast because you worship God on Sunday.

Let me say that first of all I worship God every day of the week. As far as I'm concerned, every day of the week is a great day to worship God. I do believe that for man's sake, God established a pattern of six and one. "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" ( Mark 2:27 ). That God has ordained for the body's sake, one day of rest for the purpose of recuperation. I think that you live healthier and longer if you just spend one day in bed a week, just really flaked out and sacked out in doing nothing; just a total change of pace. I would love to do it.

But this particular law was a special law to the people of Israel as is declared in the thirty-first chapter of Exodus, verses sixteen and seventeen. "Wherefore the children of Israel will keep the Sabbath to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever. For in six days the Lord made the heaven, and the earth, the seventh day He rested." So God here plainly declares that it's a sign between Him and the children of Israel.

It is interesting that the one law that Jesus was constantly being accused of violating was the law of the Sabbath. That's what really created the ire of the Pharisees against Jesus more than anything else, is that He disregarded their Sabbath day law tradition. Walking through the cornfields, He allowed His disciples-the wheat fields actually, take the corn of wheat and rub it on their hands and eat the corn on the Sabbath day. "Why do You allow Your disciples to do that which is unlawful to do on the Sabbath day?"( Luke 6:2 ).

Now they had so interpreted the Sabbath, the bearing of burdens and so forth, that they had really made the Sabbath day extremely restricting, with all of their rules and regulations that regard the Sabbath day, what constitutes a keeping and a violating of the Sabbath day law. Instead of the day being a day of rest, it was a day of bondage. Man, everything they had laid on you was so heavy. You're so worried about violating it, that it was a bondage instead of a real rest and a day of relaxation and rest. You were so concerned about the violation of it. They made it a bondage, keeping that law.

In the early church when it was brought to the attention of the church in Jerusalem concerning the Gentile Christians that they were not walking after the law of Moses, it was determined by the early church that they would not try to put upon the church the Mosaic law. But only certain parts of it, and that which related to idolatry, and eating of meats that were sacrificed to idols, or blood, keep yourself from blood, and things strangled and so forth. But nothing was mentioned as far as the Sabbath day, and the church was concerned.

Now the law was not given to make men holy. This is our whole misconception of the law, and that is the idea "the keeping of the law will make me holy". If righteousness could come by the law, then Christ died in vain. If you could keep these Ten Commandments, and by keeping them be righteous, then Jesus wouldn't need to die. If God could take and impute righteousness to you because you kept every one of these commandments in your heart faithfully and completely, then there was no necessity for Jesus Christ. But righteousness could not come by the law even if you kept it. Righteousness comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

Now God related to these people, the covenant of God was related to their obedience. If they will obey and their obedience was the, uh to the law of God, was the condition upon which they could relate to God. But this old covenant failed, and it failed because of man's weakness and man's failure. Man was incapable of obeying.

Therefore God has established a new covenant that isn't predicated upon man's faithfulness, but the new covenant is predicated upon God's faithfulness, the faithfulness of God to keep His word. The first covenant, man's faithfulness to keep God's word, first covenant failed; man wasn't faithful. The second covenant that God has established through Jesus Christ is a covenant that God has now established which is predicated upon the faithfulness of God to keep His word. And His covenant shall always stand with us because God will keep His word, and my believing that God will keep His word. "So to him that worketh not, but believeth, God imputes that faith for righteousness" ( Romans 4:5 ).

Now does that mean then that I have no relationship to the law at all? I can live however I want? I can violate any of these commandments I want and still have fellowship with God? "God forbid. How can we who are dead to sin live any longer therein?" ( Romans 6:2 ). But it means that God now gives to me the new power of His Holy Spirit within my life whereby I am enabled to be what God wants me to be.

The fifth commandment some people put with the first table. They say that it belongs in the first table.

Honour thy father and thy mother ( Exodus 20:12 ):

Because you are not to consider your father and your mother on an equal, but always on a superior basis, even as God is always thought upon in a superior basis; and thus, they say it belongs in the first five words of the law instead of the second six. So they have divided the law into two categories of five and five. I don't argue with that, you know, foolish. What difference does it make? It's all part of the ten.

Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's ( Exodus 20:12-17 ).

Now covet is to desire earnestly, have a strong desire for those things. You're not to have it. Now Paul the apostle said this is the law that wiped him out. "I didn't know", he said "that coveting was sin except the law said, Thou shalt not covet"( Romans 7:7 ). Man, when he saw that, when the Spirit revealed that law to him, he said, "Man I was dead. It killed me." It was the one that condemned Paul to death. Here he had done all he could to be righteous to the law, and he could write to the Philippians concerning his past experience as a Pharisee. He said, "And concerning the righteousness which is of the law, I was blameless"( Philippians 3:6 ). But then when he saw that the law was spiritual, then he said, "Man, I was wiped out. I was dead. The law destroyed me."

Now that was the whole basis of the teaching of Christ, and that is that the law is spiritual. "Thou shalt not kill." What does that really mean? It means you're not to have hatred for anybody, because hatred is the seedbed of murder. Thus you can violate the law "thou shalt not kill", and never club a fellow at all. But if you have a hatred for him, animosity against him, you've violated the law, "thou shalt not kill".

Now the law was intended as a schoolmaster to drive us to Jesus Christ, to make us realize that we were spiritually bankrupt. To make me realize that there's no way I can pay the debt, thus drives me to Jesus Christ as my source, and my resource.

Now all the people saw the thunderings, the lightnings, the noise of the trumpet, the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Hey you go, you speak with us, and we'll listen to you: but don't let God speak with us, or we'll die. And Moses said to the people, Fear not ( Exodus 20:18-20 ):

Now here they are frightened, terrified by the manifestation of God's presence. The words of God's grace, "Fear not"

for God is come not to destroy you, he's come to prove you, ["You said you would obey Him, you'd be His people, you'd be His special people, now God has come to prove you",] that his fear may be before your faces, [that you might really reverence God] that ye sin not ( Exodus 20:20 ).

So God is just telling you what is, and what constitutes sin. This is a basic law of God, which constitutes the right relationship with God and the right relationship with your fellow man. If you don't have the right relationship with God, there's no sense of going any further. You're not gonna have a right relationship with your fellow man.

That is why when the young ruler came to Jesus and said, "Good Master what must I do to be saved?" Jesus first of all tried to draw his attention to something, He said, "Why did you call me good? There's only one good, that's God." What was Jesus saying to him? He was saying one of two things. He was saying to this young man, "Hey I'm no good" or he was saying to this young man, "I am God". He's trying to point out to the young man that he recognized in Jesus something that was true. "Why did you call me good? Think about this now young man. You've discovered a truth. When you came to me you called me good, why did you do that?" "Because you see you've recognized a truth, you called me God. Why did you call me good? There's only one good, that's God. That gives you a hint why you called me good."

We misinterpret that we think that Jesus is saying to the young man, "Why did you call me good? I'm no good, there's only one good, that's God." No, that's not at all what He is saying. "Why did you call me good? I'll give you a hint. There's only one good, that's God. That's why you called me good, because I'm God."

"What must I do to have abiding life?" "Keep the commandments." "Which ones Lord?" What did the Lord give to him? He gave to him the first table of the law, your relationship with God. Why? Because if you don't get past this, there's no sense going to the second table. If you don't pass the first four, there's no sense going on to the second six. If you don't have a right relationship with God, you're not gonna have a right relationship with your fellow man.

So Jesus reiterates the first four. "Lord I've kept all these from my youth up, what do I lack yet?" "Oh, let's come back and take a look at that. What is the first law? "Thou shalt not have any other gods before me. You say you've kept them all? All right, go out and sell every thing that you have, and take the money and give to the poor, and come and follow Me. You'll have great treasures in heaven." What was Jesus doing?

He was pointing out the folly of what the man had said. The first law, "thou shalt have no other gods before me", was the law that he was breaking because he had his possessions as a god in his life. They were his god, and they were before. They were there in the presence of his worship of God. "Lord I've kept this law from my youth up, what do I lack yet?" "Oh wait a minute. You haven't kept it from your youth up. You only say you have. But in reality, you have a god in your life that is possessing you, and it is even stronger and has a greater hold than I have upon you. Your desire for it is greater than your desire for Me."

Be careful what you say to Jesus, He's liable to put you on an examination. So much of what we say is flippant, off of the top of our heads when we come to worship God. "Oh God, everything I have is Yours." "Oh, that's wonderful. Now if you'll just sell this, and this". "Oh now Lord, I really didn't mean that. You know it's just a figure of speech." Words; empty words we're so guilty of offering to the Lord the empty words of our mouth. "Rend your hearts, not your garments unto God" ( Joel 2:13 ).

So God has laid out what sin is. He said, "This is the mark, so I've given you the law that you might know what sin is, that you'll sin not."

The people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. And the Lord said unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel, You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make with me gods of silver, neither shall you make unto you gods of gold. An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon burnt offerings ( Exodus 20:21-24 ),

Hey, notice the Lord is not wanting them to even build ornate altars, "And if you have a-make an altar of earth to make your sacrifice, just pile up dirt for your altar."

And if you use stone, don't bring a chisel on it: because if you put a chisel on it you're gonna defile it ( Exodus 20:25 ).

God doesn't want anything to distract from Him, not even a glorious, fancy altar. He doesn't want man glorying in the works of his own hands. God help us in the church today. You go into so many churches where you've got the fancywork of man's hands, the ornate altars, the ornate buildings and all. God cannot be pleased with them. God said, "Hey, be simple. Build an altar out of earth; that's good enough. If you make it out of stone, then don't carve on the stones, don't chisel on them. If you put a chisel on it, you're gonna defile it. Leave it natural."

Natural, that's whereby the work of man's hands, man's work of his hands is not glorified when we come to worship God, only God is glorified. We don't glorify the works of man's hands. We don't say, "Oh my, this lovely sanctuary built by the hands of men." "This glorious golden altar, built by the hands of men." So many places where you go to worship God, your attention is so drawn to the architecture, or to the ornateness, or to the lavishness of it to the works of man's hands, that you fail to see God. You're lost for the works of men. God was forbidding that. He said, "Hey when you make an altar, make it out of earth." He doesn't want man to glory in His presence, the work of man's hands or anything else. God wants the glory when we come to worship Him. He wants all the glory.

God help that man who seeks to bring glory and attention to himself while doing the service of God. "The altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt offerings"

and thy peace offerings, thy sheep, and thy oxen: in all places where I record my name I will come unto thee, and I will bless thee. And if you will make me an altar of stone, thou shalt not build it of hewn stone: for if you lift up your tool on it, you've polluted it. Neither shalt thou go up by the steps to my altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon ( Exodus 20:24-26 ).

In other words, don't go up steps and high where people can look up and see your bare legs or something. God just doesn't want attention drawn to anything but Him when we are worshiping God. He wants your heart and your mind to be centered upon Him, not to be distracted.

That is why we seek to keep distractions here to a minimum. We don't want anything that draws attention to man. We want our attention to be drawn to the word of God, and to God Himself when we gather together to worship Him. For God forbid that any flesh should glory in His sight.

In dealing with our Maranatha musicians one of the most difficult things we have is that of keeping them from these little antics that draw attention to themselves, even a special movement as you're playing the bass, you know. It draws attention to you, and takes the attention of the people off of what you're saying, what you're singing. "Oh man look at him, you know, really swings, really grooving, you know"

That subtle little way we have of drawing attention to ourselves. But the minute I draw attention to me, then the person's attention is taken off of God, and I am robbing God of that which is His. God will hold me accountable for it. Thus serving the Lord is always a very fine balance, because I must do it in such a way, that if possible, I be hid, and Christ be seen. If that comes to pass, then my service for God is accepted, and it is blessed and it is successful. But if we're drawing attention to other things, then the people are going out robbed of the full blessing of God, tragically so.

Next week we'll take the next five chapters.

Father, we thank You tonight for Thy Word, a lamp unto our feet, a light unto our path. Lord, we thank You for Your law, the standards that You have given to us. Lord, we delight after Thy law. We consent to Thy law. We desire to fulfill Thy law, give us the power Lord, to be what You want us to be, and to do what we ought to do as Your children. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.

May the Lord be with you and watch over you through the week. May you experience God's power working in your life, as He would transform you by the power of His Spirit into the image of Jesus Christ. That you with open face, beholding the glory of the Lord might be changed from glory to glory into that same image, by His Spirit working in you. In Jesus' name. "

Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Exodus 20". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/exodus-20.html. 2014.
adsFree icon
Ads FreeProfile