“Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is 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 unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; and shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.” Exodus 20:3-6
“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
The Bible tells us: “What doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul…” (Deut. 10:12); “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. 6:5); and, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:5).
Therefore, Luther explains this commandment: “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.”
The question is: Do we? Do we truly fear and respect the LORD God enough that we hear and obey all His commandments? Do we sincerely love Him with all our heart, soul and mind, or do we just pay lip service? Do we trust Him in all things and believe that his Word and His ways are truly good and right even when our own thinking and understanding would tell us otherwise?
While we may not make graven images out of wood, metal or stone, we do often seek to make our god in our own image – we think of God on our terms and with our views rather than accepting the holy God of the Bible. We prefer a god who winks at sin and is satisfied with our efforts to please him instead of the holy God of the Bible who condemns every sin in thought, word or deed and demands perfect righteousness (cf. Matt. 5:17-20, 48).
And, if we truly have no other gods before the LORD God, why is it that we so often neglect His Word, fail to worship and serve Him from our hearts, disobey His commandments? Do our own interests, our jobs, our families ever come before the LORD?
Perhaps one of the easiest self-checks is to simply look at our worship and devotional life. Do we take church attendance and letting Him minister to us with Word and Sacrament lightly, as something we can skip when it is not convenient? Do we love God enough to read His Word daily and to share it with our family members and those with whom we come into contact? What about our giving? Do we seek to honor Him and give to Him all we can from the heart, or do we do only the least we think is required or expected of us?
Disobedience to this commandment is no small matter! Look at the judgments of God upon His people for their failure to obey this commandment! When they became lax in their fear, love and trust in the LORD God, and when they began to join together with the peoples around them in their pagan worship, God’s judgments came upon them – they suffered famine, wars, diseases, death and destruction.
And yet we seem to think that we can be lax in our love for God and that we can join together with those around us who worship and serve other gods besides the Triune God of the Bible or that we can join together in the worship and service of those who teach false doctrine or tolerate open disobedience to God’s commandments. If we do not repent, God’s judgments will come upon us, as well.
God says: “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images” (Isa. 42:8). He warns: “I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me” (Ex. 20:5).
God calls upon us all to repent, and that is not just to say the words, “I’m sorry, forgive me,” and then continue on in our sinful ways. It is to agree with God that we are wrong and that we have sinned and to agree that we deserve nothing but His eternal wrath and punishment for our sins. And it is to look in faith to Christ, to His holy life and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead for our sins, and to believe God’s promise that He will pardon our sins and accept us as his dear children when we trust in Christ Jesus and His atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.
The Bible tells us: “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them … Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Gal. 3:10, 13).
The Bible tells us in John chapter 3, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:14-18).
Jesus, who had perfect love for God, who trusted Him in all things, who always honored God and obeyed God’s commandments, was lifted up on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of the world and all who look to Him in faith will live – they have God’s pardon and forgiveness!
And, of course, as a fruit of true faith in Christ, we will also then begin to desire to fear, love and trust in God above all. We will want to hear His Word and worship Him and we will desire to obey all He commands us in His Word. We look to Christ’s perfect obedience alone for our salvation; but the Holy Spirit, working in those whom he has brought to faith in Christ, also regenerates us and gives us new thoughts and desires which are in accord with God’s Word.
I, therefore, ask you before God: Do you acknowledge that you have sinned? Do you confess and agree with God that you are guilty and deserving of his wrath and punishment?
Do you trust that Christ Jesus has truly redeemed you from the curse of God’s law? That He fulfilled the law’s righteous demands and then took your sins upon Himself, along with the sins of the whole world, and suffered your just punishment when He died upon the cross?
Do you also believe that Jesus, in the Sacrament, gives you to partake of His body and blood which was given and shed that your sins might be forgiven you?
As a fruit of your faith, do you truly desire and seek God’s help to amend your life and live it in accord with God’s Word?
If you are truly sorry for your sins and look to Christ and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross for pardon and forgiveness, I announce unto you the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +