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The Ten Commandments have been the foundational structure of many nations of the world for the last several thousand years. They have established the very character of morality and civility for nations. Sadly, our society has been trying to remove the ten commandments from public use and replace them with a culture dedicated to self-interests, excessive indulgences, and sensual pleasures. God’s commands were written on stone for a reason, they are non-negotiable and permanent. They were nothing like the Mosaic Laws written on parchment that has long ceased to exist due to decay. For this lesson, we ask the question, why was the first commandment first?

(Exodus 20:1-3)1NIV New International Version Translations – “And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord 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.’”

To begin with, firsts in life are things people tend to remember! One’s first car, first home, or first date are often easy to recall. Can you remember your 8th date? Yes, we are a society that places an extra emphasis on first-place finishes, and first-time experiences. Being first holds special importance in so many areas. First in sports means you are the best. First in line means you will not be disappointed if there is a limited supply. With that as a backdrop, we can look at the first commandment from our God and assume that He does not want us to ever forget this specific command!

The first four Commandments relate between God and humanity. The last six are about our relationships with each other. This doesn’t mean that the last six are any less or more important. They all are important, but there does seem to be a ranking or prioritizing in the order in which they are given. To put any other god before the one True God is idolatry. Idolatry is all about economics. When reading about the Israelites worshiping the god called Baal in (1 Kings 18), there is a tendency to think of them developing a preference for wooden idol images. However, their attraction to Baal wasn’t about a pretty statue. It was about an economic promise.

The nations around Israel considered Baal the “rider of the clouds,” who brought the rains and blessed the earth. When Baal showed up, the heavens rained oil, the rivers ran with honey, mothers gave birth to healthy children, and even the dead could be raised. Little wonder, then, that when King Ahab (See Lostpine’s Study: Who was Ahab?) chose to marry a woman from Baal territory, the farmers in Israel built a house for this new god and welcomed him to the neighborhood (1 Kings 16:31).

The Israelites never totally rejected God. They continued going to the temple, paying their tithes, and saying a prayer or two now and again, especially on holidays. This was called “hedging your bets.” They just slipped Baal into their worship time to cover their bases. After all, if you’re a farmer, it’s only practical to invest in getting insurance policies in case the clouds didn’t like you. We still worship our idols today. They could be sports, cars, money, or oneself. Anything that supersedes God, is an idol, anything! And we are still hedging our bets!

What are a few of today’s idols?

  • Security – The relinquishing of freedom and rights to others for the promise of a more secure world is a falsehood. Only God can make the promise of security! (See Lostpine’s Study: Does the End Justify the Means?)
  • Money, Riches, Wealth – The pursuit of opportunity was one of the founding pillars of our country. Through hard work and enabled by liberty, people sought to improve their economic status. God allows for wealth provided that a person’s riches were not gained at the expense of his relationship with God. In Matthew 6:24 when Jesus said, “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.”
  • The Automobile – For some, the automobile is a symbol of freedom to come and go, get to work, and a useful tool. For others, it is a symbol of money, sex, and power, with a clear hierarchy identifiable by model and price. The automobile has become a divider of those who have from those who have-not.
  • Fame through Sports, Media, and Entertainment – Thank the Internet for social media. How many “Friends” do you have? Is becoming a celebrity something to aspire to? Many parents will sacrifice virtually anything for the chance for their child to become famous. Ever seen a child beauty pageant or a little league baseball game?

Take a test of how much time, devotion, and unquestioned loyalty are given to any of the items above. Is there a conflict between prayer, worship, and one’s Tee Times? One’s loyalty can often be tested by a quick audit of your logos, flags, caps, T-shirts, and other clothing items. Or how about this hard question, where does Jesus sit priority-wise with your interests, time and money use, amount, and attention? Is He first, second, third, fourth?

(2 Corinthians 13:5) – “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?”

Jesus obeyed every law of God and that includes the Ten Commandments. He too emphasized the first commandment by saying, “’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.” (Matthew 22:37-38). The First Commandment is listed first because God knows our hearts.

(Jeremiah 17:9) – “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

It is human nature to create idols that we put before God. Our duty, however, is to place God first and strive to live a life that is pleasing to God. Then leave everything else up to Him, knowing that whatever happens in our life, it’s going to be okay (Romans 8:28-29). Jesus also emphasizes this point in the parable of The Wise and Foolish Builders.

(Matthew 7:24-25) – “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”

Jesus uses the Greek word “petran”, meaning rock in His parable. The rock Jesus is talking about is not about the house or its foundation. The rock is about the most important choice we make in life, to honor God with all our heart, soul, and strength. The rock (God) is all about where we choose to build our life and about choosing God first as our construction site. It is all about choices, idols, and distractions, that insulate us from our one and only God. Has any human being ever kept the First Commandment? No, because only Jesus was without sin. But without Jesus, there can be no rock upon which to build one’s life. Without the Rock, there is no everlasting life! Need a visual example for a group? See Lostpine’s Study: Rocks and Things.


  • What idols in our world today would you add to our list? 
    • Ideas to Explore: Gaming, technology like cell phones, televisions, or what about homes, clothes, jobs? Is the size of your sanctuary important to you? What about electric cars or the Green New Deal?
  • Do you think you can get through this world without honoring God?
    • Ideas to Explore: Is that really the point? Do we even care about a few commands on stone these days? What are the true motives of a person who picks God over this world?
  • What evidence do you think you should see in someone’s life if they have placed God First?
    • Ideas to Explore: Make a written list of what you do well and where you falter. That could be a game plan for life! Take advantage of your strengths and fix your weaknesses!
  • What is your house built upon?
    • Ideas to Explore: List everything you have done to secure your life: then sort them into two lists, sand, and rock. The Rock List are those things that you did solely for God’s benefit. The Sand list is those pursuits you took for your glory.  Now, which is longer?
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    NIV New International Version Translations