Tamarajo is an avid Bible Studier who loves nothing more than to seek out the treasures in God's Word and share them with others.
This article will study the first three of the "Ten Words" from Exodus chapter 20, otherwise more commonly known as the Ten Commandments, and connect them with the ten things God says in the creation account.
The more literal rendering of the "Ten Commandments" as "Ten Words" is not meant to imply that these ten things God spoke are simply suggestions. Instead, it adds concreteness to the understanding that what God speaks is of supreme significance and every created thing, but humankind obeys His Word. When God speaks, everything is supposed to listen.
"He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast."
— Psalm 33:9
The Number Ten
God speaking, creating, and the idea of obedience is connected not only here but also in the flood narrative. God speaks ten times in Genesis chapters 6-9 in a sort of de-creation for the purpose of reconstruction in the account. Twice it is mentioned that Noah obeyed God's commands, and twice it is mentioned that the animals obeyed God's commandments.
Also, in the book of Exodus, there are ten plagues as commanded by God, marked by three "as the Lord commanded" statements in the context of His word obeyed. These connections, too, are linked with creation. Elements such as humankind, animals, creeping things, flying things, fish, water, and darkness are included in the first chapter of Genesis.
Proverbs chapters 1-9 include ten speeches of a father to his son that concern obedience to God's ways. Within the entire book of Proverbs, the command to obey and "keep commands" is noted ten times.
He also taught me, and said to me:
“Let your heart retain my words;
Keep my commands, and live.
— Proverbs 4:4
First of the Ten Words
We will use the Jewish numbering of the commands for this study.
The first of the "Ten Words" begins with
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage"
— Exodus 20:2
It is relevant for God to start with acknowledging who He is and who we are in relationship to Him. The LORD being your God, truly is the first order of business. Jesus said
. . . No one comes to the Father except through Me.
— John 14:6
The Father's ultimate sacrifice brought us out of the house and the dominion of sin's bondage. A prerequisite of this relationship is to understand that
" . . . He gave His only begotten Son . . . "
— John 3:16
to establish that relationship.
For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.
— I Corinthians 6:20
It's About Surrender
Through the sacrificial covenant death of God's Only Son, we have been brought and bought out of the land of Egypt, a metaphor for the world, and out of the house of bondage, a metaphor for the subjugation of our flesh and sin.
It is difficult for us to understand and admit that we are ruled by anything other than ourselves. In John chapter eight, Jesus is speaking with some Jews, whom the text says believed in Him along with the religious folk who didn't, and He states to those who believe.
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
— John 8:31-32
The reply of the unbelieving religious folk was
“We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”
— John 8:33
It is surprising to note that these very same people who were claiming freedom based upon being descendants of Abraham were a people who lived in bondage for about 400 years to the Egyptians and were subject to the Roman government of their time. This denial and forgetfulness are reminiscent of how we are often forgetting the bondage we came from or simply not acknowledging we were ever in bondage to anything at all.
"whoever commits sin is a slave of sin."
— John 8:3
The very first order of business is to know God through His Son and understand what great salvation He has done for us.
" . . . how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation . . ."
— Hebrews 2:3
Submission to God is fundamental. Acknowledgment and obedience to this very first truth are essential to a relationship with God in obeying any of the other "Words" that follow.
"We can never rightly understand God's grace until we understand our plight as those who need His grace"
— Jerry Bridges
"Christ is never fully valued until sin is clearly seen."
— J.C. Ryle
The First "And God Said"
The first utterance of God in Genesis chapter one interestingly corresponds with the first of the "Ten Words."
“Let there be light.”
— Genesis 1:3
This first action confirms that the first order of business is that of revelation represented by the light. Apart from Christ, we are without form and void. Our state of being without Him is one of bondage to chaos and deep darkness. It is with this view that Jesus's claim of being the "Light of the world" (Jn 8:12) makes sense. He is Jesus Christ, our savior who makes order, function, and purpose out of chaos.
The Second of the Ten Words
The second "Word" or command from Deuteronomy 20 is
“You shall have no other gods before Me."
This command also includes not making any images to worship, and it also expresses His jealousy. Just as fidelity is expected and cherished in marriage, so it is with God.
A note I would like to make on this Word is concerning the phrase "before me." The literal translation is "upon my face," or we might say in my face. Having other lovers is an "in His face" activity.
The Hebrew word "achar," most commonly translated as "other" in this verse, can be viewed from another aspect found in a related definition of this word. It is defined as "behind" or in the "background" in Gesenius Lexicon. We might think that God can't see what we are hiding behind our backs or what's really running in the background.
“Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land."
— Ezekiel 8:1
He rightly explains in this second Word that what we are hiding behind our backs is really in His face. What is running in the background is, clearly, seen by Him.
Here in the western world, it is very uncommon actually to build an inanimate object to worship. But, if we look carefully in our hearts, we might be able to catch a glimpse of some carefully carved constructed structures that we have built to suit our personal desires and the needs that can only be satisfied in and through a living relationship with the only living and eternal God.
The Second "And God Said"
Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament.
— Genesis 1:6,7
The concept in this account is about separating and distinguishing between what is above and what is below. What is earthly and fleshly, and what is heavenly and spiritual. This word usage is interesting, in that, in the second of the "Ten Words," God talks about not making carved images to worship that includes things both above and below.
You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
— Exodus 20:4
He uses these same concepts of what is above and below in the above verse. Conceptually we are to distinguish Him above all that is above or beneath, physical or spiritual. Nothing compares to Him; He is the true Holy one set apart and distinguished from all else.
God also distinguishes between two things in this portion of scripture; these being those who hate Him and those who love Him.
I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
— Exodus 20:5-6
It's About Separation
We see the concept of waters separating and dividing throughout Scripture. Relatedly there was a flood that separated light and dark in humanity. The Sea split for Moses and the people separating the people from Egypt. We see it in Joshua, where Jordan's waters are separated so God's people can be separated from their wilderness wandering to a promised land. Both Elijah and Elisha separated waters with Elijah's mantle.
This concept of separating is consistent with the idea of holiness. Holiness is a word that expresses the idea of separating oneself unto the Lord.
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
— Joshua 24:15
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.
— Deuteronomy 30:19
Loyalty to God could some this one up. We begin by acknowledging who God is and His great salvation, and secondly, we separate ourselves apart, distinguishing Him above all else in faithfulness to Him and worship Him alone.
The Third of the "Ten Words"
"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain . . ."
— Exodus 20:7a
Much fuss has been made, in Christianity, about the name of the Lord being used in vain. The focus has predominantly been on the use of speech, as in using it to cuss, curse, or swear.
Although this command includes this element of not using His name flippantly or disrespectfully, I feel we have neglected the command's weightier intent, which has more to do with how we live more-so than what we say.
The "Pirkei Avos," a Jewish commentary on Torah teachings, interprets this command similarly.
"Desecration of the name involves the sort of conduct that makes onlookers think or say that people who claim to be observant Jews act in an unworthy manner. "
— Ben Zoma
The Hebrew translation of the word "take" in this verse uses the Hebrew word "naw-saw," which is defined: "to bear," "lift up," "carry," or "to wear."
We can see that bearing His name and wearing His name means much more than merely the act of speech.
The book of Proverbs confirms that lying and stealing are considered a violation of this command.
Remove falsehood and lies far from me;
Give me neither poverty nor riches—
Feed me with the food allotted to me;
Lest I be full and deny You,
And say, “Who is the Lord?”
Or lest I be poor and steal,
And profane the name of my God
— Proverbs 30:8-10
The above verse shows us how living as if there is no God is taking His name in vain and distorting His image to those around us.
The Hebrew word translated "vain" is defined as worthless, false, and deceitful and can include the idea of ruining and destroying.
A paraphrased version of this verse, according to these definitions, might read something like this.
"You shall not bear or wear the name of YHVH (the Lord who gave up Himself to covenant with you and give you life physically and spiritually) Your God, in an empty way that is false and that would deceive others about who He really is by the way you represent Him in speech and in action."
In Ezekiel chapter 43, God scolds His children who had been taken captive to Babylon, for giving Him a bad name in the eyes of the world around them. They did this by combining their worship of Him with the worship of the other gods. The Word reads that they defiled His Holy name by the way that they lived.
“Son of man, this is the place of My throne and the place of the soles of My feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever. No more shall the house of Israel defile My holy name, they nor their kings, by their harlotry or with the carcasses of their kings on their high places. When they set their threshold by My threshold, and their doorpost by My doorpost, with a wall between them and Me, they defiled My holy name by the abominations which they committed.
— Ezekiel 43:6-8
Another example is given in Jeremiah, chapter 34, when God commanded the children of Israel to release their fellow men and women from serving them as slaves. He appeals to them from the perspective of God Himself, freeing them from bondage in Egypt, and communicates His expectation that they uphold His reputation and name by behaving likewise. Initially, they obeyed but then changed their minds and took back their slaves, and this is God's confrontation with them.
. . . you turned around and profaned My name, and every one of you brought back his male and female slaves, whom you had set at liberty, at their pleasure, and brought them back into subjection, to be your male and female slaves.
— Jeremiah 34:16
The profaning of God's name occurs when we act in inconsistent ways with God's character and wishes. Our actions are to reflect the God we serve.
"It is not that God arbitrarily commanded His people to have a care in the speaking of His name as if He were jealous of its irreverent mention, but it is that He reminded them that the coming into the privileges of His name was the coming into the responsibilities of that name . . . so God said to His people: "Thou shalt not take"—shalt not assume, bear, carry - "the name of the Lord thy God in vain"—insincerely, vainly, "for the Lord will not"—cannot—"hold him guiltless that taketh"—claimeth the privileges of—"his name in vain"—vainly, insincerely . . . His name is on us, and His honor is in our keeping. Wherefore, "let every one that nameth the name of the Lord"—claimeth it as his own name—"depart from unrighteousness;" and let him never feel that it is a light or a vain thing to bear that name before the world
— H. Clay Trumble "The Ten Commandments As A Covenant Of Love"
It's About What We Do
We are not to bear and wear God's name in a way that ruins or destroys His reputation in the eyes of a watching world.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
— Matthew 5:16
Bearing His name is an ambassadorship. We represent the God we serve by the way we live. He is commanding us not to give Him a bad name in the eyes of others and not represent Him falsely.
". . . we are ambassadors for Christ . . ."
— II Corinthians 5:20
The phrase in this command explains this a bit further and firms up the intent of meaning having more to do with lifestyle.
". . . for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes (bears) His name in vain."
— Exodus 20:7b
This revelation exposes the lie we often believe that we can live any old way we want and still bear His name without consequence.
"You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy?"
— I Corinthians 10:21-22
The Third "And God Said"
The third thing God said in the creation account concerning this Word was
“Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.”
— Genesis 1:9
We see a picture of the land being exalted. Just like His name ought to be.
. . . since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made.
— Romans 1:20
It is our responsibility to lift up His name and not tear it down.
. . . let us exalt (make high and present) His name together.
— Psalm 34:3
"Let the waters be gathered" . . . waters in Scripture can sometimes be symbolic of masses of people or gathered people as we see imaged in Revelation chapter 7.
. . . a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands,and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” All the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying:
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
— Revelation 7:9-14
This next verse, along with the previous one, communicates the idea of making His name great among and to all the earth's gathered people.
Let them exalt (make high and present) Him also in the assembly of the people, And praise Him in the company of the elders.
— Psalm 107:32
A concluding observation that the number "three" in the Bible is the number of the Spirit. H. Clay Trumble makes this note concerning the first three commandments connecting this theme.
"The first three of the ten requirements of the loving covenant of God's people with their God are simply the requirements to worship God as the only God, to worship Him in unhindered spirituality, and to worship Him in all sincerity. These fundamental requirements seem to have been in the mind of our Lord Jesus when He said to the woman of Samaria at the well of Jacob: "God" - the One God - "is a Spirit: and they that worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth."
— H.Clay Trumble
No Other Gods
© 2013 Tamarajo
Tamarajo (author) on July 14, 2013:
Thank you Bob for your insightful and thoughtful comment to the hub. You gave great examples of what this looks like in reality and how we really are.
I am glad you enjoyed the article and glad I was finally able to get back to reply.
Robert E Smith from Rochester, New York on July 04, 2013:
I got a shiver when you said, "God speaks and everyone but man listens." How very true! Then as you always do, you made me a Gentile believer see where I am grafted into the family of Abraham, which I must confess always makes me smile because I know how Jesus loves Abraham. I got a pang of conviction from the second Word because I remember the last time I was trying to be "sneaky" with sin. Somehow Satan and the flesh tells sinners to "just don't think about" Who's watching. But then when you are committed to the thing, how Satan quickly reminds you that God is watching and sure enough the small still voice was and is there asking "Why? How could you have this before My face?" At that point I feel so dirty and unworthy and I have to kneel before Him and find my Beth-el. The idol you spoke of in a person's heart is what the whole 18 part series is about that I'm in the midst of writing (I'm on number 11). It is the strongholds of sin that we construct in ourselves to preserve that thing to pop up again and again. That is what we need to eradicate in our heart but as soon as you do attempts are made to cause distraction, to cause us to fall into our fleshly thought patterns. It doesn't take long and we re-erect that statue that it seems we had torn down but a moment ago. The third word reminds me of the Scripture where Christ said, "Many false Christs will rise and deceive many." Those claiming to represent Him and do so in name only or do so in an effort to mislead. I very much enjoyed this article and was very blessed by it. Love you sister Tam.
Tamarajo (author) on May 18, 2013:
Thank you Blossom. Agreed that it is sad for the Lords name to be disrespected in speech but even more sad in attitude and behavior. It may be why our message of salvation isn't respected much in the world.
Thank you so much for reading and your favorable comment.
Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on May 17, 2013:
An interesting and well-researched hub. I love the way it is set out and you have some very important points here. Lifegate's comment is interesting, it really hurts to hear the Lord's Name being taken in vain so often, even by people who claim to be Christian. Voted it up and God bless you.
Tamarajo (author) on May 17, 2013:
Hello LG, It is interesting that other names aren't used for cursing. It does certainly reveal the spiritual component of the behind the scenes activity fueling it as it is played out in human behavior on the worldly stage in both speech and deed.
It also confirms the reality of the God who stands behind His name. When all is said and done His righteous and Holy name and reputation will be known to all and every knee will bow.
I appreciate your visit, your additional insights and encouraging comment.
William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on May 17, 2013:
I love the thoroughness of your hubs; the detail to explain what is often left unsaid. Up and awesome!
I was thinking about you said about taking the Lord's Name in vain - "Much has been made in Christianity about the name of the Lord being used in vain. The focus being on the use in speech as in using it to cuss, curse, or swear". Have you ever heard anyone take Buddah's name in vain, or Mohammad's? It's always the Lord thy God's Name that is abused. I think that really shows the hate and contempt that some people have for Him. Anyway, thanks for another 5-star hub.
Tamarajo (author) on May 16, 2013:
Hello shofarcall, Amen to seeking God first that really does sum it all up as will be confirmed at the conclusion of this series. It is joyful to know this presentation of His truth is useful.
Thank you for reading, added scripture confirmation. and confirming comment. God bless you too.
shofarcall on May 16, 2013:
Hello Sister Tamarajo,
"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all things shall be added unto you"
This hub, as all your hubs are, was interesting, useful, and awesome which is what I voted++++ shared. what I found particularly pertinent was the line that says 'every created thing, but man, obeys His Word.' What an indictment. Looking forward to next installment. God bless