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Feb 26, 2023

No Other Gods

Passage: Deuteronomy 4:32-5:7

Preacher: John Repsold

Series: Deuteronomy

Keywords: false gods, lent, cleansing, spiritual practices, exclusive worship


What does it really mean to "have no other gods before" the True and Living God? What can we do to identify when other gods are getting in the way of the only True God? To week them out? To insure they don't creep in? This message looks at this Commandment #1 of the Great 10.


No Other Gods

Deuteronomy 4:32-40, 5:1-7

February 26, 2023


Last week Pastor Jesse did a wonderful job of addressing the problem Israel (and we) have with idolatry. Every human being who is drawn to God by His redeeming work finds that we must take some serious steps to shed our natural tendency toward clinging to our man-made visible representations for the only true and invisible God. 

  • Before God redeems us: we are people who make idolatrous substitutes for the invisible Living God out of just about anything we can see—friends, family, homes, property, wealth, human recognition, fame, cars, clothes, churches, government, institutions, technology, and our favorite—ourselves!
  • Once God snatches us out of slavery to sin and self, we must learn how to shed the worship of our false gods/idols and embrace the worship of the only Awesome God through appropriate, genuine worship.

This is what Israel needed to do coming out of Egypt and its pagan idolatry and this is what WE need to do coming out of our own slavery to sin and worship of the wrong gods in life—the visible substitutes we tend to grab onto which are really visible expressions of breaking what we refer to as the 1st of the “10 Commandments” found in the Law given to Moses. 

            Since Jesse’s portion in the middle of Deuteronomy 4 zoomed in on what is actually the 2nd Commandment (“‘You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them….”), the continuing section I have chosen to focus on today is actually the foundational commandment, the 1st Commandment—"You shall have no other gods before me.’” 

  • Commandments 1-4—our relationship to God
  • Commandments 5-10—our relationship to God as expressed in how we relate to people.

ALL of these commandments are fundamentally about our relationship to GOD…just as all of life is to be about God for us. 

Let’s pick it up at Deut. 4:32.  Moses is delivering a sermon to people who have been under His training and discipline for almost 40 years as God has been teaching them how to live out this and the other commands He gave them that enable them to experience God as a nation as fully as possible. 

NOTE:  Isn’t this what we want out of life and eternity—to experience God to the full—THE most wonderful, good, amazing Being we could ever know?  Just as the wilderness and the experiences of the Promised Land were to prepare the Jews for an eternity with God, so our experiences post-redemption from sin are designed to prepare us for an eternity of the most amazing relationship with God Almighty possible.  What God is telling the Israelites is directly applicable to what He is calling us to in walking with Him for the rest of our days on earth.

Deuteronomy 4:32 “For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth….  In other words, look at all human history since Adam & Eve and see if God has ever done a saving work (to that date) for people that was greater than what He had done with them over the past 40 years as a nation/people.

“…and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of. 33 Did any people ever hear the voice of a god speaking out of the midst of the fire, as you have heard, and still live? Expected answer?  NO!  You are unique!

34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 

            God had never done such an amazing redemptive work for an entire nation/people group/race as He had just done for them and their parents.  God is pointing to redemption.  And now He gives them one of the chief “WHYs” of such a great, never-before-seen-in-the-world-redemption.

35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. 

Here we have one of the primary reasons God redeems anyone in the amazing way He does: so we will know Yahweh alone is God and there is NO other true God besides him.  God saved Israel so dramatically, so powerfully, so completely from the hands of the Egyptians so that they would not wonder if there were any other gods they should be serving along with Him. 

Truth:  God’s redemption of people is always designed to lead to exclusive worship, allegiance and obedience of Him.

APP:  If God’s delivering/redeeming Israel from slavery was to be an indisputable sign of His singular deity that should lead them to exclusive worship of Him, how much more OUR redemption?  The Old Covenant God made with Israel was truly amazing.  But how much better and more amazing the New Covenant God has made with us in God the Son, Jesus Christ?  The Old Covenant was designed to capture the heart of a singular nation.  The New Covenant of Christ is designed to capture the hearts of people in every nation, every tribe, every tongue—men and women, boys and girls, slave and free, rich and poor, young and old!  How much greater our redemption!  And it should lead us to an even greater devotion to an exclusive worship relationship to God.

            Moses continues to point to God’s unique treatment of them as a nation as reason for exclusive worship of Yahweh. 

36 Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you.

God imparted his truth in human words.  They heard Him speak at Mt. Sinai.  And they knew the power and importance of God’s word to develop discipline in their walk with Him over the past 40 years. 

APP:  What does this tell us about WHY God speaks to us?  WHY He actually gives us HIS Word, communication from Him? 

[To cause us to realize that He alone is God…and to give us a means by which our lives are disciplined, trained to worship and obey Him exclusively.]

If those few days and few chapters of instruction from God were designed to discipline Israel into an experience with God that would sustain and bless them for their time in the desert and the Promised Land, how much MORE is the full counsel of God (the Psalms, Prophets, Gospels and Epistles) designed to ‘discipline’ us into the kind of connection God wants with us?

            Moses continues to point to how God drew them into life with Him. 

And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire.  

In essence, God is reminding them of the encounters they have had with Him. 

APP:  Every child of God should be able to look back on their lives and say, “Yes, God met me there at that ‘spiritual mountain’.  Yes, I felt some of the ‘fire of God’.  I’ve felt the impact of His Word to me.  I know it’s changed my life.  I know it’s made demands on me and caused me to have to make choices.”  WE are no different who have heard and heeded the call of God on our lives. 

37And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them [i.e. YOU!] and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, 38 driving out before you nations greater and mightier than you, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day…. 

Now God points to the new and different life their redemptive relationship with God has given them.  He reminds them of…

  • What they were delivered
  • What they’ve had victory over.
  • How He gave them victory over enemies more powerful than themselves.
  • How God had already blessed their lives with “an inheritance”—good things.

APP:  People today who have heard the call of God on their lives and responded should be able to look at those same kinds of things in their lives:

  • Sins they’ve been delivered from.
  • Destructive issues/forces they’ve experienced victory over that were/are more powerful than they were able to manage themselves.
  • Fresh blessings God has even now blessed them with that they didn’t have before—purpose, peace, forgiveness, freedom from guilt, fruit of the Spirit, etc.

Whatever freedom from sin and living in righteousness we’ve experienced thus far in life was partly done for the two reasons Moses gives next.

39 know [be convinced in the depth of your soul] therefore today, [NOW!] and lay it to your heart, [diligently sink it into your soul; hang onto this conviction at the deepest level you can] that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. 

This is a repetition of Truth #1-- God’s redemption of us is always designed to lead us to exclusive worship, allegiance and obedience of Him.

Here comes the ‘obedience’ part.

40 Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”

Moses continues in Chapter 5.

1And Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the rules that I speak in your hearing today, and you shall learn them and be careful to do them. The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today. The Lord spoke with you face to face at the mountain, out of the midst of the fire, while I stood between the Lord and you at that time, to declare to you the word of the Lord. For you were afraid because of the fire, and you did not go up into the mountain. He said:

“‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.  [Notice again how God calls us to look at our own redemption as a motivation for exclusive worship, allegiance and obedience of Him.]  And here we arrive at Commandment #1:

“‘You shall have no other gods before me.

Literally, this command says, “No other gods before my face.  No rivals.  No competing gods at all.  No ‘gods’ in my face.  Only MY face when it comes to gods!” 

            WHY?  It’s not because God is egotistical.  It’s because He knows that having any other gods in our lives is not a blessing but a curse to us.  We were made for obedient relationship with the one and only true God.  Anything less steals from us what only Yahweh can give.  A life of worship, service, relationship and allegiance to God alone is the only thing that can bring glory to God and blessing to us. 

Every human being makes ‘god-choices’ every day.  Most people, even if they are religious, make most choices to serve themselves as god.  Those who deny there is a God (atheists) or that you can know whether there is a God (agnostics) definitely have made themselves god.  They have exalted their understanding, their reasoning, their logic or wisdom above that of God’s.  They have put themselves forward as god in the face of all the evidence, signs and indicators that this life holds that there is, in fact, only One True God. 

            But, as we were reminded last week, even people who know God are prone to latch onto false gods.  We’re prone to turn our worship into idolatry rather than something that actually connects us to the life and heart of God. 

            In working with this passage this week, I was driven to ask myself, “So, how do I actually know when I’m setting up ‘other gods’ before the true God in my life?  What are the symptoms that something/someone else has become a false god between me and the True God…a god that I’ve selected to put before God’s face?

            I ran across two questions this week that I think will be very helpful for all of us to know when we’ve erected a false god in our lives:

  1. What do I LOVE and long for in life that may be pulling me away from or sapping my passionate love of God?
  2. What do I TRUST and look to in life…for things that God designed for me to get from Him like peace, security, happiness, joy, fulfillment, meaning, etc.?

Other ‘gods’ can be good things.  But they become false gods when we give them improper or undo importance. 

ILLLOVE—Our relationship with God is very much like a marriage relationship.  (In fact, the Scriptures use that analogy in both Old and New Testaments.)  Good things can come in and steal from what should be our ‘first love’ in marriage—our spouse.  It can be as blatant as an affair outside of marriage or as subtle as neglecting what builds my relationship with my spouse because it is easier or comes more naturally…like work or other friendships or a hobby, sport or addiction that robs time and emotional connection with my spouse.

Same is true of our relationship with God.  Whether it is blatantly obvious that we love recognition or wealth or sex or accomplishments or material things more than we love God OR whether those things are just incrementally chipping away at our passion for God, good things in life can compete with God for our affection.

ILL:  TRUST—When it comes to who/what I trust, discontentment or frustrations (or many ‘negative emotions’) can sometimes be great indicators that I’m actually trusting or looking to false gods for things I really need to be looking to God for.

EX:  Prayer Summit last week.  Was a wonderful time.  But there was one point I found myself feeling a little disappointed because I was the only pastor there.  I have years of memories of Summits being predominately pastors.  Now it seems that pastors don’t feel much of a need to gather for prayer like this.  So, I got to ask myself, “Is this feeling because I am looking to this experience of a Prayer Summit to give me something it can’t at this moment?  Am I hanging on to an experience in the past when God may be doing something new?  Or am I looking to God to give me joy, contentment and satisfaction right now?”  When I faced reality and realized I was looking to them for what God wanted to give me in that moment, the disappointment changed to a renewed connection with God.

On the other hand, when I was feeling a little sad saying goodbye to 22 children and grandchildren after a two-day family reunion later in the week, some of whom we won’t see for some time, the Lord seemed to say, “No, the level of what you’re feeling is good and healthy.  It’s not idolatrous.  It’s not illicit.  It’s the result of love that rightly recognizes the limits of time, space and life itself…and longs for the heavenly reality where none of that will ever interrupt.” 

            We can ask that question of God whenever we face disappointments, frustrations, fear, anger, hatred, jealousy, emptiness, loneliness, etc.  “Is what I’m feeling right now indicating I’m trusting in something more than You right now?” Just asking that question has the potential to cleanse me of false gods and reinforce God’s rightful and unique prominence as the only true God. 

            One final phrase that actually pops up multiple times in the book of Deuteronomy.  It is the phrase, “with all your heart and soul.” In this passage it occurred in 4:29 when God tells them what to do WHEN their hearts have strayed and He has disciplined them by kicking them out of the blessing of the Promised Land and taken them into captivity in foreign lands. 

4:29 But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

The cure for our hearts is the same as the cure for an entire nation when it has strayed from singular worship of the only true God:  search after Him with all our hearts and all our souls.  In brief, that involves both our emotions and our wills, our minds and our souls, our bodies and our spirits. 

            So, in what time remains today, I want to suggest something for us to consider now that we are into the historic church calendar period of Lent:  the 40 days of reflection, contrition, repentance and spiritual preparation for Holy Week. 

  • Began early in the life of the church.
  • Purpose: to prepare our hearts for the observance of Christ’s suffering, death, burial and resurrection done in Holy week through fasting, prayer, humiliation, repentance, Spirit-examination, spiritual warfare and other spiritual practices that tune our lives more to God.
  • Why 40 Days? manifests to some degree the 40 years of pilgrimage of the Israelites through Sinai as a result of the 40 days they explored the Promised Land and then rejected it; 40 days of waiting for Moses during his first encounter with Yahweh on Mt. Sinai and 40 days he fasted and prayed before the Lord after the golden calf incident; 40 days of Jonah’s calling for repentance and declaration of God’s judgment on Nineveh before they repented and were spared; 40 days of fasting of Jesus before the start of his pubic ministry.

I would like to propose that one of the ways we can sharpen our sensitivity to potential false gods in our lives as well as ‘seek the Lord with all our hearts and all our souls’ is to engage in the spiritual disciplines/practices that particularly focus on  abstaining from things and people.  I’ve found that I never really know the power or hold something has on me until either God takes it away or I choose to limit its presence in my life. 

EXloss of good things like our health or a friendship or a certain church experience or a freedom can either drive me closer to God or away from Him.  IF they drive me away, it is evidence that they had the hold of a false god on me.  If they move me closer to God, it is evidence that I’m allowing God to be God and trusting that He is truly in charge of life in such a way that that loss can be used of Him to draw me closer.  My love and trust rest in Him first and last, not life circumstances, things or people.

            The church has, through the centuries, sought to sift, examine, purify and strengthen the hearts of the faithful through spiritual practices during Lent, particularly the ones that lead us to abstain or withdraw from things that can easily become substitutes for God in our lives. 

  • Present 2 lists of Disciplines of Engagement vs. Disengagement.
  • Work through Disciplines of Disengagement under the general heading of “Fasting” or “Abstaining” from certain actions/activities.

APP:  Ways to experience spiritual practices:

  • Choose 1 discipline/day each week for the 6 weeks of Lent
  • Choose 1 discipline/week (each day) to practice in some meaningful way.
  • Choose 1 day/week to practice a discipline.

Disciplines of Abstinence/Disengagement

  1. Fasting—usually applies to abstaining from foods and/or liquids. Combats the gods of gluttony, appetite, physical strength/satisfaction, pleasure…???  >>hunger for God.
  2. Resting/Disengagement from Work—Practicing a sabbath. Addresses gods of business, activity, sense of worth from doing, control, greed, self-sufficiency…???  >>engaging with God and people more, trust and faith in God, time for spiritual and relational things (journaling, prayer, fellowship)
  3. Silence—getting away from non-natural sounds. Removing radio, TV, internet, phone, conversations.  Silent retreats/meals/evenings.   Addresses gods of noise, activity, technology, information, our own voice and opinions, communication…??? >>listening to God, prayer,
  4. Solitude—getting away from other people. Addresses gods of people, fear of loneliness, over-dependence on people.
  5. Simplicity/Frugality—not spending money/limiting spending; divesting of things. Addresses gods of materialism, wealth, affluence, control, false security, hoarding.  >>generosity, giving, letting go, more time and money, ???  EX:  used car dealership raffle for gas.
  6. Secrecy—doing things in secret without possibility of recognition, praise or adulation. Addresses gods of praise of people, recognition, self-worth from others, people-pleasing, public visibility.  >>cultivates living for the approval of One, connecting with God.
  7. Confession & Repentance—acknowledging and disengaging with sin ‘publicly’. Addresses gods of pride, secrecy, image-drivenness, independence, isolation, privacy.  >>humility, cleansing, accountability, honesty.  EX:  most revivals have involved this to some degree.
  8. Submission—willing and cheerfully putting yourself under the leadership of another. Addresses gods of control, authority, power, influence, fear, avoiding suffering, ???  >>seeing God work through authority/others, obedience, trust in God, prayer,
  9. Watching—refraining from sleep for the purpose of prayer and communion with God. Addresses gods of comfort, convenience, trust in self, ??? >> spiritual warfare, intimacy with God, sensitivity to the Spirit.



  1. Other gods I need to acknowledge and let go of?
  2. Is Jesus Christ my only true God? Surrender?
  3. How does God want me to use spiritual practices this Lent to seek him with all my heart and soul?



Take-Home Notes:

God’s redemption of people is always designed to lead to…



How do I actually know when I am setting up ‘other gods’ in the place of the one true God in my life? 


  1. What do I ____________________ in life that may be pulling me away from love of God?


  1. What do I _____________________ and look to in life…for things that God designed for me to get primarily from Him (like peace, security, joy, fulfillment, meaning, etc.)?


  1. Is this experience driving me farther from God or drawing me closer to Him?


Disciplines of DISENGAGEMENT:

  1. Fasting—usually abstaining from foods and/or liquids.
  2. Resting—Disengagement from work
  3. Silence—removing noise from our lives
  4. Solitude—getting alone
  5. Simplicity/Frugality—disengaging from things
  6. Secrecy—doing things in secret without probability of recognition, praise or adulation
  7. Confession & Repentance—acknowledging and disengaging with sin publicly
  8. Submission—willing and cheerfully putting of myself under the leadership of another
  9. Watching—withdrawing from sleep for the purpose of communion with God

Disciplines of ENGAGEMENT:

  • Celebration/Worship
  • Serving
  • Evangelism
  • Fellowship
  • Giving
  • Hospitality
  • Journaling
  • Bible reading/study
  • Prayer

I think God may want me to seek Him with all my heart and soul by engaging in this spiritual practice during Lent: _____________