Exodus 20:2-3 “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”
Most of the time, the people of God have not made a decision, as the decision to repent of their sin and turn to faith in Christ, to turn away from the living God unto other gods and become idolaters. Aside from the physical idols of those we think of as idolaters, as Hindu’s and Buddhists who physically bow down unto some image made of stone or wood or metal, it is easier than one might think to come to the place of allowing idols in their heart to take the place of God so that He is no longer the center of their lives and Lord over their lives. That is what this message is about, allowing other things in gradually seep into our lives and thereby crowding God out of our lives until He is relegated to the status of a second class god, having no primacy in our lives.
If you were to write down on a paper that which today is the desire of your heart. If you then were too take out the paper and read it 5, 10, 15, 20 years down the road, if you were to live that long and the Lord had not already returned, would you look at it and say that the desire of your heart is the same or that it has changed. And if it has changed, has it changed for the good or for hurt? Has it changed for the good of the glory of God, or has it ceased to seek after the glory of God? Has the desire of your heart for God grown more intense or has it grown cold.
The desire of you heart my go up and down as you face trials and tribulation in life, as you go through obstacles and difficulties, as you go through times of discouragement and even despair of life, when you face mockery and ridicule, when you face misunderstand form some of your closest friends and associates, going through times of despair and believing you messed up and wanted to give up. Yet, God is true and if the desire of your heart is to honor and bring Him glory, if it is according to His will and purpose for your life, then He will give it to you.
He said that he who has begun a good work is able to complete it in you. Philippians 1:6 “…he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” That is similar to 1 Timothy 1:12 “…I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.”
What does all this have to do with the first commandment and having no other gods before Him? Because crowding God out of your life is a temptation that is forever lurking in the shadows. Crowding God our of your life is a forever present temptation that is holding out a shining lure and it is forever trying to get us to accept it’s temptation. It is forever chasing us and nipping at our heels and forever a temptation running us down that will not give up.
Well isn’t idolatry the Hindu’s and Buddhist’s who bow down before statues and images. Isn’t that what idolatry is all about? Well, almost but not quite, because to them it is a way of life and that is why many of them will fight for their idols and the worship of them, whether Hindu (with many idols and gods) or Islam (which has no physical idols but is idolatry nonetheless). But idolatry is a temptation for the believer and that temptation comes in many ways, shapes and forms.
Idolatry is when anything and anybody other than the Lord Jesus Christ occupies the center of your life. Let me show you a Biblical example of how that happens and can happen. One day God, in a manner of speaking, asked a man for the desire of his heart and gave him an open invitation to ask for anything. This man knew what the desire of his heart was and responded right away. This is no genie in a bottle who gives you three wishes. This is the God of the universe with all power and ability “to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think,” (Ephesisans 3:20), who asked Solomon in 1 Kings 3:5, what is it that you desire. “… the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.” That was like receiving a blank check from God. Can you imagine this and what most people, even professing believers would ask for if God were to make such an offer to them and say, “What shall I give thee.” But that is what God did for Solomon and he put no limitations on the offer. Think about it. No other man in life has been given such a blank check to be offered by the God of all creation to have anything he wanted. What one thing would you ask for?
Solomon didn’t ask for wealth, he didn’t ask for power, he didn’t ask for glory or fame, he didn’t as for women and sensuality. At that point in his life, Solomon wanted to worship and serve the God of his father David, the God of his ancestors Abraham, Isaac and Jacob above all else and to be a godly king. So he asked for wisdom to rule the people of God righteously.
1 Kings 3: 3-4 “And Solomon loved the LORD,… And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there; for that was the great high place: a thousand burnt offerings did Solomon offer upon that altar.” This was what preceded God appearing to Solomon and asking him what he would like to be given. But Solomon didn’t ask for anything for himself, but for wisdom to be a godly king.
1 Kings 3:6-10 “And Solomon said, Thou hast showed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O LORD my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing.”
So God gave him the desire of his heart so much that he became the wisest of men. Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple was awesome. He was a spiritual giant and at that time in his life wanted nothing but God’s glory. After Solomon had made his prayer of dedication of the Temple to the Lord, he then rose and blessed the people. 1 Kings 8:54-61 “And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of praying all this prayer and supplication unto the LORD, he arose from before the altar of the LORD, from kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven. And he stood, and blessed all the congregation of Israel with a loud voice, saying, Blessed be the LORD, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant. The LORD our God be with us, as he was with our fathers: let him not leave us, nor forsake us: That he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgments, which he commanded our fathers. And let these my words, wherewith I have made supplication before the LORD, be nigh unto the LORD our God day and night, that he maintain the cause of his servant, and the cause of his people Israel at all times, as the matter shall require: That all the people of the earth may know that the LORD is God, and that there is none else. Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.”
At this time, Solomon wanted God’s splendor and nothing more in life. Kings and Queens came from other nations just to get a glimpse of his wisdom and hear him speak.
There is something you need to know about God. When what your desire is His glory, He gives that and more. 1 Kings 3:11-14 “And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.”
That is what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” When you seek Him and His righteousness above all else, then all your needs will be met. He will give all you need. So God gave Solomon not only wisdom, but wealth and glory and all he didn’t ask for.
But it is important to know that the God who sees everything before it happens and knows it before it takes place, gave Solomon a warning in 1 Kings 9:4-7. “And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel. But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people:” The “but” of verse 6 is a hugh but. As always, God’s promises and blessings are conditional. Notice how God mentioned everything that would happen in the beginning, if he failed to do his part to continue to walk in obedience to His commandments and keep himself from idolatry.
God’s blessings to us can be used to bless others or they can be horded and bring a curse. God’s blessing can be given away to bring glory to his name or accumulated to become destructive. God’s blessing can be sown as seed for more and greater blessing or become the seed of destruction. Remember, everything you sow, love, patience, kindness, grace, forgiveness, or evil things like hatred, unforgiveness, bitterness is a spiritual seed that will bring a spiritual harvest. Though it is always used incorrectly today by TV preachers to get people to give them money, Luke 6:38 is part of a discourse on the love and mercy of God. In the last sentence of the paragraph Jesus said, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” If you read that section beginning in verse 27 and not take verse 38 out of context, there can be no doubt of it’s meaning within its context. It is saying the same thing as “for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
We all know what happened to Solomon. God was patient with him. It took decades, but he didn’t heed the warning of God and he messed up as royally as possible. Later in his life, long after he had fallen into idolatry, Solomon looked back at his earlier desire in the beginning, to seek wisdom so that he could rule the people wisely with righteousness, and then looked at all the blessings of God and God’s warning and his life and his failures, he writes in Ecclesiastes 1:2, “vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” He repeated that phrase again in last chapter of the book, chapter 12, verse 8. He began and book of Ecclesiastes and concluded it with those same words of the vanity of this life outside of God. Then he ended the book with these final words, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). What a thing to speak, knowing his own great sins against God, and that God would judge his every act and deed.
Scripture tells us in 1 Kings 11:5 that Solomon became idolatrous. “For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.” Then 1 Kings 11:9 we see God became angry with Solomon. “And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the LORD God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice,” Though God had clearly and definitely warned Solomon not to turn aside and go after other gods, Solomon didn’t heed the warning or keep His commandment so the Lord told him that He would take the kingdom from his son and split it and it would never be the same again, ever.
God’s character and decrees and desires for His children have never changed. God’s desire for His children to serve and honor and please Him has never changed. The question is, have we? Have you and I?
I have to ask myself. Did Solomon go into the temple during that time when he was breaking the first commandment? Probably, yes. Was Solomon offering sacrifices unto the Lord while he was breaking the first commandment? Most likely, yes. He went through the motions. Do you think Solomon kept worshipping Jehovah while he was breaking the first commandment and sacrificing to idols with his foreign wives? Most likely, yes. He just slowly but surely, little by little, an inch at a time, one god at a time falling away from the Lord God of Israel and then he woke up one morning and found himself waste deep in gods that were no gods at all, but worthless meaningless miserable powerless gods that could not benefit him. It was like God spoke of the children of Israel the forty years they were in the wilderness, “Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves” (Amos 5:25-26).
We are living in a time when we see priests and preachers falling right and left almost like flies, falling into all kinds of sins. Yet we must understand that these things don’t happen overnight. They don’t happen to you and I overnight, but little by little. It is the same way we overcome the enemies of our lives and get victory, a step at a time. God puts it this way in Exodus 23:30 “By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.” The fact is that we are never spiritually sitting at a standstill, we are either growing in grace and our walk with Christ or we are shrinking away and loosing that grace in our lives. It’s as the saying I’ve said many times, “What you feed grows, what you starve dies. You don’t satisfy anything by feeding it; you only increase its capacity to grow.” And we are either building up our spiritual man or our fleshly man, one or the other for they are in direct conflict with one another and that is why we have to die daily, so we can continue to follow Christ.
Most Christians probably began with some kind of commitment to the Lord and excitement for Him, but slowly, but surely, inch by inch, act by act, as Solomon probably thought as we do when we know we are crowding God out of our lives. The thinking is something like this; “Well, maybe this one little god can’t affect my relationship with Jehovah. Just this little one couldn’t be all that bad after all I’m the king of Israel. We think, well after all I’m a kings kid and I’m saved eternally and I know I can’t loose my salvation because once a son always a son. Well, everyone else is doing it; it couldn’t be all that bad. Surely this is no big offense to Jehovah and He will look over such a small thing. This little thing can’t be that bad, after all, when you’re in Rome your supposed to do as the Romans. And this little one here, it’s no big deal, if I grab for it right now I might later in my life give it up to the Lord.” And every so slowly, inch by inch, day by day, we keep giving ground to idols in our heart and crowding God out until one day we wake up like Solomon did at the end of his life and realize that we allowed many little gods to take over our life and Yahweh was pushed out of our lives into a corner.
Some become so spiritual and are so ready to dedicate their lives and everything to the Lord when they are in a crisis or they need prayers to be answered. Then they become great spiritual giants. Then after the Lord has answered their prayers and blesses them and prospers them, they tragically, slowly but surely forget their earlier commitment to the Lord. Well after all, and they have this excuse and that excuse, after all I can’t give everything away, I have to be cautious and consider the future, after all I’ve done enough, let someone else take that responsibility, after all I can’t do it all.
I have lived to see what the scripture says is true. Yes, in some cases sadly in my own life, that wealth can take wings and fly away, that health can plummet overnight and life can end so fast. This is a warning for me, an alarm bell for me and should be for you. This is a reminder for me to realize that Solomon turned to worshipping the very gods he once detested and rejected earlier in his life and you and I, if we are not careful, can and will do the same thing. And this is a terrible tragedy of the reality of so many believers, who began well, but didn’t continue in their faith and overcome to the end so that they might inherit eternal life. Matthew 10:22 says; “but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.” The Greek word for endureth, hupomeno, hoop-om-en'-o means to persevere, to abide, to endure. Are you and am I persevering and enduring the trials and temptations of life and keeping our heart and love for God pure? Are we abiding in Christ? John 15:4-7 tells us about abiding in Christ. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.”
Other than seeking wisdom from God, what was Solomon’s number one goal? His number one goal was to build a temple for the Lord, the temple that his father David could not build because he was a man of war. 1 Kings 6 tells us it took 7 years for Solomon to build the temple. Then in chapter 7 it tells us as a way of rebuke, that it took Solomon 13 years to build his palace. God’s house was 60 cubits by 20 cubits and Solomon’s house was 100 cubits by 50 cubits. But then he added to that porches, one of which was 50 cubits by 30 cubits and courts and then a house for the daughter of Pharaoh made of costly stones and cedar and brass and the list goes on.
He cut the check of the tithe for the Lord and then lavishly spent the rest on himself. God is more concerned with what you do with the 90% that you keep than with the 10% that you give to him. God is more concerned with that which you keep than that which you give to Him. When God said, “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” He has never changed His mind, his standards, his expectations, and never changed his law. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Many in the church today have forgotten that he said you cannot serve God and mammon and just sanctified covetousness and brought it into the church.
He is saying that money is a ruthless master and either you will be under the authority of God or under the authority of money. It’s your choice, you can’t do both. Solomon began wanting to live under God’s authority and he ended up living under the authority of wealth and power and sex. And his life ended up in tragedy.
I know and you know that our culture, our advertising industry, our media, our educational system are all geared up to convince us that the first commandment is that you shall have no other god but yourself. And therefore self-indulgence and self-worship is the religion of the day. You are worth it baby, so go ahead and live a little. And before you know it you have placed yourself ahead of God.
Some of us older people, sometime back in our life went through the exercise at least verbally, saying that we wanted to do more for the Lord, to serve Him full time, to give sacrificially when God blesses us, or to serve God in some capacity and bring Glory to His name, but that was years ago. Are you still on track, am I still on track to what we told God we wanted to do for Him, or have we allowed other gods and god substitutes to very slowly creep into our lives and crowd God out. Have you gone through this slow process of spiritual deteriation that makes us cold and lifeless. Oh, you may still be going through the motions, you haven’t stopped going through the motions, but where are you today? Are you passionate and compassionate as you once desired? Or have you allowed bitterness, disappointments and insecurities to freeze your heart out?
Most would say they believe in God. But they have created a god in their own image, the kind of god they want God to be. They followed the progression of Romans chapter 1. Romans 1:18-19 “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them.” They know the truth, but they do not walk in the truth but hold the truth in unrighteousness. That is what Solomon did in his later life. The end result is Romans 1:23. They “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” Verse 25 “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator…” They created a god in their own image, and in reality became their own god, in reality serving and worshipping self. Their self desires and self will gradually crowded God out of their lives until He was no longer on the throne of their hearts, no longer the center of their desires or life, but only having now a form of godliness, but denying His power and lordship over their lives according to 2 Timothy 3:5 “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.”
What do you think happened to the people represented in the church of Ephesus? Revelation 2:2-4 “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.” First it sounds like the Lord is praising them and He was for the good part that was left, but the most important part is not your work for him, the most important part was already lost and Jesus knew that unless the desires of their heart returned to Him and their religion was more than going through the motions, their heart would go farther and farther away and so He issued the warning in the next verse, Revelation 2:5 “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” The first works is what you do for Him from your heart, out of love, not out of religious duty or motion. God isn’t satisfied with religious motion and activity. He wants to have your heart, first place in your heart. We know from history that they didn’t keep their first love and as the Lord warned, their candlestick was removed from its place and they were wiped out. It isn’t how we begin the race that matters, but how we end the race.
Let me close with the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”
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