The second of the Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20, gives timeless principles concerning God’s attitude about worship. Christians, who are “delivered from the law” (Romans 7:6-7), learn principles from the Ten Commandments that allow them to live under the better covenant of Christianity (Hebrews 8:6-7) 

The commandment reads: “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 showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:4-6). Israel had to understand clearly that God would not tolerate idolatry. 

Idolatry, the worship of a creature, or inanimate object, seems inherently absurd to the modern mind. While modern man might not carve a statue, and then bow before it as ancient man did, he still has his idols, the false gods he worships. The problem of the idolater is not so much the idol as it is the spiritual blindness of the idolater. To place anything above God, whether it be possessions, family, occupation, or leisure activity, is to become an idolater. It has been well observed that sometimes the modern churchgoer may have his true god parked outside the place of worship. 

The command forbids making graven images to represent God to a worshipper. No image can ever “capture” God. As Paul told the Athenians, who worshipped so many gods, including an “unknown god,” “Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device. And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:29-30). God’s Word must always govern worship to Him, because man has always had a tendency to worship the thing rather than the One Whom it represents. Despite God’s care of Israel, they easily slipped back into an idolatrous way of thinking. On one occasion they took the ark of the covenant into battle against the Philistines, as a sort of “good luck charm,” and wound up losing the ark, as well as the battle (1 Samuel 4). They also began to worship the bronze serpent Moses raised as a symbol of salvation (Numbers 21:4-9), so that King Hezekiah had to destroy it with the other marks of idolatry (2 Kings 18:4). 

The commandment gives a lengthy “enforcement statement,” which stresses that God will not share His people with any other god, but will bless all those who do His will. As Jesus met with the woman at the well, who wanted to sidestep the discussion of her checkered past, He reminded her, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). Jesus warned that worship is vain when men worship God “teaching for doctrine the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8-9). Blessings for future generations depend on proper worship today! 


The Ten Commandments, found in Exodus 20, form the basis for modern western civilization. In their summary of the proper attitude to God and one another, they provide fundamental concepts that allow people to function in obedience to God. The relevance of the Ten Commandments for the Christian lies in the timeless principles they describe. Paul explained that the Christian is no longer bound by the old covenant, including the ten commandments, because Christ brought the Jew and the Gentile together, “having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (Ephesians 2:15). In giving His life, Christ was “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2.14). Christians are “delivered from the law” (Romans 7:6-7) to live under the better covenant of Christianity (Hebrews 8:6-7). 

The first commandment emphasizes that God must be first in the life of His children. “And God spake all these words, saying, 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” (Exodus 20:1-3). As God reminded Israel that He had delivered them from Egyptian bondage, the first commandment demands, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

The Israelites lived in a world of many gods vying for the allegiance of men. God demanded that they recognize Him and Him alone as God. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” is literally “Thou shalt have no other gods before my face.” Just as a woman with two husbands would be unacceptable to either husband, God demands undivided loyalty from all who claim to follow Him. The Jews could not adopt the pagan practices of their neighbors and maintain the purity God demanded. Peter and the other apostles understood the principle, refusing to be silenced by the Sanhedrin, saying, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). In like manner, Christ demanded undivided loyalty from His followers. “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37-38). 

The command, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” is also a demand for wholehearted love. God redeemed Israel from Egyptian bondage, and today He redeems mankind from the bondage of sin. The magnificence of His creation and the sacrifice of Christ for us shows that He truly is worthy of our love. Jesus summed up the proper attitude to the Father: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself’” (Matthew 22:37-39). If we do this, we can truly insure that we put no other gods before Him. 


Peter concludes the first chapter of his second epistle with these words. “We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake us they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:19-21). These verses of scripture are especially important because of what they tell us about the inspiration of scripture, reminding us that we have a “sure word of prophecy,” that is, trustworthy scriptures.

Unfortunately, the words, “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation,” have been misused by some religious organizations to keep people from studying the scriptures for themselves. Some prefer to keep the people in ignorance, teaching that the individual Christian cannot study or understand the scriptures themselves, but must rely on “the church” or church leaders to interpret the scriptures for them. Thus individuals may think there is no reason to study and reason for themselves. This is contrary to all the rest of the scripture, however. Saving faith comes from understanding and obeying the scriptures. All will be judged by the scriptures. 

Some suggest that what Peter was teaching in these verses is that since the words of scripture have a definite meaning, then those who interpret scripture are not free to read whatever meaning they want to into the scriptures, but must consider the context of scripture. Surely it is true that no one should be free to read into the scriptures any of their own personal opinions, and context must always be considered, but this is not Peter’s concern in this passage.

There is a better, more reasonable way to understand the words. Consider the rendering of 2 Peter 1:20-21 in the New American Standard Version: “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” The prophecy of scripture did not come “by the will of man.” “No prophecy was ever made by an act of human will.” The prophets were inspired to write by God, and did not just speak what they wanted to speak, but they spoke what was revealed to them by God. That is the reason for the amazing accuracy of the teaching of scripture, and the agreement among the different writers. If each had been free to just write what he wanted to write, then there would be multiplied contradictions among all of the different portions of scripture. 

The “holy men” were “moved by the Holy Ghost,” literally “borne along” just as a strong wind propels a ship through the sea. Jesus told his disciples, “when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, thst shall he speak: und he will show you things to come” (John 16:13) As the New Testament writers revealed the full truth of God’s revelation, the Holy Spirit guided them. Their message is one for all men study, obey, and live by.


We have long understood that the thirty-nine books of the Old Testament and the twenty-seven books of the New Testament make up God’s complete revelation to man. The Bible does mention other ancient books, however. Joshua 10:13 says, “The sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher?” Among the other books mentioned are the acts of Solomon (1 Kings 14:11), the books of Nathan the prophet and Gad the seer (1 Chronicles 29:29), and the books of Shemaiah the prophet and Iddo the seer (2 Chronicles 12:15). Even more interesting, in 1 Corinthians 5:9, Paul mentions a previous epistle: “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators.” Was the epistle telling them not to company with fornicators the original 1 Corinthians? Paul also wrote to the Christians of Colossae, “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea” (Colossians 4.16). What is the “epistle from Laodicea”? 

The sixty-six books that make up the canon [meaning those measured] of scripture, are those books that have met the test of time, and have apostolic authority. For example, Peter warned that some of Paul’s writings are hard to understand, and thus sometimes twisted, as “also the other scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16). Thus He considered Paul’s writings to be scripture [inspired writings]. The books accepted in the canon claim inspiration for themselves, and the early Christians verified that inspiration by examining their content. These books also received virtual universal acceptance in the early church. 

We rely on the wisdom of the Jews of the first century to help in deciding which books belonged in the Old Testament canon, and the judgments of numerous early Christians help us in seeing what was accepted and rejected among the writings of the New Testament era. Among the books circulated by the early Christians, but rejected from the canon were the fourteen books of the Apocrypha. Philo of Alexandria ordered these books to be translated with the Septuagint, the Greek language translation of the Old Testament in use in the first century, but the Jews never considered them to be scripture. Many other ancient books were also considered  but rejected from the canon. Some, such as “Wisdom of Solomon,” and “Shepherd of Hermas” can be read today, but they are not inspired. In modern times, books such as the book of Mormon and other writings of Joseph Smith have been rejected because they conflict with known scripture and do not have the earmarks of inspired scripture.

Many of the books mentioned above, such as the book of Jasher, are lost. But simply being mentioned in scripture does not mean that they were inspired. Paul’s early epistle to the Corinthians apparently contained nothing that God has not repeated elsewhere in scripture. There are virtually no Bible doctrines that rely on just one mention in scripture. The “epistle from the Laodiceans” was probably just a letter from the church of Laodicea, and not scripture at all. Peter tells us that God has “given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). Thus we have all the scripture God intended us to have in the sixty-six books of today’s Bible. It would no doubt be interesting to read some of the “lost books,” but they would not add to God’s revelation to us. We need no other new revelations or other ancient books to give us what we need to please God.


If you are a follower of the old “Andy Griffith Show,” you will well remember Otis, the town drunk, who periodically checks himself into jail to sleep off his hangover. Otis is a lovable character, who never hurts anybody else, although he doesn’t know how to handle the bottle.

One show had an interesting development. Otis received a letter from his brother, telling him he was coming to visit. Otis had foolishly told his brother that he was a deputy sheriff, and didn’t know what to do. Andy, who always tried to accommodate anyone, offered to let Otis become a temporary deputy, only while his brother was in town. The catch was that Otis had to stay sober. Of course, his wife wouldn’t believe it was true until he destroyed his hidden liquor at home.

Everything went according to plan when his brother came, and Otis was even strong enough to refuse to drink on duty when his brother asked him to go get a drink. Otis wanted to make sure that his brother knew that he was a success, not the failure that his brother expected him to be.

But then something completely unexpected happened. Otis kept expecting to get caught in his masquerade, but then his brother did the unimaginable. As Otis looked on in surprise, his brother came into the jail drunk, and checked himself in just like Otis did every weekend. The brother was appropriately sorry as Otis lectured him on how he had let down the whole family by his actions.

Andy’s lesson to Otis was that he shouldn’t have been so self-conscious about trying to impress others. But I believe there was another lesson. Otis had the chance to see himself as he really was. He had a chance to hear, “Thou art the man.”

You see, when King David stole Uriah’s wife, and then had Uriah killed to cover up his sin, he thought he really had covered up everything. But then Nathan told him a story about a rich man who took a poor man’s one ewe lamb to feed a traveling visitor. David was incensed about this man’s wickedness and vowed a fourfold retribution, and that the man should die. Nathan boldly concluded, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). To his credit, David responded in penitence, and accepted his punishment. But Otis never changed. He never reformed. He could see how his brother embarrassed him, but he never saw himself. How about you? Have you had a “Thou art the man” experience? How did you respond?


Tram Sessions, member of the Alabama state legislature, clipped a poem from a magazine and mailed it to University of Alabama Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Bryant liked the poem so much that he always carried a copy in his wallet until his death. The poem gives us all something to think about as we begin each new day.

“This is the beginning of a new day.

God has given me this day to use as I will.

I can waste it or use it for good.

What I do today is very important because I am

Exchanging a day of my life for it.

When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever,

Leaving something in its place I have traded for it.

I want it to be a gain, not loss—good, not evil!

Success, not failure in order that I

Shall not forget the price I paid.”

—W. Heartsill Wilson

There is a great emphasis in scripture on today.

Jesus promised the penitent thief, “Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

“But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 13:13).

 “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).

Today will be soon be gone. What will you leave in its place? Why wait to serve and obey Him?


Dealing with laryngitis was a new experience for me. I had experienced sore throats before, but I had never lost my voice. It was strange to try to talk, and have little or nothing come out. It is hard enough to communicate through those speakers at the restaurant drive through under normal circumstances, but I can attest that it is impossible with laryngitis! The more I tried to speak up to let my voice be heard, the less volume I had! It was also hard to communicate to the hard of hearing, and to those who were in noisy places.

Laryngitis is bad news for a preacher, for sure. It makes it so hard to communicate the message that the world needs to hear.

Brother David Lipscomb believed that Christians had no place in the political world, not even to vote. I have read that he only voted once in his life, and was very disappointed in the man he voted for. While I agree that there are many things about politics that are contrary to the principles of Christianity, I believe that it is not only the right, but the responsibility of Christians to vote and voice our opinions on issues. When we have  “citizen laryngitis,”with little or no voice in the political or governmental realm, we allow the devil to set public policy.

An even more serious laryngitis is “spiritual laryngitis.” We must share the gospel message to those around us. The world is a noisy place, and it very easily drowns out our voice if we are not persistent in speaking out. We may even feel like we should just give up. That is the way Jeremiah felt. “Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in his name. But his word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jeremiah 20:9). The burning fire of the word in the heart will cure spiritual laryngitis.

There are also those around us who are hard of hearing, spiritually speaking. Paul warned, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” Even in that situation, we must continue to speak out the truth of God. “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry’ (2 Timothy 4:3-5). The cure for the religious fables of our day is the truth of the gospel of Christ.


“Dummer” students? There are no more Dummer students since the 2004-2005 school year. It’s not that they got smarter, it’s just that there is no more Dummer school. Over the objections of many alumni, the Governor Dummer Academy, in Newbury, MA, which opened in 1763, changed its name to The Governor’s Academy. The school, which has always carried the name of Massachusetts governor William Dummer, decided that the name was not good for public relations, and made it hard to recruit students.  It seems that too many just didn’t want to be known as Dummer students. Headmaster John Doggett said they changed the name because “rightly or wrongly, first impressions make a difference.”

Although I don’t have any relationship to the school, it  seems sad that a school that had been around for over 350 years felt like it had to change its name.

Names are important, however. “And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone” (John 1:42). That generous Levite from Cyprus, a great encourager, was renamed by the apostles from Joses to Barnabas [The son of consolation, or son of encouragement] (Acts 4:36-37).

Barnabas understood the importance of bringing Saul (later to be known as Paul) to the great missionary congregation at Antioch. “And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26).

They wore that name of Christian with the understanding that it meant something. Peter said, “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:16). 

A young soldier that had been a coward was brought before Alexander the Great. When he learned the soldier’s name was “Alexander,” he said, “Either change your name, or change your actions!” Names matter!

If we wear the name Christian, we must live a life unashamed before the world. To do anything else would simply be dumber.