Exodus 20 is about the Ten Commandments. God gave these Ten Words to His people, Israel. He spoke His covenant words to them before their hearing from Mount Sinai.
Right at the beginning of these words is the truth of who God is and what He has done: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage" (v. 2).
The LORD is the God, the Savior and Redeemer of Israel. And because of this truth, the LORD tells Israel to remain loyal and faithful to Him by obeying His commandments.
However, unnoticed by some of us, there's an important passage at the end of Exodus 20 that teaches us important principles on how God wants to be worshiped by His people. This is not surprising because the context of Exodus 20 is worship, the meeting of God with His people.
The passage is almost a repetition of the first three commandments, which pertain to the worship of God. Look at Exodus 20:22-23:
"Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Thus you shall say to the children of Israel: 'You have seen that I have talked with you from heaven. You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves'."
The Lord continues saying, "'An altar of earth you shall make for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen. In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you. And if you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it. Nor shall you go up by steps to My altar, that your nakedness may not be exposed on it'" (Exo. 20:24-26, NKJV).
The first thing that one would notice in this passage is that God wants to be worshiped according to His word or instruction only. Since worship is all about God, we ought to pay careful attention to how God wants to be worshiped or approached in worship. We are not free to invent our way of worshiping Him.
That's what I get from looking at verses 22-23. God talks to His people how to and how not to worship Him. "You have seen that I have talked with you...You shall not..." God's word, not our ingenuity or creativity, is paramount in the worship of God. Worship is all about God. His words on worship must be followed.
Equally important truth about worship in this passage is that the LORD God ought to be worshiped alone. He says, "You shall not make anything to be with Me—gods of silver or gods of gold you shall not make for yourselves" (v. 23). God is a jealous God (cf. Exo. 34:14).
The LORD our God doesn't want to be worshiped side by side with or together with another god or gods, visible or imagined. He does not share His glory with another.
One other principle that we can get from here on worship is that worship is about God meeting with His people where His name is honored. Verse 24b: "In every place where I record My name I will come to you, and I will bless you."
In worship, God meets with His assembled people. He speaks with power and authority. His people respond in reverence and awe. No overfamiliarity or irreverence is tolerated in the worship of God. We bow in adoration to Him who is holy and loving. We listen and obey.