“No other gods.” It sounds pretty basic, simple. what could go wrong? And yet, this command becomes the one that eventually destroys the nation of Israel.
“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”Exodus 20:2-6 NASB
“You shall have no other gods before Me. “
“You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation
The first law of the “Ten” is that there are to be no other gods before Yahweh. Literally, this refers to other gods to/for Israel in Yahweh’s presence. Think about that for a second. No other gods in His presence; as in “before His face”. Have you, like me, misunderstood this commandment to mean “other gods besides our Creator and Savior”? And not “besides” as in physically beside, but as in having another god of any sort other than my Master.
Some, looking at this, are confused. What’s the difference? How is there truly any difference at all between having other gods of any sort, and having other gods in the presence of Yahweh? It has to do with worship. In a sense it is splitting hairs, but in another, it reveals something that we, in our modern sophisticated culture, take for granted. What if this means, for us, today, in our culture, that nothing is as important to us as Jesus?
Before you quickly dive in, and claim that nothing competes for your attention, let’s define the depths referred to:
- Do you take time for Jesus daily? Not “Bible reading”, Jesus, prayer, Him
- Do you participate in the church you attend, or just Sunday morning. And not your kids, your spouse, YOU. Do you actively participate in what happens at the church you associate with? Or do you not have time for that?
- Have you even chosen a church? Or are all churches insufficient for you? Do their peculiarities, people, and positions keep you from committing to one?
- Have you been baptized? And this means immersed publicly, and not as a child, but as a believer, as part of your commitment to follow Jesus.
- Would you consider yourself a disciple of Jesus, or do you believe that term is for fanatics? Do you consider yourself a “follower” or “believer” instead?
The more “no’s” you have to those questions, the more likely you are to be living in violation of the first commandment. Whatever competes for your attention and keeps you from time with Jesus, participating in His congregation, following His command to be baptized, and devoting yourself as His disciple; whatever that thing or those things are, they have become “other gods in His presence”.
Suddenly this entry becomes a call to eat His flesh and drink His blood, and many may be offended (John 6). I’m not sure, but that might be a good thing. My hope is that this may prompt anyone reading to reevaluate how devoted they are to our Savior, Jesus. I realize from writing that I’ve been holding back from my church, and I see how wrong that is. I feel it, viscerally. And I’m not okay with it. Which may be what’s driving this, I’m projecting. Even so, I suspect I’m not the only one who needs to hear this message, and obey this law of my Master.