In our day and age there seems to be a desire, perhaps only on the part of the guy, to have a “pluralistic” relationship. We’ve seen all kinds of TV shows like “The Bachelor” and “Temptation Island” where people are afforded the opportunity to try out all kinds of relationships before they settle on one.
Even in dating and marriage relationships some have the idea of open marriages where there is no commitment to your spouse. There are other shows like when they swap families or spouses. These are the kinds of things that are becoming popular in our society.
We started talking about relationship rules when it comes to our relationship with God. In these next four blog posts I will be expounding on the first four of the Ten Commandments concerning our relationship with God and what he expects of each of us.
Israel gathered at the base of Mount Sinai to meet with Yahweh, the living God who rescued them from slavery in Egypt. At the beginning of his covenantal relationship he presented 10 Commandments followed by many laws on how they would live if his presence was going to be among them. The first commandment establishes his exclusive relationship with them.
““I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:2–3, ESV)
As I discussed before God opens the commandments with a statement that declares who he is and what he has done for the Israelites. He is Yahweh God, his everlasting covenantal name that promises his solidarity with them and declares his reputation.
Then he explains the relationship by telling them he brought them out of Egypt, the house of slavery. He is the one who set them free. And because of his willingness to set them free, the basis of the relationship with him, he demands they fulfill these commandments.
After this foundation he sets another foundation. The first of the Ten Commandments is foundational to the other nine. He sets the stage by demanding complete loyalty from the Israelites, and from us.
In seven Hebrew words he tells them to have no other gods before him. If they are able to obey this one commandment the others will fall into place. The others depend on this first commandment. It is the basis for everything that follows.
If they commit to not allowing any idols in their lives then they will not make curved images, disrespect his name, refused to remember the Sabbath, murder others, commit adultery in their relationships, and the list goes on.
So God first calls them to this commandment alone. Following it requires following the other commandments after it. This is why it is the first commandment gives them.
None before Him
Some scholars want to inject complications into these seven short words. Take issue with the word “before” in the phrase, “no other gods before me.” They suggest a pluralistic nature to God’s commandment.
If “before” can be taken to mean that there can be other gods under Yahweh than the Israelites can worship more than one God. They must put Yahweh first and then they can have other gods behind him or below him.
But that is not the implication of the word “before.” This word speaks of the priority of God in their lives, not a hierarchy of gods they can worship. In other words, God is not setting up a hierarchy of saying worship me above the others and then whatever you want for God’s after me.
He is saying that he must be the priority among all the other things in their lives. This is in the discussion about how many gods Israel can worship. It is a discussion on putting God first before all other things in their lives.
God must be our priority and no matter what else is going on in our schedules, events of our lives, friendships and other relationships, God must come first. There must be nothing else we seek or desire more than him.
When he says, “no other gods” is not referring to deities per se. It is referring to anything we put above him. The gods of our lives are not deities but the things we give our time and energy to. Our schedules demand our attention at different times during the day.
For Israel, this could have been referring to the gods of the nations in Canaan around them. There was a draw to follow these gods instead of Yahweh. We will see later on in their history that they are concerned with marrying women from among the nations because they will lead them astray. We also see that they are drawn to have a king like the other nations. Instead of being God’s chosen nation they want to be like everyone else.
This includes wanting to worship the gods of the nations. But for us today the best application is that we must not allow everything else going on in our lives to interfere with our relationship and worship of God.
We must observe this commandment as we guard our time with God and don’t let other things steal it away. As we will discuss in the next blog we do have idols all around us in our world today. They must not take precedence over the Lord.
Over and over the Bible talks about God’s faithfulness to us. He has never once broke in his covenants or promises to us. He has never let us down. He’s always been there for us, especially when we need him the most.
So he calls Israel and us to the same faithfulness. God sees his relationship with you and me as a marriage. He doesn’t expect us to even try to divorce him. He accuses Israel several times of spiritual adultery when they began to serve idols.
Hosea the prophet becomes a literal illustration by God of what is happening between him and Israel. Hosea marries a prostitute and has children with her. He is constantly going to her and bringing her back home when she leaves him for other men.
He names his children after the states of Israel. Imagine what it was like for him to explain what their mother was doing when she wasn’t home. This is the kind of image God wants the Israelites to understand–that they are doing it to him.
So as part of the covenant and the commandments God gives he expects us to be as faithful to him as he has been to us. We’re like Israel in that we occasionally fail to be faithful to God. But by his Spirit’s help we are becoming a faithful bride to him.
When he declares to us that we must have no other gods before him, he calls us to faithfulness in our relationship with him. He expects us to be faithful despite the distractions of our lives, the busy schedules we make for ourselves, and the temptations in the world to have other gods we devote more of ourselves to than to him.
We must be faithful to keep God first always. But being faithful is the key to all of these commandments. If we take a break from our relationship with God or think it’s okay to step back for a couple of days and do what we used to do, our unfaithfulness nullifies everything we have done.
As long as we follow this commandment to keep God first in our lives we must be faithful to maintain our discipline. We must not fall prey to all of the temptations to put other things first. And so we will please the Lord as we live our lives for his glory.
God called Israel and us to have do other gods before him. We honor him by keeping him the priority of our lives. We must stay faithful to follow this commandment. If we fall short we will violate it by putting other things and idols before him.
Let us strive with the power of the Holy Spirit to live out this commandment and honor God. Resist the temptations of this world to put other things before you relationship with God. Leave a comment and describe how you keep God first in your life.