No Other Gods
Since God is the Creator of all things, He is the ultimate authority of all things. He has every right to command His followers to not put anything before Him. In fact, Exodus 34:14 says, “for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”
“You shall have no other gods before me”
The first commandment given to the Israelites is found in Exodus 20:3. It says, “you shall have no other gods before me.” In regard to this verse, J.I. Packer says it is, “the fundamental commandment, first in importance as well as in order, and basic to every other, is ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ True religion starts with accepting this as one’s rule of life.”
Put another way, maybe in more of ‘laymans’ terms, Philip Graham Ryken says that God is saying, “I am the one and only God. And since I am the only God, I refuse to share my worship with anyone or anything else.” God is not to be rivaled with anything, because there is nothing that can truly compare to an almighty, sovereign, omniscient, all-powerful God. In regard to His chosen people, God is saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, our of the house of slavery…there shall be no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2-3).
To best understand, the people of Israel had encountered many different things during their time in Egypt. Not only had they suffered through slavery, but they also encountered the Egyptian worship practices, which included the worship of many gods. The term best used to describe this is polytheism.
Polytheism is the worship and belief in more than one god. In other words, it is the worship of many gods. The Egyptians worshiped many gods. For instance, “they worshiped the gods of fields and rivers, light and darkness, sun and storm. Swearing their allegiance to the gods and goddesses of love and war, they bowed down to worship idols in the form of men and beasts” (Ryken). These are the kinds of worship practices that the children of Israel were exposed to during their time in Egypt. “Lots of peoples had lots of impressive gods and goddesses. What was controversial, and what set the Israelites apart from the other nations, was that their God demanded to be worshiped alone, as the only God, to the exclusion of all others” (DeYoung).
God demands that only He be worshiped. He demanded that from His chosen people, the Israelites, and He demands it from those who follow Him now. R.C. Sproul says, “God’s claim comes first. Israel is His by right of creation and redemption. The Lord’s covenant commands are given to those whom He has already redeemed for Himself from enslavement.”
Contemporarily, there are religions that continue to worship other gods. For instance, Hinduism is a religion that claims to worship many gods. For those who are Christ-followers, we are reminded to put God first and resist any temptation to put anything before our Creator God. He is to always be first and to be worshiped.
Who in your life can you share the truth of God with?
What are things that have come between you and God, maybe even have become a god in your life?
How are we, as Christ-followers, living our lives before those who do not know God’s love and salvation?
The Ten Commandments: What They Mean, Why They Matter, and Why We Should Obey Them by Kevin DeYoung
Written In Stone: The Ten Commandments and Today’s Moral Crises by Philip Graham Ryken
Keeping the 10 Commandments by J.I. Packer
The Reformation Study Bible: ESV Editor R.C. Sproul