What do you think of when you think of the 10 Commandments? A set of rules? Restrictive? Something outdated? Do you have good feelings or bad feelings about them? Do you follow them? Are you scared of them? Do they provide you with hope and security? Do you know all of them, or part of them, or none of them? Do you know why they were given – their purpose?
A ton of questions: all to prepare us for our study of the Greatest Commands ever given to mankind. Commands that have helped shape laws and rules for civilizations throughout the centuries since they were first given.
But before we dive into the first commandment, we need to understand why. Why were the 10 Commandments given to Moses as he guided the Israelite Nation out of slavery in Egypt?
First we need to understand that the Israelite Nation had grown. It had grown from Jacob and his sons and their families to well over a million people by the time Moses comes to deliver them from their oppressor. This means this was a large nation that had only known the rules of Pharaoh.
Second, upon their delivery, their exodus from Egypt, they would be entering into the Promised Land. This land would be fertile and prosperous – a land of “milk and honey.” But there would also be many tribes and nations with all kinds of gods and practices that God wanted His nation to have no part of. In fact He told the Israelites they were to wipe out everything and everyone when taking Canaan for themselves.
Third, God provided for them a security circle. He provided a circle of commands that if followed: would deliver them from their own sinful desires and pride; would put their focus on God and others, and not themselves. If they would just follow these commands, they would find personal safety and security, as well as prosperity as a nation.
So to summarize the reason for the Commandments: God was preparing them for the pagan nations they were about to face, and He needed to give them a tool to help them focus on Him and on others that would bring them safety and prosperity.
Now let’s jump into the first commandment.
Commandment # 1: You shall have no other gods before Me
God knew that paganism was a part of their culture. They were coming from the pagan nation Egypt. They were going into the pagan nations of the land of Canaan. God knew that this new nation had its work cut out for it.
But you would have thought that after having experienced the great miracles of God (the 10 plagues, parting of the Red Sea, pillar of cloud by day, pillar of fire by night, daily manna, etc.) that their understanding and belief in God would have been reinforced, but it wasn’t.
It wasn’t very long before they began murmuring against God. In fact, while Moses was with God on Mt Sinai receiving the first set of Commandments, the people asked Aaron, Moses’ right hand man and brother, to build them a golden calf to worship. (Moses had to make a second set because He broke the first set in anger when he came down from the mountain to find them worshiping this idol.)
So I share this with you to help you see that this nation had all the wrong ideas of God. They believed God could be created out of sticks, stones, and metal. They believed their created image could protect them and provide for them.
Yet God knew that their past thinking would also affect their future living if they didn’t have heart change.
So He gave them this command: You shall have no other gods before Me.
Well, how does this command apply to you and me today? After all we are a people who don’t create gods out of materials.
Or do we? You can find on this earth, this continent, this nation, this state, this community, all kinds of gods that people are worshiping. And a god is anything that takes the place of or preference over the one true God. Anything that gets in the way of our worship and relationship of the true God.
So a god can be a teaching, or a practice, or an object. Think –Buddhists still have little Buddha’s that they pray to. Hindus worship Brahman, a god made up of many gods in many forms. And there are at least 43 different religions in this world, which reinforces there are many different forms of gods being worshiped today; everything from self to nature to objects to ideals or thoughts.
But what about you and me? We’re not Buddhists or Hindus or worshiping in a religion other than Christianity. We worship the one true God – the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. So how does this commandment apply to you and me?
As I said before, a god is anything that takes the place of or preference over the one true God.
And I warn you that what I am about to share will prick the heart as they have become some of the gods that we see daily in our pagan culture.
- Our god might be materialism – wanting or envying greater or fancier things when we should be content with what we have already been blessed with.
- Our god might be money – using money solely for our own good and benefit without any concern of how it can be used to further God’s Kingdom.
- Our god might be leisure or duty – taking the Sabbath off so that we can sleep in, get work done, or go play.
- Our god might be ignorance – deciding that reading and studying God’s Word to bring about change is not as important as the other things of life.
- Our god might be body art – needing or wanting to beautify our bodies or to memorialize someone or something with piercings or tattoos.
- Our god might be food or habits – not disciplining ourselves from overindulging in food or partaking in substances that are harmful to the body – God’s temple.
- Our god might be sex – justifying that all sexual activity is truly in God’s favor even when we know it goes against God’s teaching that sex is to be intimately between a man and woman in marriage.
- Our god might be body and health – placing utmost importance on how we feel about ourselves and how we look to the world rather than desiring to be beautiful persons made in God’s image.
- Our god might be family – placing our families’ lives and interests ahead of God.
Our god might be………
God knew that the Israelites were heading into a land where there would be countless images and practices that would turn their attention from Him onto themselves.
And He also knows that our pagan culture in the US offers us the choice of many gods.
So He established His first Command, the most important one, “You shall have no other gods before Me” to reinforce that He is to be first in our lives and our only desire.
He established this command to remind us that He does not want His children partaking in what the pagan world has to offer. He knows we can’t handle it. That’s why He wanted paganism expelled from the Promised Land when the Israelites took possession of it. WE DON’T HAVE TO BECOME PAGAN TO WIN THE WORLD TO CHRIST!!!!!
Instead, He wants us to partake in what He has to offer, which is a life of bounty, freedom, true pleasure, and safety.
God knows that for any of us to step outside his circle of security means pain and harm. And God wants nothing more than for His people to know that He is looking out for our best interests – He doesn’t want to see any of us hurt just like we don’t want to see our children hurt. He wants us to know that He has created 10 Commandments because He loves us and knows what is best for us.
But, in order to truly live within the safety of the 10 we must first accept that we are to have no other gods, except Him.