No other God
This Sunday we will begin our series on the Ten Commandments. So the text for tomorrow will be Exodus 20:2-3
"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.”
Any consideration of the first or all of the Ten Commandments must begin with this prologue, this reminder that there is one who has taken initiative to bring a people out of bondage. The Exodus writer recalls the event:
The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of slavery their cry for help rose up to God. God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them. (Exodus 2:23b-25)
Many people imagine the God we meet in the Old Testament to be a God of wrath and judgment. But the prologue to the Ten Commandments says otherwise.
God delivered the Israelites from slavery out of Egypt because of Grace. We take the commandments seriously, because they are a proper response to a God who makes us God’s own even when we have not deserved it. Surely those slaves in Egypt, who had been buried in slavery for years (see Exodus 12:40), didn’t have much to offer God.
The point here is that "God . . . makes us God’s own even when we have not deserved it. "God’s coming to them was a story of sheer grace. Once slaves in Egypt, now they are made God’s people. This initiative and claim by God requires obedience as their response to God’s grace.
As Christians, we have heard the same word. Paul put it down for us in his letter to the Romans: "God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
There are many Christians who think that this commandment does not apply to us. They imagine this commandment to have been proper for a primitive and superstitious people of long ago. We have heard that the Israelites lived among a people who worshiped many gods. They saw the splendor and majesty of Egypt and were impressed with their gods.
They saw the success of those who worshiped the Baals when they came to Canaan and were convinced that these nature gods could assure agricultural success.
They were no doubt influenced by the worship of the golden calf that was current among the Canaanites. They were dazzled by the processionals of the worshipers of Marduk in Babylon; some converted and never looked back.
The truth is that all those old gods are still among us.
We live in a generation that might fear Yahweh but also serve their own gods. Jesus’ commentary on the first commandment is a reminder that those who chase after all the gods cannot be a people of wholeness (shalom), and peace. He said that, "No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon" (Matthew 6:24).
I hope this wets your spiritual apetite, join us tomorrow for more on this…