“Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” was a huge hit for the talented Marvin Gaye in the late 1960’s but it could’ve been a slogan for the freshly liberated Israelites in 1600 B.C. The Israelites had been living in a hyper-polytheistic culture for hundreds of years watching their captors worship every false God imaginable. Whatever the Egyptians perceived to be their greatest momentary need would inevitably lead to the formation of a god. It was out of this context that the Hebrews found themselves in a wonderfully new context…..monotheism. After making the convincing case that He was THEIR God and had delivered them from slavery, the one true God gave the first of the great commands.
“Have no other gods before ME”. This was a resounding singular shot across the false god filled bow of polytheism. God was both affirming His oneness while demanding that His people recognize it. There could be no more duplicity in their hearts. No more confusion. No more waffling. In effect, God was saying CHOOSE ME!! Like all the commands, it was ultimately for His glory but it was most certainly for their good. Jehova God was the real thing….the great I AM.
This command teaches us the exclusivity of God. He stands alone and demands to alone have our hearts. This leads to the motivation behind the command. God knew that even those who choose to follow Him will fight the propensity to either move Him off of the throne of their hearts or make Him share space. He will do neither. He tells us in giving these commands that He is a “jealous” God. He isn’t jealous in a human sense, for we are often sinful and petty in our jealousies. No, God is perfect in every sense, including His jealousy.
You see, God is PERFECTLY jealous for our hearts. He refuses to share even a square inch of the throne our hearts. He alone is worthy of that sacred place, and to love Him completely we must love Him with all our hearts. He must sit on the throne of our hearts. The question we must ask is simply this; does He? Who or what sits on the throne of your heart? Are you asking God to slide over so that you can worship some special person in your life? How about your career? Are you bowing to that idol? Maybe you worship God but also the opinions of others.
What is it that consumes your thoughts, resources, or energy? That just may be your little God. You see, our hearts are idol factories. We don’t always intend to replace God, but we often try to have Him share the space that He demands be His alone. This command is so foundational that you can’t break the others without breaking this one. It is the slab on which the other commands are built. I encourage you today to search your life and heart with the help of the one true God. Remove anything besides God that is ON the throne of your heart and place it UNDER Him. Only He deserves that special place. Have NO other god before Him.
If you’re like me, you grew up with the 10 Commandments in close proximity. Every home that I spent significant time in as a kid had a copy hanging somewhere on a wall. My mom actually gave me the one from my childhood home for my first office. Here in the great state of Alabama (roll tide) these commandments had a huge moment in the light as a bitter political war was waged over their placement in the state capitol. This all leads me to this point; most of us have a degree of familiarity with the 10 Commandments, but few of us understand them and therefore few of us actually live them. I think its time we remedy this problem.
In Exodus chapter 20, we find the Hebrew children of God at the foot of the famous Mount Sinai. Led by Moses, this massive group of people had recently and miraculously been set free from hundreds of years of brutal slavery under the cruel hand of Egypt, the most powerful nation on Earth at that time. To call the Exodus out of Egypt spectacular would be a huge understatement. The great I Am had literally moved heaven and earth on behalf of His beloved people. After the grand finale of a march through the temporarily split Red Sea, the freshly free Hebrews were about to get the greatest miracle yet…….God would SPEAK to them. Yep, the terrifyingly powerful Elohim was about to become personal.
To understand and appreciate the commands you must grasp this aforementioned context. You see, grace comes before law. It always has and it always will. In Exodus 20:2 God reminds His people that He is “the Lord YOUR God who brought you out of Egypt.” He then gives the commands. You see it? Grace then law. God is saying that He is a personal God who loves, provides, and even fights for His own. It is out of the context of His amazing love for us that He gives us the commands. To see the commands as simply a heavy handed rule book to keep us in line is to completely miss the heart of them. This is a loving Father directing and protecting His family. They are for HIS glory but also for OUR good!! The more you see this the more you will want to understand, live, and even teach these commands.
Over the next few weeks we’ll be visiting the commands. Today, I want you to focus on that 2nd verse of Exodus 20. The Lord YOUR God gave you these commands. Like the Israelites, we have all been saved from our own Egypt. You see, the Exodus was just a preview to the main event. What God did in setting His people free from Egyptian slavery was a foretaste of His ultimate setting of His people free on the Cross through Jesus Christ. Jesus was the great freedom fighter on our behalf.
As you see the commandments I pray you’ll begin to see them in a fresh light…..the light of Christ. They point to Him. They come from Him. So let’s embrace the commands and take a new look at them with open minds and hearts. Remember, Jesus said “If you love me you will follow my commands”.