Tuesday, August 28, 2012


And God spoke all these words, saying, "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 20:1-3

Scholars traditionally divide the Ten Commandments into two groups, or "tables."  The first table contains the first four Commandments, and teaches us about our relationship with God.  The second table contains Commandments five through ten, and teaches us how we are to relate to our neighbor.  Today, let's consider the First Commandment:  "You shall have no other gods before me."

Question 94 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks:  "What does the Lord require in the First Commandment?"  Answer:  "That I, not wanting to endanger my very salvation, avoid and shun all idolatry, magic, superstitious rites, and prayer to saints or to other creatures.  That I sincerely acknowledge the only true God, and trust Him alone, look to Him for every good thing humbly and patiently, love Him, fear Him, and honor Him with all my heart.  In short, that I give up anything rather than go against His will in any way."

In today's culture, we are wrongly taught that there is no such thing as absolute truth:  I can have one understanding of truth and you can have a totally contradictory understanding of truth, and yet both can be equally true and valid.  As a young friend put it recently, "I have my opinion.  You have yours.  We don't believe the same thing, but God's okay with that."  However, while it is very possible that we may both be wrong, it is impossible that we can both be right!

Sadly, we often adopt that same wrong thinking concerning who (or what) we worship.  As long as a person is sincere in his faith, and he lives a decent life, and he doesn't insist that his god is the only one, then it doesn't really matter who he worships, right?

God is not so namby-pamby in stating the truth of the matter:  "I AM the LORD your God."  Period.  He is the only true God, and there is no other. "Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:  'I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.'" (Isaiah 44:6)  There is no middle ground, no platform from which to assert that all the religions of the world are equally true and valid.

When God tells us, "You shall have no other gods before me" - He is not saying, "Believe whatever you want about all those other gods, but make sure you keep me at the front of the line."  No, Scripture is telling us that we are not to even bring any other god into His presence.  Don't play at "keeping God first" in you life while dabbling in New Age spiritualism or checking your daily horoscope.  Don't pretend to worship the God of the Bible, but throw out what He teaches in Scripture about His wrath, justice, and judgment.  Don't profess to love, honor, and worship God, then cling too tightly to your job, your relationships, your status, or anything else for security or personal worth.

God commands us to acknowledge Him as the one true God, and to worship Him alone.  Jesus Himself, citing Deuteronomy 6, rebukes Satan with these words:  "You shall worship the Lord you God and him only shall you serve"  (Matthew 4:10).  We are admonished to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).

In his study guide to the Heidelberg Catechism, J.I. Williamson writes, "To put it quite bluntly, then:  true religion is totalitarian...God and his Christ demand absolute allegiance, and they demand it in every sphere of life."

Just as Joshua charged Israel, so the Bible charges us today:  "Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.  Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve...But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:14-15).

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