Summary: Obeying the first commandment in a pluralistic society
Looking Out for Number One
Once upon a time a little boy who built a little toy sailboat. He would take it to the park every day and sail the little boat on the pond.
He liked watching it coast around in the breeze.
Because he loved his boat, he was pretty careful not to let it go too far out in the pond where he couldn’t get it back.
But one day, the inevitable day came when the boat sailed beyond where he could reach it. He’d gotten himself soaked trying, but the boat had gone out too far for the boy to rescue it.
He went home heartsick, expecting he would never see the boat again.
But a few weeks later, he was walking through town when he saw his boat in the window at the little secondhand shop.
He was so excited!
He went into the store and said, “You’ve found my boat! I made that boat! It’s mine and I’d like to have it back.”
But the man behind the counter said, “Well, maybe it was your boat once, but it’s my boat now – and if you want it, you’ll have to pay me 20 dollars for it.
“TWENTY DOLLARS?!?!?!” the boy said. It seemed like an enormous amount of money. He had no idea how he could come up with that much cash.
He started to hang his head and walk out of the store, but the man said, “If you’d like to earn a little money, I COULD use some help around here.”
And so it was agreed. Every week the boy would come and sweep floors and tidy up the shelves, and the man would give him a few dollars.
Finally the day came when he brought his pocket full of crumpled bills to the store and bought his boat back. He was thrilled.
As he walked out of the store, holding his boat like a long-lost friend, he said, “You’re mine twice now! You were mine the first time because I made you; and now you’re mine again because I bought you.”
There was no longer any question but that the boat belonged to the boy.
Before giving the Ten Commandments, God says this:
"I am the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, where you were slaves.”
He is reminding them that not only did he create them, but he redeemed them.
He gave them life, and he gave them freedom.
That’s the relationship that God had with Israel and it is the relationship he has with us.
We are his because he created us.
And we are His because he bought us out of slavery to sin.
He created us and He redeemed us.
And that relationship is the basis for the commands that God gave to Israel.
God LED the people of Israel out of Egypt.
He LED them through the desert
And the commandments are another way that God LEADS his people, by giving them words to live by.
THE FIRST, AND THE FOUNDATIONAL, COMMANDMENT IS:
“You shall have no other gods before me.”
Or as the Good News has it: "Worship no god but me.”
The words demanded that God’s people worship, and love, and serve only the one, true God.
With this first commandment, God makes it clear that His people are to have an exclusive relationship with Him.
Even though most translations read, “You shall have no other gods before me” that doesn’t mean, “You can worship all the gods you want, I just want to be your favorite.”
He is saying, “Worship ONLY me. I am to be your ONLY God.”
These words remind us that God sees our relationship with Him much like a marriage relationship.
It’s not enough to stand at the altar and say, “You’ll be my FAVORITE girlfriend!”
The words are “FORSAKING ALL OTHERS…”
And if either spouse does NOT forsake all others, it usually spells destruction for the marriage.
It is probably all but impossible for us to imagine how that must have sounded to the people of Israel.
We’re used to thinking in terms of there being only one God.
All three major religions of the world: Christianity, Judaism and Islam, are committed to what is called “monotheism,” or the worship of only one God.
But at this time, Christianity and Islam were thousands of years in the future, and the Jewish faith is in its infancy here in the book of Exodus.There was NO SUCH thing as “monotheism.” NOBODY HAD JUST ONE GOD.
ALL of Israel’s neighbors were Pagans – that is, they worshipped lots of different gods.
People believed that certain gods ruled certain geographic areas or natural phenomenon.
There were “national gods”
The Philistines had Dagon
The Moabites’ had Chemosh
The Ammonites’ had Molech.