Summary: Having just one God is both a command and a blessing
Title: My God?
Text: Exodus 20:2-3
In 1999, ESPN named Michael Jordan the “athlete of the century.” AP ranked him number 2. Anyone who ever saw him play – even someone like me who doesn’t care for sports – knew that his ability was something special. But what you may not remember as clearly was his season as a baseball player. In 1993, Jordan retired for the first time and tried out for Major League Baseball. He was good – but only good enough for the Chicago White Sox’ farm team in the minors. He played one season and while he acquitted himself well, he was non Babe Ruth. The sad fact is you can be great at one thing and good at many others, but it is hard to be great at everything.
This morning, I want to begin a series on the 10 commandments. I’m calling the series “Laws of Love, Laws of Life.” I suspect you view these commandments as individual events – rules to be followed, challenges to overcome. But if can this morning, I want to change your mindset about them. You see, the 10 commandments aren’t really rules so much as a contract, and what’s more, they’re not even a contract we ever signed. Simply put, the 10 commandments were given to Jews nearly 3500 years ago. Now, if you are a 3500 year old Jew, they most certainly apply. But if you are a Christian, you are free from their obligation.
So, you might be asking yourself then, why should we be spending time reading a contract that doesn’t apply to us? Well, contracts have a way of saying something about the person who makes them. When the Bulls signed Michael Jordan as a 1st round draft pick in 1984, they were saying, ‘Michael – we believe you can do great things.’ And Michael was, in fact, very handsomely rewarded for what he did. I want to submit to you this morning that each of the 10 commandments says something about God too, things that we should understand.
This morning, I want to focus on just the first commandment, and lets listen to see what it says about our God:
It may seem a little odd to hear God say, ‘Look I brought you out of slavery, but I’m a jealous god.’ If you have a legalistic understanding of God – you know the idea that he’s just some big cosmic cop in the sky waiting to zap you – then this first commandment doesn’t really make sense.
But see what it is that God is saying here. I’ve taken you out of slavery. I don’t want you to go back. You are only going to have one god.
Think about that from the perspective of the Israelites for a moment. They had just come out of Egypt where there was a god for everything. Their king was a god, their river was a god, their crops had a god. Everything and everyone had a lot of things they had to serve. It probably got pretty busy trying to balance king, crops, river, and everything else. That’s a lot of gods.
So what does our God say to them? Guess what. Just serve me, no one else. I am a big enough God to cover all those little things for you.
You see, people serve gods because they think they’re going to get something out of it. You worship the king so he doesn’t put you in jail. You worship the river so that it feeds you but doesn’t wash out your home. You have lots of little needs that will be served by little gods. But our God says, “I will supply all your needs, according to my riches in glory.” Our God is able to promise the psalmist, “The Lord is my Shepard. I don’t have any wants!”
And I’m not stuck at the mercy of millions of capricious gods all of whom have a jealous need to be first. Instead, I love just one god who jealous for my good. I am jealous of my wife, not in a controlling way, but in a way that says ‘She is the first and foremost priority in my life.’ That’s how our God is jealous for us. Isn’t that amazing?
Okay, I hear you say, I won’t go bowing down to Buddha any time soon. I don’t want to let you off so easily. You see, we live in a land of many, many gods, most of whom don’t even have names; many of whom are the real objects of worship in our lives today.
Now, let me deal with an objection I bet you have. I’d bet you’re thinking this. “Our problem today isn’t that we have too many gods, it’s that we have too many people who don’t believe in the one we have!’ And you are right, frankly in our society, idol worship isn’t one of those things that is sending kids off on the road to ruin. But I still want to suggest, our problem isn’t too many gods, its one too few.