Summary: This is the first in a series that I preached on the Ten Commandments. The focus of the series was on the relationship between God and us and the relevance that the Commandments still have for us from that standpoint.
No Other Gods
Exodus 20:3 "You shall have no other gods before me.
The children of Israel are at Sinai. They have come to freedom by the hand of God in the plagues of Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, and the destruction of the armies of Pharaoh. These things were done by God. Not by them. Not by the gods of Egypt or any other pagan god. The One, True, God rescued His people to Himself. To put another god before the Father is to give our love, allegiance, and trust to something or someone other than our Creator. At the heart of worship is trust. The commandment is to put your trust in nothing other than God. All of us have had times in our lives when we trusted something or someone else other than our Heavenly Father. As children we trusted mom and dad to provide for us. As adults we trust our jobs for security or trust others to be there for us. None of this is bad, but the point of the command is that nothing should be trusted more than God.
Part One of the relational framework that Almighty God is showing us is that He is trustworthy and sure. Let's face it, our job, our home, our families are all a gift from Him. Without God we would not even have the strength to do our job, love our kids, etc. As a matter of fact, if we consider that our enemy the devil would love to kill us and stop our influence in a lost world, it is a gift and work of God that we are even alive. Where else can we turn for help but to the One who is over all?
If people fail, God never will. If jobs fail, God will provide. He is never surprised by events and has a plan in the works. We need to trust Him. Jesus spoke of seeking first the Kingdom of God and our needs will work out. Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
The next verses in Exodus continue with the idea of placing nothing before God. They focus more on the physical aspects of worshiping:
Exodus 20:4-6 "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.
One of the more interesting things about the timing of this passage is that as God was giving it to Moses in the form of the stone tablets, the people were in the midst of doing these very things. Moses was in for a surprise but God already knew. To put an object in front of you and bow to it, worship it, trust it, is not only wrong but it just doesn't make sense. The people had already been told that these things were unacceptable to God. Moses had carefully explained the law of God to them. These were supposed to be the Children of God and they were falling back into following gods that never did anything for them. After seeing the power of God they fell back into lies.
This is why the Father includes this passage. If His people were to truly be his then they needed to know that there is only one God. And only One to worship. The freedom here is awesome. The gods of Egypt were many in number and hard to even keep up with. And there was no power in them. The true God not only is all powerful but has pursued His children with love and a desire to be with them.
We know God wants to be with His people and they need to put Him first. What we also need to remember is that the Father also wants His people to represent him to other nations. This placement of God over all is key to that. All the other nations needed to see the Israelites as a nation following, worshiping, trusting in God alone.
Toward the end of the passage we see that God mentions visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and forth generations. Some might think that for God to curse generations for what the parents did is not fair. First let me say that if God decides to do anything... it is right. He is God after all and we have no place to question Him. Second, I do not think that God intended to say He would curse those generations. Just think about it for a minute. If parents raise their children to do wrong, and be enemies of God, then they will probably become like the parents. Down to the third and forth generation they will be lost. But if we look closely, we can see the promise of hope. Look at the comparison: some generations will be lost by following bad parents but God will bless thousands because of faithfulness. Even the families in opposition to God can still find forgiveness if they will see the example of their neighbors and submit to God. Seeking the relationship that the Father intended all the way back to the Garden of Eden.