Summary: This commandment is first; it’s before all the others. When you break any other of the Ten Commandments, you’ve broken this command first.
Brad Pitt wants you to know he has abandoned his belief in the god of the Bible. In a 2007 interview for Parade, actor Brad Pitt describes how he stumbled, over God’s ego. Pitt was raised a conservative Southern Baptist. For a while, his religion worked. But not for long. “Religion works. I know there's comfort there, a crash pad. It's something to explain the world and tell you there is something bigger than you, and it is going to be alright in the end. It works because it's comforting. I grew up believing in it, and it worked for me in whatever my little personal high school crisis was, but it didn't last for me.” Why not? He points to the ego of God. “I didn’t understand this idea of a God who says, “You have to acknowledge me. You have to say that I'm the best, and then I'll give you eternal happiness. If you won't, then you don't get it!” It seemed to be about ego. I can't see God operating from ego, so it made no sense to me.”
“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. 3 “You shall have no other gods before me’” (Exodus 20:1-3).
People have an aversion to rules when it comes to religion. There are rules for the practice of medicine that medical doctors must follow. There are rules for construction that architects and engineers must follow. These rules for both medicine and construction are done for public safety. Yet, when it comes to God, today’s principle is “anything goes.” For the next few moments, let’s see if God’s rules will bring order to your religion.
1. God is Exclusive
Let’s break down verse three word by word to discover the God’s meaning is His first command.
“You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:1).
When you read the Bible, you will meet numerous gods. For example, when the children of Israel enter the land of Canaan, they encounter people who worship Baal. In the Old Testament book of Judges, Israel largely abandons worshiping the God of the Bible for the god Baal as well as the god Asherah (Judges 2:11; 37; 8:33). These two gods were male and female deities and various forms were worshipped throughout the earth. Baal was worshipped in order that the fields might be fertile as He was the god of rain. When the sun’s heat scorched everything on earth, people said Baal was dying. When the spring rains made everything green, people said Baal was coming to life again. You’ll read a fascinating story about Elijah’s bitter struggle against Baal worship in 1 Kings 18:20-40. None other than the King of Israel (Ahab and Jezebel) encouraged the worship of this foreign god. Toward the later part of his reign, Solomon worshipped the Ammonite god Molech and the Moabite god Chemosh (1 Kings 11:4-8). Molech (Ammonite god Milcom) is one of the more frightening gods. This angry god demanded innocent humans to be sacrificed for human guilt.
A few years ago, during the extension of the runway at the Damascus Airport, workers found a pit of burned infant bones, dating back to the time of the Old Testament. These little skeletons of babies up to age two were broken and burned to the god Molech.
The gods of years gone past did not possess superhuman wisdom or power. Instead, there were considered to be more like super hoers of our comic books. These gods had impulses and desires and committed evil acts much as we do. Years have passed and these gods have disappeared. Baal worship is now dormant. Zeus no longer sits on Mount Olympus. The German gods, Thor, with his hammer that made Thunder, and his son Woden have since passed away.
Idolatry does not depend on names. The names disappear through the years yet idolatry lives on. The Bible says that men can worship their own physical strength (Habakkuk 1:11). Others worship money as they make “gold their trust” or “fine gold my confidence…” (Job 31:24). Some even make their god their stomach as Paul writes, “their god is their belly” (Philippians 3:19).
In 1620, Sir Francis Bacon wrote about idols in a work entitled New Instrument. Bacon identifies four types of idols that are still present with us today. Don’t be confused today. Everyone living worships something or someone. Bob Dylan was right when wrote the song, “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Borrowing from Bacon’s four types of idols…
1.1.1 Idols of the Tribe
It’s easy to find one’s meaning in the tribe they belong to. This can represent overzealous feelings of patriotism where the motto: “God, country, family” can be turned where the nation comes first. This idol can represent my feelings about my community or this idol can take the form of my favorite college team (the Aggies or Razorbacks). All of us have a natural affinity to the place where we were born, an attraction to our kind of people.