In my morning devotions today, I read Exodus 20, which contains the 10 Commandments. As I read the first commandment again, “You shall have no other gods before me,” it hit me in a new way. This is why I read the Bible over and over – because you never know how the Holy Spirit is going to speak to you through these words from God.
When I have read “You shall have no other gods before me” in the past, I always focused on the “before me” part. I saw it as an order. First God, then everything else. In fact, on mornings when I am really busy and tempted to skip my devotions, I say “God first.” I see this as a way of ordering my priorities and making sure that God is the first priority in my life.
But as I was reading this morning, I thought about all the times in the Bible that people worshiped God, but felt that it was all right to keep their other gods as well. They might worship Yahweh first, but they still sacrificed to Baal or Molech or whoever was the regional god at the time. When Moses was up on the mountain receiving the 10 Commandments, Aaron seemed to think it was perfectly okay to worship an golden bull at the same time. He might have said, “Well, we put Yahweh first, but the golden bull was second.”
I don’t think the intent of the first commandment is to allow us to worship anything we want as long as we put God first. We know plenty of people that say they worship God first, but still seem to have other gods they worship as well. Money, power, pride, lust, country, white privilege, Trump. I am certainly not immune from this. God is (almost) always first with me, but family or my independence are things that I sometimes make secondary gods.
But when God commands, “You shall have no other gods before me,” what if he is saying something besides a priority? What if he is saying, “When you stand before me, you shall have no other gods.” Imagine standing before God, and he asks, “What else did you worship in addition to me?” What would your answer be? Can we honestly answer that we do not worship anything except God?
Putting God first is, with practice, fairly easy. I have it down most of the time. Refusing to worship anything except God is harder.
May this be your prayer this week:
I will give you all my worship. I will give you all my praise. You alone, I long to worship.
You alone, are worthy of my praise.