I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.
Perhaps the most basic truth about the God of Scripture is that He is the only one. There is no other. This truth ought to simplify things for us because it teaches us that there is only one who is the worthy object of our love, loyalty, and devotion. But the hearts of men and women are not so easily instructed. And so it is necessary for God to give us the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” The danger is not that there are actual other gods for us to worship but that we have a proclivity for making them.
On first glance, this first command is straightforward. To live for a god other than the true God would be like taking a second spouse while your first spouse is still alive and still happy to be your spouse. Worse, it would be like taking a second spouse who is in truth a figment of your imagination. It would be a breach of an exclusive relationship.
We must not kid ourselves that we are immune from the possibility of breaking this commandment. Many of us read it and picture people bowing down before statues or going through elaborate rituals, and those mental images assure us that we’re not in danger of violating it. Yet the commandments are not restricted to outward actions but also relate to the disposition of our minds and hearts. From this perspective, we may not be as far from those mental images as we assume. We may not have statues to which we bow down, but maybe we have segments of our lives that we keep away from God, preserving them under the authority of some other little “deity”—ourselves, perhaps.
Ask yourself: “Do I joyfully acknowledge God’s comprehensive claim on my life? Is God in charge of my family, my work, my relationships, my money, my dating, my use of time?” Take a close and honest look to see if there are portions of life you try to keep from Him.
In addition to keeping things away from God, another form of danger is functionally replacing Him. When we put our family, our job, our hobbies, or anything else in the place that is God’s alone, we violate the first commandment. To the degree that we allow anyone or anything besides obedience to God to direct our course day to day, we defy His law.
So we are not so safe from the possibility of breaking this commandment as we may think! While we must acknowledge the truth that there is one God, we must also beware our own ability to put things in His place. If we do not daily submit ourselves to Him and entrust the entirety of our lives to Him, something will take His place. We are made to worship. The question is, are you going to worship the living God or are you going to pretend there is another?
1 John 1:8-10, 1 John 2:1-3
Devotional material is taken from the Truth For Life daily devotional by Alistair Begg