Ten Commandments #1 Exodus 20:3

No Other Gods
Exodus 20:3

Introduction

Following the death of the Egyptian first born, Israel was unceremonially booted out of Egypt in the middle of the night. Later they miraculously escaped the Egyptian Army at the Red Sea and began a 40-year trek through the desert. One of their first stops was at Mount Sinai. There, in anticipation of the receiving God’s instructions, the people enthusiastically declared, “All that the Lord said we will do.” So Moses went back up to the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments.

A comparison of the NT yields the fact that, with the exception of the 4th commandment, all the commands are still considered an expression of the will of God. In fact Jesus Himself affirmed many of them. Certainly they are valid for us today. For example:

1. No other gods = Mat 4:10, 1 Cor 8:4
2. No idols = Acts 17:29, Rom 1:23
3. Don’t take the Lords name in vain = Mat 5:33-37; James 5:12
4. Keep Sabbath holy = None
5. Honor father and mother = Mat 15:4-6, Lu 18:20, Eph 6:1-3
6. Do not kill = Mat 5:21,22; Rom 13:9
7. Do not commit adultery = Mat 5:27-28; Eph 5:3-5
8. Do not steal = Mat 19:18; Eph 4:28
9. Do not bear false witness = 1 Tim 1:10; James 4:11
10. Do not covet = 1 Cor 6:10; Col 3:5

Now, let’s look at the first command found in Ex 20:3, You shall have no other gods before me.”

The first thought is a broad one. It is that, A) As concerns the people of God, other gods are not even a remote possibility.

The phrase, “you shall have” is literally “there shall not be.” It is built on the verb (hyh)) meaning to be, to become, to happen, or to exist. It is a common word. So, it is said of Adam, “it is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). Consequently, God called the “existent one” (Jehovah). The focus is on existence.
When this term is used with a preposition the meaning is enhanced. This is the case here (L). Therefore it probably connotes the idea of “possession” as all translations render. So, God is saying, “don’t even possess any other gods.” The key idea then is that 1. Other gods should never be part of God’s people’s experience.

But it is also said that Adam “became a living soul” (Gen 2:7). Thus among other implications is that the people worshipped only one God at this time (at least they had declared their intention to do so). Hence this is a warning against changing their status. God is satisfied that He and He alone is the only god in their lives at this time. It had to remain so/

We also learn that 2. A relationship to other gods is a personal matter. Again, the phrase is literally, “there shall not be to you.” Here is the point. God is talking to real people. Each individual (2nd person singular suffix) needed to receive this command as if spoken to him or her personally. Hence, the basic point is: no other gods present in your life.

So, A) As concerns the people of God, other gods are not even a remote possibility.

Now for the second thought. B) The prohibition against other gods allows for no loopholes.

1. The forbidden “gods” include a wide range of objects. Approximately 2300 of the 2570 uses of the term elohim (~yhil{a) in the OT refer to the one true living God. The term speaks of His greatness and His uniqueness. For instance, “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind…’ (Num 23:19). This assumes the existence of other gods. Of course, none are like the one true and living God. This God entered into a solemn covenant with his people and lead them out of Egypt.

This brings up a practical matter. God recognized that His people were living in a real world. This wasn’t make- believe. Because Israel bumped into other nations during it’s desert wonderings and the later conquest of Canaan, other gods surrounded them. So, frequently they were confronted with “other gods.” Each nation had its gods. Here is a sample:

a) The Egyptians worshipped many animals. For instance Horus, the hawk, was a featured god; also the cat and the bull. The plagues were probably directed at their gods.
b)The Canaanite “Baals” were nature-gods or goddesses that were especially known for their reproductive powers. Therefore their orgy-worship included gluttony, drunkenness, and ritual prostitution.
c)The Philistilnes and Ashdod worshipped Dagon, which may have been a fish.
d)The chief gods of Moab were named Chemosh and Molech.

But God demands that, for His people, no other objects of worship were permitted. That’s what Deuteronomy 6:14 is all about, "You shall not follow other gods, any of the gods of the peoples who surround you". But tragically, worshipping other gods was a tendency of Israel from generation to generation.  Jeremiah 5:7 "Why should I pardon you? Your sons have forsaken Me And sworn by those who are not gods. When I had fed them to the full, They committed adultery And trooped to the harlot's house."

So today, it is safe to conclude that God is still jealous of His people’s worship of Him alone. There is absolutely no room for even the slightest worship of Allah, or Buddha, or nature, or Mary, or spirits, or whatever.
And it is an abomination to mix the worship of the one true God with any other false god. And it is a fatal error to think that worship of a false god is acceptable so long as it is genuine or sincere. Let’s be clear on this.

Sadly, some people worship like Country and Western singer Johnny Cash sings. He describes his taste in music:
“I love songs about horses, railroads, land, judgment day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak, and love. And mother. And God” (Source Unknown.)

Yes, this command is primarily a religious command. However, I must ask if there is any other application for those of us who live the relatively idol free atmosphere of American evangelicalism? In other words is this command more than a religious one? Can we violate this command without bowing before a pagan god? Or, is it possible that we have imported non religious “gods” into our lives? Perhaps the following thoughts will help us forthrightly come to grips with this issue.
> To trust in anything more than God is to make it a god. In this sense, have you made riches, education, prestige, friends, or intelligence a god?
> To love anything more than God is to make it a god. In this sense have you made position, retirement, leisure, food, pleasure, your children, success, or your spouse a god?
> To value anything other more than God is to make it a god. Did you know that Americans spend more on cosmetics than on church! Consider: “That for which I would give anything and accept nothing in exchange is the most important thing in my life. Whatever that is, is my god (cf. Isa. 44:6-20).” (J. McMath)

Some baseball fans may recall two pitchers of a few decades ago who both had moments in the limelight. Relief pitching ace Donny Moore couldn't seem to resolve his anguish over losing an American League championship series game. In a moment of total torment, he shot his wife and then shot himself. Compare that with Dave Dravecky, who loses not only a game but a career, a livelihood, his pitching arm, and his shoulder. He is energetically rebuilding his life and looking forward to whatever tomorrow might bring. (Bill Hybels)

So, we have seen that God forbids gods for His people.

But the bottom line is this: 2. Certain things are inappropriate for the people of God. That is the significance of “any other” (~yrIxea) gods. The term normally expresses a relationship. Two concepts are involved. There must not be any “additional” gods that vie for our loyalty. And there must be no “different” or “foreign” gods. As such they are incompatible with the covenant God. Hence they don’t fit! Believe it or not, God’s people must match His profile. Not vice versa.

So we learn that A) As concerns the people of God, other gods are not even a remote possibility, and that B) The prohibition against other gods allows for no loopholes.

Then, there is the third major thought. C) God demands first priority from His people.

No other gods are to be compared alongside of the one true God. The preposition translated “before” (l[) can have many shades of meanings. But the core thought seems to be “height.” Thus we entertain a sobering thought – absolutely nothing is to be elevated above God. He must have exclusive pre-eminence.

This is even more vivid when we realize that the “me” of “before me” is really “face”. So we are left with the implication that the holy God will not tolerate any semblance of other gods in his presence. He has exclusive right to our loyalty, love, and devotion.

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2015. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source