[CF Devotionals] 2009-11-08 - A Nation of Priests, A Holy People

The Ten Commandments Series, Part 2

Thou shalt have no other gods before me Vs. 1-3

  1. The Call to Monotheism
  2. Is Polytheism Really an Issue Today?
  3. How Should we Practice Monotheism?

  1. The Call to Monotheism: It is not surprising the first commandment we find deals directly with the worship of God. The principle of monotheism was unique in Moses’ day. God was telling the Israelites that they were not to be like their future neighbors and worship more than one god - or any other god other than Him. I wonder how the “Christian” cults that teach polytheism, or the heretical movements that teach we can become gods, can possibly get around this one!

    Walton and Matthews note:

    “The phrase “before Me’ means “in my presence” and therefore prohibits other gods from being considered to be in the presence of Yahweh. This prohibits several concepts that were a standard part of ancient beliefs. Most religions of that day had a pantheon, a divine assembly that ruled the realm of the gods, the supernatural, and, ultimately, the human world. Thee would typically be a deity who was designated head of the pantheon, and he, like the other gods, would have at least one consort (female partner). This commandment forbids Israel to think in these terms. Yahweh is not the head of a pantheon, and he does not have a consort—there are no gods in his presence. The only divine assembly that is legitimate for their thinking is made up of angels (as in 1 Kings 22:19-20), not gods. This commandment also then effectively bans much mythology that deals with the interactions of the gods with one another.” 1

    It wasn’t good enough that the Israelites worship Him along with other gods; they must only worship Him. Notice He says in vs. 5 that He is “a jealous God.” In Isaiah 42:8 we read “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.”

    Paul carries this same thought into the New Testament:

    “....or even if there are so-called gods, whether in Heaven or on Earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live, and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live ” (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).

    By the way, since they were not to worship other gods, as their neighbors did, what do you think were some of the ways the pagan worshiped their gods? I encourage you to list some of them, and see how many would be applicable to the worship of the true God.

    It is also interesting to note that nowhere do we find a command against the belief there is no God, atheism. After all, David tells us:

    “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”” (Psalm 53:1).

    In other words, only the insane deny the existence of God.

    We must recognize that even today, the practice of polytheism still exists around the world. This is true even in this society (the U.S.). We find this especially in the practices of some of the eastern religions, cults - and sadly some of Christendom that teach some day we will all become gods. Some of the cults are even more subtle, in that they teach you can follow their tenets without violating the teachings of Christianity. They teach a Christ who doesn’t even exist, and so one can end up following more than one god without necessarily realizing it. Some also believe certain elements of Christendom are really teaching polytheism, without intent, in the way they approach saint worship. So you can see the problem may be more common than we realize.

    Stuart Brisco points out that there is another way to worship other gods. He described how the Canaanites confused the acts of nature with gods, and so developed a host of gods. His concern is that we do the same thing, but from a slightly different angle.

    “What does this have to do with us? A lot. We also live in a very sophisticated pagan culture. Like the Israelites, we are called to be the people of God in the midst of a culture that does not honor him. Living in our sophisticated, rational, skilled, technological society, we too forget the Lord. We find it so easy to develop a nominal attachment to him, pushing him more and more into the background, as we follow the gods of society. It doesn’t take long, before he no longer holds the number-one spot. 2

    But for us if we follow the teachings of Christ:

    “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind ” (Matthew 22:35),

    … there is no danger that we will worship other gods in addition to Him.

    This works the same way with a husband or wife. If they love their spouse as Christ said regarding the Father, there is no way they could possibly become unfaithful. And here it is unfaithfulness towards Himself that the Lord is warning against. There is a basic underlying principle here: a person can only whole heartily love one person or thing. In the proper scheme of things, the Lord must come before all else.

To be continued.

  1. Walton, John H. and Victor H. Matthews, The IVP Bible Background Commentary, “Genesis - Deuteronomy,” InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove , IL , 1997, p. 107.
  2. Brisco, Stuart, p. 6-7.

Series to be continued.

Comments or Questions?

[email geoff] GKragen@aol.com

Additional studies by Geoff
Podcasts of Studies in Matthew can be found at www.GKragen.com