The First Command: No Other Gods Before Me

You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3)

Remember, every negative command has a corresponding positive one. If we are not to love or enjoy or treasure anything ahead of God, what is the positive of that? You shall love, treasure, and enjoy God! The Westminster Catechism question 1 asks, “What is the chief end of man? The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” That is the first commandment.

God created us. He knows how we are made for maximum joy derived from God being our ultimate love and priority. Idols on the other hand are slave masters. Idols empty us. Idols destroy us. Idols promise happiness but they never deliver. An example from this past week is the baseball player, Alex Rodriguez. Rodriguez has been arguably the best baseball player of his generation. He has earned $325 million in career salary alone. He has lived a very public hedonistic lifestyle and enjoyed being a filthy rich, handsome bachelor in New York.

Yet scandal and steroids have plagued him. This week he was given a year-long suspension from baseball. When he returns he will be 40 years old and may never play again. His reputation is completely sullied. He will likely never see the Hall of Fame and is grouped in with other steroid era liars and cheaters.

Would you trade places with Alex Rodriguez? How about Lance Armstrong? How about examples like Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson? These are people who have all the things that we don’t and we think, “If only I had that….” Yet, what do we see? Idols destroy us. And for us common folk, we may not have a public scandal but idols wreak havoc on our families and relationships and decisions. Why? Humans are incapable of deriving ultimate meaning from anything but God.

C.S. Lewis makes this point on the difference between first things and secondary things. First things are things that God designed to be first in our hearts, primarily himself. Secondary things are good things for us as long as they remain secondary. The crisis arises when we make a secondary thing a primary thing. Now we are asking too much of the secondary thing which eliminates our ability to enjoy the first thing and the second thing.

He gives the example of pets and wives. A pet can be enjoyed as a secondary thing. But when you make the pet the center of your world, now you lose the joy of God-worship and the proper joy of having a pet. A wife is a great blessing and a gift. But if you make a wife the center of your world, arrange all your hopes, dreams, and worship around her, the marriage will be devastating because God never made a wife or a husband who can provide what only God can provide. (C.S. Lewis, First and Second Things)

Do you see the grace of God in the first command? Enjoy me! Love me! Worship me! Trust me! Obey me! And with me as your treasure, all else can be pleasure because you love and enjoy everything for my sake.

Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

©2014 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.

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