|Series Theme: Meditations in Lessons from the Law of Moses|
Meditation No. 2
Meditation Title: No other God
Ex 20:1-3 And God spoke all these words: "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt , out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before (besides) me.
Starting from basics, if there is a God, how would your describe Him? The simplest definition is usually given as The Supreme Being. If there is a God He has to be greater than anyone or anything else. The Romans and Greeks had ‘gods' but they were simply super-beings with human foibles, who frequently seemed to squabble. No, if there is going to be a God He has to be One Supreme Being. Now the only logical alternative is that there is no such being and that, of course, is the position taken by atheists, yet the Bible is built on the consistent belief throughout that there is this One Supreme Being who revealed Himself to individuals and then to what became the nation of Israel, and finally through His Son, Jesus Christ. The Christian concept of the Trinity does not mean three Gods but simply three expressions of the One. Moreover, while we are at it, the God of the Old Testament is exactly the same as the God of the New Testament.
I suspect there are two reasons why atheists don't like the concept of God. The first is that their sinful nature (as the Bible describes it) doesn't like the thought of being answerable to someone seriously superior to them and, second, they don't bother to really read the whole Bible and catch the descriptions of this One Supreme Being. For example, consider this early description of God, “the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness , maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Ex 34:6,7) I recently asked a group of seekers that if this was a true description of God (and it is consistently shown throughout the Bible) how would they feel about Him, and they all replied, good, safe and secure!
But here in this first of the Ten Commandments we find, “You shall have no other gods before (besides) me.” It is a call by God for us to have a uniqueness of thinking about Him, to hold to the belief in just One Supreme Being and not to let anyone or anything else compete for our affections. Indeed it is a call that is repeated in various forms again and again, for example, “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.” (Ex 23:13) Furthermore when the Lord spoke about Israel taking the Promised Land He declared, “My angel will go ahead of you and bring you into the land of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Jebusites, and I will wipe them out. Do not bow down before their gods or worship them or follow their practices . You must demolish them and break their sacred stones to pieces. Worship the LORD your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water.” (Ex 23:23-26) The call was to completely wipe out all signs of idol worship and to worship Him the One Supreme Being, the “I AM” or the Eternal One.
Again He warned, “Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land, or they will cause you to sin against me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you.” (Ex 23:32,33). The reason for this is thus made clear: if you leave them, the superstitious side of you will turn to these things of wood and you will start doing the things that their ‘followers' do, like sacrificing your children for example. In his closing words in Deuteronomy, Moses warned, “And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars--all the heavenly array--do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.” (Deut 4:19). In other words, don't become like the Egyptians, for instance, who worship the elements in their fearful superstition. Then came a further warning: “Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God” (Deut 6:13-15) It is superstitious nonsense to fear idols made by the hands of men, but it is right and wise to have an awesome respect for the One Supreme Being who is all-powerful, all-knowing and all-wise. Moses' father-in-law understood reality: “Jethro was delighted to hear about all the good things the LORD had done for Israel in rescuing them from the hand of the Egyptians. He said, "Praise be to the LORD , who rescued you from the hand of the Egyptians and of Pharaoh, and who rescued the people from the hand of the Egyptians. Now I know that the LORD is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly.” (Ex 18:9-11)
In the various plagues God challenged the superstition of the Egyptians: “I will plague your whole country with frogs”. (Ex 8:2) The frog (or toad) was deified in the goddess Heqt, who assisted women in childbirth. “The hand of the LORD … .. terrible plague on your livestock.” (Ex 9:3) The Egyptians worshiped many animals and animal-headed deities, including the bull-gods Apis and Mnevis, the cow-god Hathor and the ram-god Khnum. “Darkness will spread over Egypt.” (Ex 10:21 ) The darkness was an insult to the sun-god Ra (or Re), one of the chief deities of Egypt.
Why this first commandment? Because this is the truth: there is only One Supreme all-powerful, all-wise, all-knowing Being and all else is superstition which leads people to do terrible things, as we'll see even more or we go on in these studies. The crucial issue here is that people follow in their lives, the ways of their God or gods. History shows that followers of ‘gods' do terrible things. Beyond cleansing the Promised Land of such things, there is simply order and blessing and goodness seen accompanying the worship of the One Supreme Being. We will see more of what He is like as we work our way through the Law and, I hope, agree that any alternative is really unthinkable to the thinking person.