In the days of Moses, people in the world worshiped tons of gods. The Bible mentions all kinds of false gods and goddesses—including Asherah (Deuteronomy 16:21; 1 Kings 18:19), Baal (Numbers 25:3; Judges 6:28), Molech (Leviticus 18:21; Jeremiah 32:35), and Chemosh (Judges 11:24; 1 Kings 11:33). People believed the various gods and goddesses promised to give them different things: sex, fame, money, pleasure, comfort, fertility, power, promotion.
Some of us will read about these gods and goddesses in the Bible and practice what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery.” We’ll say, “Back in the day, they were very primitive people, and they worshiped these gods with weird names. Thankfully, we’re not like that.”
But are we like that? Do we experience sexual problems, financial problems, relational problems, employment problems? Do we seek the same things the people sought in the days of Moses—sex, fame, money, pleasure, comfort, fertility, power, and promotion? Do we worship those things? Many of us shipwreck our lives chasing after those things because we’re worshiping false gods. Now, we may call a god success; they called it Molech. Same thing. Satan has merely rebranded old demons. God says there’s one God—him alone, him at the center.
We are wrong if we ignore the significance of the first commandment in our lives today. The commandment applies to every person in every generation, not just to foolish people who lived a long time ago and opted for false gods and slavery. God never changes, people never change, the problems are always the same, and the solutions are always the same.
There’s an ongoing debate circling this first commandment. Theologians differ in the way they view the meaning of the words “No other gods before me.” There are four basic perspectives as to how the words “before me” translate into English: (1) “in front of me”; (2) “alongside of me”; (3) “instead of me”; and (4) “in conflict with me.” Here’s the perspective I believe is correct: all the above.
My response would be, “Under my boot—that’s where I would like them!” I don’t want any other men orbiting anywhere around us. Why? I’m a jealous husband—not like the stalker type who won’t let his wife out of his sight, but in the sense that I love my wife and I’m in a covenant with her. Our love is exclusive; it doesn’t include anyone else. If it were to include anyone else, it would be ruined. God loves his children like a father loves his children. God loves his people like a husband loves his wife. He does not want us to share our affections with any god but him.
Some would say it’s very unloving of God, but it’s actually very loving of God. All other gods will enslave us, abuse us, enslave us, and leave us for dead. The One God is the only God who will actually care for us. The second most important decision you will ever make is whom you marry. The most important decision you’ll ever make is whom you worship.